What do we do with our stuff…& our nostalgia?

June 27, 2019

nostalgiaI’ve tried to stay as far away as possible from Marie Kondo’s book on organizing, even though I badly need help. My brain just does not think in an organized way and it’s truly painful for me to try to imagine organization schemes. 

But I couldn’t help it. I was curious to see a couple of Kondo’s videos. Using her methods, I liberated significant drawer space by folding underwear and t-shirts her way.  I can’t deny it–that felt good. And made me consider our relationship with “stuff” and specifically, my own relationship with it, which can be best termed “conflicted.”

Lost forever?

Moving so many times since 1984 meant that I’ve lost a significant number of photos and mementoes from my youth. Using that term broadly, of course. I found the equivalent of a medium-sized box of historical photos and letters that were important to me (see images) but for the most part, my archival record is spotty and I’ve had to be ok with the loss of years and years of photographs.

But that doesn’t mean I’ll discard what I do have.

It moves me deeply to run my fingers over that note my mother wrote me, knowing she held the paper in her hand, put her thoughts down in her distinctive handwriting, inserted it into an envelope. I can imagine her pride and her happiness on that day. Cards for holidays and birthdays were also in the box–what to do with them?.They are of no real use to me now, except for the nostalgia.  What does Marie K say about nostalgia? I don’t know; I didn’t read her book.  Nostalgia isn’t joy, her measurement of an item’s worth. If joy has value, shouldn’t nostalgia?

Who knew?

When Michael and I divorced I had no reason to hold on to images and mementos from our 11 years together. If someone had told me that 26 years later we would remarry I’d have scoffed. So when most of those things disappeared over time, I felt only mild disappointment. But later, what DID bring me joy was finding this photo of us in 1971 after we got engaged. And some from his law school graduation. And even a few from our early married life. The thing is, you never know. And that’s the truth. You never know.

But then, what will happen to those photos? We don’t have children, so they are of no value to anyone but us. Maybe my nephew would sort through them after we’re gone and pick some favorites to illustrate the stories he’ll tell about us.  

See, that’s the thing. Marie Kondo is youngish. Her children are young. It’s hard to be nostalgic when you are 34 years old.

Things look different on this end of life.

Am I overthinking this?

5 comments on “What do we do with our stuff…& our nostalgia?
  1. I’ve been having this running debate myself. I’ve been sentimental and nostalgic all of my life – and now I’m having to deal with all of the mementoes I’ve kept, along with all of those from my parents, my oldest brother, grandmothers, and a childless aunt. I’m also a recovering genealogy addict, which makes it even more hard. I’ve had to discard quite a bit and I’m gradually going through my things, because I don’t want to leave such a burden on my kids. But I’ve come to the conclusion that there are some things I’ll hang on to because the thoughts and memories they trigger bring me joy. There may come a time in the future when I can let go of them. I know my kids have no interest in most of them – they will hold no meaning for them. And I’m okay with them tossing them in the garbage or giving them away when I’m gone. (That knowledge makes it easier for me to discard my parents’ things, too. I know they would understand.) So no, you’re not overthinking it. Enjoy them now and don’t worry about what will happen to them.

  2. I am sitting in my office surrounded by boxes as we prepare to downsize from a McMansion to a Ranch and I have been discarding, donating and decluttering like a mad women – I may regret those thousand of pictures that were trashed, but I will always have the memories in my head.

  3. I am so with you. Funny I have not read the Kondo book butdid look at some folding YT videos. My PJ drawer was a mess. folded all in the Kondo method and now it brings me joy! My photos? Can’t let go. In fact there’s a lot I can’t let go. Memories that I can’t remember. So I keep them all. Fortunately so many photos are on in the cloud now.I have a special box for the cards. Too much life to throw away.

  4. I know … one thing we did was convert all our old videos to digital, so now they are online. And we gave the kids a flashdrive — one little flashdrive instead of boxes of old musty photos and tapes. Also, my cousin sent me some digitalized photos of my dad, my uncle and my grandmother from the 1940s. Pretty cool. But I can’t pretend to have the answer to everything … we still have a long way to go.

  5. I’ve also moved many times and each time I let go of a ton of stuff. To me, it’s just stuff. I have plastic buckets of photos too that aren’t dated but haven’t had time to organize and catalog them. I expect I never will.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Follow Carol


Here you’ll find my blog, some of my essays, published writing, and my solo performances. There’s also a link to my Etsy shop for healing and grief tools offered through A Healing Spirit.


I love comments, so if something resonates with you in any way, don’t hesitate to leave a comment on my blog. Thank you for stopping by–oh, and why not subscribe so you don’t miss a single post?


Subscribe to my Blog

Receive notifications of my new blog posts directly to your email.