Declutter Your Life: Stuff vs. Memories

I woke up this morning with the strangest thought in my head — I had suddenly remembered I no longer had the unicorn music box I had gotten when I was 15 or 16. Yes, I was one of those girls, obsessed with unicorns, but that’s besides the point.

At what point I lost it, I don’t know. I can’t even remember what song it played. I just knew that I really liked it. Then I started thinking about other “stuff” that had disppeared over the years: Cabbage Patch dolls, jewelry boxes, the softball glove my dad had bought me when I started playing in fourth grade. Where did it all go? In particular, I really miss the softball glove, but again, it was just “stuff.”

And too much stuff can clutter your life. I don’t know where much of my childhood things have gone, although I do still possess a few cherished items, such as a teddy bear my grandmother gave me. But these things are packed away, just another box in the basement. I keep old photographs, old books, old ticket stubs.

It makes me wonder: When do memories become clutter? I suppose if you declutter your life, you’ll still have your memories. But sometimes, I like to take out my old items and use them to jog my memory, to remember specific happy moments in my life.

Mr. Saver and I have barely been in our new home a year, and already I see things piling up — books, papers, my old computer, magazines. I think it’s time to clean up around here. Clear out the “stuff” and start fresh. What better time than spring?

17 comments to Declutter Your Life: Stuff vs. Memories

  • Rob

    I’ve struggled with “stuff vs. memories” for many years and have finally decided that anything I haven’t touched or looked at in over a year needs to go. I recently posted on my blog about how my girlfriend and I are listing tons of stuff on eBay…not only are we de-cluttering, but we’re also making money!

  • Patti

    What a great post and timely for me since I’ve been in the midst of spring cleaning for the past week. Clutter and disorganization make me hyperventilate – literally I start to breathe irregularly. As life would have it, my guy is a pack rat with hoarding tendencies. (His mother is a hoarder – not as extreme as the cases shown on TLC – but a hoarder nonetheless). I’ve had the conversation with him about her that JoeTaxPayer had with his daughter but it won’t be easy.

    As far as the things that I keep, I have a wooden trunk with picture albums/yearbooks and old papers from college. In a decorative hat box I keep letters (remember those?!) and have a bookcase with books that I decided to keep. Other than that, I try to minimize as much as possible. Can’t say the same for the guy – who has two 10gallon plastic containers, a cardboard box and 5 milk crates in my parents’ attic. The work has only just begun…Oh, and he did lose his own Bachelor’s Degree…

  • Interesting point–I personally am not too attached to memories. I’m a ‘chucker’ as little house puts it. My husband is not, though, so I have to watch out not to make him crazy with my chucking. Hah!

    It’s funny but I think that clutter is a really huge issue for people these days. I was intending to write a series on the topic on my own blog a while back, started with two posts and then decided I needed a break because in the comments section, people got really worked up. It wasn’t that they were worked up at me. . .but they apparently had some heavy experience with it in their own lives. I was pretty surprised!

  • Dan

    I tend toward the pack rat side, too, but I’ve actually become slightly obsessed with cataloging all that stuff. I don’t yet have any organized system of what I have and where it is, but I’ve been more active in both moving the boxes from my parents’ house to mine, and then going through them to determine what can be tossed (broken toys, useless trinkets I had no business keeping in the first place), what I want to organize and/or display (drawings I made), and what I want to keep but am happy just to put into a labeled box in the attic (high school yearbooks, prom photos).

  • They definitely become clutter when you pay a monthly fee to store a large chunk of the stuff down at the local storage rental place. A few things to keep a few cherished memories should be enough. It makes moving easier and eliminates extra monthly payments.

    By the way, I just joined the Yakezie Challenge and am looking forward to supporting your blog. Keep up the great work!

  • I’m a bit of a pack rat. I have an amazing amount of stuff I need to get rid of. The goal this summer it to have a garage sale to get rid of some of the old stuff and Ebay some of the collectible-type stuff.

  • My husband is a chuck-er. If things begin piling up, they go into the recycle or trash bin, like my Bachelor’s Degree and old Anthropology research papers that I worked my b*tt off writing! I do still have a few things in rubbermaid bins in the garage, but frankly, I don’t remember what’s in them. As for my really old memories, Madam Alexander dolls, child-hood memorabilia, my mother has them stored in her attic. I have no clue as to what shape they are in. *sigh*

  • I have managed to get my memories down to 4 boxes. And they are tucked neatly in the garage. So, as for all the other stuff in my house – its all ready to be spring cleaned, too. 🙂

    Unicorns, huh? I assume you remember Legend with Tom Cruise?

    Unfortunately, my mom ‘lost’ my stuff along the years and thru the moves; my dinosaurs, my star wars toys, my stuffed animals… *sigh*

    • Nicole

      I was never into movies. More like My Little Ponies and Lisa Frank unicorns, haha.

  • I was looking through a box of “keepsakes” just the other day as my wife and I prepared for a yard sale in our neighborhood. I started finding all this stuff (read, clutter), and I couldn’t remember for the life of me why I was keeping it. The memories associated with those items weren’t significant enought to warrant hauling them around for the next 50 to 60 years.

    I blogged about this recently at and devoted a portion of the Past Due Radio show to decluttering last week.

    There’s something very liberating in throwing old stuff away. Keep the pictures, though – I’m told they’re always worth 1,000 words.

  • Red

    Clutter and memories walk a fine line! Previously, I had every ticket stub for every movie I ever saw in theaters from high school to junior year of college. Then, when looking through the box, I realized that I couldn’t remember who I had seen the movies with! I remembered the plots but not which friends went to which movies with me. I tossed all of them.

    I think things become clutter when you keep them only out of obligation – to a memory, to a person, to anything other than yourself. We should keep things because they’re special to us and bring us happiness – no matter how old they are – and not because we’ll feel guilty if we donate them to someone else.

    I also ask myself if I’m using something to its fullest potential. If not, I think it’s time to give it to someone who will.

  • Oh, the clutter. Boxes of books. Those that are read, I’ll never read again. Those unread, when will I get to them? I encourage my 11 year old to use the library, not just to save money, but to try to keep her from the bad habits I had, accumulating too much.
    I enjoy woodworking, and at one point subscribed to 6 different magazines. You can calculate the ‘shelf-feet per year’ this collection grew. My first step was to cut down to the two most inspiring titles, now I need to thumb through them a bit and clear them out.
    The ticket stubs, not too bad, but boxes of souvenir programs and more memorabilia.
    When my father in law passed away 4 years ago, and shortly after, my MIL moved to an apartment, my wife and daughter helped to clean her old house out. My daughter told me “dad, you need to get your mess cleaned up, I don’t want to have to do this for you when you die.”
    “My name is JoeTaxpayer and I have a clutter problem…..”

  • As a retro blogger, you know I love this post.

    I actually have most of my memories stored in a huge trunk at my mom’s in NY. Here in NJ, I have one large plastic Rubbermaid type box filled with my Trapper Keeper with my published childhood writings and autographed photos from stars, about five or six sealed 80s toys, my diaries and some other odds and ends like a few ET and Strawberry shortcake glasses. See, my plan was if we ever owned a house, I wanted to display some of these collectibles. No such luck as you know on the house front 🙁

    Tales Of A Fourth Grade Nothing

  • […] presents Declutter Your Life: Stuff vs. Memories posted at Rainy Day Saver. Like Nicole, I can’t remember what happened to a lot of things in […]

  • […] Saver presents Declutter Your Life: Stuff vs. Memories saying “We all have keepsakes and tend to “collect” memories. But can you […]