While riding home from a birthday party, a girlfriend brought up her dilemma about her conflicted feelings with sentimental items and gifts. In going home to see her family this Christmas, she mentioned how she's made strides in decluttering and pairing down, but felt guilty about receiving precious sentimental items from family members and also what to do with unwanted gifts. "What if I don't want these plates that were my grandma's?" and "What happens when I'm overloaded with these gifts that I didn't necessarily want?" All questions I have ruminated over myself and have been asked multiple times as a minimalist.
Here are 3 questions to ask yourself when considering sentimental items and gifts.
Why am I keeping this sentimental item/gift? If the answer is 'out of guilt', that's a red flag. I asked my girlfriend, if your dad knew you felt burdened, didn't use the item, and were solely keeping it out of guilt, do you think he would want you to keep it? Most likely your loved ones mean well and genuinely want that item to be loved/used/purposeful. If you're keeping an item out of guilt, practice letting go and finding a home for it that it can be used. If the answer is 'you love it' then by all means keep it! When my mom passed away she left me many things, including her entire bone china tea collection. I had many fond memories enjoying tea parties with my mom and brother. I didn't want to let that go. Sadly her two box collection sat in my garage collecting dust for many years. I finally had the gumption to go through her collection, touch every item, allow myself to remember and pair it down to the few most precious tea cups. The process reminded me that the memory doesn't live in the item. When we detach the memory from the physical item it's easier to let go. Also, my Hubbs and I now use these two teacups for our morning coffee. By using the item it pays tribute and honors that person.
Do I use this sentimental item/gift? If no, let the item go. Wouldn't it bring you joy knowing someone else can value and give life to something otherwise forgotten? If so, how often? For me, if I'm not using something regularly as in at least several times a week, the item needs to go. If I find myself keeping it 'just for when' I know it's time to minimize.
Is it really that big of a deal? Meaning, just allow the gift giver the joy of giving the gift (yes, even if it doesn't fit my super picky style, wasn't on my Amazon wishlist or even anywhere near my wheelhouse). I am learning to graciously accept the gift and feel genuine gratitude that that person thought of me. I will say even communicating my minimalist values to family and friends, I've still received gifts and items that don't fall under these values. The point is to be gracious and receive it. I have hurt people in the past and have had to swallow my pride and ask forgiveness for being hurtful, rude and imposing my views and values on others. Don't learn the hard way, let me be an example to just let a few things slide. Let the giver feel the joy in giving and understand that it's yours to do what you wish with it (keep, donate, toss, regift)
As we head into the Christmas season and holiday rush I hope it's filled with joy, nostalgia, and loved ones, rather than the burden of stuff. Remember what this season is truly about, that has nothing to do with things and everything to do with love. A precious gift that God sent His only Son Jesus who passed through heaven and stepped down from His throne because He loved us so.