How Do You Consolidate Your Things?

I have a difficult time letting go of possessions. I’ve addressed this here, here, and here, but not really the causes behind the difficulty. As the child of a (retired, now) Army officer, we did move during my life. I also attended boarding school. The belongings I carried with me during these moves, and at school, necessarily were those I valued. They also recall very specific moments or places in time, which is a meaning that I find personally valueable. For me, it is hard to donate items or consign them, in a few cases, because it then feels as though I don’t value the memories attached to those items any longer.

Part of the reason I started this blog was to edit things down, to hold myself accountable by donating items that are no longer worn, that have perhaps some genuine sentimental value but little to no practical value–like a t-shirt from my middle school spirit week. (Yes. I truly had held onto this.) So that was an easy thing to remove from my wardrobe. But what about other things, things that have sentimental value but aren’t practical? Like a dirndl from a trip to Germany to visit my father (again, yes, I have held onto this); shoes that were my mother’s but are beyond repair (I wrote about replacing them here, but I’ve held onto the original pair); a sweater of my grandmother’s that was destroyed by moths? What do I do then? I don’t want to let them go–well, the dirndl can go–but the shoes and the sweater and numerous other things… I don’t want to let them go, but I really don’t have a place for them any longer.

So what would you do? Would you hold onto these items, knowing that they are just relics, or let them go and simply remember them? I’m eager to hear your thoughts, and what you’ve chosen to do if you’ve found yourself in this position!

7 thoughts on “How Do You Consolidate Your Things?

  1. I think there are two different things: wardrobe and memories. One needs to be useful, one doesn’t. I have my h.s. letterman sweater which I can’t really wear but can’t let go of. Memories and what goes with them are important.

  2. Is there a way to repurpose some things?

    For example, even though the sweater was destroyed by moths, if it was wool or cashmere, you could felt it and cut out a heart shaped brooch from one section, or felted coasters for your desk or bedside table. This would give you a way to hold on to the memory of the item, but turn it into something you can enjoy and continue using. YouTube has how-to videos for felting, and Etsy has cute project ideas.

    I frequently repurpose things like this, that are beyond their current life, but I also have my great grandmother’s cedar hope chest. I have filled it with special things like you are describing. The size helps contain the collection and keep it in check.

  3. I wish I could remember the artist who originated this idea, but I once saw a beautiful series of photographs where the artist paired a photo of a beloved item with a photo of her or her mother using that item. The photos were arranged side-by-side, maybe as left and right pages of a book. Some examples include a photo of a tube of lipstick paired with a photo of the wear’s smile, shoes that the soles were worn through paired with a photo of her dancing in them, etc. I have thought about this so often when I am thinking about parting with sentimental items that no longer serve a useful function in my life and are just taking up space. I think I’ll probably do this one day if I move house. In the meantime, less sentimental items I put in the donation bin after thanking them and wishing them well in their next life. It’s a ritual adapted from Marie Kondo’s method and I find it to be really helpful!

    1. The photograph series–and saying goodbye and thank you to things–are both beautiful ways to honor what has brought joy in life! Thank you for sharing these with me.

      I do agree that it is important to hold onto things that only have sentimental value. Thank you for sharing your beautiful writing–I was very moved by how you wrote about your grandfather’s shirt!!

  4. Also, I do hold on to some items that are only sentimental. Matchbooks that belonged to my grandfather, some housewares from my grandparents that aren’t my style, some costume jewelry that belonged to my mom. I think in our contemporary culture we have so few ritualistic talisman that it is nice to have a physical connection to these feelings of connection through objects. The hawaiian shirt that my grandpa wore in the 80s hangs in my closet not as a garment that I’ll wear, but as some sort of a portal. It’s like a physical manifestation of some ambiguous sense of family and continuity, tradition and spirit. To me, having a few of these little tactile transcendent objects peppering my house are worth the “clutter.”

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