Minimalism: The Sentimental Items, Part I

I have an old trunk

where I store lots of junk

but because it’s mostly sentimental

I convince myself it’s not mental

to keep things hidden away

I’ll never use again anyway.

-Nikcole Wiles, May 2015

The offending trunk in question is pictured below. It stores a myriad of things, many of which I don’t need to continue holding onto. Yet, I do. I mentioned several posts prior that I have started exploring minimalism with a slow burn. This morning I have claimed the trunk as my next project to minimize my personal possessions. I know I will have to clean out this trunk several times over months or years to come because before looking, I sense this trunk holds items I will not be able to let go of just yet. I am growing, but it’s a rather slow process.


I won’t take a picture of each individual item inside the trunk because that would be obnoxious. Early on, though, I am surprised by what I am holding onto. There is a memory picture book tucked away in this trunk that features my—wait for it—junior prom. If there is a prom worth justifying the hoarding of keepsakes, I imagine it is senior prom, at best. Worse, the book features not one picture of someone I know. Flipping through the book did not bring back any particular memories. I can start this task by saying, “Let this one go.” It doesn’t bring any value to my life. I’ve read that is a good question to ask yourself when doing this type of sorting. Does this add value? I found some other assorted items I am surprised I’ve been latching onto. These are items that offer no value to my present day life: a yo-yo from my childhood, a broken pin, a necklace given as a gift by a friend, the charm to a necklace chain that’s been missing a long time (and the charm does have deep sentimental value, but the memories are stronger than the item these days), a broken chain, a lanyard from a trip to the circus with my dad, buttons I don’t use, a film container (I don’t know why I saved it), a film slide, one of my deceased cat’s old collar tags, an engraved pen that doesn’t work, my high school graduation necklace, and a shell.


As I mentioned, some of these items still hold a deep and sentimental attachment. It is difficult to acknowledge I need to let them go, but the other option is just as mindless. Should I store them away again? When will I take them out next? Why will I take them out next? Should I save them until some tragedy or heartbreak, then break out the sentimental trunk to lull myself into a fit of nostalgic tears? I am not trying to dismiss the value of my memories and these possessions, in my heart. In my home, though, taking up space, hidden away in a trunk I open on rare occasions, these items do not possess that same value.

Some of the things I am discovering can be useful if I choose to keep them. I want to keep them, so the task becomes making them useful by changing how I store them in my home. Instead of locking them away in this trunk, I can integrate them into my household. This will offset letting go of these particular sentimental items when I adjust how they are used. If that is how easy it is to move something from hidden and hoarded to visual and useful, then the thought that creeps up is why I haven’t promoted these items before. I already know the answer—I generally want to keep my sentimental items in pristine condition because, well…they’re sentimental. What everyone, including myself, needs to remember is that we do not get to experience sentimental items when they are locked away in my trunk. It is time to for me to accept that integrating them into the household as useful items may subject them to some damage, but at least they will be remembered and touched often. A specific example—a dictionary presented to me in 2005 that doubles as an award for my writing. The dictionary is pictured below. I can put this on my bookshelf and use it (yes, I use a physical dictionary still, I’m an English graduate, after all) so that it’s not a) mindlessly stored away or b) forgotten, never touched, and mindlessly stored away. What is funnier about the way I store this dictionary/award in particular is the fact that it already has some damage—keeping it in my trunk will not keep it pristine.

IMG_1126  IMG_1124

Thanks for reading up to this point. Due to the length of this post, check in for part II on May 14, 2015.

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