Letting Go Of Sentimental Items

Throughout our lives we acquire things that over time create sentimental value.  Perhaps you have an item that has a memory attached to it.  That item could sit in your closet, basement, or garage.  You no longer use this item, but the thought of giving it away gives you anxiety.

We must ask ourselves, how do we coexist with belongings that have fulfilled their purpose, but maintain a sentimental attachment in our lives?

We send them off!

You may be wondering why this is the case.  Hopefully my backpack story will shed light on my reasoning.

My Odd Backpack Story

Throughout my last few months of college I rocked the backpack you see below.

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Aside from the awesomeness (or absurdity) of the backpack design, the thing that made the bag so special was how I acquired it.  You see, there’s actually quite a backstory to the bag.  My friend owned the bag and I convinced him to accept my Beats by Dre headphones in exchange for the bag.  Great choice!

During our negotiation over the backpack, my friend told me he wasn’t the first owner of the bag.  Apparently a college student at The University of Texas at Austin bought the bag.  Somehow my friend convinced the Texas student to give him the bag in exchange for something else.

This meant I was the third owner of the bag.  With this knowledge came added responsibility.  I wasn’t going to let the legacy of the green/pink JanSport backpack die on my watch.

The bag had a great run.  The combination of a 6’4″ guy walking around with a bright pink/green backpack made it possible for my friends, or anyone really, to spot me a mile across campus.  But as we know, all things must come to an end.  After graduating, I realized the workforce wasn’t going to be as receptive to the bag as my college community was.

There was a problem though.  Despite the fact I stopped using the bag, it still provided sentimental meaning in my life.  As a result, the bag sat in my closet for two years.  Eventually a hard decision was made.  I decided to mail the bag off to a rising senior at my alma mater.  Included with the bag were instructions – I recommended that the new recipient should pass the bag off to somebody else after graduation.

To my knowledge the bag has indeed been passed down yet again.  The current owner is the fifth owner of the bag.  If you see a bright pink/green JanSport backpack around Elon University, know it was once mine.

Letting Things Go

We must learn to let physical belongings go.  Letting go of my backpack, which made me feel uneasy at first, turned out to be a liberating decision.  I’ve come up with three reasons why it felt so great to let it go! (Had to reference the movie Frozen at least once in this post).

Forward Minded

The bag represented a clinging to the past.  After graduation, each time I looked at the bag it created a longing in me for a previous stage of my life.  The sight of the bag took me out of my forward minded mentality.

Once the bag was sent off, I felt a sentimental burden lifted from my shoulders.  I could focus on creating new opportunities without being bogged down thinking about “the good old days”.

Forge a Bond

It’s one thing to tell someone you trust them.  It’s another thing to give that person something of sentimental value.  The act of giving something of sentimental value to somebody is a profound indicator of trust.  It’s like saying “hey, I appreciate, trust, and respect you enough to give you something that has meant a lot to me”.

The recipient of the bag was very appreciative of the gesture.  We always had a mutual respect for each other, but passing down the bag forged a unique bond between us that I believe will continue for years to come.

Bring Joy to Others

I came to the realization that what made the bag special wasn’t my emotional attachment to it, but rather the pleasure other’s experienced when seeing the bag.

The bag created a feeling of warmth.  So then how was keeping the bag in my closet generating positive vibes?  I was doing the bag a disservice by stashing it in my closet.  If this sounds like a toxic relationship, I can confirm it was just that.

The bag had fulfilled its purpose in my life.  Therefore the best thing I could do was pass the bag off to somebody else who could continue the bag’s legacy.

Call to Action

Think about your belongings that at one time served a genuine purpose but have since become a memento.  If that item could be useful to another person, then figure out who would best fulfill the purpose of the item.  Since you’re giving away something of meaning, ensure that person is somebody you trust.

If you’re fearful of giving something sentimental away, remember this: what we fear isn’t losing sentimental belongings, but rather the memories attached to those belongings.

The act of giving doesn’t diminish your memories in any way.  If something is meaningful, you will carry those memories with you for the rest of your life.  In fact, by giving something away the item becomes even more meaningful and memorable.  There is power in knowing something of value is now in the possession of somebody you value.

Let go of the mementos holding you back.  In the process you’ll forge a bond with somebody you care about.  That’s what we call a win-win!

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3 thoughts on “Letting Go Of Sentimental Items

  1. Life Tweak,
    Nice story. Had a couple thoughts.

    You said “The act of giving doesn’t diminish your memories in any way” but I have a terrible long term memory. For this reason I worry about memories fading over time. I also think many of my momentos can’t be given away – some of them are notebooks from college classes, or tickets to a sports game. Am I meant to throw them away over time? Not that you should have the answers to these questions – just sharing my experience.


    1. Hi Sammysignal,

      Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts! Appreciate those who engage with the content the way you do.

      It’s understandable to fear losing memories that have been attached to mementos. Realize a visual cue is profound trigger for past memories.

      I’d argue items such as a notebook or tickets don’t serve an useful purpose in another persons’ life. If something wouldn’t add value to another person, I don’t recommend giving those items away. The recipient gains nothing and you’d only be hurting yourself. The joy comes in knowing the new owner of an item is putting the item to good use. In fact I think by giving something of value away, the act of giving forges an even stronger personal memory.

      Here’s a final question to ponder: If something is forgettable, was it truly worth remembering in the first place?


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