The big secret to breaking free from the clutter of memorabilia without the guilt

Sure you wish that you could park your car in the garage, but what are you supposed to do with that 4 foot trophy your son won in  middle school? 

Or all those sweet little drawings that your daughter did?

Or even your own high school letter jacket?

Probably the most difficult thing to deal with in the quest for minimalism is memorabilia.  It is easy to let things go when you can replace them via Walmart or Craigslist if you need to, but you can't get back memorabilia.

Worse, there is SO much guilt associated with letting it go.  "How could you give away Chase's baby shoes? Didn't you love Chase as a baby? What about Bethany's six-year-old drawings? Wasn't she precious?" The emotional attachment to memorabilia means that most of us don't deal with it.  We pack it in Rubbermade containers and cardboard boxes never...ever...go through it.

My husband unloaded our attic a couple of months ago.  The last big boxes to deal with were memorabilia.  I had started to tackle it several times, got exhausted by the prospect, and walked away.

I needed a system.

I needed someone to tell me it was okay.

I needed a way to shut off the freaking guilt so I could park my car in our garage!!!

Last Saturday, I finally decided to tackle it and this is what I came up with:

Determine the size of the container/floorspace/square footage you are willing to dedicate to memorabilia and curate the collection down to that size. 

Here is how it worked out:

  1. Not only did I have the box in the garage, I also realized I had memorabilia tucked other places too.  John set up a table and I pulled EVERYTHING in there to be gone through all at once. As much as I had let stuff go in my quest for minimalism, there was still a LOT of  memory stuff! It was shocking to see it in a great big pile.
  2. I determined which size box I would need for each family member and purchased wooden, lined boxes that would hold up over time.  One of the reasons I chose to buy expensive boxes is that this is STUFF I'm committing to keep—which means it is moving with me everywhere I go for the rest of my life. (Dramatic, but true.) 
  3. In deciding which STUFF to keep, I had to be rapid in my decisions and ruthless in the commitment to the space allocation. 
  4. We did not involve the kids.  John and I talked about asking what they wanted to keep, but realistically we would be saddling them with the difficult decisions.  (I know this because a lot of the STUFF to go through was from a giant tub my mom had given to me.)  Giving them a curated collection of selected things from their childhood seemed like a better gift than trash bags of stuffed animals and boxes of baby clothes and papers to go through. 

What we kept: 

  1. A sampling of things from every age. 
  2. Items that would remind each of us of the very best qualities of ourselves. 
  3. Things that would make us laugh.
  4. Some room still left in the box so that we could add to it.

What we discovered: 

  1. Not only could we park in the garage, but closet and drawer space was freed up too. 
  2. We no longer have to worry about cleaning out the attic if we decide to move. 
  3. There is no more nagging "ugh, I should deal with this feeling." 
  4. There is no guilt because we each have a large (but manageable) box filled with fun stuff from the past. The decisions about what to keep and what to ditch have all been made. 
Dealing with memorabilia is hard. But is it really worth getting into a car that is too cold or too hot every single day just to be able to warehouse stuff that we just haven't been able to man up and deal with?   Set aside some time, pull everything into a pile, buy some boxes and JUST DO IT!  It feels really good to have it done and your car will thank you.
© Random Cathy
Maira Gall