Why You Don't Need Mementos to Bring Back Happy Memories

Many of us hang on to things we don't need (and often never even look at) because of nostalgia. Supposedly these things bring back all our happy memories, and we believe that without them we'd somehow be less. Less able to remember, less who we are.

Never mind that who you are today is fluid, changing all the time as new thoughts, knowledge, and experiences enter your life. Not only is that old stuff that clogs your basement, garage, and all your closets static, you don't even need it to jog those oh-so-precious memories.

first car

Don't believe me?

Tell me, can you remember your first car? The one you got by working that cruddy part-time job your senior year of high school? It took just about every penny you earned to keep gas in the tank, and when it developed that suspicious noise you had to beg your dad for a loan to fix it. But you were proud of the thing all the same, and felt a huge amount of maturity and freedom because you had your own means of transportation. Maybe you even gave your beater a name, just because it was so important to your life. My car was Bessie – what did you call yours?

Okay, you remember that possession that brought you such joy. Tell me, is it rusting in your driveway right now?


But you'll never forget it, will you? The same way you'll never forget your parents, grandparents, your honeymoon trip to Italy, or what your tiny, precious, first-born child smelled and felt like when you brought her home from the hospital. Or the huge upwelling of love and responsibility you felt for her.

Your need to keep all those old, useless things was always about the feelings they inspired. So keep the feelings – release the stuff.*

Get this: A thing is not a memory. It's not the person or event you cherished. It's just a thing.

And BTW... one picture is worth a thousand tchotchkes.

* Obviously this doesn't apply to heirloom-quality items in good condition. Those you can sell after your now-grown child tells you she doesn't want them. She really doesn't – please, respect her decision.

Coming Monday:  Why Decluttering Isn't Like Waving a Magic Wand

You've tidied and organized, but you want a clutter solution that lasts. Death cleaning lets you get your life in order – for your loved ones and for yourself.

If you're ready to reinvent yourself and carry just the essentials into your new life, you'll want my book Downsize Now: The Joy of Decluttering For a Fresh Start.* It will give you the tools and inspiration to get the job done so you can start enjoying all the benefits.

* This blog is reader-supported. If you buy through my links, I may earn a small commission.


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