Sentimental clutter

Do you hang onto things for sentimental reasons? Or because of gift-receiver guilt?

Mr S is very sentimental. And part of that involves holding onto things FOREVER. Here’s some of his reasons to not let go of things for sentimental reasons.

You can’t throw that out:

  • you’ve had it for years
  • I’ve had it for years
  • it’s from – our wedding, my first job, my childhood, my first…,
  • it was a gift from my mother, a student, someone, …

Recent things, Mr S objected to my decluttering:

The cummerbund and matching bow tie he wore at our wedding. It’s such a classic 1990s Laura Ashley floral print. It has never been, and will never be, worn again. Except for fancy dress. Surely you can remember the day without the clothing? Which you can’t see anyway as they’ve been kept in a box under the house for 15 years! [Result: given to school drama department for costume wear.]

Eldest son’s baby tooth. I found it in my drawer. Asked son if he wanted it. He threw it in the bin just as Mr S walked in, knowing something was afoot. “But you’ve had it for so long. You can’t throw it away now.” I don’t need parts of his body to remember him! And hanging onto the tooth because I’ve never tossed it earlier doesn’t make it more valuable. “But I have my tooth stuck in my baby book.” [Upshot: son felt guilty at upsetting his dad so took the tooth out of the bin. But a week later, tossed it again.]

Two money tins. But they were gifts for the boys from Carl Murphy. And you can’t get them anymore. The boys don’t want them. Carl is dead and even if he wasn’t, he wouldn’t care (or remember) if the boys didn’t keep them for 20 years. And you can pick them up off FB Marketplace for $5. [Result: gifted on the FB Buy Nothing site.]

My advice to Mr S on how to deal with sentimental clutter?

  • Don’t over sentimentalise every thing. You can hold memories in your head for ever.
  • Limit the actual items you hold onto – such as to fit in a certain space. I’ve given him a couple of small boxes. God knows where he’s put them.
  • Take a photo.
  • Will our children want to sort through this when you die or we go into a smaller place? (He won’t think about the former and says the latter will never happen. Classic denial.)

12 thoughts on “Sentimental clutter

  1. This made me smile and I can relate to this and the way you have written about it just shows how ludicrous it can be to hang onto everything no matter what but I am sentimental – as you probably know, and probably more mental than need be – but having said that I haven’t kept any teeth yet!
    I have taken photos as it is a good way to capture the memory and the feeling from the memory. There are things I do wish I had kept – my art school sketch book and some pottery (which would be ultra fashionable now) but I know I don’t need them to live my life. What would be good is having everything on display like a mini museum that I could go and visit once in a while and have a bit of a reminisce over but not have it cluttering up the house!

    • I love that – more mental than senti.

      I think you should have kept your art school sketch book too. Sorry.

      A museum would be good – if we could hire a curator and the space. But I find when you visit second hand shops, or small regional museums, I end up seeing things over which I exclaim, “Mum had one of those.”

  2. Well as someone who still has their Tweed Heads snow dome thing (but bottle shaped) with tiny dolphins in it, I can understand Mr S’s anguish.
    And only recently was aghast to realise I had kept some baby teeth – in an old Monday to Friday pill box. Not what I was expecting to find when clearing out the medicine cupboard.

  3. My DH would certainly be in the finals of any World Wide Sentimentalist contest. For years he kept an ugly coffee mug with a broken handle that used to sit on his grandmother’s kitchen table (keep in mind he could only visit her once a year, at most). The mug was filled with broken pencil stubs and dried up Bic pens. Yep, he kept all those items, too, until our DD tried to use one of the pens (thinking it actually worked). She gently asked him if he thought it truly honoured her memory to keep such things. He finally said no and got rid of all of it. Now if I could only get him to agree to donate the five king size multi-coloured acrylic yarn, crocheted blankets she made that we’ve never used…or his battered 1980 yellow Toyota jacket that hasn’t been worn (doesn’t fit) in 35 years…or every t-shirt his parents ever gave him or concert ones he bought. I stopped counting his t-shirts when I reach 100. He isn’t allowed to bring in another one unless he gets rid of ten. These items represent the veriest tip of his sentimental iceberg.


  4. I’m not sure how it happened, but I’ve never really associated things with sentiment. I take pictures and that’s enough, or have my memories. Lucky me, I guess. Brett’s the opposite, but as I’ve sad, he wants to hold on to less as he gets older. He may be holding on to less these days but now is using or wearing something beyond its usefulness. He hasn’t figured out when it’s OK to either replace something or let it go. I have faith he’ll eventually figure it out.

    • Oh Mr S and Brett may be twins. Mr S won’t let go of clothes when they’re holey or worn through. Polo neck top ripped – but “you don’t see it when I’m wearing a jumper”, but you’re not wearing a jumper. “Well I normally do.” You own lots of them. Let this one go. “Why? Still does its job!”

      • Brett wore a uniform for so many years and even the tiniest spot or hole was cause for the time to go into the trash. Civilian clothes have been a whole other story. When things get bad I have found buying him a new item and swapping it out with an item that needs to go works for both of us.

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