Decluttering Treasures Week 3: Physical Memories

October 2015 Live Decluttering Challenge Game

Let me begin by telling you that this can be a heart wrenching week. As much as photos bring back memories, the physical mementos are more visceral. Your first love, never forgotten, gave this figurine to you; this doll was from your grandmother; all of those awesome t-shirts from concerts in your 20s. Overload! Make sure you have your partner on hand to help and maybe even to pass you tissues as you go through objects in your life.

And be prepared to be an especially good partner this week. Your job is to get things out of the house with a minimum of pain. Gently but persuasively remind that “When in doubt, toss it out.” While your partner is reviewing her possessions, get on eBay and auction sites to look up prices – sometimes it can be persuasive to know an object’s worth. And don’t forget the tissues.

Be sure to connect with other players on the Minimalism and Decluttering Games group on Facebook. There is much wisdom and light hearted advice there.

Review your Notes & Make a Plan

In Week 1, you made some notes about your beloved objects, collections and other memorabilia that you have out and on display. Check over these notes now, and add any additional things that you may have remembered.

Plan your attack. You might want to go room-by-room or pick through things by era (everything from your childhood, college days, wedding gifts, etc).

This is probably going to take a couple of days and maybe longer. That is fine. Work on it in bursts, scheduling an hour here and there. It will get done!

Getting Into It

Basically we’re going to review and sort the objects we’ve accumulated the same way we did our photos and videos.


This would be the moldy doll, the beautiful quilt the dog chewed up and peed on, and anything not worth the time or trouble to repair. Put these things in a box or trashbag and take them out after each session. Don’t let them sit around.


Two categories here, with questions for each.

  1. What was passed down to you? Do you love it or do you keep it because it was inherited? Would someone else in the family like it better?
  2. What would you pass down to your grandchildren? Are these items of value, durability, and interest?

Personal Memories

These are the things bring happy memories. Souvenirs from your travels, collections of things you like, art on your walls, tchotkes on your shelves. Here are the questions to ask yourself:

  1. Can I display this proudly in my living space?
  2. Will I notice if I don’t have this any more?
  3. Does this reflect my personality and past in an uplifting way?
  4. Is my sentimental attachment to this stronger than my need to reduce?

Answer no to any one of those questions and it is time to say goodbye.

Historical Significance

Not personal history, but world history. You have a piece of the Berlin Wall. Your great uncle brought back a souvenir from the World’s Fair. You have a small painting by a well-known artist. If they don’t have a lot of sentimental value to you, these things might be better off in the hands of a collector or a museum.

Everything Else

And even after all of the other sorting, you are probably left with a lot of things that don’t fit any of the categories. Determine if they are clutter and should be thrown away or if they bring you happiness to you.

Now about all those Personal Memories….

Displaying, Reusing, and Remixing

This is going to vary, depending on what mementos you are keeping. Here are some general ideas. The Internet is a great resource for details, tutorials and ideas on exactly what you have on hand.

  1. Use it as intended. Take all those lovely practical objects you’ve been saving for “best” and bring them into your daily life. Have a silver sugar bowl from your great grandmother? Put sugar in it and set it on the table or counter where you’ll use it. Eat from the Wedgwood plates you got for your wedding. Don’t let these things gather dust; you’ll enjoy them more if you use them.
  1. Set up a curio cabinet or shelf. I have a space where I display my favorite objects and sentimental family stuff.  I also have a small box in my closet where I keep a few similar items. I switch my display seasonally or whenever I feel like a change.
  1. Remake things. This is especially fun with textiles. If you have a lot of sentimental clothing that you won’t wear again because it is out of fashion or no longer fits, consider using it as raw material for something else. Create a t-shirt blanket, or a stuffed toy from an old pair of jeans. Go Pretty in Pink and remake some of your dresses into a new one. If you have kids, your old clothes are a treasure trove of dress-up.
  1. Create mixed media art. This requires a creative eye and maybe some skill with tools but you can take some of your more esoteric items and turn them into something artsy. Perhaps some of your out of fashion jewelery can be turned into a sculpture or glued onto a board to form a picture.
  1. Practical reinvention. You need a lamp. You have a vase. Can you turn it into a lamp by drilling a hole and wiring some parts? You need a bicycle basket, you have a tote bag. Can you thread wire around the opening and attach it to your bicycle? Think about the things you lack and see if any of the objects you want to keep might creatively fit the bill.
  1. Create a Memory Album. Sometimes it is hard to give up the moldy old doll or hand off an heirloom to the younger generation or make the hard decisions about what to keep and what to release. But you can take a photo of your doll in a happy pose, or cut off a snippet of lace from a dress, or snap a photo of the 1st place award you won in 2006. This memory album makes it a little easier to say goodbye to the physical objects themselves, reducing clutter while keeping the memory alive.

Getting Rid of the Unwanted

You are doing this challenge to reduce your clutter and lighten your load, so you have to get rid of the things you are clearing out. After the obvious trash has been put out, what options do you have for taking care of the items that are still nice or practical, but not wanted?

  • Online Auction
  • Thrift Store
  • Garage Sale
  • Charity Program
  • Regifting
  • Passing Along to Friends and Relatives

Since you’ll be ending the challenge next week, this is a good time to start planning and promoting your garage sale or setting up items on the auction sites. Save your run to the thrift store for after next week.

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