That’s one of the bracelets my mother wore in the hospital after she had my sister and I. You see the ‘B’ there after her name?
That’s for me. I was the second born twin.
Years ago my mother was going through her own sentimental keepsakes and asked me if I wanted this bracelet. I’ve kept it with my jewellery collection since then.
Right now that means it lives in a small leather pouch with a few necklaces, two sets of earrings and a set of four stacking rings. Every few weeks I put some earrings on and I get a glimpse of the bracelet.
I like thinking about how this bracelet was made. That a nurse or clerk in the maternity ward at Lions Gate Hospital in December of 1977 sorted all the beads and strung them by hand. And that that person made two bracelets, almost identical except one had a ‘B’ and the other had an ‘A’.
This bracelet will be with me for the rest of my life.
Some day my son, or maybe even a grandchild, will sort through my things and probably end up tossing it out.
It won’t mean that much to them. They might not even connect it’s significance.
It might be so out of date, so far away from what they know, that they don’t recognize it as a mark of my birth and a connection to my own mother, their grandmother or great grandmother.
At some point, all of your keepsakes and trinkets and markers of the past will just be trash to someone else.
Obviously I’m not without a sentimental side. I’ve kept a small file of report cards, awards and even an essay or two from elementary and high school. I have one of our wedding invitations and the menu card from our reception in there too.
Once a year I might browse through them while pulling out a copy of our mortgage or filing a tax statement. Is that reason enough to keep them?
It’s reason enough for me.
I’ve had a lot of comments and questions about sentimental clutter. What to keep, what to send away and how to break strong emotional ties with a few pieces of paper that hold so much memory.
This is a hard one.
No one can make those decisions for you. You have to go through those concert ticket stubs, locks of hair from a first hair cut and letters and decide for yourself.
I can tell you what’s worked for me and what others have had success with. Here are some strategies for culling sentimental clutter:
- Give yourself a set amount of space. It could be a shoe box, a file cabinet or your attic. Decide how much room you’ll give yourself for mementos and keepsakes and then prioritize what you have to fit in that space.
- Keep track of how often you look at it. That once a year peak into my Kindergarten report card is enough to for me to keep a 1/4 inch legal size envelope of papers in my little folder of files. If you have a basement filled with boxes of sentimental items, and you’re not even sure what’s in them, sort them, label them, and then put a date on the box each time you take an afternoon to look through them.
- Display and archive. Take your craft skills and put them to work. Make a memory album or a display box to remember that beach vacation instead of throwing seas shells in a Ziploc bag.
- What do you want to leave behind. It’s a morbid thought but when you’re gone, what do you want your family to look through? Boxes of junk that means nothing to them, or a curated collection of keepsakes from your life?
The other thing that’s helped me break away from some of my sentimental clutter is living in the present. Nostalgia can be fickle. One moment you’re enjoying the picture of your young 20 something self, the next your wistful for your unlined face and the next your lamenting the burden of your present, the family, the responsibility.
Honour your past but don’t pine for it. Loving your present, even if it includes diapers, middle of the night wake-ups and grey hair, can help you let go of the need to store every keepsake and piece of memorabilia.
I’ve got a few things to remember my childhood, my university days and my rowing career but a lot of it is gone. I don’t need it. If I want to think of those days I’ll talk to my mother or siblings or call someone that was part of it all and reminisce. Much more satisfying than looking at my athlete ID card from the 1998 Under 23 World Championships.
Has anyone else pared down their stash of sentimental items? How did you decide what stayed and what went?
PS. I’ll have another post dedicated to kid clutter and art work soon.