It’s Time to Get Rid of Your ‘Sentimental’ Junk

It’s Time to Get Rid of Your ‘Sentimental’ Junk
Photo: okay_i_guess, Shutterstock

My grandmother Jewel accumulated many things throughout her life. Some of the things were nice antique pieces, and some of the things were purchased at the Dollar Tree, but all of the things were mixed together throughout her home, making it hard to tell (at a glance, at least) which was which.

Replace the Little Things That Annoy You

For whatever reason, I held on to my last nonstick frying pan for 12 whole years. I bought it in Florida, moved it to Portland and took it with me when I moved out of my ex-husband’s place. Truthfully, until about a year ago, it was working “fine,” but there...

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Even before she passed away, I never left Jewel’s house without taking one or more of the things with me. Plates, baking dishes, the jewellery she didn’t wear anymore, and needle-pointed pillows were the most common, but sometimes she would give me something she just didn’t want anymore, like an as-seen-on-TV checker cake pan set, or a scratched up bundt pan. When she died, I lost the ability to distinguish between a treasure — something she wanted me to have — and something she was just getting rid of.

This is why the bundt pan lived in my kitchen so long, emerging from the cupboard once a year to ruin a perfectly good cake. It was originally nonstick (I think), but clearly hadn’t been for some time. I never was able to make a whole bundt cake with it. I finally threw it away, and I feel much better.

People are not the things they give you

I don’t know how it is with other families, but mine has a tendency to be overly sentimental about every little gift, every token of affection. When I was five, I wrapped up some rocks I found on the playground and gave them to my grandfather for his birthday. He put them in a glass case. I think they are still in that glass case. One Christmas I ordered some fancy sugar cookies for my grandmother. They were shaped like mittens and had the names of her grandchildren iced onto their sugary cuffs. They were never eaten because she could not bear to eat something with one of our names on it.

These stories are sweet — and I plan to go get those rocks — but this particular familial compulsion is not always helpful when it spills over into every little item ever given to any member of the family by any other member of the family. My grandmother is not in that sticky cake pan and treating it like she is frankly disrespectful to her memory. Once I decided I didn’t want to think of my grandmother every time I ruined a perfectly good cake with that terrible pan, getting rid of it was easy. (Jewel wouldn’t have wanted to be associated with bad cakes anyway. She loved cake.)

Think of how the thing was given to you

If you find yourself holding an object that does not “spark joy” but feel guilty about letting it go for some sentimental reason, think of how it came to be in your life. Was the person who gave it to you moving? It’s probably ok to toss it. Did they say “If you don’t take it, I’m just going to donate it?” You’re in the clear!

Even if it was a gift, you are not required to keep every single gift someone you love gave you. Not all gifts are meant to last a lifetime, and clinging to an object that clutters your home or no longer functions like it should is not healthy. All it does is breed tiny amounts of resentment towards the object and the person who gave it to you.

So get rid of it, and keep the stuff that has actual, true sentimental value. Stuff that makes you remember the person associated with the thing fondly, not sticky baking equipment that takes up too much space in your cabinet and ruins cakes. No one wants to be associated with ruined cake.

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