Sentimental Stuff 

Ah, here comes the part of the project that we all dread. Most of us anyway, and some  more than others.  Saying goodbye to the sentimental stuff… You know: Your letterman jacket.  Old school work.  The t-shirt your grandma bought you while on vacation in Cleveland.  

How can we say goodbye to things that have meaning?  

Here’s the thing. Obviously you don’t HAVE to bid anything farewell if you don’t want to. Keep as much stuff as you want, it’s your life! BUT I do think we should ask ourselves a question… Why do we hold onto things that we don’t wear or use – things that just sit in our homes collecting dust, taking up space? So we can occasionally stumble upon them during Spring Cleaning and say, “Aww. I remember this!”? Not that there is anything wrong with that, but, in my own experience, I had way too much of that going on.  I was holding onto items just because… either it was a gift from someone or I didn’t think it needed to go. (It’s doing just fine in the back of my closet, thank you.)

If you’re looking to simplify your home and lifestyle, here are my quick tips for dealing with the sentimental stuff:

  1. FAHGEDDABOUTIT. As you go through your closet, dresser, attic, garage, etc., try to not think about where that item came from, who gave it to you, etc. Just look at it as something you own and ask yourself: DO I USE THIS? HOW OFTEN? There will definitely be things with special meaning that are”off limits” when it comes to this technique (maybe a family heirloom, or the earrings you wore on your wedding day) but if you really commit to being practical and forget about the sentiment (as hard as that is!) you might surprise yourself with how much you’re able to purge. 
  2. USE IT OR LOSE IT.  If you haven’t used or worn something in the past year, it’s probably time to say goodbye. See if anyone you know could use it, or donate it to Goodwill.  Let someone else enjoy whatever it is! 
  3. SCAN IT TO MEMORY. Try scanning certificates, old school work, letters, etc. and save them onto a flash drive, that way you can keep the memories but save on space! Sure, maybe some of the romance is lost in the digital copy but you can always choose to save hard copies of the ones that mean the most, and just scan the rest. 

Now let’s be clear about what it means to get rid of this stuff. 

It does not make you a bad person. 

It does not mean you don’t care about special memories, or your grandma’s trip to Cleveland. 

Of course you care, but it doesn’t mean you have to hold onto everything for the rest of your life. Material items shouldn’t define us, and the guilt associated with letting things go shouldn’t define us either.  It’s one thing if you get rid of a gift someone JUST gave you (RUDE!) but if you’ve enjoyed it for a while and it’s run its course and you’re not really using it anymore, I think you can safely say goodbye guilt-free. 😉 

When I went through my belongings, I was really selective with the items I said “YES” to.  I didn’t get rid of blankets my grandmother crocheted for us, or the wooden jewelry box that Mitch had engraved with a poem he wrote for me. There are several things I kept, but several (boxes of) items I decided to donate.  Of course it helped that this portion of “the big purge” happened at the time of our move and we were trying to fit everything into the smallest Uhaul, but I want to maintain this train of thought as we settle into our life here in Oregon. I want to continue to keep things simple, to own less, knowing life can just as meaningful (maybe even MORE meaningful) without all the sentimental space invaders. 


A KEEPER: My dad’s senior shirt! He gave this to me years ago and I actually wear it quite a bit. It’s the softest shirt ever, and it means a lot to me!


The shirt is so faded now but there he is! Arvid Russell, Super Senior! 😄


DIDN’T MAKE THE CUT: This tournament shirt from my high school basketball days (AKA 4 years of believing I was going get taller.) If you can’t tell, I cut the sleeves off because… well, all the cool kids were doing it.


I would love to hear about your own experiences with sentimental stuff. Have you ever gotten rid of anything that you had for a long time? What special things are you holding onto? 


    A Sticky Situation

    *This was written over the course of the past few days, and am just now getting around to posting it!

    The big move to Oregon is just around the corner for our family, and the past few weeks have been a whirlwind of madness as we’ve been preparing for the relocation. (Hence the absence of blogging!) Funny how things work out… I started this project before we even knew Portland was in our cards. I said I wanted to take purging to the next level… There’s probably no better way of doing that than moving to another state!  

