Simplifying Your Memorabilia

flowerKate asked: I was wondering if you had any tips for those of us who are struggling w/hoarding?  Not trash hoarding or anything, but I have an OVER abundance of stuff from childhood, that I just haven’t parted with.  I guess it’s psychological, so many memories attached to these things, and I don’t want to get rid of this stuff. Right now, all this “stuff” is in a closet, but still seems to find a way to make an entrance in a bedroom.

I myself had a large collection of childhood memories, special cards, crafts I had made, treasures I had collected over the years, all of which I brought with me when Aaron and I got married. And of course, Aaron had a box of his own goodies. I think the thing that helped me the most was to designate just one box/tote for this purpose. I forced myself to consolidate it all into one container. Giving yourself a limit may very well help you truly evaluate whether an item is worth keeping. It helped me take more serious thought as to which items are most special to me. It gave me motivation to compile all the special cards and photos from our courtship into an scrapbook that could be seen and enjoyed in daily view. Special cards, tickets stubs, programs from various events through our courtship were stored in the back of the scrapbook in a large envelope, which I glued inside the back cover. I plan to do this same idea as we collect our children’s cards and artwork in the future.

It helped me weed out all the trophies from piano events in the past and limit it to just one for memory sake. I saved just one or two of the special craft/sewing projects I had made as a child. Funny thing…this box still sits at the bottom of a stack of children’s clothing boxes in our closet. It rarely sees the light of day but it is indeed fun to keep for my children’s enjoyment in the future.

Ultimately, only you can decide what to keep and what must be parted with.

Christine Sutton says it best in her post, Treasured Keepsakes or Clutter?, “Only you can decide which items hold most meaning and importance for you. As you decide which items to keep, we do offer a word of advice. Keep those items that truly stir your heart or capture important events, and allow yourself to release the rest.

In her book, The Gift of the Sea, Anne Morrow Lindbergh compares our lives to the process of collecting seashells. Imagine that you are exploring the beach, gathering shells along the way. Each time you uncover a shell, you carefully consider its beauty and uniqueness. You decide whether or not it is worth keeping. By carefully choosing which shells to keep, you end up with a small collection of beautiful shells that bring you joy. If you had insisted on keeping every shell, then your beautiful shells would be lost in the mass of other shells.

The same can be said for your memorabilia. If you insist on keeping every item that is attached to a memory of an event or special person in your life, then you will soon be overwhelmed, and your truly precious keepsakes will be lost among the masses.”

Christine shares some great ideas for preserving memorabilia, including the idea of just taking photos of your children’s artwork so that you keep the reminder but get rid of the bulk.

A few questions that may be helpful to ask while simplifying:

- Will this item have a future use?
- Will my children appreciate having this item in the future?

Ultimately, I always strive to remember that the goal in simplifying is to have less clutter that takes time to maintain and care for in order to open up time to enjoy the important things of life…family, friends, and a needy world around us. The more we hoard the more energy is required to preserve it.

Further Reading

Holding on To Sentimental Things – by Small Notebook

The floor is open…do you have any tips on simplifying your memorabilia?

About Lindsay

Lindsay Edmonds is first a lover of Jesus, wife, mother of four, homemaker, and writer. She loves inspiring women around the world toward simple, natural, and intentional living for the glory of God.

23 Responses to Simplifying Your Memorabilia

  1. migratingoose June 11, 2010 at 11:11 am #

    I’m finding it worthwhile to ask is this a useful story telling heritage item? It is nice to bring out a plate that belonged to a great great grandmother or even to just me and discus who that person was, how they are related and tell a story about them.

    Or to ask is this a useful character telling story item?

    If not I am finding all I am doing is over the years going through the items repeatedly to eliminate them.

  2. Betsi August 18, 2009 at 2:08 pm #

    If you have time to go through things (that is, if you are not in a rush), allow yourself to go through the collection several times, with at least a few weeks between each perusal. Each time, only get rid of the things that you feel are expendable. Every time you go through it, you will realize that fewer things seem as essential to keep.

