Why Your Heart is The Best Storage – Decluttering Sentimental Items

In the last quarter of 2020 I decided to have another go at clearing the attic. This time, I vowed to put my heart and soul into it, especially because it was so dangerously cluttered.

There were many times up there I had tripped over boxes or had to do some bizarre manoeuvre to get around them like some sort of contortionist. One of these days somebody was going to fall through the attic floor or have the mass amount of boxes collapse on them. 

Unlike with my previous attempt, this time I was armed with a clear vision of the space above me being spacious and containing only seasonal decorations, luggage, and a box of my videogame cases (because I’ve been keeping the games themselves in special wallets to save space).

It was a good job I had the resolve I did because when I went up the ladder there was no way I could even haul myself up through the trapdoor.  Every bit of space I could have stood was taken up by piles of full plastic storage boxes, carrier bags, and things which couldn’t fit in any of the boxes. Things which had simply been left to the freezing cold of the winter or the sauna-like heat of the summer. 

Faced with the huge mission ahead of me, I envisioned how heavy all of it was above my head. The sheer weight of it in my life. If you’re a believer in Feng Shui, perhaps this was the reason I always felt like everything got so much ‘on top of me’ and I still had parts of me that could not move on from the past. 

I had made a decluttering attempt of the attic once before and did actually clear some space, but it soon became even worse than before, because I didn’t have a vision and was still clinging on to a lot of my past. It was as if the mess was mirroring part of my inner self, and after making such enormous changes in my life already, I didn’t want that for myself anymore.  

I started off bringing boxes down and clearing as much of the contents as possible. A lot of it was trash. Old posters, old instruction manuals, packaging to things I no longer owned. 

Other things I donated to charity shops and offered on Facebook Marketplace. 

The more boxes I opened, I was faced with a lot of mindless purchasing decisions and things I’d thought I might go back to one day.  But by far, the hardest things I’ve encountered are sentimental items. 

The first one of these things I let go of was a Dick Turpin mug that my Uncle Gordy had owned. I had been very close to him all my life and we used to have a laugh about how terrified I was as a child of this mug he kept in his display cabinet.  What was it doing here in the attic, not even serving a purpose? Gord had displayed it proudly but I was hoarding it in a box. 

I held the mug for quite some time and then I realised the reason I had kept it boxed up was because I was terrified I would lose those precious memories of our laughter together. Yet even without the object on my shelf, I still recalled those memories from time to time. 

There’s a small cup he used to own that we had another memory over that I never claimed when he passed away. I still have the memories of that cup and how he used to say ‘just a spot’ and laugh at me when he was pouring milk into it when I was an infant. 

It dawned on me that I didn’t need to keep this Dick Turpin. Instead, I wrapped it up and sent it to a cousin of mine. Unfortunately, it broke in transit.

For a moment I was horrified, but I realised that even then, I still had the memory. And I’d taken a photo of it on my phone so I could recall it at any time. It also reminded me that physical objects can be destroyed in an instant, either by accident or natural disaster. 

Despite having the photos, it’s amazing how often I don’t look at them. I don’t need to because the memories of Gordy are in my heart, not in the objects I clung to.

Releasing this made it so much easier to let go. And once I let go of that, I found myself moving onto other sentimental things – some of the hardest of all to let go of. Those were my old video game consoles I had as a child and spent many hours on , forming many fond memories. 

As a child, I had everything I could physically ever want, but most of my childhood was full of bullying at school, family trauma, and other things I would give a limb to protect my own children from. 

Videogames were a wonderful escape and there were happy times I played them with my parents, on rainy afternoons, or when I got home from school. Gaming turned into a real passion which I still have now at 34 years old. 

Anyway, one of these sentimental consoles was my Super Nintendo. Here it was, sitting unplugged in the attic and suffering the extremes of temperatures.

Attics are no place to store anything of value – photos and electronics being the main things. Proving this point, many of my Playstation games I kept had started to get disc rot, which was further accelerated by cold and the heat. 

