Is there room for sentimentality in minimalism?

This is a question I’ve asked myself a number of times as I’ve sifted through old birthday cards, my diary from aged 12, photo’s of friends last seen 20 years ago and numerous paper clippings and school reports.

My wife says I am sentimental and that stops me throwing all these things out, but they occupy a whole chest and a desk that means we can’t get our bedding in, and that I am hanging on to an awful lot of stuff.

Many of us hold onto things for the memories; scrapbooking, buying a postcard, photos, keeping mementoes of a time gone. There are numerous blog posts and bits of advice on how to do it. Here’s mine;

  1. Look at each item individually – yes this may take a long time, but you need to be able to make a decision on each thing. Ask yourself what memories does it evoke? Happiness? Reminiscence of better times? The loss of a loved one?
  2. If you want, write a few words about what holding on to this gives you? Peace of mind, reassurance, motivation not to return there?
  3. Then ask yourself, are there other objects that might also bring these feelings? Can I hold these feelings in me, without an object? Can I keep a digital image of this object, and it would still bring out the same feelings? For example I keep all the birthday cards and letters my Nan sent me. She died two years ago and I miss her terribly. I also had some of her clothes and I just felt I couldn’t part with them. I have kept the birthday cards and letters for now, but just for big birthdays or where she’s written a lot in them. Then I used some of the material from her clothes to get a memory bear made. These are fabulous. You can have a little bear (in fact you can get most animals) made for you in a material that will hold memories of a loved one. You could keep photo’s of cards or items that bring you fond memories. They can still be evoked through a digital image.
  4. If you then realise you’re holding onto an item for reasons such as ‘it makes me feel young again’, ‘it reminds me of better times’, ‘it’s something that reminds me of my school days’, ask yourself if you were in a fire or a flood would you save these items? Do these items really make you feel younger, or are you just going back to a time when things were less complicated. Can you make changes in your life now that will bring those feelings?
  5. Create yourself three piles – to keep, not sure, to bin/recycle
  6. Pick up your next piece and start all over again !


So I did this myself at the weekend – I sifted through all of the chest and found things I didn’t know I had including;

The stage management prompt book I made for my theatre degree course

Newspaper cuttings from the year I graduated of the graduation ceremonies

Sorry you’re leaving cards

Birthday cards

Flyers from plays I wrote at school

All of my old creative writing for my Uni course.

Old sketches that were pretty rubbish

Art materials – I had a phase of doing life drawing. I loved it but it’s fair to say I was crap at it and mindfulness is my way of getting calmness in my life now

School Year Photo

Guest Book from 30th birthday

Guest Book from leaving school

Drawings and notes from my brothers when they were little

I took each one out and looked through them again. I marvelled at the fact I had to use a typewriter to write out my plays and essays at University. I laughed at some of the drawings I’d done at life class, and was impressed with one or two. I looked at the newspaper clippings, and the leaflets and the drawings and I had a real trip down memory lane. Then I took the six steps above and found;

  • I don’t need the plays and essays from Uni. I don’t write plays any more and I don’t actually know why I kept them.
  • I got rid of most of the cards apart from the one’s that had something really special on them
  • I kept the guest books as there were lots of memories from lots of people and I want to use my 30th guest book for my 40th (and 50th)
  • I kept the drawings and notes from my brothers as they were so precious
  • I have redistributed all the art materials to people who use them
  • I got rid of the massive prompt book I had at Uni as I am not even interested in stage management any more, and I never even liked the play!

The result is I have kept some of the thing that are more precious to me, that I will look at again. I have got rid of about 75% of what I was keeping and don’t miss it at all. We can now get all our sheets comfortably into the chest. Job done!


6 thoughts on “Is there room for sentimentality in minimalism?”

  1. Good going! I’ve limited my sentimental items to two boxes – one for letters and another for bigger items. It’s always a bit emotionally draining going through them, but feels like an achievement when I’m finished.


    1. That sounds like such a great idea. I love the fact you’ve got a box for letters. Think I might go with that. It just feels a bit wierd leaving them in a drawer. Thanks for sharing. Jo x


  2. I did something similar this time last year. I had rocks in a box in a box from a canoeing expedition I lead in 1997! I’ve had them for nearly 20 years! It does feel liberating to let these things go though. One of the hardest for me was my little black dress. I kept it because I liked the memory of the feeling I had when I wore it. Go figure.


    1. It’s great to hear about different things that you’ve kept as well. I used to keep stones from the beach, it’s funny how we link items to memories isn’t it? THanks for sharing, Jo x

      Liked by 1 person

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