That old book, worn at the corners, coffee-stained, you lent it to a friend back in high school and they wrote their name in the back. You tell yourself you’ll keep it another month. A box of toys, squashed into a cold garage or a stuffy attic, each toy a familiar old friend. You push them back in and figure you’ll clear them out next time. That box of photographs, you can’t even look at them, but you put them back, where they belong. Three hours later, you look at all your hard work and you realise, you only minimised a couple of items.
This is the paradox of decluttering. We go into it having not thought of our items, maybe for weeks, maybe for years. Then once we see them, everything comes back. We loved these items once. They are ours. They belong to us.
But, do they? How can something we haven’t touched in years belong to us? Sure, the sentimentality- the emotions- those belong to us. The item, however, is lost to time. All that time hidden in storage, shoved into a corner somewhere and forgotten.
We carry things with us, moving across countries with our baggage, hiring storage units to keep things we no longer love. All this, all because when we finally go to minimise the items, we feel something that we forgot existed. That medicinal mixture of nostalgia, sentimentality, and longing. Sensory memories, flashes of the colours of our past that we had previously remembered as monochrome.
There’s a number of routes to minimising things you once loved, from taking a picture of the item, to thanking it, to burying all emotions and narrowing your field to that ‘ideal number of items’. Perhaps, instead, we can find some use in recognising that what we once loved isn’t necessarily useful to us anymore, it isn’t everything we feel, it’s simply a thing.
To make your memories of the object separate from the object is the one clear route to minimising things you once loved. To recognise that the object is not the memory, and that the object is just an object. We can even find it cathartic, in the end, to rid ourselves of things which we realise don’t serve us anymore.
Do you find it difficult to minimise things you once loved?