Before I met my husband, I spent many summers driving from Texas to Mississippi to visit my granny. On the long drive to her home, my mind would race with questions to ask her about her early life on a farm, how she became a great Southern cook, and what she remembered when her great uncles went off to fight the American Civil War. Having her at my wedding is one of my happiest memories.
Sadly, she died when I was pregnant. I was devastated when I realized that our precious time together would be only memories from then on. Today, the possessions that her gentle hands touched and that she passed down to me are not sentimental clutter in my view. They are part of who I am and what I want to pass on to my sons.
However, when I began homeschooling my sons, I soon realized that unless I set boundaries, sentimental items can quickly go from calm to clutter. And homeschooling has a way of breeding a lot of sentimental clutter.
Knowing that I’m a clutter-free mom by nature and because two of my sons have finished homeschooling, I hope these five tips about reducing sentimental clutter will help you.
1. Limit the Size of Homeschool Storage Bins
When you begin to homeschool, your todder's every scribble is a masterpiece to cherish. Unless you already know which pieces of art you want to keep and which ones you don’t, just place them all in one large plastic tote. Don’t put undue stress on yourself by immediately making a decision about sentimental clutter. At the end of the school year, you can purge and create the homeschool portfolio.
Not quickly making a decision on sentimental things has two very significant advantages.
Waiting gives me time to mull over my feelings so I don't later regret a decision.
And looking over items from the whole year give me perspective about which items are truly important to me. With the whole picture of my sons’ work in front of me, I can make a better decision.
If all the items can’t fit in one giant large tote before the year ends, then I purge at a midpoint in the year. The key is that I’m limited to one container which is not very small or overly large.
2. Limit Each Child to a Small Treasure Box
I have one son who has collected many things from his childhood throughout the years. I purchased him a small wooden box, and he decided which toys, awards, cards from his grandparents and Pokemon cards he wanted to keep. I started him off using a shoebox, which worked fine too.
Early on I was teaching him that we can’t keep everything. Through the process, he also learned to make decisions about what’s important to him.
3. Say No to Guilt
When a sentimental item begins to cause you stress, it’s time to let go of it and the guilt. This is how I did it.
When I was in ninth grade, my history class hosted a Medieval fair. Because of my love for history, my mom and dad went all out on sewing my costume, complete with hand-made crown. For many years, my mom saved the costume and crown and then finally passed it on to me.
Three kids later, overflowing homeschooling books and clutter from my own kids started overtaking my house. As much as I loved that costume, it didn’t hold the same value as the items I received from my granny or items my own children had made. My sentimental clutter turned to stress.
So I took a lot of pictures of the costume and crown, removed one button from the costume, cut a small square of the red velvet material to keep, and threw out the rest of it.The items I kept are small enough to fit on one page of a memory album. Having something small like a button felt right, and I didn’t feel like I completely abandoned what my mom saved for years.
4. Downsize Your Sentimental Clutter
I applied this same principle of purging to my kids’ crafts and items they made, built, painted, or drew through the years. Instead of keeping the whole item, I saved just a piece of it.
I know that one day my sons will have kids of their own. And when they do, I hope to create a small shadow box as a gift to their kids. It will remind my sons of their homeschooling journey as they share it with their kids.
5. Make Room for Today's Memories
Setting priorities means living in the present and making room for new memories—today's memories. You have to deal with sentimental paper clutter.
It’s true that homeschooling is a work of the heart, and that is the same for each paper and journal your kids created. A lot of work went into teaching them how to write well. Again, take your time sorting through them.
For paperwork, I’ve scanned a majority of my sons’ journals and compositions so I can save them digitally and curb the clutter. I’ve kept a few hard copies which shows how their writing improved each year. In the future if my sons or their wives want a printed memory book, then it’s easy to create one.
Did I mention that looking back to remember special learning moments is a cinch? Simply looking through photos on my laptop or cloud storage takes no time. Because I have them organized by year, it’s also relaxing and enjoyable. I savor them way more than digging through tons of boxes where pages may become dogeared and musty.
When a person does not have some natural organization ability, she can take a slice and dice approach to sentimental clutter. I think that is a mistake because sentimental things can’t be replaced. Begin first by purging physical clutter and slowly go through sentimental clutter. And remember when sentimental clutter begins to raise your stress level, let it go—with the guilt.
About the Author
Tina Robertson celebrated the graduation of Mr. Senior in 2013 and Mr. Awesome in 2015. Because of her love for new homeschoolers, she mentors moms through her unique program called New Bee Homeschoolers. She loves all homeschoolers, though, as she shares her free 7 Step Curriculum Planner, unit studies, lapbooks and homeschooling how tos. She can't sing, dance, or craft, but she counts organizing as a hobby. She is still in the homeschool trenches blogging at Tina's Dynamic Homeschool Plus.