A thing is not a memory

Sorting through mountains of items over the past year has, at some points, been an emotional experience.
When I first started decluttering I would often justify keeping items – from clothing and ornaments to other cinema tickets and penpal letters from long-forgotten people – based on the emotions they triggered. As a general rule if something had made me feel happy then I kept it.

I followed the oft-quoted minimalist mantra that if it ‘sparked joy’ then I should keep it. But really I was kidding myself that the items sparked joy.

As I repeated the decluttering process again and again, as I delved further into the world of minimalism, and thought harder about why I wanted to keep these things, it occurred to me: the items weren’t sparking joy, they were sparking memories of happy times.

Some people may argue there isn’t a difference but, for me, just because I can no longer hold a grubby wristband from a festival 10 years ago doesn’t mean the brilliant time I had at the festival and all the memories I made evaporate.

Just because I can’t look at a cinema ticket from the first time me and my husband went to the cinema together doesn’t mean we didn’t go and it doesn’t mean I can’t remember that day.

Things aren’t memories. Yes they can jog them but my memory can also be jogged by hearing a song from a band that played at the festival a decade ago.

I’m not saying I got rid of every sentimental item; there is still a box in the loft containing fragments of my life, I just don’t feel the need to keep everything.

I’m sure the day will come when I embark on the daunting task of scanning items, from birthday cards to photos, and get rid of the physicals.

But for now I’m learning not to place so much emphasis on the material, that the memories I have of time spent with the people I love are more important than trinkets and ticket stubs.



7 thoughts on “A thing is not a memory

  1. I woke up one day and realized I had a trunk full of things like graduation cards and I’m nearly 50. I sorted through the trunk only to find something that was valuable to my ex husband. That long lost treasure made out day. Him for finding it and me for making someone else happy through my letting go. You are right . It’s the memory, not the thing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I tackled this stuff yesterday with very similar feelings. Any bundles of letters I’ve had from friends I’m trying to return to them as the letters say more about their life at the time. I’m also sending a programme from a play my brother was in to him. He was 10. It was 25 years ago! I always worried I’d forget, but I’ve realised it’s on to be a present dweller rather than dwelling in the past

    Liked by 1 person

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