    For those of you who said you’d like to join me on this purging journey, you didn’t realize it would be this intense, didja?? Let me know when you’ve all reserved your Uhauls.

    Moving can be a fun adventure but on the flip side, the act of packing is a huge pain. You never realize just how much stuff you own until you start putting your entire life into cardboard boxes. Every time Mitch and I move (this is our 3rd move together), it amazes me how much we have accumulated. We aren’t hoarders by any means, in fact, I feel like we own much less than the average married couple, but it’s funny what we’ve decided to hold onto for this reason, or that. For example, this: 

    Who on earth keeps the instructions manual for a George Foreman grill? (*raises hand, looks around, slowly drops hand before anyone notices*) I have a file folder specifically for manuals and therefore filed it away… But Mitch pointed out to me that I’ve not only kept this manual but I’ve moved it – TWICE – to new homes, and it’s gone completely unused, probably untouched since I took it out of the original box.  Why do I keep things just for the sake of keeping them? 

    That’s not even that bad. Enter stage right: My collection of sticks. 

    I don’t know what it is about sticks, but I love them, and I collect them from camping trips, walks around the neighborhood, etc. as visions of handmade crafts dance in my head. I have in fact used said sticks for a craft. ONCE. Boy, was that a proud moment.   

    As we packed up for Oregon, I came across my beloved collection and I stared down at them, realizing I had reached a crossroads. I really did NOT want to let go of them. I worked so hard to collect them (you know, bending over and picking them up one by one!) Mitch witnessed me having this moment of introspection and with a stifled chuckle said, “You can’t take those.” I pouted and briefly disputed, but he followed up with, “Val… We’re moving to OREGON. Oregon probably has BETTER sticks than California.” 

    Hmm. He had a good point. I mean, of course we won’t know for SURE about the quality of Oregon sticks until we get there, but there’s a definite possibility that I’ll find some that I like. 

    So I only packed 5 of them. HAHAHA. I know, it’s ridiculous!! But hey, we all have our issues… 😉 Baby steps.

    I’m sure most people have more sensible things that they hold onto. I say “sensible” but it still doesn’t mean it’s necessary. Furthermore, I’m discovering that what is necessary or meaningful for one person may not be the case for someone else. Minimalism looks different from person to person depending on priorities.  

    For example, I owned that (awesome) collection of sticks BUT I don’t own an ironing board, something which probably baffles a lot of people (especially my own mother!) We don’t iron clothes often, and if we do need to dewrinkle our clothes, a folded towel on the countertop works just fine for us… OR, let’s be honest, sometimes a quick 10 minutes in the dryer. *wink wink* We also didn’t own a TV for the first 3 years of our marriage. We have one now (it was a gift from my parents) but don’t have cable. We have Amazon Prime and Netflix but chose not to get cable as a way to keep things somewhat simpler. Who needs 400 channels?? Obviously not having a cable bill is a great thing too. Similarly we’ve gotten by with only one car for the past 2.5 years, a feat that some think is impossible in LA/Southern California. Sure it makes some situations a little more complicated but it’s totally doable. 

    I guess now that I’m thinking about it, we’ve been living out a certain minimalism for a while now, but we’re taking it up a notch, and while I may seem 100% enthusiastic, I’ll admit the challenge is a bit scary. I like “stuff” as much as the next person. But I refuse to let my life be about it. My prayer through this project is that I learn to fill my life with the deeper things, the things that take up no closet space, but instead overflow my heart. A journey of personal growth if you will. 

    Maybe you’re thinking about how you can make your life a little simpler, but you’re not exactly looking to be a gung-ho modern minimalist. Maybe you want to explore minimalism but you don’t know where to start. I’m obviously no expert, but what I would suggest is thinking about what areas in your life you would like to simplify. Ask yourself in what ways are you possibly living excessively? 

    Too many shoes? 

    Too many video games? 

    Too many trips to Starbucks? 

    Too many toys for the kids? 

    Too many mugs?

    Remember the “things” are not necessarily bad… But most of us have become slaves to consumerism whether we want to admit it or not. It’s about our search for happiness in the end, and I truly believe that happiness we all long for can be found in the “Less is More” aisle.