By Kelly Corkery
Q: I have a hard time letting go of mementos and keepsakes. Help!
--Sentimental in Seaforth
A: Dear Sentimental, mementos can be difficult to sift. Sentimental items evoke emotions and trigger nostalgia. These may be either positive or negative experiences depending on the object and its significance. To many, throwing away these objects is like throwing away the memories attached to them.
Set a goal-Get rid of things that haven't seen the light of day in years, unpack boxes of childhood mementos, or sort through your old hockey cards. Setting a goal will help you stay focused when the inevitable reminiscing begins to distract you.
Focus on what you should keep-Concentrate on what you'd like to KEEP because it's an overwhelming task to think about throwing away objects with sentimental value. Hold onto the best and let go of the rest.
Choose a box for keepsakes-I'm not suggesting a refrigerator-sized box, nice try. A small to medium-sized box, a decorative box, or one with a sealable lid for easy access will do.
Be committed-It takes both time and emotional effort to sort through sentimental clutter. Consider setting time limits on these types of projects, 1-2 hour sessions at a time. Plan for breaks; this is emotionally and physically exhausting work.
Ask for help-Chill some beer or put on some tea and call for backup. Give careful thought if you are addressing a larger project, like organizing a deceased loved one's home. Ask your friends and family or hire an organizer to help.
If you get stuck when deciding what to get rid of, and you likely will, ask yourself a few simple questions to get the real reason behind your hesitancy:
Why is this item significant? Do I use this item? Do I want to? Does this item help me remember a person or event? Does it represent that in the best way possible? Am I only keeping it because I think I should?
Keeping favourite items helps getting rid of other items easier. Your aim doesn't have to be to get rid of everything; your aim is to reduce the amount of stuff you have. If possible, visibly display the objects that bring you happiness. They aren't serving you stashed away somewhere.
5 Feel Good Ways to Part with Sentimental Clutter
It's important not to rush through this type of project. You are going to have strong emotions. Feel them. Give yourself plenty of time. Be patient. Letting go of sentimental clutter is HARD!
Pick the BEST & Ditch the Rest-Pick your favourite(s) to represent the memories of a person, place or time and jettison the rest.
Repurpose, Remake, Recycle-You can maintain your connection with an item by reimagining its purpose. For example, Grandfather's shirts can be made into a quilt or memory pillows.
Digitize-Create a digital memory; scan and file. Instead of boxing up photographs, back them up electronically instead!
Unload the Guilt-People often keep items not out of fond memories or gratitude but GUILT. Don't hold onto an object that evokes negative emotion. Let it, and the guilt, go!
Pass It On-Pass along items to family and friends who actually want them, or donate to a charity. Significant objects like unwanted family documents & photographs may have value to an archive or local museum.
Ultimately, Sentimental, the decision on what stays and what goes is yours. Remind yourself that an object is just an object. You aren’t tossing away the person or memory it represents. That lives on in you and not your stuff.