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.