Photograph it and let it go

Sentimental itemsThis technique works for all types of clutter, large and small, and especially the sentimental kind.

Many sentimental items are kept as a reminder of a person or event they are associated with, and are never used in any other way. In some homes this amounts to a small box containing a few treasured objects, but in others it can take up enormous amounts of space, often overflowing into attics, basements, garages, sheds or rented storage lockers.

One man I know was so attached to the first motorbike he ever owned that when it became unusable, he refused to send it to the scrap yard. It sat in his garden for many years, rusting away and sometimes acting as a drying rack for small items of clothing. Finally he cemented it kitsch-style into his garden wall so that just one side of the bike was visible, and there it is to this day. He’s had many cars and motor bikes since then, and has happily let them come and go, but that first one was so special to him that it’s there to stay.

Thankfully most of the things people hang on to are smaller than this and do not require permanent enshrinement in stone. But when you add them all together they can still take up a lot of room. And because they are never used in any way, except perhaps for occasionally being taken out and looked at, there are layers of stagnant energy that accumulate around them that will have a correspondingly stagnating effect on your life.

An exercise I often invite people to do is to calculate the percentage of items in their home they are actively using now compared to the percentage of items they are keeping to remind them of the past. When the balance is more than 50% from the past, that’s where you are living, and this makes it very difficult to really enjoy the present or create a joyous tomorrow. When you let go of some things from the past, it allows space for new experiences to come into your life now.

Modern technology means that these days most people have a digital camera or cellphone that can take photos, so an excellent solution to this problem is to keep a photo of the item and then let it go. For things you never use, photos are often all the reminder you need, and they take up a heck of a lot less room in your home, or none at all if you store them digitally. You can even set your photos to display as a screensaver slideshow on your computer if you want to, which means you will see the items much more often than you ever would before. Make sure you have a reliable backup system, of course, and keep more than one copy so that if it fails, you will still have the images.

If you have a lot of photos, there are some great software programs you can buy now to organize them all. My personal favourite is Photoshop Lightroom, which allows you to index each photo using multiple keyword tags, so no matter where you have them stored on your hard drive or backup, you can find them in seconds.

Related articles
Clutter clearing childhood memorabilia
The best way to use “before” and “after” photos when clutter clearing

Copyright © Karen Kingston 2013

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One Response to Photograph it and let it go

  1. Ana says:

    Hi Karen,

    Yesterday I found your blog and I’ve been reading it since thouroghly. Many of the concepts you have match with my way of thinking about them. I’ve always thought of myself as a “letting-go” person. I’m always with the intention of cleaning my space, and I get always overwhelmed and cannot even start. It’s frustrating. It’s easier for me to help others that care of my own.

    BTW, there’s something I haven’t seen you wrote about and I think is related to this topic. “Digital” clutter, I guess that people use to have lots of clutter in their PC’s too, and it also gets people distracted and unproductive. Everytime I clean my computer (that is the one thing I can at least get started with) I feel more enthusiastic and many times that helps me to start with backlogged work.

    Thanks for sharing all this interesting stuff.

    Greetings from Argentina,


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