    A way to help me do this is to separate items into “yes,” “no,” and “maybe” piles. Then split the maybes into yes or no. If you are wavering, don’t push it! Let those borderline maybes be yesses, at least for the time being.

    Also, don’t wait too long between sifting episodes. The trick is to refamiliarize yourself with the contents so that the novelty wears off a little. Instead of, “Oh! I remember this little thing!” you start to think, “Well, that was nice once upon a time, but I don’t really need to keep looking at it.” By reevaluating every so often, you begin to realize which items really pull at your heartstrings.

    The whole process is a great time to spark memories and stories, so share them with kids, spouses, or a digital voice recorder to keep for later – it takes up much less space!

    • Kate August 19, 2009 at 5:44 am #

      Great idea, thanks!

  3. b. August 17, 2009 at 5:05 am #

    I’m working on my clutter/hoarding tendencies. I read a book called “It’s All Too Much” by Clean Sweep host Peter Walsh. He recommends many of the tips listed here (post and comments). He also suggests evaluating whether the item is currently used or given a place of honor. If something (say, a dish set) is not being used, is it displayed well? Or is it in a moldy box in the garage? If it’s the latter, either find a way to honor the memory by displaying it or get rid of it. His book is really helpful.

    • Kate August 17, 2009 at 10:11 am #

      Thanks, I’ll pick up the book! I know I’m intrigued when I see him on Oprah, but just never get to business after the show.

  4. Natalie August 16, 2009 at 3:59 pm #

    I love the site She gives great advice on letting go of clutter in order to bless the lives of others, as well as opening ourselves up to more. She has great recommendations, and if you are looking for ideas, check her out.

  5. Christine Anderson August 15, 2009 at 10:46 am #

    Oprah (of all people) in the one show I have ever seen of hers recommended that you take photographs of childrens artworks and stuff (get a good book on duplicate photography work [I just happen to be a professional photographer, so that is handy]). At some point in the future, you can categorize all of the photos and have them printed into a nice book. That way, there is no clutter hanging around and you can make a copy for the kid when they are older. I imagine this has a lot of applicability to other things. A nice collection of books is better than stuff in my ideal world, and I am no good at scrapbooking traditionally.

    The photos can also be backed up to an offsite location. This is vital in the case of fire or other unforeseeable disaster that could wipe out important family memories.

    • Kate August 15, 2009 at 3:42 pm #

      Yep, we have a box at our local bank. I started going thru stuff today, and taking pictures of stuff I’m getting rid of. I can’t say this was an easy day, but I know it’s all for the best.

      Thanks again, everyone!

  6. Leah August 15, 2009 at 7:57 am #

    After you decide to part with an item, you can always take a digital photo and keep a file on your computer. That way you still at least have a picture memory!

    I’ve been doing this with all of my daughter’s artwork so far (she’s only 3), because I know these types of things won’t save well.

    • Kate August 15, 2009 at 3:45 pm #

      Actually, what I’ve done, is frame some of the children’s artwork. The children’s playroom will be next. They have so many toys!!! I have the children clean up their messes when they are done. the playroom has a french door on it, so company can easily see thru it on the way to powder room.

  7. Erin H. August 15, 2009 at 6:42 am #

    My Mom has always said, Keep The Love Get Rid Of The Symbol :)

    • Ann August 16, 2009 at 3:18 am #

      My mom use to tell me that her parents kept her instead of the baby book! :)

      • Kate August 17, 2009 at 10:13 am #

        lol! That’s a good way of thinking of it.

  8. stephanie August 15, 2009 at 6:32 am #

    I have been taking pictures of stuff for an on-line ‘scrap book’. I have also been considering getting a color scanner to reduce paper clutter…all those certificates of achievement and awards from my childhood and for all the drawings from my little artists – scan it (date it) and keep it in a digital folder – burn it onto a CD if you’re worried about losing it. Right now I have a drawer that is overflowing into a box…with favorites hung up to enjoy, but it’s taking up space we could more efficiently use for other things and, as you mentioned, energy to maintain it.

