Letting Go of Memorabilia

Filed Under: Memorabilia

Whether you’re letting go of stuff, clutter, a negative thought, person, or dream, letting go is not easy. For some of us, pitching our old records or childhood doll is easy. For others, dismissing a thought or goal is easy. Keepsakes can be a challenge because they trigger fond memories from the past; that’s why we hang onto them.

So how does someone let go? There’s not a simple clear cut answer but there are things we need to consider. What makes it possible, and what are things we can do or believe that will make the task ahead of us easier?  Remember your value, worth, or happiness isn’t wrapped up in your things. Also, remember your grandmother or sister is not the item you hold in your hand that was once in their home or on their shelf. Your grandmother or sister is so much more than a punch bowl or an old prom dress. Your value and your loved one’s value as a person can’t be determined by the “stuff” around you. That’s the biggest lie we all are tempted to believe. We are also tempted to think we will forget a memory or a person if we get rid of something. I promise you that’s not the case. You will never forget your aunt’s loving care for you when you needed her the most if you get rid of a blanket of hers.

Choose a few items that add joy and positive memories instead of allowing “everything” to be a keepsake.  I also suggest only a few items because displaying or using the items is the goal. It is much more meaningful to look and a pinecone wreath from my grandparents’ northern Wisconsin property hanging in my hallway instead of stored in a dirty box collecting dust under a bed.

Also, everything can’t qualify as special and unique. Every greeting card you’ve ever received from family and friends cannot be unbelievably great.  Every picture taken or artwork drawn cannot be the most amazing piece of work.  Every lace doily and china cup from your mother or grandmother can’t be your absolute favorite. You have the privilege, power, and choice to surround yourself and keep only things you get jazzed about seeing.  Take that task seriously and up the ante about what you consider extra special.

Avoid getting sidetracked and distracted by enlisting the help of an organizer to keep you focused. Mementos can stir up all sorts of emotions that sometimes leave us paralyzed and depressed and also sometimes get us so excited and happy we want to share our findings with others and celebrate. Having an unbiased organizing partner helps you wade through these projects will speed up the process and keep you on track.

How to Organize Six Specific Types of Keepsakes and Memorabilia

Relationship Memorabilia:

Breakups, splits, getting dumped, divorce, moving out, moving on brings some of the worst emotional pain imaginable. However, breaking up with stuff after breaking up with a person has to happen.  Allowing items to remain present remind us of the person and pain. It drags us down, paralyzes us, and leaves us stuck.  When I encounter people that have been through hurt and loss in relationships, the amount of freedom they find when we ditch the ex’s stuff cannot be expressed in words.  They find permission to move on and let go. For one client, it was furniture that her ex left behind. Once the furniture was sold on Craig’s List, it was as if she could breathe again. She wasn’t aware of the hold it had on her emotions until I encouraged her to get rid of his stuff. Where ever you are at in your break up journey, consider what is left behind that is affecting your heart and mind. How can you lessen the blow and begin to heal? There’s no right or wrong way of doing things but removing items is the first step.


Choose trips, periods, or life events that are extra special. One of my customers had gone to Disney with her husband and two boys fifteen times. She quickly realized she didn’t need or want fifteen Disney albums of all their trips. We picked a select few from each one and tossed the rest. As you’re organizing them, stay focused by zeroing in on the time frame or life event to organize photos chronologically. Delete or pitch duplicates and blurry photos. Don’t overthink the process, just start filing photos in albums by periods or better yet, scan them into the computer and organize them electronically. Many companies are affordable and will do the scanning for you.

Items from deceased family members:

After a loved one passes, it is very difficult to go through their items. I’ve helped families go through items close after a passing and have also helped individuals that have waited years until they are ready to go through the items. Whatever time you decide to tackle it, is the right time. I’d never suggested doing it alone. And sometimes involving other family members make it worse. You can quickly get guilt-tripped into keeping everything because another family member thinks you should. Going through loved ones’ items is also very emotional, so enlisting the help from someone who can think clearly, help give you sound options, and encourage you to make smart decisions is vital.

High school & college memorabilia:

These years are the most fun to look at and will give you a good laugh. They also show our immaturity at that age. Back then we thought everything was important so sometimes we kept everything. Now looking back, hopefully, you’ll have a more realistic angle and viewpoint. Keep items or keepsakes from big milestones and big events during those years. For example, a silly letter from a friend you haven’t seen in twenty years could be toss, but a letter from your dad on graduation day telling you he’s so proud of you would be kept. Look at the gravity and sincerity of these items and make your decisions based on those two values.

Greeting Cards:

With most of our communication digital, getting a piece of actual mail becomes a treasure and something rare. Whether the greeting card is tacked onto a present or sent in the mail, we get attached to it and inevitably I hear “Amber, I want to keep it.”  There has to be a balance and asking yourself some questions as you’re going through stacks of old greeting cards from years ago, should help shed light on keeping or tossing them.

  • What type of card is it? Generic cards, thank you cards and blank cards aren’t necessarily extra special. They are common everyday cards that aren’t worth keeping. Homemade cards with specific content or design might be a keeper.
    Who is it from? If the person isn’t extra special in your life and super close to you, there’s no point in keeping it. All of us have a circle of five to ten people that are our core people in our lives. If the sender of the card isn’t in your core people in your life, let it go.
  • What did they say? If the message is just a signature ‘Love, Dad” I would toss it. If the message is a poem they copied, that’s not original. I would toss it. Keeping a love letter from your husband is way different than a greeting card from coworkers on your forty-second birthday.
  • Is it a milestone event? Breaking your leg versus winning the battle to cancer shows the gravity of different events we experience. A fortieth birthday is a special birthday versus your forty-eighth birthday.  Your wedding happened once and it was a special day. The years and years of anniversary cards after the one day will continue to come so perhaps keep the special wedding day cards instead of the anniversary cards.
  • What about Holiday Cards? Toss them.  You are only responsible for keeping track of your immediate family photos. You are not required to keep all family pictures from extended family to watch how fast their children grow up. Their moms and dads should be keeping track of their children. Soak in the pictures and cards for the season but then let them go come January or February.

Kid’s artwork:

Here are my criteria for deciding what to keep of kid’s drawings. If they’ve colored in a preprinted turkey at Thanksgiving, let it go. If they drew their turkey or made a turkey keep it. If they wrote a story at school about dogs and cats, let it go. If they wrote a story about their family explaining what their family means to them, keep it. If they went through a Pokémon fad and drew every figure over and over, just keep one, not all the same looking drawings. So you get the idea. Keep the extra special and extraordinary.

If you are still struggling with letting go and need an extra shot in the arm consider some of these tips and questions to ask yourself. Ask yourself, what’s the worst that will happen if I let this go? If the result isn’t detrimental or catastrophic, it’s probably okay to let it go. Don’t cave in and try to get it back. Once it’s in the bag, in the car, at Goodwill, or in your friend’s closet, there’s no taking it back. There is very little in life that we cannot live without. Hundred percent of the time I would argue it’s relationships with people. You don’t need to second guess yourself or wonder if you made a mistake. Just take a deep breath and tell yourself that it was okay to let it go. Consider stop looking back and starting looking ahead. Your life doesn’t lie in the past it lay in the future.

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