How to Declutter for a Simpler Life – Part Five: Sentimental Items

declutter-sentimental-simple-living

Alright, here it is. I have made it to the final category of the Marie Kondo method to declutter. It is as big, bold, and intimidating as you might think.

It took me more than a month to get to this section of decluttering. As you’ll recall from previous posts, I moved fairly quickly through clothes, books, paper, and komono. I enjoyed the process but also needed to create space for myself along the way. I gave myself that space before jumping back in. And this week I was determined to give the last category a go.

Getting Started

I started with my apartment. The sentimental items I kept here were limited. I had already collected a small pile of papers (love notes, pictures, gifts, cards, etc.) that I had laying around in various spots. That pile had been sitting beside my desk for weeks, waiting for this day to come.

I also had a laundry basket full of childhood photos as well as all my childhood artwork and schoolwork that my mother had dispensed a couple months ago. I spent a Sunday evening sifting through these photos and papers.

I discarded duplicate photos easily. I reveled in the memories of each one while selecting only a few to save. I made a small pile of items to keep and a big pile of items to toss. I collected all my journals and piled them up, too. Not one went in the trash. These I’ll keep.

“Alright,” I thought to myself. “One pile down. I’m well on my way to being finished!” And then I went to my mom’s house…

I knew I had some stuff in her attic. Boxes of recent items that I had forgotten about since I moved out. And boxes of stuff from childhood and high school. I took each one down, one by one. All ten of them.

In the back of my mind, these boxes always seemed less obtrusive than they turned out to be. They seemed like “just a few” boxes in the attic. But I was wrong.

They contained the entirety of my history as a human in all ten boxes. From birth to high school graduation to my most recent ex-boyfriend. That’s over twenty-two years of stuff (not including the last five years).

All that stuff had just been hanging out in my mom’s attic, taking up not only her physical space but also her psychological space. Not to mention the amount of psychological space it was taking up for me – unknowingly.

I put all the boxes around the dining room table, pulled up a chair, and lifted the lid on the first one. I stared into the abyss that was my childhood. Photos. Photos. And more photos.

Photos

I knew I loved photography but I never realized I loved it this much. I think I was the only one of my siblings to take photos. If I could get my hands on a disposable camera, I did. And then when I got to high school, I got a non-disposable film camera. I purchased rolls of film and developed them like it was going out of style.

My love for photography was evident. I had about ten full photo albums. On top of that, I had loose photos. Some still in their packages with the film strips. Others on CDs. I had photos in boxes inside my boxes. I had photos mounted as art. I had photos in all sizes. Photos. Photos. And more photos. 95% of these photos went into the trash.

Between all the photos, I uncovered my baby blankets, stuffed animals, and Christmas ornaments that my mother had saved. I took out art supplies, forgotten housewares, and college notebooks and papers. And then I tackled my boxes within my boxes.

Time Capsules

Growing up, I remember watching movies where children would find tin boxes that held secret treasures. Treasures that unlocked secrets to the past. I developed an obsession for creating these boxes for myself. Time capsules.

The first time capsule I created was in a wooden box I got when a great-grandparent passed away. It had a lid that lifted on brass hinges with the top to a toothpaste bottle glued to the lid so you could open it. Inside this box, I put a written time capsule. A note to my future self from my fourth-grade self with clear instructions to open on January 13, 2020 (my birthday).

This note is super special. I have thought about it every year since I wrote it and have always looked forward to opening it. I think I know what it says. But I won’t know for sure until 2020.

That was my first time capsule. I created four more time capsules for each year of high school. I didn’t have cool wooden boxes that could fit all my crap, so I used shoeboxes. Most of the stuff in the boxes had zero meaning for me today. Literally, just crap. Other things were sweet to find, like notes from friends, pictures of old beaus, and clippings from trips. 99.9% of everything in these boxes went into the trash.

My photos and time capsules took the bulk of this decluttering session. The photo albums that I found as well as my journals were pushed to the side. I collected these items as well as several others to take back to my apartment. I needed to be at home, in my own space, away from my sister and mother (who sat with me while I decluttered) to complete these final steps.

Marie Kondo suggests doing the decluttering alone with no music since it is a deeply personal journey. It’s distracting having music on or other people around. I can attest to this. I keep things I wouldn’t have otherwise kept. And I could feel my mother’s peering gaze encouraging me to keep certain things. That’s why I decided to take these final, more challenging pieces home with me. Everything else I tossed was pretty easy to discard. I knew it was time to part. And we did.

Re-discovering My Self

What I enjoyed most about this part of the decluttering process was re-discovering myself. I re-learned several things. For one, I loved time capsules. For a person who loved to capture history and lock it away, I’m surprised I forgot this. Another thing was that I loved photography, which I never realized I loved as much as I did, even though I’ve known it to be a hobby of mine.

These learnings, on top of several others, made this part of the decluttering process worth the entire journey. I initially thought to declutter was a way to enact a newfound philosophy, but decluttering ultimately was a means of self-discovery. I can see how over the years I lost sight of who I was, where I’ve come from, and how I came to be the person I am today.

I picked up negative beliefs and stories about myself and my past that were obliterated by this process. I’ve seen clearly the amount of love I was given as a child. And I can see all my positive (and negative) qualities in a way that supports who I am today more than I could have ever imagined.

I can see my talents and natural abilities as they popped up even as a young child and into my teenage years. Which makes me appreciate who I am on a profound and deep level. I feel like I take myself more seriously now than I ever have.

Decluttering my sentimental items has given me a perspective a new perspective on my life. And if you’ve been hesitant about the decluttering process, I hope that my experience encourages you to jump in with your heart wide open, ready to discover the blessing that is your life.

More to Go

I’m still not completely finished decluttering. There are a few more loose ends I need to tie up. I’ll do those in the next week or two and get back with you about the final steps in my decluttering journey. My next post will be my final post. I’ll include my take-aways and leanings from the journey, a recap of the experience, and how exactly I brought this sacred ritual to a close.

Stay tuned for the next installment by signing-up on my email list. Until next time!