Day 364 Sentiment v Obligation

I know I have written about this subject before but it is one of those issues that are worth revisiting every now and again. Especially for those struggling with it or who have only recently started reading my blog and don’t have the time or inclination to start at the beginning. I know I wouldn’t have that sort of time up my sleeve.

I think most people who read my blog would have a certain number of true sentimental items in their home. These items are often things like baby ID bands, a child’s old teddy, the glasses you toasted with at your wedding, Grandma’s engagement ring… We all have special things that we feel we will never part with. There is nothing wrong with keeping these items after all we are decluttering our homes and if these items are dear to us then they aren’t clutter.

However there is are another kind of  “sentimental” clutter that can pervade your homes. These are  items that we fear have more sentimental value to someone else and we are only keeping them to avoid feelings of guilt or betrayal. Or to avoid that awkward moment when the person who gave it to you notices it is gone. Sometimes this may be true but quite often it is a fear dreamed up in our own mind and the other person involved really wouldn’t care or even remember that they gave it to you in the first place.

Take a look around your home in fact grab a pen and make a list of the sentimental items in your home that you would rather not keep. I am sure you can probably list them all without even looking. These objects are often easy to identify. They are the items that you feel obliged to keep even though they have outlived their usefulness to you or perhaps in some cases never actually had any in the first place. They are usually items given to you as a gift, an heirloom that has been handed down through the family or something made for you by another well meaning person.

The good news is it is actually possible to part with these items with minimal damage to your relationship with the giver. I have managed to give away many such things over the last twelve months. And believe it or not I have not lost one loved one affection because of it. I have compiled a list of some of these items…

  • A calendar holder my father made for me – It was very nice and I am sure another person would love to have it. It soon became apparent that it was not suitable for my needs because I couldn’t turn the pages with out taking it off the wall and pulling the calendar out. I am a person who likes to write my appointments on my calendar and this was just too difficult with this style of holder.
  • A silver tea set my parents gave me for my 21st birthday – I just didn’t like to clean it and it only ever sat there looking pretty and was never used to serve tea.
  • A crystal duchess set my sister gave me for my 21st birthday – It is a bit dated now and I haven’t used it for years.
  • A wooded 21st birthday key plaque my Godfather made me – It has warped over the years of varied weather in the multitude of places we have live and would no longer hang straight on the wall.
  • A granny rug made by my husbands grandmother which didn’t suit my decor.
  • Wine glasses given to us at our wedding.
  • A bead spinner my MIL gave me – I actually gave it back to her and she was happy to have it.
  • Shot glasses that were my Grandmother’s – I gave them to a friend of the family who collects shot glasses.

I am sure there are many more things but I can’t think of them right now. Yes I did feel a little guilty parting with them and yes I had to give it some serious thought before doing so and yes all of the people involved still talk to me. No most of them wouldn’t even realise that the items are gone and if they do so they aren’t so rude to ask. And no I do not regret it because I should not have to keep something I don’t want in my own home.

So don’t be confused between sentimental value and obligation. If there is something in your home that you no longer and maybe never did want you have every right to remove it. Hand it on to someone else who will appreciate it more. In some cases that may mean handing an heirloom on to someone else within the family. In another case you may want to offer the item back to the person who gave it too you. Maybe you can sell the item or maybe donate it to charity. Either way you should not feel obliged to keep it there.

Item 364 of 365 less things

I think this cap confirms it, you can sell anything on eBay. It sold for $8, go figure!

Cap (ebay $8)

5 Things I am grateful for today

  1. Christmas is over for another year – That sounds a little negative but I am sure you all understand what I am saying.
  2. To be home safe and sound from out road trip – This really is the most dangerous time of the year to travel.
  3. One day to go – And I will have successfully completed my New Years resolution of decluttering 365 things.
  4. Cool tiled floors on a hot day – They sure help keep the house at a comfortable temperature.
  5. Being back in my own bed

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

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  • What Really Matters in your Life Often someone else will turn on the television while I am in the room but I am not really watching it. It is however hard to ignore news broadcasts about all the natural disasters that […]
About Colleen Madsen

Colleen is the founder of 365 Less Things and lives in Newcastle, Australia.


