Minimalism and sentimentality do not mix

There are certain types of chemicals you never want to mix together. Being a minimalist and being a sentimental person at the same time just don’t blend right. It’s like having Christmas on a Wednesday. Is that some kind of joke? This means we have to go to work at the beginning and end of the week now. Like Christmas in the middle of the week, minimalism and sentimentality don’t match.

Here’s the problem: nostalgia. 

We can get this feeling from old toys, pieces from our childhood, and even awkwardly angled photographs we have stored in dusty old tin containers from the 1980s. They bring back old memories and help remind us that we didn’t just crash land on this planet yesterday. We have an entire history. And the older we get, the more artifacts we can end up accumulating.

What are the odds this is an ancient Egyptian participation trophy someone just couldn’t get rid of?

I am far from immune to sentimentality. Now in my 30s, I have a couple of decades of built up memories and totems that serve as a reminder to a simpler time when the biggest health issues were a scraped knee at recess. 

Minimalism was never something my family practiced. So, as an adult, I had plenty of items and habits left over from a more sentimental way of looking at life. It could be the one obstacle I’m furthest from overcoming.

Balancing minimalism and remaining a sweet sentimental person

You can be sentimental and not have a lot of objects but that’s rare. As humans, we just seem to naturally lean toward having objects represent things. Let’s go to my bedroom closet for example.

It’s now down to just a couple of bins and a single closet but there are several items I cannot bear to get rid of. My endless amount of baseball cards where most are worth nothing remind me of the joy they brought me more than half a lifetime ago. Memories of my dad and spending time with him on carefree summer nights are triggered back into my brain. While I’m fortunate to still have my dad around to make new memories, I know that won’t last forever nor are they as calming or enjoyable as the old ones. If I get rid of all of the worthless pieces of cardboard with pictures of men on it that he bought me for the holidays, I’m going to feel like a part of my history has been forgotten. It’s my own personal burning of the Library at Alexandria.

I still have stuffed animals from when I was a kid. It’s hard to get rid of those because they have faces on them. They’re cute. They’re cuddly. All of them even have names. How can I throw Papa Bear into the trash or burn Morris the Moose in the backyard? I hope to pass them on but even if I don’t, it’s hard to toss something in a dumpster that represents a time in your life when everything seemed so good.

Poor kid doesn’t realize it’s all downhill from here.

Minimalism is easy once you get started. I have no problem passing things in the store or leaving it outside of my online shopping cart. It’s those items already in my possession that are far tougher to minimize.

How to be more minimalist when you’re sentimental

You can start by being more of a minimalist moving forward. Making those kinds of changes are huge and helpful. When you want to lose weight, the first thing you can do is stop buying all of the junk food. Finish what you have. Don’t let it go to waste. Don’t bring any more of it into your life, though.

Each time I have moved, I’ve been less sentimental about different objects. Fewer things are brought from one home to the next. Now that I am in a more permanent place, sentimentality has a better chance of sneaking in; or so she thinks.

It helps to organize regularly and actually have an idea of what you want a room to look like. This limits the amount of space you actually can keep things. Because of it, the occasional sentimental item does get donated or thrown away.

I’ll move on from these sentimental items some day. In fact, I’ll do it for good. Unless the Egyptians were right and I can be mummified with all of my old possessions, we’re all just holding onto impermanent plastic, stuffing, and cardboard made overseas.

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