In January, Bubba Watson bought the General Lee that jumped over the police car at the end of the opening sequence to the television show The Dukes of Hazzard. Watson, who won the Masters golf tournament this weekend, is reported as having said the car was his “dream car” and sought out the car’s auction.
Without a doubt, the General Lee is a sentimental item to Watson. He probably loved the television show. He probably associates the car and The Dukes of Hazzard with very happy memories from his childhood. He treasures it and will likely put it on display and dust it regularly with a cloth diaper. If the mood strikes, he may even drive it.
Conversely, if the General Lee had been in my garage, I would have found it to be sentimental clutter. I have no affinity for the car and never really got into the television show. I wouldn’t want to waste the garage space on it, and I wouldn’t want to pay for its upkeep. I would have eagerly sold it or given it away to get it off my hands.
This example of the car illustrates the most important point with regard to sentimental items — only the owner of the object can determine if something is a treasure or clutter. I’m certain my husband believes my collection of Mold-A-Rama animals is clutter, but to me it’s pure happiness and joy. The animals remind me of the vacations we’ve taken and the fun we’ve had locating the Mold-A-Rama machines. My husband’s favorite stuffed toy from his childhood looks like a germ minefield to me, but to him carries wonderful memories from years past. So what does this point mean for an unclutterer? Only you can sort through your sentimental items. This isn’t a chore you can pass off to someone else.
The second point the car example illustrates is that sentimental treasures are respected and treated as treasures. Watson displays the car, maintains it, pays attention to it, and values it. He doesn’t have it shoved in the back of his garage, under a pile of stuff, collecting dust. If it could fit in a cardboard box, you can bet he wouldn’t store it in such a thing. In fact, he probably has a security system and sprinkler system installed to protect his treasure.
If you’re storing sentimental items in cardboard boxes in your basement or attic or garage, it’s a pretty good sign the items are clutter and not treasures. Cardboard is easily damaged by water, mold, mildew, and pests and doesn’t protect belongings for any length of time. Plus, you can’t see your items or appreciate them through the walls of a box in a corner of a room beneath boxes of holiday decorations. If you truly treasured the items, you would protect them properly and/or display them in your home. It would be clear to a complete stranger what is a sentimental treasure to you. If it’s unclear, it’s likely the item is sentimental clutter.
As you’re sorting through your sentimental items to determine what is a treasure and what is clutter, ask yourself:
- How will I store this item? If you will store it in a way that shows you value the item (archival quality materials, stored per archival quality recommendations, or cleanly on display to enjoy every day), keep the object as a sentimental treasure. If you plan to store it in a cardboard box in your basement, get rid of the sentimental clutter.
- Is this item associated with a happy memory? Keep only objects that bring you happiness. Life is too short to surround yourself with sorrow and pain.
- Is this the best item to evoke the most powerful sentimental memory? If you have five objects associated with the same memory, consider reducing your collection to just the best quality item. When it comes to physical possessions, too many of something can detract from the overall impact. You can stop seeing the proverbial forest for the trees.