So what did I find? I found the very first real, store-bought -from-Hallmark valentine I got from a boy in 4th grade. It gave me loads of smiles then. And I’m sure the basketball tournament ticket stub from 8th grade was once very meaningful. I’m guessing someone significant made meaningful eye contact with me at one, or maybe two, games.
What did I feel for both things now? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.
Why did I still have them (and more of their brothers and sisters)? Because I hadn’t looked through the spiral-bound School Record pockets since… I honestly can’t remember. Or the jewelry boxes in deep storage. Or the baby clothes I thought I had already given away.
It was great fun to do this with a friend. She brought bins of cards, letters, pictures, and we hooted with each other over some really funny stuff. We lit a roaring fire and burned some things, recycled, pitched, and packed other things for goodwill.
It wasn't easy. Some things were very sticky. When in doubt I kept some things and got rid of others. There are no right answers.
At the end of the night as we were sipping gin and tonics in front of the mound of burning ash, we thought these things were worth keeping in mind:
- Just because you have space for it doesn’t mean it isn’t clutter. Storing things that have no meaning anymore is pointless, and it takes up room that could be used for something better.
- Set up systems for incoming memorabilia. I now have large envelopes where I will store cards from my children, and they each have a container for school memorabilia.
- Set limits to how much to keep and store. When the container/drawer/closet is full, it will be a reminder to purge again. Remember, some of it won’t be meaningful any more. Trust me on this.
- Consider our children's future when saving things "for" them. We're usually saving it for ourselves. Let's make it easier on them by not having box after box of old clothes, dolls, cards and figurines stored for them. Yes, I know grandma made that dress for me when I was four, and it was darling. But the chance of my own daughter wearing it 30+ years later was nil. Now I've put it in the goodwill pile after all these years of storing and moving. It's just fabric. It's not Grandma.
Of all the things we keep, I think memorabilia is the most ripe for feelings of guilt. I truly believe that we are most restored and at peace in our homes when we are surrounded by things we use or love, and we cannot be if we are keeping things out of obligation. The more we release and let go of these things, the more free we will feel, and the less sticky everything becomes.