This week could be a little tricky for some of you as we delve into our souvenirs and memorabilia which can be associated with memories of people, places and experiences. Most of us are sentimental creatures at heart and we can feel that throwing away items is throwing away the memories with them.
We aren’t about getting rid of everything, but we do need to make informed decisions and taking action on items that we have in our homes.
So how do we decide what stays and what goes?
This is more complex of an answer than simply focusing on the functionality of an item which has been our primary tool over the last 48 weeks of this challenge.
Memories we hold aren’t always positive ones. If something you have in your home has bad memories associated with it, now is the time to let it go. We don’t want anything in our home that stirs negative emotions.
I also want to preface this by saying that you need to be ready. I will talk about some items from my childhood a little later in this piece, and it has taken me years to made decisions about these items. Sometimes the answer isn’t always in black and white.
When giving gifts, do you give it with a set of conditions around how it should be stored, for how long and where like an anchor around someone’s neck? I doubt that. So we shouldn’t feel guilty about not keeping items that have been gifted to us, particularly those that don’t have a purpose in your home or you just don’t like.
Similarly, with inherited items. Were they passed on to you to hold forever? Did you have a choice in whether you accepted them? Are they associated with positive memories? Do you have the space? Are they in reasonable condition or damaged beyond repair (think mould, inspects etc.)?
Sometimes time can make this collection easier to make decisions about. It is very personal and you don’t want to rush it, but when you are ready, employ your criteria from Week 1 and also consider the move effective method of retaining the memories. We will go on to discuss that a little later.
This was a challenging one for me as I had a suitcase with some baby stuff that I had when I was little as well as my childhood dolls house. I had always held onto them hoping that I might one day be able to use them with my own children but circumstances didn’t enable that to happen so I finally had to make a decision and take action on these items.
I kept one baby blanket and one outfit which had been crocheted for me to come home from hospital in. What there future holds, I don’t know, but they were the two pieces that had the most significant memories for me and I wanted to hold onto them. Once I determined that these were the most important pieces of all to me, it was actually quite easy to let go of the rest. I have placed them in a vacuum storage bag and stored them in my linen cupboard.
My dolls house was a little more challenging as it was in need of some “renovations” and it was an item that I had always hoped I could pass on to someone after being moved from house to house over the years. After chatting with some close friends who didn’t have a need for it, and considering other options such as donation and selling it, I put a brief story up on my local “Buy Nothing” group page on Facebook.
There was a quick response from a lovely lady who dreamt of a doll’s house for her little one for Christmas and loved the added pleasure of being able to renovate and decorate it. This made my heart sing and I subsequently met them both and felt joy that the doll house that I got so much out of as a child, could be passed on to another little one who can create her own memories. Before they arrived, I did feel a little anxious, but their excitement quickly made that disappear.
I did also take photos of these items before they were transitioned to their new homes.
Letting go of these items wasn’t easy and it took me many years to make these decisions, be comfortable with it, and take action, and that’s ok. It certainly wasn’t as simple as determining if they had any function in my life as clearly they didn’t, but there was a lot of emotion associated with them and that needed to be processed before I could deal with the items themselves.
I still have a t-shirt from my 1997 Contiki Tour of Europe! Why? Because I want to and I have space to store it. Do we need to justify it more than that?
Each tour group had a theme song which was played every morning on the coach and we also had the opportunity to design a graphic for our custom tour t-shirts. I had such an adventure and met some wonderful people who I have stayed in touch with. In fact, a friend from the tour who lives in Canada travelled here for my wedding and I also attended her’s in Canada and we have reminisced about the tour and the theme song on more occasions than I can count. Even now I hear the song come on the radio and it brings a smile to my face. These are memories worth preserving – the ones that touch your heart, that shape you in a good way.
I also have a small box of travel related souvenirs from over the years. I have set a limit through the selection of the size of box (think shoe box size). I also selected something that is air-tight, insect proof and water resistant.
If you would like to keep some holiday or travel souvenirs, you need to set yourself some guidelines:
- Set a physical limit on the quantity you will keep – that could be through the selection of a specific size container.
- Make sure you have identified a suitable home for the container that does not put the items at risk of damage.
- Find the treasure – that one or two items that are the most representative of that trip.
- When the container is full, something has to go.
You could also ask yourself why you want to keep any at all. Would a photo of the items be sufficient for you? We talk about taking photos in the next section.
If we get rid of the item, are we getting rid of the memory?
It is difficult to disassociate an item from a person, place or experience. However, that doesn’t mean that we physically have to retain the item to retain the memory. We have a lot of other options to assist us in retaining the memory, assuming it is one that we want to retain.
Take a photo
Taking a photo of an item and then passing on the item doesn’t diminish the value of the associated memory and sometimes this approach makes letting go of something that you no longer have a need for that bit easier.
You can save the photo somewhere electronically, or you can display it in a frame, as a collage, as wallpaper for your phone or computer, in an album or within a photo book.
Photo books are a great option and there are so many available now at very reasonable prices. It can take a little while to set them up, but you will have a great vessel for retaining those valuable memories and you can pop it on a shelf or on the coffee table and flick through it whenever you want.
Keep a piece
Or as Peter Walsh, Oprah’s own aussie organiser, says, “find the treasure”. This might be one piece of a set as a representative of the whole. Or it might be a piece of fabric from your wedding dress or your favourite t-shirt from childhood.
If you decide to keep a piece as it has significant meaning for you, you can’t just shove it into a cupboard. How will you preserve and display it? Maybe it goes into a display cabinet or on a shelf, or what about framing it? A piece of fabric could be placed into a frame with a photo laid over it.
What’s the cost of keeping the items?
This is a really important consideration. There is a cost associated with everything that we have in our homes. This includes financial, as well as emotional and physical.
- Do you have the space?
- Is there financial costs associated with maintenance, preservation and upkeep of the item?
- Is there an emotional cost associated with retaining the item? Does it make me feel bad everytime I see it?
- Am I just holding onto it because I spent good money on it a long time ago?
Can you afford that in your home?
What do I do with the keepers?
They definitely all need homes, and preferably ones which allow you to preserve the items and enjoy them for years to come. Be selective in your choice of a home as the environment (think water, air, bugs, dust) can effect some items. Similarly, you don’t want to store the precious china tea cup on a shelf which isn’t very sturdy and is in a position where it is often bumped.
You also need to work within the physical limits of your allocated storage space. If you can’t fit everything, you need to go back and review and make some further decisions. We don’t want anything homeless or of no use in our homes!
What do I do with the ones that no longer have a purpose for me?
If the items are broken or no longer functional they are just taking up valuable space in your home and need to go in the bin (recycling whatever you can of course!).
If they are still in good condition but no longer have a purpose in your home, you can also consider some of these sell/swap and donation options.
- Sell, Swap or Pass Forward:
- Swap or pass on your friends or family (with no conditions attached of course!).
- Facebook Marketplace or any of the myriad of Buy/Swap/Sell groups
- Garage Sale
- Antique or second hand dealers
- Auction houses
- Donate/Gift options:
How did you go? Feel free to share your successes, challenges and tips on our Facebook page.