On my journey to minimalism, I saved the difficult items to get rid of for last. If you have ever moved, had a yard sale, or deep cleaned your house, you have probably been faced with potentially getting rid of what I call “The rough stuff”.
The rough stuff is stuff that you may never use or even look at, but for some reason you can’t get rid of. Whether it be from guilt, shame, habit or other reasons you can’t articulate, we all own items we feel we “can’t” part with. In my experience, these items fall into three categories: sentimental items, heirlooms and collectibles. I faced my fair share of these items when I was decluttering my house and below is how I dealt with them.
I had a ton of sentimental items that I didn’t have any reason for keeping, but didn’t have the heart to throw away. An old pair of pom poms from cheer, a t shirt from middle school Science Olympiad, old yearbooks, etc. This stuff was just hanging out in boxes in the garage and no matter how many times I went through them, I didn’t make room for these items in the house.
The hardest part for me was knowing they were irreplacable. I followed a suggestion to set limits for the number of things you keep if you are unable to get rid of it all. So I limited ALL of my sentimental items to ONE box. Once I set those parameters, It was easy to tell which items meant the most to me and which didn’t.
I’m by no means Southern Royalty with a bunch of silver or antique heirlooms to inherit, but I did have a full set of my moms bone china that she gifted to me when I got married. I knew it didn’t belong in our dining room because we never use it, and also (in my brothers words),”beacuse this isn’t 1960’s Mississippi”. When I started decluttering our dining area, I knew the china (and the 6 foot hutch it sat in) had to go. But I was overwhelmed by guilt at the idea of rejecting a gift I technically asked for, and getting rid of something so beautiful and expensive for no reason at all.
I wrestled with the decision for days, and ultimately decided that if I did ever use the china, I would never use it in its current state (still wrapped in paper, behind the closed door of the cabinet). I’d need to know how many place settings we had, and unwrap them for future use if I used them at all. So I went through the cabinet and unwrapped each piece, then went to the Container Store to find a new way to store it. I found the perfect china storage where you can unzip it and look at every item and put it away in the kitchen.
I cleaned out the empty hutch and moved it to the babies room to store diapers, wipes and the clothing we don’t hang up.
Although I didn’t get rid of the china, I did open up space in the dining room and found a more effective way to store the china that makes it more accessible. If you keep any heirlooms, make sure the storage isn’t impacting your minimalist goals.
My collectibles were a huge hindrance to a simple lifestyle and I didn’t even realize it. I have always had a collection of some kind, and eventually I would get tired of it and collect something new. As a kid, I collected keychains, stickers, American Girl dolls, beanie babies and stuffed animals. When I got older, mugs and t shirts. Now as an adult, I had pretty big collections of antique plates, shot glasses and perfumes.
I started collecting antique plates after college around the time I met my future husband. I thought they were so pretty and he and I spent a lot of time going to antique shops, flea markets and thrift shops looking for more plates to add to my collection.
I had a few that were nicer and more valuable than others, but ultimately never hung any of them up and they stayed in boxes most of our marriage (and certainly now that we have toddlers running around the house) I kept my one favorite plate (more than 100 years old!) and sold the rest at our yard sale.
My shot glass collection started when I first got to college, and even then I only used the same one or two shot glasses and the others I just lined up in the kitchen. I wrapped them up in bubble wrap when I moved after college and literally never used them again. They have tagged along on 3 more moves to 3 more houses, still I never even opened the box they came in.
Recently when I was decluttering the house, I opened the box, took all the glasses out and shook my head at how many I had. I don’t take shots, much less drink anything stronger than wine anymore, so I couldn’t justify a collection like this. I saved 2 or 3 of my absolute favorites and sold the rest at a yard sale. These weren’t as hard to get rid of as my perfume collection.
My perfume collection was something I actually did love and use and was sorry to see go. I had a perfume for any kind of mood or occasion you can think of. I had every perfume my favorite celebrities released, had all the major designers perfumes and even tiny mini bottles and roller tubes of perfume. I probably had more than 50 bottles when all was said and done.
In our most recent move, I never unpacked the perfumes. They stayed in my closet, wrapped in bubble wrap and after a solid year and I was forced to admit that I couldn’t possibly keep this collection if I could go a year without it. I chose my top 5 (it was easy to tell which were my favorites, they were the bottles more than half empty.) and put the rest in a box for the garage sale. It damn near killed me, but I sold the entire box to a woman at the yard sale who worked at a women’s shelter and said she’d bring them to the women there. Now it’s quite nice to have a vanity that isn’t completely full of glass bottles, and I ue my perfume way more frequently now that my favorites are right on the bathroom counter where I can see them.
The biggest lesson I learned was that what I like is the thrill of the hunt, not the actual items I collect. Even minimalists have collections, but none of my collectibles had a place in my ideal minimalist lifestyle. When I collected my antique plates, what I enjoyed was walking hand in hand with my then-boyfriend down the aisles of local shops, and lazy Sundays at the flea market. When I collected my shot glasses, what I enjoyed were the memories of visiting The Bahamas, Mexico, NYC and Panama City Beach. When I collected my perfume, what I enjoyed was spending time shopping at the mall and having more pretty glass bottles on my vanity. Once I realized that these memories are the best part of the collections, they were easy to let go. For the things I couldn’t let go of (yet), setting boundaries for what I can keep makes everything managable.