The Nintendo was even harder to let go of because until recently, I had been a collector of videogames and merchandise. We even had a gaming room. Then our second child came along and we needed that room to become her bedroom.

I had to put things into perspective and let go of some of the reasons I had held onto them in the first place (which is another post in itself).

The stuff wasn’t getting used. Its job was to sit prettily on a shelf or to sit in the attic for the rest of time as a memory. That wasn’t treating that stuff with love and respect when somebody else could be playing it or displaying it proudly in their home. Besides, most of the games were now available in HD on recent gadgets such as the SNES Mini. 

So I sold it along with all the games. 

I did feel a few pangs of sadness as I boxed it up for the post office and saw it for one final time. Then I looked at the space that had been created and felt that familiar sense of freedom. I still had the memories and could re-experience them any time by playing the updated versions that now exist. Once again the memories were in me, not in the object itself. 

Once I got rid of the SNES, other nostalgic consoles I was keeping got easier to let go of. I had been through the process already and trusted myself to make the right decision. 

I trust my heart to be the storage space for these joyful memories, not a dusty old storage box. 

When it comes to decluttering sentimental items, whatever you decide to do with them, trust your heart, for yours is the safest place for precious memories to be stowed. Remember,  physical possessions can be destroyed. 

It’s taken me a good few months, but there is now a lot of space in the attic and slowly but surely, my vision is starting to materialise. 

There are a few things left to take care of, such as a huge box of old journals, another huge box of photo albums, and a few boxes of mystery cables and parts. I also have some organisation to do. But I’m getting there. 

Over Christmas I bought some mould resistant bags for my decorations and decluttered the ones that wouldn’t fit. I am now limited to those two bags and once they’re full I can’t buy any more without first getting rid of something older. 

Before, I had an entire box containing several carrier bags of decorations, many of which were getting crushed or broken. Not long ago I had to deal with a snow globe which had smashed and leaked its sticky, glittery contents all inside the box and over the carrier bags. 

Did I need all those decorations to have a good Christmas? No. In fact, it was a huge pain bringing them out, putting them all away and ate up huge chunks of time and energy. 

Going forward, I will be far more mindful of what gets stored up there, and I know that storing far less stuff will mean my close friends and family won’t have to shoulder the burden when the day comes I am no longer around. 

Remember: trust your heart, not a dusty old storage box. 

Photo by Giulia Bertelli on Unsplash

How To Minimise the Past And Maximise the Future

Photo by Brian Erickson on Unsplash

If I told you minimalism and self-growth is straight-forward and easy, I would be lying. 

Minimalism requires lots of hard decision-making, consistency, and dealing with memories both good and bad. 

Self-growth requires confronting and accepting hard truths about ourselves and our situations and learning to move forwards while becoming better people in the process. 

Because that’s what it all is. A process. A journey. And a bumpy one at that with twists, turns and long stretches of smoothness.  

I used to be what I call a tidy hoarder (although I didn’t realise I was a hoarder at the time). Candles, mugs, trinkets and figurines lined shelves and window sills while cupboards and drawers were bursting at the seams and collapsing under the weight. Boxes hid under my bed collecting dust and the top of my wardrobe towered with boxes, storage containers, and soft toys. 

My hoarding habits were a source of frequent arguments and discussions about my ‘trash’ in the home.

I kept all sorts. Masses of keyrings collected over the years, old party invitations, old school work, old defunct cables, those little badges you can get with rebellious statements on, old jewellery, old stationary, little notebooks and relics I’d got from cereal boxes as a kid (including a Rugrats flip book). 

I’d even kept a ring from when I was seven years old, simply because I’d worn it at primary school.

As a person I was angry, unfulfilled, lost, and confused, with severe identity issues which caused massive problems in my relationships. Until I discovered minimalism, I didn’t realise that the state of my stuff reflected the state of my mind, and my past. 

Just like with my drawers and cupboards, I kept parts of myself hidden away in dark dusty corners of my psyche, and every so often, bits would burst out and everyone around me would be left picking up the mess, only for it to end up back in the box it all burst from. 

