This is it, my friends. The hardest part of the whole challenge. Why is it so hard? Because we’re not just dealing with things–we are dealing with our past. Gifts from friends, letters from old loves, things passed down from our grandparents, artwork by our children. All of these things have emotion attached to them, which is why they are so hard to get rid of. But here’s the thing. Many of these old things are keeping us mired in the past when we should be enjoying our lives now. It’s true that most of our sentimental items gave us joy at one time, and we may be afraid that if we get rid of them, we will also lose our memories of when we received them. But things that are truly important will always be remembered, with or without a memento.
When we talk about mementos, we are including such things as:
- Letters from old boyfriends or girlfriends
- Wedding announcements, baby announcements, graduation announcements
- Artwork made by children; notes from children; ill-shaped pottery from children 🙂
- Report cards, transcripts
- Jewelry received as a gift
- Stuffed animals
- Programs from cultural or musical events
- Plaques or cute knick-knackery
I do not include pictures in this list because it is such a massive category that it deserves its own post. (It’s coming next week).
It’s not really possible to list every kind of memento. In this challenge, we have discarded and organized almost everything else in our homes. Most of what is left over can be classified as a memento. (With the exception of other miscellaneous items such as the pantry or game closet, which will also have their own post).
Throughout my life, I have received quite a few letters from young men who I greatly admired (or who greatly admired me). Most were from boyfriends, but there were several from a boy who wanted to by my boyfriend (but I would not comply). Then there was the ill-fated long distance relationship where a boy and I fell in love with each other just through letters without even having seen each other (or even a picture of each other). The letters were terribly romantic. There was poetry. There was longing. There was virtue and loveliness. It was just like a fairy tale. Or a Nicholas Sparks movie. But then we met, and the real relationship lasted three days.
I packaged up all these letters and put them inside a big white binder. To remind myself of how awesome I was, because once upon a time, these boys wrote really nice, romantic things to me. A few years ago, I found this binder, and even though it was hard for me, I threw it out. I am a happily married woman, and I don’t need men from my past to validate who I am now. They don’t even know me now. Also, imagine what their wives would think if they knew that their husband’s 17-year-old girlfriend was keeping letters from them. Not cool.
It’s true that most of our sentimental items brought us joy at one time. But their purpose was to bring us joy at that time. Now we can thank the items for how they made us feel, and then let them go, knowing that their work is done.
Often times, we keep something for fear that we will offend the person who gave it to us if we throw it away. If these things have just been sitting in a box at the top of your closet, the person who gave them to you will never know if you throw them away. If you are holding onto artwork from your kids (even if they are grown), go ahead and ask them if they want you to keep that ceramic piggy bank they made in 3rd grade and gave to you for Mother’s Day. They will probably be surprised that you still have it.
I am not suggesting that we need to throw away EVERY sentimental item that we own. If something truly still brings us joy, then we should of course keep it.