Sentimental Hoarding

You may not be able to tell from this photograph, but this tub of margarita salt was 18 years old when my husband and I finally agreed that it needed to be replaced this past summer. Neither of us had had the heart to toss it, even though it was split and cracked, and the salt inside was partly brown and clumpy. Yuck.

Aside from the fact that I thought we had consumed a lot more margaritas than we apparently actually did over the years, what this showed was that both of us are susceptible to sentimental hoarding. This simple object was a reminder of the entirety of our relationship, since it was purchased soon after we moved in together, and represented love and good times to us.

But objects are NOT memories, especially not old and grody objects. I took this photo to use it for a blog post and then tossed the clumps of salt in the trash and the container in the recycling bin, and bought a fresh container on my next visit to the grocery store. I guess that one will last us into retirement.

This isn’t the only thing I’m guilty of holding onto for sentimental reasons. I have a ridiculous amount of clothing from my childhood, teen years, and early adulthood, which aside from inspiring a terrific Halloween costume now and then (The Captain and Tennille using a high school dance dress was an award winner), mostly just adds up to a lot of clutter. I also have my grandmother’s favorite dress suit which is too small, and a skirt of my other grandmother’s which is too large. What am I going to do with them?

I’ve been slowly going through belongings with an eye toward saving just enough. I really don’t have it in me to toss my entire history, but I do want to live simply and be able to find things when I need them. I really liked this post from Naomi at Simpler Living, where she thoughtfully figures out ways to actually use some of those sentimental items we hold onto, and ditch the rest. Naomi has inspired me to get out some of the clothes I’d been saving and actually wear them and various kitchen items and actually use them.

Are you a sentimental hoarder? What items are you keeping that you don’t know what to do with? Maybe you’ve discovered creative ways to use some of the things you’ve been holding on to. Please share in the Comments section.


    • Angela says

      Nancy, I heard a saying that we spend the first 40 years of our life accumulating things, and the second 40 getting rid of it. Since I think my genes will take me to 90, I was right on target with a strong desire to pare down right around 45. I want to live lean and mean like I did in my 20s, when it only takes a day to pack up and move or go wherever I desire!

  1. says

    Angela, one of the best things I ever did was the Reverse Birthday Party, where I let my friends “shop” through my beloved hats, purses, coats, dresses, scarves and jewelry instead of buying me a gift. Not everyone needs to get rid of everything like I did, but it was a great way to share beautiful things that no longer fit in my life. The bonus was having a friend take a photo of me, the new owner, and the item that evening, so I can “visit” my treasures whenever I want!

    It doesn’t feel like letting go when you know where it is going.

    • Angela says

      Betsy, I so love your Reverse Birthday Party, and plan on using the idea if I ever decide to go that deep into decluttering. We do a less drastic version at our annual clothing swap, where seeing a friend looking so good in something I’ve been hanging onto makes it so much easier to let go of it.

  2. barb says

    Thanks for this post.
    It totally explains my dad. 86 and still surrounded by stuff that was our lives yrs ago.
    All his kids have offered to help to remove stuff but he doesn t want it touched.

    • Angela says

      barb, Yes- I have seen the phenomenon a lot in older people, especially if they’re widowed within the past decade. Getting rid of things is like getting rid of their spouse and all their memories. I think it’s a good lesson to learn that things aren’t people, and be able to get rid of stuff guilt-free. By the same token, I love to keep letters and photos, the trick is to save just enough so that you use/look at/enjoy them, and don’t just have them shoved in a box in the attic.

      Thanks so much for commenting. Your dad may be happiest with his stuff for the last years of his life. I’ve seen it go both ways. I have a friend with a father who is 85 and his wife has had Alzheimer’s for some years, and as soon as she died he is ready to move out and travel and have a final chapter.

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