Some things you just can’t part with: Why it’s okay to have some sentimental things

For the last several years I’ve suffered from purging fits: the inexplicable need to go through all of my things and decide what I can get rid of. It was therapeutic in a way, if not a little manic. Nothing was sentimental. Could I remember the last time I wore/used it? Had it been within the last year? Did I even remember that I had it? If the answer was ‘no’ to any of these questions the item went in the donation pile. Astoundingly I was able to get a decent donation pile going every few months. Honestly, how much stuff can one person have?

Books and dogs

My periodic purging fits were just a warm-up though for my big move last year when I packed up everything I could into my little Rav4, and moved to Maine. Only the bare minimum made it. Since then I haven’t had one purging fit. That was until the other night.

I looked around my tiny apartment with the urge to purge, but not really having a surplus of anything. Will I ever read this book again? When was the last time I wore that shirt? My donation pile was the smallest it’s ever been, especially since I hadn’t done one in over 10 months–an all-time record!

Sentimental things

I went through my “junk” cabinet. This contains special cards, letters, legal/important stuff, research, and photo albums. I was able to get rid of a lot of old bills and other things that were just taking up space. I was feeling pretty good about the whole thing until I stumbled across a blue, file folder.

I’m an organized person by nature. Everything has a place and a purpose, but I could not for the life of me remember what was in this blue file folder until I opened it, and found a meticulous record of Carmela’s veterinary visits. They were in chronological order, of course, with the most recent visit on top.

I flipped through the pages of all of our scary moments together. The time I rushed her to the vet because she was having dizzy spells and banging into walls. The time the vet found a bump on her tongue and had to remove it before we found out it was benign. The time she had another benign growth on her foot and had to have that removed. The first time I took her in for what would become a recurrent ear infection, and everything in between.

I sobbed going though this folder because I remember the face she made at every one of these visits. I remember being scared and frightened about whatever was happening to my puppy and the reassuring facial expression she gave me every time that seemed to say,

“Look, I feel like shit right not, but don’t worry. It’s not the end.”

It didn’t always curb my worry, but it certainly helped.

I debated throwing these records away. After all I won’t have any need for them anymore, but I decided to keep them all. I labeled the folder, and filed it away with all of my other important Carmela stuff.

Dogs and books

We all have sentimental things we refuse to give up no matter what. And sometimes those things change. For the longest time I thought I could never part with my books, but now I know they don’t even come close to the importance I place on my Carmela things. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

What are some of your sentimental things that you would never throw away? Have those things changed over time?

One Comment

  1. Steph,

    “For the last several years I’ve suffered from purging fits: the inexplicable need to go through all of my things and decide what I can get rid of. It was therapeutic in a way, if not a little manic.” I can so relate to that, and I have many more years of experience with it than you. It really is kind of therapeutic (and really can get manic), something only those of us so afflicted can understand.

    I’ve been through may such cycles of purging and agonizing over what to keep. Your affections evolve. What is precious today seems not so much years from now. And at that point you have to concede that it’s time to let go. I’ve released things I never imagined I would. But it’s always good to keep at least something to remind yourself of a precious time, place, person, or companion.

    One of the things I’ve hung on to is a small piece of 2-by-4 wood I picked up on a beach in California on my first visit there long ago. Wave-washed, the softer wood had worn away, leaving the harder ridges of ring wood standing out. It was just a curiosity then, a rare piece of flotsam. But decades later it remains precious to me, because it recalls, in an abstract way, one of the best and most important journeys of my life.

    That said, most things are just things. I remember someone close to me, talking about the house he was so proud of and everything he’d worked so hard to fill it with. He waved his hand at it and said, “You know, it’s all just stuff.” That was the week we buried his wife.

    I’ve gotten rid of a lot of stuff over the years. And now faced with another move, I’m getting rid of a lot more, finding that it doesn’t tug at my heart the way it once did.

    But I’m keeping that piece of wood.


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