Decluttering: The sentimental stuff

Part of packing up and moving overseas is decluttering.  Large scale, hard core decluttering.  I have slight hoarder tendencies, but in most areas I find it pretty easy to get rid of the crap.  It might take me a couple of sort-throughs, but I’ll get there.

My achilles heel of clutter is the sentimental stuff.  I have an entire cupboard filled with cards, notes, letters, ticket stubs, photos, and random other souvenirs.  Or actually, I should say I HAD an entire cupboard.  Because as of this afternoon, I have started decluttering the nostalgia.

And seriously, it was HARD.

As I read letters from my high school friends about our teenage dramas, lovely cards from lovely people, letters from my boyfriend (now husband) about how maybe we should break up, notes from grandmothers who are no longer with us, and a vast assortment of notes and gifts, I felt overwhelmed.  Overwhelmed with memories, with embarrassment about the teenager I was, with sadness about throwing these things out, with nostalgia for the effort I used to make for my friends (and vice versa) when it wasn’t as easy as sending a quick email, with wondering what my future will hold.

It was not a bad kind of overwhelmed, but it was certainly BIG.  After three hours, I was exhausted, and I couldn’t look at it anymore. Fortunately, three hours coincided with the engineer getting home.  He helped me out by being the one to physically collect it all up and dispose of it.  Now, we’ve gone from three large shoe boxes to a small pile of only the most meaningful.  And it feels good (well mostly good…)

During the process, I found that a few things helped me:

  • Getting rid of the things that remind you of what you’d rather not remember
    (for me it was letters from an ex-boyfriend, not too happy letters from my engineer, teen drama letters from a very intense friend).
  • Taking photos of things that are easily photographed, and meaningful
    (I now have a file of photos of things that I love, and want to look at again, but don’t need to physically hold onto, this was particularly great for little keepsakes).
  • Discarding cards with no message
    (As much as I like to remember the occasions and the people who have sent me things, these cards don’t really spark great memories for me, so I decided they didn’t need to stay).
  • Considering what I’d want to show my kids
    (This meant the birthday poems from my Mum stayed, as did special cards and letters).
  • Limiting the amount of stuff I could keep
    (I considered how much I realistically wanted to store up, and tried to stay within this amount).
  • Realising that if I didn’t have this stuff now, I wouldn’t miss it
    (As much as it was kinda fun to go through the boxes, a lot of the things I had kept I NEVER would have remembered if I’d chucked them years ago.  And I wouldn’t have missed them.  Which means I won’t miss them in a few more years!)

These things meant that I could get rid of what I needed to, and free myself from clutter, without later regretting it (well, I hope I won’t regret it!)

Now, I still have a large stack of photos to get through, which I can’t imagine will be too easy either.  But my confidence is up from completing this process.  And the looking through to declutter is certainly going to be interesting!

2 thoughts on “Decluttering: The sentimental stuff

  1. Amanda says:

    Hello, it is my first time here (I followed you over from a comment in APW… I am sorry you are dealing with infertility… but know that you are not alone, so if you ever need to rant, or vent I’m there with you).
    I totally get you on the decluttering I have boxes and boxes of train tickets, cards, newspaper cutouts, invitations. It is hard to get rid of stuff.
    As for now, I limit the stuff I keep (I used to really keep everything and organize it in scrapbook style agendas, where I would also write quotes I loved from whatever I was reading, etc, but it took too much time to keep up. Now I am not keeping that much stuff anymore, partly because the husband is against what he calls “junk”… so I am learning to be more selective .
    Good luck in the move and in all the things you are busy with; grad school, new country, own business 🙂 All the best to you.


    • jenn says:

      Thanks Amanda! As you can see, I’m pretty new here too (although I’ve been blogging in different places for a while). I love your idea for scrapbooks, but I just know I won’t make the time to do it. So getting rid of most of it, and taking a few photos is enough for me. The memories are more important than the mementos after all!


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