Whether you need a seasonal closet cleanout, or a major re-organization of your living space, there’s that much dreaded rule: “Get rid of stuff!” You know, the things you don’t use or need – and it’s not that hard to find some that are in a poor condition, of quality that won’t last, or items that fail to meet your changing criteria of style and comfort. It’s more difficult with anything that was never meant to be necessary or useful, but had an esthetic or sentimental value, or has turned from functional to sentimental because it belonged to somebody special. There are also things that may seem usual, or even outdated, but they have been your reliable companions during some important periods or events in your life.
You can find lots of nearly identical advice assuring you that memories are not things, so nothing will happen to your memories if you stop holding on to what appears to be their containers. It makes sense, but it has mostly failed to help me. I find it extremely difficult, bordering on impossible, to part with the things that are much more than just material objects, or functional items. It’s like betraying good friends, and I admit this is my problem – but also my inspiration, as I don’t feel nice about burying them in their containers, either.
Uncertainty, guilt and sentimental issues make people tuck such things away into the back of a closet or a drawer, or sentence them to years of basement, garage or attic imprisonment. I also used to do this, but I have a different philosophy now: either I display a memorable object and give it the attention it deserves, or I can’t hold it hostage. I allow it to step into the spotlight, or else out of my house. Perhaps it sounds just as harsh and challenging as the “get rid of things because they are not memories” advice, but it works for me. It helps me pick the things I value the most to display them in my house, while letting go of other ones, or keeping only a part of them to turn it into something else. Why not give them a new life? Here are some ideas:
Parents are delighted with every scribble their little ones produce, but no wall space would be enough to showcase all that art – so some people have boxes of such masterpieces piling up over the years. Even if you are not a fan of scrapbooking, you can use kids’ artwork as a great background for your family photos – just paste it onto the self-adhesive pages of photo albums, and place photos next to it, or on top of it (in this case you may need some glue). If your kids are still small, this is easy and fun to do together. If they have already grown up, you can take photos of whatever is stored in boxes as a memory of their childhood years, and store it as digital images instead.
If antique furniture is collecting dust in a basement, it’s a shame. There are many ways to make it look as good as new, or perhaps even better than in its prime days, so that it can be a part of your interior. You can look for ideas online, or find experts who can help you. However, if you don’t wish to invest in the renovation of some old furniture, or to bring it into the house, you can bring it outside instead and turn it into something entirely different!
We all have favorite items of clothing, or the ones we consider “lucky”. They are usually quite worn-out, old-fashioned, or don’t fit any more. If letting go of clothes you can’t wear is difficult, look for ways of repurposing them. There are lots of places to find ideas and inspiration, both online and off, and ways to turn jeans into skirts, handbags, backpacks, or a bunch of tops and t-shirts into quilts and colorful rugs, to list just a few. There are literally hundreds of suggestions to choose from, but my favorite is keeping some parts of my old clothes to be used as decorative elements in other projects. True, I may be still holding on to a piece of cloth, a lacy trim or a handful of buttons, but at least I don’t have to keep the whole thing.
Pottery, Figurines, Toys, Souvenirs
Or whatever else you’ve already got standing on every flat surface in your house, so there’s no room for more. These may be small and cute objects, gifts and things bought when traveling overseas, but they group into the most numerous and powerful legion of sentimental clutter – no wonder it is so hard to battle against. If you can’t easily part with a pile or a box of these things – at least not all at once, take them outside and use them as garden décor.
A colorful flowerbed can make anything look wonderful – from cracked plates and cups to candlesticks, vases, glassware, baskets, toys and whatnot. Those who are lucky to have a yard can discover great artistic potential in nearly everything they don’t want to keep in the house anymore. Those who are not that lucky can experiment with adding some sentimental décor to potted plants, and perhaps with making a part of their room or balcony look like a garden spot. That’s what I find the “old furniture holding plants” idea especially great for, even though it’s mostly used for outdoor decorating. It’s perfect if you’d like to have a mini-garden in your apartment, or just something to surprise your guests with. Just don’t forget to line the surface with polyethylene film before adding the soil.
Before I started looking for ways to give sentimental objects a new life, I often felt awful about them, or the moments in the past they symbolized. Simply getting rid of things sometimes helps changing the way you feel about them, but not always. Writing a new story for them is often better. Have you ever tried this?
Photos: Natalie Gontar