When Sentimental is no longer sentimental

by Kelvin Belfon

When Sentimental is no longer Sentimental_image


When I became a minimalist over a year ago, I was zealous.  Aggressively clearing counter tops, emptying overcrowded cabinets and storage areas and discontinuing unwanted junk mailed, I wanted to quickly rid myself of all the clutter in sight.

Fulfilled by the big payoff of what we were actually able to accomplish in a short time, my wife and I determined to continue minimizing for one year. Our approach was to fill 2 boxes of stuff each week while reducing the inflow of unnecessary items.

Less clutter meant more living space! The need for more space is something we had not anticipated, but were very grateful when we first got news that we were unexpectedly having twin babies back in March. Our decluttering endeavor was perfect timing.

With the birth of our twins and our family suddenly growing to 6, certain adjustments needed to be made. With the added responsibility of caring for preterm twins, the momentum that had driven our initial eagerness to reduce the extras in our home did lessen.

In this new approach we’ve begun to tackle the Big S in our home. That is, the sentimental stuff. I call sentimental things the Big because these things are our most prized possessions: wedding china, ornaments, clothing, jewelry, books, and such. Yes, they are our untouchable attachments.

Where this issue concerns such commodities I own, I have rationalized keeping them with the argument that I worked long hours to accumulate some of these things. They are dear to my heart because of the lovely memories and emotions they invoke. Some of these items go back 15 years when we were first married. Hence the term “sentimental.”

Such sentimental possessions are just as meaningful to my wife as they are to me. Twelve months ago, we wasn’t ready to part with them. We needed time…lots of it. But now, lots have changed. We’ve come to the place where we can both say, “Its time.”

You’ll Know When Sentimental is no longer Sentimental

You’ll know when it’s time to let go of things that carry deep memories. You don’t have to copy anyone’s timing. Make minimalism your own. There’s no need for extremes. Minimalism is not living without possessions. You will still own sentimental things. But because your perspective will change, because your attachment to things diminish, over time, it becomes easier and easier to let go.

Here are a few reasons why:

Sentimental things add clutter to our home. I had certain possessions that got in my way…literally. They made cleaning a pain, took up storage space and required extra time and care. The worst part, these items added no value to my life. So I had enough. They had to go.

If you can’t display or use it, let it go. This principle helped my wife and me evaluate whether an item would stay or go. “Let’s use the china or let’s get rid of it,” we said to each other. My wife is a good cook and we love entertaining, so having dishware that is slightly more special is important to us to keep. There was a trade off, however. As we made cherished items more accessible for our enjoyment and to share with others, we gave away less meaningful items.

Remember the past but embrace the future. Sentimental possessions are like soul ties that keep us married to what has been. They help us remember the good times with euphoric longing. The problem is that when things go wrong in our present, we tend to want to reach back to times past, and, comparing it with our present, try to replicate what is now crystallized in history. For many, going into the future without the crutch of our past is a scary process. But by idolizing old memories, we never really allow our future to speak for itself.

On the other hand, the things we keep can unduly bond us to negative and painful events such as dating relationships gone bad, divorce, bankruptcy, and extended periods of unemployment, to name a few. Let go! The future is brighter when it doesn’t have to bring with it the shadows of yesterday.

When possible, go digital. Storing stuff in boxes makes them inaccessible, especially when the occasion requires that you quickly have them at arms reach when you’re working on a project or away from my home. Also, scanning pictures of memorable events, such as your children’s school project, clears the clutter while preserving meaningful memories.

It’s better to give than to keep. There are people in need around us who can use our valuables…right now. I was recently the answer to someone’s prayer when they received some books that I finally let go of. But if no one comes to mind donation is an alternative. Keeping things boxed up, knowing that the chances of them ever being used again is quite slim, is a waste of valuable resource. For me, it just doesn’t feel right. But giving is always rewarding!

We are not our possessions. Our sentimental things are just that – things. They do not define who we are as individuals. People remember people, the memories shared together.  It’s people who are the most sentimental possession one can ever have.

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9 thoughts on “When Sentimental is no longer sentimental

  1. Zelma Dodd says:

    Going minimal is a process not an over night experience. I have started the journey but at a slower pace. Still I am surprised at how much I have sent to Goodwill or donated to other organizations. Your blog inspires me. Keep writing my friend

    • Kelvin Belfon says:

      Yes, you are absolutely right. It’s a process that takes time…lots of time. Thanks for sharing Zelma. Glad you are on your way!

  2. terri says:

    This is one of your best posts to date, I think. So true, every word. I am the same way at times, once I make my mind up to do something, I go gang busters, all out. Personally, I have found it very healing to get rid of some things, like those dealing with my wedding day, since it didn’t work out. If something makes me feel sad, I tend to get rid of it. But the teddy bear I have had since I was about 3?? That’s not going anywhere 🙂

    • Kelvin Belfon says:

      Thank you Terri, I appreciate your compliment. You are right, we can experience healing from letting go of things from the past. And yes, you may keep the teddy bear 🙂

  3. Jasmine Sepulveda says:

    I truly enjoyed reading this blog…I’m currently in the process of uncluttering my home 1 room at a time. It’s amazing to witness how family takes a lead role on helping out and the children tend to maintain their rooms neat. GOING UNCOMPLICATED has encouraged me daily to cherish the small things that matter most like family and kindness! May the Lord forever bless the Belfon family.

    • Kelvin Belfon says:

      Thank you for your comment Jasmine! It means a lot to me. I had no idea you were a reader. I’m glad you’ve begun the simplicity journey. You are wise to do one room at a time. It’s all about the baby steps. Thanks again for sharing and blessings to you and your family as well.

  4. Sasha says:

    Well you know I love this (for a few reasons). I am an uber-sentimental person at times. When my dad asked me to come clear out a dresser chest that was full of childhood stuff, I was reluctant. As i started pulling out old birthday cards, my first love note from 1st grade, and various letters exchanged between me and my best friend during a summer vacation, it literally brought me to happy nostalgia-tears 🙂 I scanned and saved every image, but threw away the hard copies. It was the best thing ever: I was actually able to email the images of the letters to my high-school best friend, who is now in another state, as am I. We shared some laughs and emails back and forth, and it was amazing to catch up, albeit briefly. I guess for me being able to share those memories with her was even more valuable than stashing the letters back into that dust old dresser. Bravo on this post, Kelvin. It’s so true, we are not our stuff 🙂

    • Kelvin Belfon says:

      Thank you Sasha. I have to agree on going digital with things like pictures. It’s easier to access and share like you’ve described. You tend to have wonderful stories. Thanks for sharing like always!

  5. Andie says:

    Kevin, this is wonderful! I’m working on finding our families own comfortable “minimalism”. — probably never as austere as what works for someone else, but when you’re consciously decided to keep each object in the homec at least itMs not clutter anymore.

    I also love your point about the accessibility of digital documents and memories. I’ve resisted digitizing more stuffs, feeling that it’s yet another form of clutter. But now I’m reconsidering that…. Great post!

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