Holding onto Sentimental Items: Helpful or Hoarding?

May 20, 2019

We all do it. We hold onto that ticket stub, that flyer, that thing that reminds us of a day or night well-spent with close companions. Sometimes just our memory isn’t enough--we want that physical reminder.


Photo: Onur Bahçıvancılar on Unsplash 


The problem with this mindset is that those little things start to accumulate. What started as a few little papers or items here and there suddenly becomes a box filled with those items, and then suddenly they don’t fit in the box anymore. What do you do then? Get a new box? Throw some away?


It’s hard to let go of things that have sentimental value. Whether it’s something from your first day with someone or something from one of the best days of your life, letting go of that item can feel like letting go of how important that memory is to you.


The truth is that the more sentimental items you collect, the less value they start to have. Each one gets lost in a sea of others, perhaps losing some of its importance in comparison.


So what should be done about it? How can you choose which items to let go of?


If your problem lies mostly in making that choice, take the time to sit and go through each item individually. Look at each one critically. In the wise words of Marie Kondo, “Does it spark joy?” If every item sparks joy, which ones spark the most joy? Which items are from events that you can imagine yourself excitedly telling your friends or future kids about?


Prioritize. You don’t need something physical from every nice day that you have with friends or a significant other. Limit yourself to a few things that remind you of each  important person in your life.


Even if you didn’t keep any sentimental items at all, it is very unlikely that you would forget about your most special moments. While having something physical to touch from such a  moment is nice, nothing really matters more than the fact that it happened. Not having a token won’t change anything. If it truly meant a lot to you, then you don’t need a token to remember it fondly.


That’s not to say that you should never keep anything nostalgic. Just remember that there are limits to how many emotionally-attached things you can keep before it becomes a form of hoarding.


Hoard memories, not things.


Stephanie is an undergraduate student at Washington College. She is an English major with minors in Journalism, Editing, and Publishing, and Justice, Law, and Society. When not writing, you can find her either at a concert, reading a book, or petting a cat.


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