Often we are spurred into taking action on old items because we have to make room for something else, we have a need to declutter or a big move is on the horizon. But it can be hard to eliminate those items that have been within reach for the majority of our lives. As you prepare to let go of some memorabilia you've held on to for years, check in with yourself and remember why you're taking action. While it's OK to be sad at having to say goodbye to old items, it's crucial that you remind yourself why the cleaning needs to take place.
Unfortunately our memories aren't perfect. You may have placed something in a box at the age of 6 that seemed absolutely crucial to your existence, but fast-forward 20 years, and you have no clue what it is. It can be tempting to continue holding on to it with the hope you'll remember, but chances are that if pulling it out of the box didn't trigger a memory, letting it sit in the box for a couple more years won't change anything. If you're really having trouble letting go, keep those unknown objects in a box for one week. Give yourself that week to try to remember whether they have meaning to you. If you're no closer to recognizing them at the end of the week, it's time to let them go.
As a child, everything can seem important. Those weekly spelling tests seem like tokens of pride you'll want to look back on forever. And before you know it, you have several boxes dedicated to old tests and report cards. Although seeing your old handwriting, winning grades and silly notes can be fun, holding on to every one of them isn't necessary. Make an effort to pick out those tests, notes and papers that really make you feel something, and let go of the rest. For instance, if you have 30 math tests from the third grade, pick one or two that make you laugh or reminisce, and toss the rest.
If you're really worrying about letting things go, create a notebook to document the process. You may have an old craft or oversized Little League trophy you know is taking up too much room to keep around, but tossing it is hard. That's where the notebook comes in! Write down what such an item looks like, when it's from and what it means to you. By amalgamating information about a multitude of items into a single notebook, you can look back on the memories without having to worry about storing half a dozen boxes worth of items.
Before you begin the sorting, plan out how much room you have for the objects you will hold onto. Do you want to combine everything into one box? Two? It's important to set guidelines before beginning, so you are less likely to go easy and wind up with more items than is necessary. Set yourself up with the box of old items in front of you, the box for what's to keep on one side and the garbage bag for tossed items on the other side. Before you place any item in the "keep" box, make sure you know exactly why it's going there. How often will you want to look at it down the road? What memories does it hold? How important is it to you really? If you can't answer these questions in a reasonable way, consider letting it go. The best thing you can do for yourself through this process is to give yourself as much time as possible. Letting go is a challenging endeavour, so don't rush it. Give yourself the time to think through each item and feel good about each and every decision you make.
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