  9. Elizabeth August 15, 2009 at 2:44 am #

    Years ago I read an article about simplifying children’s school projects and childhood artwork. The author suggested using (unused, clean) pizza boxes – like the kind you get with a take-out pizza – to keep your child’s schoolwork in. At the end of each month (or school year) she would go through the box with her child and together they would choose to keep only what would fit. Pizza boxes are slim and stackable and easily fit onto a shelf in the closet – you could even choose to combine several years’ worth into one. At the end of your child’s school years, they could either choose to keep all of the boxes or go through them and narrow down the contents. Either way, it’s much simpler to sort through a small box of items than to have everything from all 12 years of school dumped together. Like others who’ve commented, taking photos of our “treasures” is something our family does and it’s such a simple way to “keep” the memory of things… you could easily add the photos to these boxes if you don’t have time to create albums or scrapbooks.

    • Kate August 17, 2009 at 10:16 am #

      Hmmm very interesting! I know I’m not one to hoard my children’s things. Which is a good thing! Even their stuffed animals… I’m finding that I’ll say to them, lets clean them up (washing them) and give them to the children at the hospital to make them feel better.

      At church I’ve done a Noah’s Ark theme, and took in some animals to give away.

      Amazing I can give my kid’s stuff away, or throw out, but it’s harder to let go of my stuff.

  10. Ann August 14, 2009 at 10:08 pm #

    I just thought that I would share a couple of thoughts. I find that the less things we have and the more we organized the things that we do have, the happier we are. Whatever it may be keepsakes or toys. I have also found that the more children we have the less important some of these special things become. Tho it is always nice to save some special things to show our children when they are older. I also think that sometimes the less special things we have the more impotant our families become to us and the closer we can draw to the Lord.

  11. Brittney Colyer August 14, 2009 at 6:35 pm #

    This post is very interesting and has great tips and comments with tips :) I am not particularly a hoarder (word?) but wish that I actually had kept some things I discarded b/c of wanting to keep things simple and to maintain small storage. My mom is the opposite of me in this way and now that I have a daughter I really appreciate all that my mom has kept from when I was a young girl – just the cool things from 25 years ago that they don’t make now (books, toys, clothes, etc.). They bring back memories and benefit the now for my little girl. So as an encouragement, even though you don’t want to go overboard with keeping things, if you have to take a while to think through whether it’s a keeper or not, err on keeping the item. You can always discard later but you can’t get it back once you’ve donated it/trashed it.

    • Kate August 15, 2009 at 6:05 am #

      That’s where I’m falling short. I’ve kept stuff because I didn’t want to let it go. Clothes, stuffed animals, school awards etc. I do LOVE the idea of taking a picture of the stuff. I might do that. Reminds me of pictures I have of people who have passed away. You remember them, and the memories. Then you are sad that they are no longer with you, but it’s temporary, you move on.

      Thanks again Lindsay for posting this. I’m learning a lot and appreciate all the tips!

  12. Donielle @ Naturally Knocked Up August 14, 2009 at 5:08 pm #

    During the winter, when most food preservation is done and Christmas is over, I usually go though my old memorabilia. Each year I get rid of a few things that I either no longer have the same emotional attachment to or I decide just aren’t worth the space.

  13. Holly Fish August 14, 2009 at 2:53 pm #

    Any tips on the memorabilia from the husband’s past (I’d say about 20 boxes worth)?

    • Lindsay August 14, 2009 at 2:55 pm #

      Oh my goodness…we did the same thing with his stuff! We evaluated it all together!

  14. Vanessa August 14, 2009 at 2:07 pm #

    Another thing that I do is preserve items as photographs. My mom did this a lot with big science projects or art projects. When we no longer needed to have them sitting around but didn’t feel we were ready to part with them we took a picture. With digital photography – this costs no money! I have done this with some items that would not fit into our designated “memory” box but which I still would like to remember. It’s a great way to keep those memories, but without having to keep all of the stuff!