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.