Cindy’s Weekly Wisdom ~ Sentimental to Whom?

Cindy’s Weekly Wisdom

Recently my in-laws were in town. They went to their storage unit and returned to my house with a glass pitcher that they thought we might like ~ it had belonged to my mother-in-law’s great grandmother. My husband seemed eager (or at least politely accepting), and I had broken one of our two glass pitchers a while back, so I wasn’t opposed to having it. It was not fancy or heirloom quality, just a pressed glass pitcher with a duck scene molded onto it, something that would be the equivalent of a Wal-Mart purchase today.

I used it a few days later and proudly showed my husband when he got home from work. I thought he’d be pleased that I had readily accepted this new item into my kitchenware. Instead, he barely recognized it, said he didn’t know which grandmother it was from, and said, “Who knows? She may have been ready to throw it out when she died.”

Interesting.

Interesting because while his mother had ascribed sentimental weight to its existence, Dan couldn’t have cared less. I might have cherished that pitcher as a relic from his great-grandmother for all of his life and passed it down to our children as a treasured heirloom. But he didn’t even care!

In my life, I have an old cook book that belonged to my Grandmother. She was a great cook. It is so stuffed full of recipe clippings that the spine is broken, and when she died, it was thought that I should have it because I’m a good cook too. It’s been more than nine years since she passed, and I have barely given it a look. I don’t ever remember Grandma using it. She used a couple of her cookbooks but mostly used a spiral notebook full of hand written recipes frequently. But this book? It seems to have been a storage unit for Recipes Not Made. While it is supposed to be sentimental to me and to the relatives who decided that I should have it, there’s really no evidence that it was sentimental to my Grandmother. After all, as far as any of us can remember, she never even used it. Sure, she kept it, but my Grandmother was a depression-era housewife: she kept everything. That doesn’t mean that it was near and dear to her.

As you’re decluttering, you will inevitably find something where you will think, “Oh, but Aunt Regenia was so fond of this.” Was she? To whom is this item sentimental and is it sentimental to you?

Today’s Declutter Item

These are another example of aspiration clutter that I was planning on doing something with one day. They was actually given to me by someone who didn’t want them. She knew I made jewellery and though I might be able to use them. I graciously accepted. They were one of those “sentimental to someone else” pieces that Cindy spoke of above. They belonged to my friends mother-in-law who she didn’t like. So I figured I was doing her a favour by accepting them so she didn’t feel obliged to keep them. I attempted to sell them on ebay recently without success so now they are off to the thrift store.

Another Vintage Necklace

Something I Am Grateful For Today

I am grateful that they are understanding and trusting at the dentist surgery because I realised at the last minute that I had forgotten my purse. I am also grateful that the reason my friend cancelled our pm coffee together wasn’t because of bad news at her daughters doctors appointment. And I will be grateful if the last thing I had planned today actually works out right. Crazy day! But I am grateful for my patience and sense of humour. Oh and I didn’t need any follow up dental treatment. That is at least fours years in a row now. Woo hoo, gotta luv that!

“In daily life we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy.” Brother David Steindl-Rast

It matters not how fast I go, I hurry faster when I’m slow


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Comments

  1. I try to accept things graciously when offered. If I really want it, I will keep it. Most of the time, I just pass it on. I figure that it is one way I can help other people to declutter their things because sometimes they feel better if they pass it on to someone. I don’t mind being the one to donate it if that is what needs to be done for them to let go.

  2. Way back on day 120 I decluttered a grooming set. It had only survived uncluttered to that point because I thought it was an item my husband was sentimental about. You see, it was a gift to him from his grandmother who had passed. I never actually ever saw him using them so one day I had the sense to ask him if he wanted them. His response was “No I don’t, I thought you used them”.

    The moral of this story is to communicate about your clutter. You could be keeping things that you only thought were sentimental to someone else.

  3. Oh Colleen – what a day! I too have forgotten my wallet, early on when I was having Physio (now I ring and say ‘it’s Sarah’ and she knows EXACTLY who it is!), and it was such a hassle to get my brother to come and pay for me… And just the other week, I left it in the car, so I had to go rescue it!

    Today I shall declutter my work tea, there’s one flavour I keep passing over. And then I can use the container to bring in more of the stuff I no longer have at work (and like).

    • Silly us Snosie, I never usually forget my wallet but luckily the dentist to us is like your Physio is to you. They know us well enough to trust us, so I just came back later in the afternoon to pay.

      There is nothing more important than to have the supplies to make a good cuppa at work. How would one get through the day otherwise.

  4. Great advice Cindy. Just the other week I was cleaning out some very old papers of my daughter’s (she has moved to another state and gave me permission to do so). I found a contract she had drawn up with her very first boyfriend for a loan she gave him. I thought she might like to see it again so had held on to it prior to us going to visit her. When I mentioned it, she said – just get rid of it, she wasn’t interested in seeing it or having a little laugh at the conditions of repayment/default. So even though it was just a slip of paper, and it doesn’t contribute a great deal to the decluttering, it’s now gone! Communication is definitely key 🙂

  5. Hmmm, interesting. One of the items I passed on to my cousin’s daughter was my great grandfather’s brush. An old hairbrush?? She wanted it? How can a hairbrush be sentimental?

    It’s a good idea to ask people if something has sentimental value BEFORE you invest your own sentiment in it.

