Minimalism And Mementos

IDs from international rowing events and two enclosure tags from Royal Henley.

When I was still a competitive athlete I recall seeing two retired rowers using the rowing machine, called ergometres, and wondering why? You’ve spent years on that thing and now you have a choice on what you do to stay in shape. Why go back to the torture machine.

When asked why they still used the rowing machine the reply was: it’s still a great workout. They both ran but said the ergometre gave them the upper body workout they were missing. I swore when I retired I’d never get on that machine again.

I lied.

It is a great workout. Sure, my results are nothing close to me back in the day but it keeps my back in shape and my arms toned. I’ve included it in workouts here and there over the years and enjoyed it.

When I started Crossfit I was excited to see rowing machines stacked in the corner. Cool. Something I knew I would be decent at from the start. Everything else, pull-ups, chest to deck push ups and Sumo Deadlift High Pulls, has been a challenge to learn. Fun but still a challenge.

Every time we use the rowing machines in a workout I have some flashback to my rowing days, some particularly grueling workout, maybe the one where it snowed and my t-shirt froze in a wing that my arm kept hitting. Or I think about the best moments: rowing through the Americans right near the finish line of the 2003 Head of the Charles in Boston. The silence from the USA partisan crowds lining the river banks was deafening. The sheer joy coursing through the eight other women in the boat with me was palpable even if it was respectfully as silent as the crowd (polite Canadians to the bitter end).

A decade of rowing ribbons and medals. These ones didn't make the cut.

I kept just a shoe box of rowing mementos. My last Canada racing suit, most of my international medals, two NCAA champion watches, one NCAA champion stand up plaque thing and my medal and Steward’s enclosure pin from the 2003 Royal Henley.

The ones that stayed.

Should I need to take a trip down memory lane I am still unlikely to open the mementos box. I’ll call up one of the amazing women I trained and raced with and catch up and reminisce. Or I’ll go do a workout on the rowing machine.

Having trouble breaking up with your mementos? Faith Janes at Minimalist Moms talks about the sentimental sabotage of clutter and gives you steps to break up. Check out Simple. Organized. Life for another how to on minimalism and mementos. Read about The Single Supplements memento declutter with friends and her own stuff.

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  • As a ‘recovering sentimental hoarder’ (yes said tongue in cheek) I really have to keep myself in check! I actually went through a stage of keeping every receipt and car park ticket associated with any purchase or transaction linked to a key event – such as first date with Hubby, or when I took my first born shopping. Absolutely ridiculous. particularly as I them had to stick them in a scrapbook in time and date order. Yes I know this is slightly unusual, I’ve always known even when I was doing it. It wasn’t just receipts either, clothes tags etc… then I started reading about minimalism and it really helped. I first read ‘Simplify your life’ by Naomi Saunders and other books/blogs. I realised that an item is only sentimental once you attach sentiment to it and the longer you keep it the more sentimental it becomes. I still have to work at it – but the first thing I try to do now is chuck such items away, or ideally not acquire it in the first instance – then there’s no item to develop such a relationship with.

  • Now see, I would put those in a shadow box and display them. To me that’s the difference between paring down and shearing off your old life. One shoebox does not a hoarder make.

    • Thanks for the shadow box suggestion. That’s simple to do, right?
      I am so uncrafty. I just returned the sewing machine my mom was loaning me and gave my little box of craft supplies to one of my sisters. I figure if I really need to craft or sew in the future it will probably be a small project that I could visit them to do. They’ll get more use out of them than I will.
      While I am into simplifying I do know that I would like more photos/art on our walls. Pretty bare at the moment. Project for 2011 =)

  • Wow! You are amazing! Amazing for the effort you put in to acquire all of those ribbons, medals and watches and just as amazing for being able to get rid of many of them! You are my hero! Go girl! =)

    This reminds me, I have a giant (and I mean giant) tupperware bin in my parents’ basement full of sentimental stuff… nothing as noteworthy as a medal or watch, but photos, cards, letters, that sort of thing. Years ago I went through other boxes of letters and it actually brought back a lot of warm memories I had completely forgotten about. Then I wasn’t sure what to keep and what to get rid of. I did manage to get rid of quite a bit, but the rest needs to be reviewed again with minimalist eyes.

    I have made great head way with my apartment. I did a thorough clean out of our front closet, shipped out four big bags of clothes from the bedroom closet, and got rid of / craigslisted several “decorative items” that no longer fit within our small space. Every time I open a cupboard, I try to re-envision it with just what we need and get rid of the rest. So far a lot of the stuff has been repurposed within my family. I had an extra printer, my sister needed a new printer… perfect! And my other sister and I are doing a bit of a clothing swap right now. We are both sick of many of our clothes, but they are still great clothes, so we are offering first to each other, then donating or consigning the rest. Next on my hit list is the filing cabinet!

  • I think I’m pretty ruthless, I threw away newspaper clippings and invitations from my exhibitions. I don’t need those. Getting rid of them doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.
    Some mementos are worth keeping, I have a small box of things I think my daughter would enjoy having or looking through when she is older.

  • Great job on all those accomplishments. My thought about mementos is that if they are important enough to keep, they deserve not to be stuffed in a box. Show ’em or throw ’em! The shadowbox suggestion is great. You can also find ready-made shadow boxes at any framing shop.

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