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News What to do about keepsakes?

When I downsized a couple of years ago I realised how much stuff I had kept because of some or other attachment, it also came apparent that many had gathered dust for years and hence had never brought joy to my life. We all have some or other sentimental items that we hang onto, there comes a time when we have to face the music and decide what our attachment to them is.

Decluttering or dealing with keepsakes and memorabilia is a sensitive issue as it deals with our emotions and sentiments. Either we or our parents have hung onto them for ages just in case “the children” will want them one day. That in itself shows indecision as to their importance and what should happen to them.

What Keepsakes are we talking about?

1. Kids’ stuff

I kept one large container with toys that I believed my kids loved. Anything broken had been tossed and everything had been cleaned before being put into the container. When they flew the nest, I let them rifle through it and decide what they really wanted and donated the rest.  It was quite interesting to see that they didn’t have the same attachment to the toys that I had. The doll I thought my daughter loved she told me, always scared her, as she had such weird eyes. Just shows you!

I didn’t hold on to their first baby grower and shoes as I just didn’t have the space to keep everything and let it go as soon as they had outgrown stuff and let someone less fortunate benefit from it. You really do not hold on to your chubby little baby and the feelings associated with it by hanging onto that first baby grower or his first shoes. I can just imagine how my kids would have felt about their egg yolk yellow baby grower or onesie as they are now known. That colour is nowhere to be seen in the baby isles today and neither are the finely crochet or knitted jackets and bootees.

2. Kid’s School Work

Fortunately for me, it was just one album per child. I had decided when they were starting school to only keep one drawing, samples of their writing, maths and photos of their projects per year. It makes sense to hold on to your final school certificate, diplomas and degrees as they might be required at some point in your adult life to prove your educational background. As retiree you don’t need those anymore. Dealing with your own school books from first grade takes us to a total different level. Accept the fact that you have made the grade and move on! Still in two minds about that beautiful handwriting or picture? Well go on, take a photo or just keep one to remind yourself how amazing you were.

3. Memories from the past

If you kept journals or diaries about your life’s insecurities or happy times, keep one if you really have to. Will you really ever read it and how will it make you feel?

There were also nostalgic items that I kept, because of the sheer beauty or fascination of the objects or a reminder of a long gone happy time.

Some travel brochures and ticket stubs where in folders, which I still meant to scrapbook with the photos of that trip. These were good intentions which I still didn’t realize after a couple of years. It was easy to let go of them as I knew that I would never scrapbook them.

I had some small trinkets that were given to me, which until then I didn’t have the heart to let go of. I then had to decide why I kept them, and let go of the guilt and donated most of them to hospice. The ones that I kept found a special place in a printer’s tray which my husband customised so that each piece has a home. It is now displayed in my passage and has become a conversation piece as people want to know what they are and why they are important to me.

Remember, if you donate or re-gift an item you don’t feel less for the person that has given it to you. You will remember the person without the stuff.


I had many hobbies over the years and it was time to decide what still held my interest, what I would continue with and what could go. I realised that paper making was too strenuous for my back and made up a paper making kit in a large plastic crate with manuals and books that I had collected over the years and donated it to hospice for resale. My beads I gifted to a friend that was into beading then. My silkscreens went to my daughter, but I kept one which became part of a collage of special memorabilia on my patio.

I realised that I won’t have a lot of space for extra stuff. Now I’m left with my sewing machines and my card making paraphernalia, which I also have reduced in the meantime by making cards with the ladies at our retirement village.

5. Stuff from your parents or grandparents

On the other hand I had been handed down furniture from my grandparents and a dinner service from my mom. The furniture was easy, as both my husband and I love the yellow wood chest and chest of drawers and knew exactly where we wanted it in our retirement home. My daughter always loved the dinner service and as she was setting up home it was logical that it would go to her. I up-cycled one of my husband’s gran’s crochet doilies on to a tray and covered it with Pratliglo. Now I can use it daily without it having to be washed or starched.

Your loved ones want you to have stuff that they loved and because they love you, you are subsequently gifted with stuff you’ll never use nor even want, but feel too bad to decline! A tough one, I know! If you know you’ll never use it or don’t love it, don’t even allow it into your home. If you decide to take it, use it or display it with the respect it deserves! Don’t let it clutter up your home because of guilt and the feeling that you have to keep it because someone else thought you should have it! You’ll remember your loved one because of what they meant in your life, not because of their stuff.

What should you do about your keepsakes?

  1. Consider its importance in your life, do you love it, do you need it, and will you use it or display it?
  2. Decide how you want to contain it, will you make albums or have a memory box or frame them in shadow boxes? Remember one memory box not boxes!
  3. Limit the space that your keepsakes will take up in your home.
  4. Do not feel guilty about the stuff that you let go. If you can’t let it go but want to keep a memory of it, take a photo and store it digitally.

Don’t let your keepsakes and memorabilia crowd you out of your home!

Keep the memories of your loved ones in your heart!

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