Letting go of sentimentality

During this time of year, the post offices are getting completely swamped with Christmas present packages, last minute internet purchases and of course, Christmas cards.

When I was a kid, I used to love writing and receiving cards, but as I got older I sent fewer cards and received much fewer in return. Now, it’s been a few years since I’ve written one. If I want to wish my friends “Happy Christmas”, I would say it to them directly, or else just get in contact with them on the phone or online.

Personally, I no longer see the need to send Christmas cards. But there are many people who still do. And there are many more who believe in sending real letters, photographs, souvenirs, and postcards.

three questions

In this age of technology and constant connected-ness, I wonder about a few things.

1. Should we still be doing it?

There are so many other ways we can get in contact with the people we love. The internet may be a modern-money making monster, but it has enabled us to share our thoughts, photos, videos and stories with almost anybody we want. Letters were good in the old days when telephone was the only other option.

Because of the prevalence of the internet, there are people who want to go back to those good old days and handwrite everything. But there are other things to consider – such as the environment, money and of course what happens next.

2. What will I do with all these things for the rest of my life? Shall I leave it to collect dust in my parent’s attic? Or take them with me whenever I move house? Will I be able to endure keeping them now only to let my kids throw them away for me? Shouldn’t I be the one to let them go?

As much as I love getting letters, they’re not that much different from general clutter. They don’t provide any good use, apart from to make me feel better every couple of years, they’re a hassle to store and look after and they’re meaningful only to me.

3. Why do we keep stuff?

When we get special cards and letters, most people tend to keep them because we feel grateful for the time and effort a loved one put into writing them for us. It’s not something we want to discard easily, unlike other paperwork like bills, magazines and so on.

This was a very big problem for me because I found it so hard to let go of old birthday cards and handwritten letters, but I now I know I can’t  hang onto them forever.

how to let go

1. Realize what they really mean.

Here was the problem: I actually believed that letters and cards were a physical manifestation of somebody’s love for me.

But then I had to ask myself – is that what they really are? I came to the realization that a piece of paper had nothing to do with it. My family and friends would love me all the same, whether or not I kept them. It was the thought of sending the card that counted, not really the card itself. To be honest, most of them probably had forgotten that they even sent me that stuff, and there I was hanging onto them for dear life.

2. Think about the future.

The problem only gets worse the longer you leave it. The older something becomes, the more attached you get to it. One of my biggest fears is becoming an old lady hoarder with a house full of trinkets, ornaments and boxes of stuff I couldn’t bear to throw away. If something should happen to me (touch wood), who will the burden fall on to get rid of that stuff?

Nothing lasts forever. One day, that stuff will be dumped. You’ll have to let go sometime, so why not make it soon?

3. You can still save them.

Thanks to technology, a part of those letters, cards, trinkets and so on can be saved. During my summer purge, I scanned/took pictures and recycled/donated a lot of stuff.  And I have to say, it felt quite liberating to get the burden of those boxes off my back. I can still read the letters when I want to, even if it’s not the real tangible versions. To me, being able to read their words was more important than being able to touch the piece of paper they were attached to.

Also, because I have digital versions of them, I don’t have to bring them with me wherever I go. It would have been quite inconvenient to take them with me to Japan, or to anywhere I would end up living for that matter.

It’s up to each person if they feel it’s worth trading, you should do whatever feels right for you. Because of course, minimalism isn’t about throwing away everything, especially the stuff that really matters to you. If you’ve decided that you really want to keep something, it would probably only cause more pain for you to get rid of it.

In that case, keeping a little shoebox of photographs wouldn’t be the end of the world, would it?

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Interested in more de-cluttering tips? If so, check out Minimal Student’s Christmas Challenge over at Twitter for daily prompts. See you there!

Picture credit: Jayegirl99