I’d grown up with such a turbulent school life among other things, that by the time I got to college and made the life-long friends I have now, I’d become a master of wearing a mask of silliness and extreme cheer. I was so skilled at this it became a genuine part of who I am today. 

The first time I got confronted with my hoard was a wakeup call for me. I was renting a house with the man who is now my husband, when mum brought over all my old stuff from their attic. Bags and bags of stuff. Bin liners stretching with the weight of the memories inside them I’d carelessly stowed away. 

Photo by Onur Bahçıvancılar on Unsplash

At first, I just saw it as a monumental physical task I needed to work through. I couldn’t escape it because there was nowhere else for it to go. The attic was already rammed with game consoles, Christmas decorations, old memories, and other paraphernalia I’d just shoved up there when we moved in. 

But as I emptied the bags and started to work my way through them, I felt all kinds of emotions, even over innocent things like soft toys.

Sadness, grief, nostalgia, warmth… such a mixed bag of feelings all attached to these objects, many of which I’d owned since I was a child. There were several piles of old school work, even my old school planner, complete with sad, angry scribbles. 

To the people around me, that was all junk. Why hadn’t I put it in the bin ages ago? Why was I storing all that garbage? But to me, they were feelings and parts of me.

That school planner represented the part of me that expressed my feelings when nobody else would listen; proof that I experienced those feelings.

My school work was a trove of teacher praise, writing, and essays which I’d poured my soul into. I’d even kept hilarious pieces where it was clear I hadn’t understood the task or concept. 

I found gifts from people who’d long since left my life, and a tower of children’s books I used to treasure.

By the end of the day, I charity-shopped about 90% of the bag’s contents, and I felt so light that I could have floated a metre above the ground. It was as if those bags had never been stowed in the attic but been tied to me the whole time. 

I also felt emotionally drained. 

That was my first step into self-growth and into what would later reveal itself to be the path to minimalism, but it took a long time for the universe to make me and the concept cross paths. 

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

Since discovering minimalism, I’ve not only unearthed many parts of myself that I didn’t realise existed, I’ve discovered and reignited my dreams, and have worked persistently to accept the past and make way for who I’m becoming.

Clearing the clutter in my life was the same as clearing out the drawers of my heart and the closets of my mind. It took a lot of soul searching, confronting parts of myself and re-discovering where I wanted to go.

I had spent a lifetime living in the past, believing that I was worthless, and that the feelings I had were nothing but a lie if I got rid of the stuff I associated with them.

Without going into too much detail, this is because I grew up unable to express my feelings. It was taboo. It was wrong. It was weird. So I ended up attaching them to tangible objects. 

When my heart got too heavy and full, it got emptied into cupboards and boxes, instead. 

Of course, minimalism isn’t a cure-all and I’ve had to do a great deal of self-growth. Self-growth is something which never stops and should never plateau because people are forever experiencing life and taking on new beliefs and values. 

For me, minimalism is the foundation to grow a new successful self. One not weighed down by stuff, the past, and outdated subconscious beliefs. 

It’s my hope to help you on your journey, too, whatever your values or your past may be. It’s deep, hard work, but you can get there.  

Remember, just as you don’t grow from toddler to adult in a day, you won’t change and grow your core values and beliefs overnight, either. 

Since we’re entering the festive season, let’s consider Scrooge from ‘A Christmas Carol’. He changes from a lifetime of being cruel, miserable, greedy and selfish, to jolly, charitable, fun, and caring. All in one night. 

While the story is great and has a powerful message, in reality, Scrooge would have taken years to change because his persona would result from various factors throughout his life; beliefs instilled into him by his parents, the people around him, his circumstances, and his environment. 

Every single person has their own story, background, and beliefs. You can’t change a lifetime of beliefs and behaviours overnight, no matter how much you want to. And while throwing them out with the trash is freeing, you still need to do the emotional work to prevent returning to old habits and circumstances. 

With consistent action, you can and will get to where you want to be!

Photo by Ev on Unsplash