Do sentimental items have an expiry date?

I cleaned my room on the weekend – actually, it was a very proud moment… my room isn’t a hundred percent clean, actually, it still needs to be vacuumed. The cleaning has been about a year in progress. Just over a year ago I made a wall of sticky notes, of random, supposedly “fun” things I wanted to do after I finished my Masters degree. The funny thing is, the sticky notes are still on my wall. Most of the tasks have moved to one side to indicate completion. But I realised that over time, I made the notes more like a guide, with none of the tasks having any kind of due date.

One of the notes read “CLEAN ROOM”.

I’m not saying that I haven’t cleaned my room in all of a year, but that note is still in the same place. The really disgusting thing is that I remember making a mental note that I wouldn’t move the sticky note until I vacuumed my room. Which makes me about 99.9% positive that I haven’t vacuumed my room in over a year.

I have definitely cleaned my room (a loose definition) over time, but I dare say I have also kept a stable state of messiness. Some of my clothes were still strewn over my chairs; my floor was covered in stuff I couldn’t be bothered putting away; there were socks and used tissues that had fallen from my side table that were now under my bed; there was dust all over my PC desktop keyboard that I had not touched in a while; there was jewellery all over my dresser that I hadn’t packed away after wearing each day.

I am very glad that over the past couple of weeks, I used my weekends to clean up this mess. I ended up throwing out a lot of clothes and general rubbish, particularly old brochures and papers that hadn’t seen the light of day for years. Old university papers went in the bin. Tarnished fashion jewellery was trashed. Anything that was still alright went into an old backpack I didn’t want – that is all going to the local charity store. I can see my floor. There is more space in my bookshelf. My clothes are all in drawers or on the racks.

I came across a bag of old Christmas and birthday cards. Since attending a talk by The Minimalists, I have taken into account what they said:

Buy experiences, not things.

A home-cooked meal. Tickets to a concert. A personal word of thanks. A hug. Not things.

Sometimes, all sentimental items do is take up space. The memories are in my head. They were in my head all along. Not in these pieces of card. The memories are not in my concert tickets or wristbands. The amount of times I recall Rivers Cuomo from Weezer saying, “We love Australia, and we’re going to play a song called Island In The Sun because you guys are our little island in the sun” (the last time being just yesterday) at my first Weezer concert is proof that I probably don’t need a piece of paper to show that I was there.

I found a card from someone I no longer talk to anymore, and one from someone I didn’t like. I didn’t hesitate to put them in the trash. I realised that I did, however, hesitate when I found postcards from Lilian. We still talk, and we’re still the best of friends.

I messaged her and said I felt bad about getting rid of them, and that I would hang onto them. She thought it was funny and said I could just take a photo of them and throw them out, and she would still send me more postcards next time.

I threw away the oldest of cards that were almost a decade old, but packed the ones that I only got last year.

Then I wondered, should sentimental items have some kind of expiry date? I clearly remember going through these cards a year ago, two years ago, three years ago, and not wanting to throw any of them away at all. But a few days ago, I decided that it was time for some of them to go.

How long should we have to hold onto sentimental items before realising their value is lost, or that they don’t hold as much value as we thought?

Maybe next time someone writes me a card, they should write an expiry date on it. EXP DEC 2015. Then maybe I’ll feel zero guilt about throwing out the card. Or even an assuring message, “If you haven’t thrown me out and December 2015 has passed, throw me out!”

Maybe I’ll write on my Christmas cards this year, “Please Recycle Me!”

But I really do think that some items shouldn’t need to be given so much sentimental value in the first place. If I didn’t think the paper wristbands I have to wear at concerts were so important, then I wouldn’t have a handful of paper strips just sitting on my second desk with nothing better to do, and nothing for me to do with them.

In the same way, I should put value in experiences. Not things.

Comments on this post

I cleaned my room yesterday (still need to vacuum and dust) and threw away a ticket stub from the play Matt and I saw last week. I was proud. xD That’s normally something I would keep for its sentimental value, but I decided not to give it that power of cluttering up my room. :D I’m still horrible at throwing away sentimental items, though.

Have you seen the Friends episode where Rachel has a shoebox full of keepsakes from her relationship with Ross? Including an egg shell…

Be proud! I still kept my movie tickets from last week! I have a hard time throwing away letters, including a love letter I got from someone a while ago, who is still a very good friend of mine now. I think I recall us talking about taking photos at concerts or meeting band members? I can’t quite remember. But these days I don’t care too much about grabbing an autograph or even a photo. If I get to say hi, then I’m happy with that.

