The Why: I am not a very sentimental person. I rented my wedding dress and have never regretted it, I recycle birthday cards upon receiving them, and my husband lost his wedding ring during our first year of marriage and it didn't create any real marital upset. (He lost the replacement a couple years later, too. He's now on wedding ring number three!)
Nonetheless, I do have one box of items in the basement that I haven't known what to do with. It's time to sort through that box.
The How: In order to remain in our home, all sentimental items must now be used, displayed, or properly archived (in the case of favourite photos and love notes.)
Here are a few things I try to keep in mind when sorting through sentimental stuff:
- We are not obligated to keep anything that is given to us. Period. Not gifts, not heirloom gravy boats, not my children's Sunday school craft projects. Nothing. That doesn't mean that I can't or won't keep some stuff, but I am not obligated to. If the person who gave it to me wanted to forever control it's destiny they would have kept it. I am the gate keeper to our home and our home is not a museum.
- Just because somebody passed something down to us doesn't necessarily mean that they treasured it. I think sometimes that we are playing Old Maid with family heirlooms. Stuck with something they don't particularly want but would feel guilty shipping off to a thrift store, a family member passes the "treasure" on to us. We are then stuck with it for the same reason until we can find somebody to pass it on to, and the cycle continues. I don't want to play that game! If it doesn't bring us joy, I need to send it off to the thrift store so that it can find its way into the hands of somebody who will treasure it.
- Stuff is always just stuff. The emotions attached to the item are not actually in any way attached to the item! People are not memorialized by their stuff, either. I look around my house and definitely am not hoping that one day my friends and family will treasure all the stuff I've collected. I hope they will treasure memories of time spent and love shared, not serving dishes and picture frames and tea pots. If we don't want to be memorialized by our belongings, why do we tend to think that our ancestors wanted to be memorialized by theirs?
- Using our sentimental items will keep them sentimental. We have a beautiful set of wedding china that was given to us by my (now passed) grandfather. We use it every single week. We use it when the whole family gathers for a birthday, we use it to plate fancy desserts and serve tea. My two year old has used it, my friends have used it, we have even broken a couple pieces. One day when we are dead or ill, and my children have the task of going through our belongings I would rather them encounter a partial set of china that they have used countless times than a full set that sat behind glass their whole life. And if one of them chooses to take those dishes home that day, they will know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are free to use (and in time, break) those dishes.
- Which brings me to my last point: One day our kids will have to sort through every single item we have chosen to keep. I don't want to burden them with a house full of crap I couldn't bring myself to get rid of!
The tote is empty and I feel good about that.
We are doing one small thing (almost) every day for a year to create a simpler, quieter, more intentional life. Take a moment to read all About Us, check out The Rules of our year long project and sign up for our RSS feed or "like" us on facebook so that you can follow our journey to radical simplicity!