  6. This is a really well-written post Cindy. I no longer have the problem of whether or not to accept other people’s stuff (all of the older generation either dead or in nursing homes), but I now wish I was more gracious when my Mum would press supposedly sentimental objects on me. We used to argue furiously about me accepting them (I was probably quite rude about it!) I do have a few things of hers and my deceased father’s, but I don’t think either of them would have ascribed any sentimental value to them at all (a pyrex bowl, an old wooden carving of a deer, a few plates and glasses).

  7. Never thought about sentimental clutter this way, but I think I do that! Keeping things because I have think/imagined they were so important to the person. It’s an excellent point and something to ponder. Lisa

  8. Great point. Just because an item was still owned by a person when they pass doesn’t mean it’s suddenly an heirloom. I don’t have many items that were passed down to me, but I also don’t hold onto items because they once belonged to someone I love. My mother finally let go of most of her cookie cutters before I moved back to WA state and gave them to me. These were ones I used as a kid. I took them, went through and chose a few which I kept and sold the rest along with a bunch of other kitchen items. Even though I didn’t want all of these in my home, I also saw the opportunity to remove them from my mother’s overstuffed home. I think my disconnect with other people’s stuff in part stems from watching my adult family members fight over my grandmother’s stuff after she passed when I was a child and thinking how ridiculous it was.

  9. I’ve thought about this post for a while. I’m quite sure now that I don’t own any sentimental clutter like that you described.
    Sure, I own many things that have once been my grandmother’s, but I own them primarily because I think they’re useful or pretty – or hopefully both. It’s a plus that I remember my granny using them, but I would keep them anyway.

  10. I have almost been in a place of sentimental clutter recently. My elderly parents are finally downsizing, and they are running everything through me first. Do I want this, do I want that ? They have some lovely stuff BUT I just say no. I encourage them to sell it, enjoy the money themselves, if it doesn’t mean a lot to them, then it certainly doesn’t mean a lot to me. I would rather they enjoy all their lives doing what they want from the fruits of their labor. I will be blogging their downsizing efforts…however and this will be HUGE ! Maybe you might stop by !

  11. My mother has a few things that she holds onto that were her mothers. Other than that we are sentimental clutter free. On the other hand, my aunt took everything she could get her mother to give her. I’m talking barrels of things. They have lived in their home for 30+ years and those barrels are still up in the rafters of their garage and have never been opened. She won’t give them to anyone because something might happen to them. By now no one really wants them. Those in the family who could have used them didn’t have the opportunity because she literaly begged her mother for them years before Grandma even died. So there they sit and when she dies her sons will sell it all off and that will be that. Sort of sad. If you aren’t going to use it let someone else have it who will. I wouldn’t have wanted any of it but I have a couple of female cousins who would have loved to have had it to use and remember their grandma by.

  12. “… my Grandmother was a depression-era housewife: she kept everything. That doesn’t mean that it was near and dear to her.”

    What a great point, Cindy. And one which I already know I’ll use as I come across certain things in my decluttering.

  13. Great post Cindy,

    I find it sad that so many, have so much, from so few that had too much, and really don’t honour it in any way. The things I have from those dear to me are honoured and used daily. I used to have things that I thought were special when really they were just things! No real memories attached to them, they were just things that were once in their lives and then I ended up with them. What I kept is very special to me, they have real memories of being worn (a brooch) used regularly, teacups & saucers plus a few other bits. I got rid of everything that I considered insignificant to my way of living. As I tell my sisters, just because they are family member things doesn’t mean you have to hang onto them, the things are not the person and unless it brightens your life in a significant way, don’t keep it.

    Almost everybody I know has ‘Sentimental Clutter’ and feel that because they were given it they have to keep it. The guilt that a lot of these people carry with them could sink a ship. My advice to them all when the subject comes up is keep it if it ‘REALLY’ enhances their life! If not then it should be passed on. If they really love something that much then ‘Honour’ it by using it or displaying it with love. I truely believe that once someone really gets to the ‘heart’ of their clutter they begin to see the ‘light at the end of the tunnel’. As we all know, it’s a journey and lets face it, it’s definitely one worth embarking on.

    Have a great day everyone 🙂 🙂 🙂

  14. I have 2 china tea sets that belonged to my paternal grandmother, who died when I was 2. I don’t drink tea and I prefer mugs to cups anyway. When my parents died and I had to clear out their house, I had to make some tough decisions (btw that was 24 years ago) but I couldn’t get rid of these tea sets. Now my daughter is 19 and is a tea drinker. She’s not interested in them now, but what about when she gets older? My tastes have changed over the last 24 years and what I didn’t like at 25, I’d like to have now that I’m 49! What to do?

    • Ah Sammyleia,
      this is the sort of thinking that gets people into a cluttered mess in the first place. Your parents were what was important, not their stuff. Ask your daughter if she wants them now and if not you have permission to release them. What happens next is up to you but just remember life isn’t about stuff. Do you need these things to remember your parents, I guess not.

  15. I have to mention my sentimental keeper. I have a regular pyrex pie plate that I took from my mother’s house after she passed. I know it is hers because it has a little chip. I took it to a potluck party with dip. At the end of the party I could only find one glass pie plate but there wasn’t a chip. I prevailed on the hostess to ask the other guests to return the glass plate. The other pie plate owner couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t take the unchipped plate, since you could always get a replacement. It was my mother’s. Besides, the chip makes it different, if not better.

    • Hi Eileen, I know exactly where you are coming from here. And isn’t it great when the sentimental item you have are also practical. These are the kinds of items I love the best.

  16. I am swooning over that necklace 🙁