Interestingly enough, most of my male friends are minimalists by default, and my brother doesn’t often like keeping “stuff”. He does still have a few cards and gifts though.

I haven’t seen that episode, no! But I did find two photos of me and my first boyfriend. I also remember having a “memory box” of keepsakes from relationships and friendships, most of which I ended up throwing away a couple of years back. It contained similar strange things like egg shells… :P

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, especially since I’m doing a deep cleaning of my apartment + my old room at my parents’ house over the winter break. I used to be a HUGE pack rat – I kept EVERYTHING. I have homework assignments from elementary school still in my old room. I have random knick-knacks (like Tamagotchi happy meal toys) and books I never read and fifty thousand other things.

Funny thing is, over the past year I’ve become really minimalist. I’ve gone entirely paperless and sold/donated/threw away most of my wardrobe. Things that were once sentimental to me (“Here’s the program guide from the first anime convention I ever went to, I’ll never throw it away!”) are now being tossed in the trash.

I do agree that things have an “expiry date”, since they gradually lose their use and appeal. My tried-and-true method is to throw anything that I’m hesitant about into a box and stick it in my garage or storage room. If I go half a year without thinking about the item (or even remembering I put it there in the first place), that must mean it isn’t as “important” as I thought it was.

Yay for cleaning your room and working on one of your sticky notes! Our bedroom was a total mess for a couple years. I finally cleaned it out last year, and it felt so good afterwards. I’m trying to be better about vacuuming too, because I think I came to the same realization, that I probably hadn’t vacuumed in a year (or more).

I’m really bad about throwing away sentimental items. I think I’ve kept every card I’ve received, and my old room at my parents’ house still has notes and letters I received over 10 years ago. I tend to keep every Anime con badge too. I never really thought about sentimental items having an expiry date, but I like the idea. Maybe I should date the things I get, and then decide on a certain number of years to keep them :) I think that would make me feel better about throwing them away too!

Ah, room cleaning. The horrors of all horrors. This is a task I dread to tackle. If you ever see my room and see how much of a packrat I am . . . you’ll see why I procrastinate horribly. I think it is a something I’ll need to do. Soon. I especially need to clean out my file box that holds all my important papers. I now know that I really do not need to keep time sheets from 2007 ~_~; Instead, I should keep stuff like that for a short period of time and then trash them.

However, sentimental items like cards and letters? I cannot throw them away, ever. With everything becoming digitised, I feel like I should keep these handwritten notes and cards that I get, no matter how long ago I got them. Heck, I still have letters from my childhood that I haven’t thrown out and probably never will.

I do realise, though, that there are things I should throw out, and I will. One of these days XD

I have a desktop wallpaper that has says “Collect Moments, Not Things” and I’ve been using it as a desktop wallpaper for over 3 years now. Ever since I stumbled upon Colin Wright’s blog, I have been thinking more and more about minimalism. As soon as I get back home from my clinical rotations, I’m going to clean and throw unnecessary junk. I can’t say I have any Christmas cards to throw away, but I do have birthday cards and I-Miss-You cards from my best girlfriends that I cherish.

Honestly, I’ve always been paranoid about throwing sentimental things away. Or, the funny one that always seems to turn around and bite me right back is the thought that someone had stole something sentimental to me (although, it has happened one time).

I remember the last Meat Loaf concert I went too, I took over 600 + photographs (I literally stood at the stage the entire time, and no security guard asked me to sit down. I guess they thought it was okay?) Anyways, I had all of these pictures from my old Facebook account and on my desktop. Needless to say, something went wrong on my computer and I had to reinstall it from an earlier date. Upon doing this, I lost all my 600 Meat Loaf concert pictures (they were good ones too) and I was not too happy about that. At first I thought I had lost a part of me, but then I realized I was being silly and said “I still have the memory of going to the concert. Why do I need all those pictures? Just to prove that I went?”

I can’t begin to tell you how many Birthday and Christmas cards I have thrown out over the years. My father maybe a pack rat, but I refuse to be that. Every time I move, I seem to get rid of something. Even if it has a sentimental value. The least I can say is “At least, I remember how I got it.” There’s a couple of jewelry boxes that I’m thinking of selling, as they’re just sitting there. One is from my grandmother and the other from my stepmother. I’m not big on jewelry. I am kind of simple. Plus, when you’re sharing a room with your boyfriend, it makes things harder to keep things in place and neat. Especially, both being college students. That’s another story.

I believe it’s okay to throw things out if you’ve never worn it, can remember how you got it, or who gave it to you. I know some people have a hard time throwing things out, but sometimes, you just have to say goodbye. Less clutter, the better.