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Heart Stuff: Letting Go of Sentimental Attachments

February's theme is "From the Heart," which makes me think of someone I worked with recently who is a veryLorie Marrero, The Clutter Diet sentimental guy. We were going through numerous stacks, files, and piles of papers, and he kept running into things that he or his parents had kept. During our work, he really enjoyed the trip down memory lane and he also felt an outpouring of love for his children when he found all of the cute things they had drawn and written. There were multiple problems with this situation, however:

  • He had no idea he had most this stuff, and what he did know he had, he could not find.
  • The memorabilia was clogging up areas of the house that were needed for more urgent and useful functions. 
  • Much of it was meaningful only to him but was not marked with any identifying information to make it meaningful to anyone else. Later in life nobody else would understand the significance of the items if he were unable to go through them personally.
  • He didn't have a system to take in any new items like these and be able to find them later.
  • Most of the items were not stored in a way that would preserve and protect them for the long term. 
  • He was not enjoying any of the memorabilia in his daily life, nor was he sharing the enjoyment with his family.
  • He really did not want to keep it all, but he wasn't sure how to discriminate which were keepers and which just merited a quick smile and chuckle before discarding.

Experiences and people make memories, and memories make us who we are. But we must realize that things are not memories--they only represent the memories. We simply can't keep it all!

Here are some options to help you let go:

Replace it: Find an alternative way to preserve your memories that allows you to discard or donate it and free some physical space. 

  • Take a photo of yourself with the item and then give it away. Great for large furniture pieces and other cumbersome memorabilia.
  • Scan the items in and keep them electronically. The bonus of this option is that you can more easily share it with many others.

Send it to a better home: Give the item to another friend or family member (only if they really want it and have space!) so you can visit it occasionally and enjoy it. You can hand clothing down to a family member who will enjoy giving it a second life. 

Break the Habits
That Create Clutter

Limit it: Just like wine, memorabilia is best enjoyed within limits. Use our "limiting container" concept to force yourself to prioritize. Find a container that you feel is a reasonable size to contain your memorabilia, allowing adequate room to grow. When your chosen container is full, make a rule for yourself that you can no longer add to it without removing something else first. It all has to fit into that container! You'll be surprised at how some things diminish in importance over time, and it will be easier than you think to discard some of the items.

If you must keep it, honor it and enjoy it.  Don't just stash it away. Find a way to display it and make it a part of your life.

  • Paper memorabilia such as drawings, photos, documents: Begin with creating a system to organize it as it comes in so that you can do other things with it when you're ready. File it and mark it with identifying information such as time and place. Later you can make an album or frame it, or you can scan it in and have a beautiful, customized book printed for less than $50 at websites like www.blurb.com, www.shutterfly.com, and www.mypublisher.com.
  • Home movies and slides: Older reels of film and slides can easily be transferred now to more modern formats. Do you and your family the favor of converting them before they deteriorate and people forget the details they contain. It makes a great holiday gift to provide everyone with a copy of the collected footage!
  • Small token items and collections: Put items in a shadowbox or cabinet or showcase them on a shelf. Depending upon the type of collection, you may be able to create other artwork with it to display in your home. For example, if you collected shells on favorite beach vacations, you can use them in your home decor with candles, or you can glue them on picture frames or make a collage of some kind.
  • Large items like furniture: Update them and improve them to fit into your daily life. For example, if there is a favorite old chair in bad shape, have it reupholstered and repaired so that you can enjoy the updated version.
  • Clothing: Repurpose the fabric into stuffed animals, quilts, pillows, remade outfits, and blankets. T-shirt quilts can be made to preserve the memories of all of the t-shirts you've collected over the years from sporting events and club activities.
  • Jewelry: Reset stones to a more modern setting, or find a jewelry artist to make an updated design out of favorite old pieces.

Whatever you do, take care to store your treasures carefully so they will last. Store them in climate-controlled areas so that extreme temperatures, humidity variations, and insects don't cause heartache later. If you have the option to purchase and use acid-free storage containers and folders, that will prevent yellowing and brittleness of papers and photos. 

We must realize that we diminish the importance of the truly special pieces if we try to keep everything that is simply ho-hum. Prioritize, treasure, and enjoy!

Enjoy more articles from Lorie Marrero

Certified Professional Organizer® Lorie Marrero is the author of The Clutter Diet: The Skinny on The Clutter DietOrganizingYour Home and Taking Control of Your Life. She is also the creator of ClutterDiet.com, an innovative program allowing anyone to get expert help at an affordable price. Her organizing books and products are sold online and in stores nationwide. Lorie has been a spokesperson for Brother label makers and Microsoft, and she is a sought-after expert for national media such as CNBC, Family Circle, WGN News and Woman's Day. Lorie is the new National Spokesperson for Goodwill Industries.

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