Our Memories Are Not Based In Our Possessions


Most of us grow up with a belief that memories are tied up in our possessions.  This is both true and false.  Whenever I look through old photographs I am reminded of my childhood, adolescent, and adult years.  I think back to warm summer nights riding my bike with my friends, tea parties that I had with my mom, exciting activities that I would do with my dad.  These memories become very vivid to me when I’m looking at these things.  But do you want to know something?  When I put this box of “memories” back into the plastic tub and back into the closet, my memories remain out here with me.  They are not found in the possessions that I choose to hold onto but are woven into my heart and mind.  I will always have them with me.

Friends, it took me a long time to get to this point.  For most of my childhood and early adult years I was a complete pack-rat.  I would hold onto clothes, gifts, home décor accents, and family heirlooms that I no longer used, desired, or needed for fear of three things.  The first being that if I were to let go of them that I would then lose the memories that I had associated with those pieces.  How would I remember my trip to Hawaii, the place where my now-husband asked me out as his girlfriend?  How would I remember all of the afternoons that my mom spent dressing up and having tea parties with me if I released my tea set?  What about all of the journals that I had kept since grade school?  I had planned on showing those to my kids someday.  Do you know the one thing that all of these questions have in common? 

They are rooted in fear.  Fear of letting go of the past in order to make room for the present.  Fear of not believing that the best is yet to come.  To tell you the truth, I have gotten rid of a lot the past couple of years and in doing so I haven’t lost a single memory.  In fact I have made more!  By shedding some things that have no longer served me and that actually were kind of a downer (i.e. my journals) I have been able to make room for more memories.  If you read the post, Creating Your Core Values, you’ll know that one of ours is “family”.  By focusing on this core value and putting it into practice by spending more time with them, my husband and I have been able to make so many new memories.  And the best part is that possessions are not required; all you need is time and your presence.

The second fear that I had in letting go of my things was that I was very much afraid that in doing so I would lose my identity.  This is probably the one fear that I have had the hardest time with.  It was a goal of mine to someday have a beautifully decorated home, a full closet, and white picket fence.  I thought that of course, I would throw regular dinner parties.  Why else would I be registering for china and flatware?  And being the fashionista that I am, I of course need to have a closet filled with options.  As stylist Rachel Zoe says, “more is more” and “options, options, options”.  If I simplified my wardrobe by letting go of my clothes…would I still be fashionable?  Would I still be me?  What would people think?  These were legitimate concerns that I had when de-cluttering our home and it took a while for this fear to subside.  Years and dozens of bags dropped off at Goodwill later, it’s safe to say that I am still “me”.  In fact, I feel like a much better, lighter, and more stylish version of myself.  You see, when I had that closet packed tight with clothes and closets overflowing with boxes and bins, I was hiding.    I was unconsciously creating walls and barricades so as not let people in and be able to see the real me.  I wanted to be in charge of their perceptions.  It was only after I let go of my possessions and fear though, that the true “me” was able to be seen.

The third fear that I struggled with is the fear that by getting rid of particular items I will be letting people down.  I think that this is one of the most common arguments against decluttering.  It doesn’t matter whether it was a birthday gift, wedding gift, or inherited piece, we don’t want to cause hurt to the family member of friend who gifted the item.  We care about them and we are grateful for their present however sometimes there is just not room for it in our lives.  As someone who has a tendency to people-please let me just say that I can emphasize with those of you who struggle with this.  It’s something that I’m working through and a process that I have found is increasing my self-confidence.  I believe that we should be mindful when going through and decluttering our home however if an item is no longer serving a purpose or you no longer find joy in it, then it is time to let it go.  The person that gave it to you is someone that obviously loves you very much and wants you to be happy.  If holding on to this item is causing you dissatisfaction, anxiety, or sadness, then you should let it go.  You can do so by either having a conversation with the giver prior to giving the item away or not.  I have done both.  As adults we teach children that when we make the decision to give something to another child that then that item is theirs.  We then don’t have the authority to say how they use or what they use that item for.  The same rule applies to adults.  One way that I’ve learned to deal with the guilt in getting rid of certain possessions, specifically family heirlooms or gifts, is to think about it this way: what items most remind you of your loved ones?  Keep those select few and (if your wanting to) get rid of the rest.  For example, I used to have several items that reminded me of my grandma – a tea pot, a couple small dolls, a perfume bottle, jewelry, etc.  When examining the items, some of which had been given to me by my mom, I realized that I didn’t find value in some of them – they didn’t necessarily remind me of her like other items did.  So instead of keeping everything that could possibly remind me of her I narrowed it down to a few things that keep out or in my memory box. 

The items that I keep there in that box aren’t holding in all of these memories though.  I could get rid of that box tomorrow and still I would have those thoughts with me.  Friends, I can’t get across enough how our memories are not tied up in our possessions.  Sure, certain memories will surface to mine when we see certain physical items but even if we don’t they are still there.  By letting go of possessions that we no longer love, need, or use we are making space within ourselves to remember the past and to make room for the present and the future.



Photography by Zoe Grant.