Parting with possessions that weigh on us takes more than a sheer will of telling ourselves just to let go. “Is it useful?” or “Is it beautiful?” usually doesn’t work for the sentimental things in our lives.
Heartfelt things. Special things. Our loved one’s things. Sometimes we find ourselves letting go of sentimental things simply because they have become too heavy—too heavy to carry on our journey for freedom.
Twelve years ago, my grandmother began downsizing her belongings. Just starting out in my adult life, I happily accepted the things she no longer had a use for. Furniture, holiday decor, wall art, jewelry, and bedding.
My grandmother passed away shortly after I had my first child. We were incredibly close, and I miss her deeply. It was comforting to use the things she once used—they bring me joy, and somehow, it makes me feel closer to her.
As my journey to minimalism has continued, the memories and love I have for my grandmother grow more on my heart and less on her furniture. With marriage, motherhood, and moving in the military, I have grown, and so has my family. I changed, and so had my needs. I wanted to go places, but felt like a boat too heavy, with no room to set sail.
It was in these new seasons I started peeling away the layers of sentimental things which no longer fit the changes in my life. These were special things, weren’t they? Indeed, they were heartfelt things I once found comfort and joy in.
But this quote from C. JoyBell C. changed the way I viewed the sentimental things I was holding onto:
“You will find it necessary to let things go; simply for the reason they are heavy.”
Letting Go of the Sentimental Things
It is possible to peel away the layer of heavy sentimental items that keeps you from setting your sail. Through the years, I learned how to simply let go of some things that were weighing me down.
Here are a few tips that worked for me, and I hope they work for you:
1. Invite vulnerability.
No doubt about it, letting go can be an incredibly emotional process—and vulnerability is scary. But it is also an authentic way to live. As Brené Brown writes in her book, Daring Greatly, “Vulnerability is the core, the heart, the center, of meaningful human experiences.” Brown describes vulnerability as the core of all emotions. “To feel is to be vulnerable.”
As I look back on my journey, I saw my vulnerability as a bridge I had to cross to get to the other side. Cross your bridge, and let yourself be seen.
2. Shift your perspective.
There’s a well-known adage that our perception becomes our reality. How we see something becomes our truth, which at times, can be self-limiting. When our focus is on the past or the future, it’s usually at the expense of the present. I encourage you to shift your perspective to what you can do today, that will direct you where you want to go tomorrow.
3. One size does not fit all.
When I want to make a heart change, I don’t compare my life to those I know—whether it be people I’m connected with on Facebook, friends, or those in far off places. I look to my own set of values, my passion, and my purpose to determine the next needed step. My minimalism is not their minimalism. One size does not fit all. Find your size, and you’ll feel it when it fits.
4. Take pictures.
Take photos of the sentimental things weighing you down. Make a digital photo book that tells their story. My husband realized the importance of this when I reminded him our children would have no idea what his gifts/awards meant from his military career. To them, it would mostly likely be four boxes of things they’d have to let go of. It’s time to capture the moments that matter.
5. Meet a need.
Time and time again I have found a greater ability to let go of things when it can meet someone else’s need. My grandparents were givers and I can choose to be one too.
6. Ask yourself better questions.
Do I want to leave this for my family?
“Somewhere down the line, the accumulation of stuff from generations before will be too much for one to carry.”
I have my grandparents letters dating back to 1953 when they started dating to 2001 just before my grandfather passed away (we knew his death was imminent). The last Valentine’s Day card my grandmother gave to my grandfather dated Feb. 13, 2001 went like this:
Sometimes I feel like we are the richest people on earth, not because of anything we own but because of everything we share—our happy marriage, our home, and our love. Our legacy lives on through relationships and love.
What do I need in this season of my life?
Meeting my family’s current needs is a priority. If I’m holding onto heavy things, I leave less room to grow. No matter where we’ve been or where we’re going, when we fixate on the past and the future, It’s at the expense of the present.
What do I want to keep?
Rather than ask yourself what you should let go of, ask yourself what you want to keep. What are the most precious items? Put them together where you can see them. Remind yourself, this is best, and I can let go of the rest.
How much am I willing to sacrifice my passion and purpose for possessions?
When my stuff has weighed me down, even the sentimental, I remind myself that it has a cost. At times, I’ve chosen the pain from letting go over the pain of staying where I’m at. I continue to keep some sentimental things, but none of them weigh me down. I’ve found, my love and cherished memories of those I loved and lost are stronger than ever.
And through it all I discovered, my grandparents love and legacy was never in their coffee table; it was in their character.