  1. Oh I *so* hear you on this. I’ve now managed to get past the ‘obligation’; thing – I got rid of a terrible wedding present recently and I felt totally freed.

    My challenge, and I hate to admit this, is with old items that might have some monetary value – that makes me feel a little ruthless, but it’s the truth.

    I have some things that I got from my Grandmother’s house and they’ve been in the garage for 10 years, but I just hate the thought of getting rid of them and then realising they could have kept me comfortably for a few years!

    In fact you’ve put me to shame, because I’ve been looking through the archives of my site and found a video I recorded in June 2009 – I promised that I was going to get things valued and then make a decision and hey, guess what? They are STILL in the garage LOL!

    Thanks for helping me to revisit this; maybe 2011 will be the year I make a decision 😉

    • Hi Mrs Green,
      I watched the video and you seemed to have a very good plan there, What went wrong? Did you find out they weren’t valuable but could bring yourself to part with them or did you not even go to the auction house? I would like to see part two of this story on your blog real soon.

      • I never got to the auction house – I think if I do then I’ll have to make a decision; it’s a procrastination tactic 😉

        • Hi Mrs Green,
          I think you need to get to the auction house. Just remember it is only stuff you are selling not your grandma. She probably didn’t want the stuff any more either and she might be amazed you still have it if she were around to know. I promise you will not forget her when those things are gone from a box in your garage that you rarely look at.

  2. BTW – Congratulations on completing your goal of 365 things. It’s been a stellar effort 🙂

  3. Hi Loretta,
    if you don’t mind I would like to use this comment to make a post out of it. I have discussed similar situations before but it is one of those issues that is worth revisiting over and over again. I will ask a few people their opinion on the subject and formulate a response for you if that is OK.

    • No worries Colleen, that’s fine. Now I’m a bit paranoid that she will read this, as I’ve been very specific, but I’m almost certain she doesn’t read uncluttering blogs. Just to clarify, I LOVE most of her paintings, and what I should have done was to offer to pay for one that I had seen!

      • tell her the truth. she’ll probably be happy to swap. i know i would if someone felt that way about one of my paintings ! 🙂

  4. Wow. Just one more day left. Could that be true???

    I have some great Ebay auctions going right now. Very exicted.

  5. getting the drums ready for the drumroll………;D

  6. Ready, set, celebrate!!! Congrats on completing 365 cluttering sessions~ And thanks for lincluding us in the process.

    (I’m glad to be back online for more than a minute during the day. Most of the busyness is winding down here at our little place.)

    • Hi Willow,
      I know what you mean. I am home after being away for a week (had to take the coast road home to avoid the flooding) and glad to get back in my decluttered house with my less than perfect little laptop and doing normal everyday stuff. I am especially glad to get back to walking as the Christmas cheer is sitting a little too heavy on my middle.

  7. I live with my husband in a condo and we rarely have overnight guests. I realized about a month ago that I had 11 quilts: baby quilt made by my great grandmother, 6 quilts made by my grandmother made at different stages of my life, 2 quilts from my inlaws, and 2 quilts that I made (one under my grandmother’s guidance, the other for my husband). I had a similar collection of handmade blankets. I had never considered getting rid of these things because they represented such artistry and effort from the givers, but I have too many!

    I decided that it is ok for me to give away some of the quilts and blankets from my childhood, after taking photos, because they have been used and treasured and don’t want to live in a closet. My decluttering side wants to give away another 3, but my grandmother is getting older and will stop quilting at some point. I would hate to give away too many, wear out the rest, and be quilt-less.

    • I understand your thinking on this issue Rebecca. Quilts do represent artistry and effort and are a labour of love. Either because they are lovingly made for someone or the crafter simply loves to quilt. I think you have made a good choice in what you intend to do in the way of decluttering. There is always room in the home to hold on to some precious items and in this case they are precious indeed.