Ellie and I are working hard on the making space course, and there's an entire week of the course devoted to overcoming the stumbling blocks that arise when you start to let go of clothing. I love this essay she wrote about letting go of sentimental items from family members. --Dacy

mindful closet st. louis personal stylist

Letting go of sentimental items can feel impossible. Sometimes, it's not even a happy memory that ties us to a belonging, but rather a misplaced sense of obligation, longing, or insecurity.  

For years before my grandmother died, she placed masking tape underneath figurines and pots and tea cups. Each piece of tape had a name scribbled on it, signifying who the item would belong to when she passed. Long before her death, she was concerned about her heirlooms.

When the time finally came to distribute my grandmother’s things, I found very little of it sentimental. Unusable china, decorative bells, miscellaneous antiques; most of which I had never seen my grandmother touch, admire, or even talk about. The only thing significant about about these items was that they lived in her house.

My family, however, felt differently. Any item my grandmother had touched now seemed a holy artifact, worthy of reverence. In china cabinets and cardboard boxes, stored in the garage and in closets, my grandmother’s things were tucked away. But with so much clutter, her heirlooms lost all meaning.

For me, only a few items allowed me to reminisce in her memory. A set of handmade coffee mugs, a gold chain my she wore daily, and a handful of black and white photos. These items were real to us.

mindful closet: letting go of sentimental things

The memory of my grandma does not live in her possessions. What I remember most is her resilience; her refusal to be anything other than joyful. I remember her incredible chicken dumplings and her unwavering belief in me. While I do not need physical things to acknowledge her impact on my life, what I have of hers feels special. What I have of hers feels like hidden treasure.

An item only has as much meaning as you give to it. While it’s tempting to hoard a loved one’s belongings, consider why each item is significant to you. If it brings you joy, by all means, cherish it. If it does not serve you, find the space to let it go.