Sentimental Items: My Toughest Challenge | minimalism

Photo by Chris Lawton on

The past few days have been an intresting few for me. I planned to write this post on Friday, but the topic of it actually got in the way and unleashed a whirlwind in our small studio! I knew that decluttering, especially sentimental items, would be life-changing, and I’ve reaped so many benefits over the past year and a half or so already from the process, yet I was totally unprepared for the aftermath of donating some of my most confusing, and thus emotional sentimental items.

We all have sentimental items. Perhaps it’s a necklace from your grandmother; a teddy bear you’ve had since you were born; a photo from prom with your first partner. They’re items which bring back memories, through the touch, the act of viewing them, or the smell. You feel like they are intrinsicly tied to those memories and thus to you. The idea of letting go brings horror, even if they remind you somewhere in the back of your mind of bad times, guilt. Sometimes you don’t really know why you’re keeping them aside from the sentimental attachment, and that is a heavy weight to bear.

That was my burden. Most of my possessions have some sentimental value, but many are ones I cherish, find beautiful and use on a daily basis, allowing them to bring joy into my life as well as reminding me of wonderful people and occasions. But there were some I’ve been hauling around and which, quite simply put, had become too heavy to bear.

My mother died five years ago and her death rocked my world and broke me. I was given many of her belongings by my family, and as I mentioned, I carry many of them with me with great happiness today: her scarves, her handbag, her beautiful cosy cardigan I curl up in at home. I also, of course, have my own possessions which remind me of her: gifts; earrings, necklaces, a blanket. I adore all these things and use them every day with fondness.

Last week whilst travelling I feared I’d lost one of the scarves after a drunken night and was compelled to run downstairs and check it was still hanging in the hallway to avoid having a minor panic attack. Instead it triggered some thoughts, more specifically about how much these items were owning me. Sure, I love them, but sentimental items weigh me down far more than any other items I own, and I’m 99.9% sure that counts for all of us. I also came to the (shocking, I know) conclusion which I’ve always known, but which I’d yet to transfer into my own life: that the people and occasions are not enshrined or necessarily intertwined with these objects and these objects alone. I will not lose my memories of my mum without some of these things, those things which weigh me down most.

So I took a deep breath and found the items which have weighed me down, namely my mum’s navy Barbour jacket. I grew up in rural Scotland, thus a raincoat was a necessity, and anyone who’s ever owned a Barbour in such circumstances will probably join me in attesting to the fondness and fierce loyalty you develop towards both your personal jacket and the brand. The smell of a worn Barbour, all musty and damp, takes me right back home and I almost well up every time I smell it for all the fond memories (my boyfriend, for the record, thinks it smells like wet dog and cannot understand why I love it so much).

I received it a few years ago, gifted by my father, and I treasured it. It was mum’s, it was so, so precious. Yet, I couldn’t actually wear it, and that paradox has rested on my shoulders all the time. It has moved from country to country with me as my only waterproof coat, even being my only jacket through my summertime adventures in Prague. But it’s about eight sizes too big for me, so I always felt like a lost wanderer (and not in a good way!) when I wore it. I loved it, and I need a waterproof jacket, but it was making me miserable and guilty.

So I donated it. On Friday I took a picture, gave it a kiss and a hug, and donated it to someone who could use it more than me. The reality is the jacket has had a long life (perhaps longer than mine!) and will serve somebody in this rainy country far better than it can me. Plus, although it was a loving gift from my father, if I hadn’t taken it it probably would have still been lying in the garage being unloved.

Do I feel guilty? Yes, but less as the days go on, and the freedom donating this single object gave me on Friday was mind-boggling. I feel as though, somehow, it was the single most heavy possession I was carrying, and finally, finally, I could begin to declutter my mind and other areas of my life. With two days hindsight I can see how interlinked these events were, for as soon as I arrived back after donating the jacket and a couple of other things I delved straight into the world of ED recovery with the concerted effort to make sure that this weekend is the beginning of a recovery which will last.

So there were tears yesterday, but not for the jacket. To finally feel the strength to let go of bulimia which has kept me in chains during my young adult life is, for me, revolutionary. Perhaps it was just time, but I think it has more to do with the fresh air of freedom and not feeling burdened by unnecessary sentimentality. I’m still sentimental, and I still have many items, but ¬†without the heavy Barbour I can move on. Sure, I need to get myself a new raincoat, and as soon as budgets allow that will be a new, well-fitting, more ‘me’ Barbour. Because although I rail against ‘Personal Style’, it just feels more like me than a ghost, y’know?

I hope this post helped somebody. It is one of the hardest things I’ve ever written, but I feel better for it! Have a wonderful, lazy Sunday everyone!



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