We can all agree that getting rid of childhood keepsakes can be difficult. You may feel obligated to keep something because of your memories associated with it. Perhaps it was something really important to you at one point in your life. Or maybe it was a gift and you feel guilty giving it away.
I’ve noted some questions below to consider as you tackle your box (or boxes!) of childhood items. These questions can help you keep the best of the best items and be prepared to declutter the rest.
Do you want the item? Is it important to you? Still? Now? You may be hanging on to items that are important to someone else, or were important to you at one point in your life. But are they now? It’s OK to let go of an item that has served its purpose in the past and provided meaning to you when you needed it. You can feel gratitude for the item, but it doesn’t mean you have to keep it.
Consider setting up parameters for your keepsakes. Maybe one tote bin is all the space you have in your basement, garage or attic to store keepsakes. Instead of thinking that you are “losing” these keepsakes, shift your mindset to think of everything you are gaining when you are letting go. You are gaining physical space to do something else with that area. You are also gaining emotional freedom becoming unattached to items that no longer serve you. If an item doesn’t fit in the tote, you either have to make space by purging something else, or choosing not to keep it.
If you decide to keep the item, what if you chose to feature it, instead of storing it in a tote bin? If it is still important to you, put the item to good use! Here are some ideas to consider. Some even offer the opportunity to preserve an item without actually keeping it!
A simple and easy step. Take a picture of it, then get rid of it! You can look at the photo whenever you’d like and the item is no longer taking up physical space. I’d even recommend taking a few minutes to write down why the item was important to you, or what memories you associate with the item. Then, take a photo of your item with your writing.
Could your item be a decoration in your home: on a wall, a bookcase or on top of a dresser? Maybe you are holding on to a really cool souvenir from your semester studying abroad. Why
not feature it somewhere you can see it, rather than store it in a box? If you decide the item isn’t something you want to display in your home, ask yourself if you really need to keep it. You could photograph it and frame it along with a writing of your memory.
Do you like to hold on to concert ticket stubs, sea shells or stickers? Consider storing them in a clear jar, such as a mason jar, and using them as a decorative piece on a bookcase or a shelf.
I recently had a client with a collection of her grandmother’s tea sets. She didn’t use them. They were stored in a buffet table. They were taking up valuable space. She really wanted an area to store bar items and serving items for entertaining. But she felt guilty giving up the tea sets because they belonged to her grandmother. After some discussion we decided to keep one tea kettle, one saucer and one cup from her favorite set and to display these items in her home. For the rest of the collection, I suggested she set-up a beautiful table set for tea - tablecloth, placemats, tea items - and take a photo of it, frame it and hang it up in her home. She could then think of her grandmother every time she passed the photo in positive, loving way. She no longer had feelings of guilt around the many tea sets taking up space in her buffet!
If you have a collection of keepsakes, say from your years playing Varsity baseball in high school, take individual photos of all of the items, combine it with some photos of your playing baseball during this time and create a photo book or scrapbook. A small photo book takes up a lot less space than years of jerseys, t-shirts, cleats and trophies!
Gifts can be tough. Someone has taken the time, money and effort to give you a present. It’s a thoughtful and loving gesture. But what if you just don’t like or use what they’ve given you? I’m here to tell you that it’s OK to let that item go. If you were to take any fear or guilt surrounding the item completely out of the picture ... would you still keep it?
When someone gives you a gift, the real gift is the exchange of love and gratitude from them to you. The gift may be their way of showing you how they feel. The item is just an item.
Keep this in mind too: the gift giver wouldn’t want you to feel distress or guilt every time you looked or thought about the gift.
When you received the gift you accepted full ownership and responsibility for the gift. It’s now up to you to whatever you want with it. And if that means passing it along to someone else who would enjoy it, use it and treasure it, then that just may be the right thing to do with it!
If you’re having doubts about letting it go, you could take a photo of it as a memory. You could also seek out a person or charitable organization that would most need the item. Giving it to someone who values it is a meaningful and thoughtful way to share the gift.
Hopefully these give you some ideas on how to approach decluttering and pairing down your keepsakes. Ask yourself the tough questions and do your best to only keep the most important items and to also find a way you can feature them. If it is something you truly treasure, then treasure it, don’t put it back in a box to be stored untouched for another 10 years!