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What to do about keepsakes?

When I downsized a couple of years ago I realised how much stuff I had kept because of some or other attachment, it also came apparent that many had gathered dust for years and hence had never brought joy to my life. We all have some or other sentimental items that we hang onto, there comes a time when we have to face the music and decide what our attachment to them is.

Decluttering or dealing with keepsakes and memorabilia is a sensitive issue as it deals with our emotions and sentiments. Either we or our parents have hung onto them for ages just in case “the children” will want them one day. That in itself shows indecision as to their importance and what should happen to them.

What Keepsakes are we talking about?

1. Kids’ stuff

I kept one large container with toys that I believed my kids loved. Anything broken had been tossed and everything had been cleaned before being put into the container. When they flew the nest, I let them rifle through it and decide what they really wanted and donated the rest.  It was quite interesting to see that they didn’t have the same attachment to the toys that I had. The doll I thought my daughter loved she told me, always scared her, as she had such weird eyes. Just shows you!

I didn’t hold on to their first baby grower and shoes as I just didn’t have the space to keep everything and let it go as soon as they had outgrown stuff and let someone less fortunate benefit from it. You really do not hold on to your chubby little baby and the feelings associated with it by hanging onto that first baby grower or his first shoes. I can just imagine how my kids would have felt about their egg yolk yellow baby grower or onesie as they are now known. That colour is nowhere to be seen in the baby isles today and neither are the finely crochet or knitted jackets and bootees.

2. Kid’s School Work

Fortunately for me, it was just one album per child. I had decided when they were starting school to only keep one drawing, samples of their writing, maths and photos of their projects per year. It makes sense to hold on to your final school certificate, diplomas and degrees as they might be required at some point in your adult life to prove your educational background. As retiree you don’t need those anymore. Dealing with your own school books from first grade takes us to a total different level. Accept the fact that you have made the grade and move on! Still in two minds about that beautiful handwriting or picture? Well go on, take a photo or just keep one to remind yourself how amazing you were.

3. Memories from the past

If you kept journals or diaries about your life’s insecurities or happy times, keep one if you really have to. Will you really ever read it and how will it make you feel?

There were also nostalgic items that I kept, because of the sheer beauty or fascination of the objects or a reminder of a long gone happy time.

Some travel brochures and ticket stubs where in folders, which I still meant to scrapbook with the photos of that trip. These were good intentions which I still didn’t realize after a couple of years. It was easy to let go of them as I knew that I would never scrapbook them.

I had some small trinkets that were given to me, which until then I didn’t have the heart to let go of. I then had to decide why I kept them, and let go of the guilt and donated most of them to hospice. The ones that I kept found a special place in a printer’s tray which my husband customised so that each piece has a home. It is now displayed in my passage and has become a conversation piece as people want to know what they are and why they are important to me.

Remember, if you donate or re-gift an item you don’t feel less for the person that has given it to you. You will remember the person without the stuff.


I had many hobbies over the years and it was time to decide what still held my interest, what I would continue with and what could go. I realised that paper making was too strenuous for my back and made up a paper making kit in a large plastic crate with manuals and books that I had collected over the years and donated it to hospice for resale. My beads I gifted to a friend that was into beading then. My silkscreens went to my daughter, but I kept one which became part of a collage of special memorabilia on my patio.

I realised that I won’t have a lot of space for extra stuff. Now I’m left with my sewing machines and my card making paraphernalia, which I also have reduced in the meantime by making cards with the ladies at our retirement village.

5. Stuff from your parents or grandparents

On the other hand I had been handed down furniture from my grandparents and a dinner service from my mom. The furniture was easy, as both my husband and I love the yellow wood chest and chest of drawers and knew exactly where we wanted it in our retirement home. My daughter always loved the dinner service and as she was setting up home it was logical that it would go to her. I up-cycled one of my husband’s gran’s crochet doilies on to a tray and covered it with Pratliglo. Now I can use it daily without it having to be washed or starched.

Your loved ones want you to have stuff that they loved and because they love you, you are subsequently gifted with stuff you’ll never use nor even want, but feel too bad to decline! A tough one, I know! If you know you’ll never use it or don’t love it, don’t even allow it into your home. If you decide to take it, use it or display it with the respect it deserves! Don’t let it clutter up your home because of guilt and the feeling that you have to keep it because someone else thought you should have it! You’ll remember your loved one because of what they meant in your life, not because of their stuff.

What should you do about your keepsakes?

  1. Consider its importance in your life, do you love it, do you need it, and will you use it or display it?
  2. Decide how you want to contain it, will you make albums or have a memory box or frame them in shadow boxes? Remember one memory box not boxes!
  3. Limit the space that your keepsakes will take up in your home.
  4. Do not feel guilty about the stuff that you let go. If you can’t let it go but want to keep a memory of it, take a photo and store it digitally.

Don’t let your keepsakes and memorabilia crowd you out of your home!

Keep the memories of your loved ones in your heart!

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“You are an angel…”

I was totally flabbergasted when the social worker at hospice greeted me with those words and a big hug yesterday morning when I delivered the last load of donated items. I was still making excuses about some of the badly worn and used items that I sometimes deliver when she quietened me down with the words: “My dear you don’t understand, we are dealing with people that have nothing…”

This hit me and made me very emotional. I deal with people most of the time that have an abundance of everything, do retail therapy, buy the newest and best, even though they don’t want for anything, but often hang on for dear life to the stuff filling their already overfull cupboards, because they just can’t let go.

On my way home I was deeply moved and thought of each and every one of my clients. Many of whom donated their unwanted, sometimes unused stuff, grateful that it was eventually leaving their home. Then there were those from whom I had to pry the extra stuff away that hadn’t been used for ages.

Why is it so difficult to let go? It is mostly an emotional attachment, a “what if I can’t find it again” and a lot of other excuses. The most pertinent opinions and preconceived ideas being:

  1. Most welfare organisations don’t look after the stuff that I donate and I don’t trust the whole organisation because, “ I heard that lot of the good stuff is taken by the staff and that the money is ending up in the wrong pockets instead of helping people or animals as they make out to” .

You need to educate yourself about, and visit the organisations you wish to donate to. After evaluation, be comfortable to donate to that specific organisation.

I believe and am quite outspoken about it that I opine, that it is better someone benefits from an item, uses it and loves it, instead of it just sitting forgotten gathering dust on a dusty shelf or in a cupboard.

  1. The “*” organisation, said that they don’t want my rubbish.

Toss anything torn, permanently stained, badly chipped, broken, is totally incomplete or is dismantled. Please do not pass these on to a charity and make your indecision their woes! Do not necessarily discard a failed item or an item with some missing accessories. There are those who acquire an item often to repair or complete an own similar item, or often to tinker with an item expecting to resuscitate it, very often successfully.

Before donating ensure that the items are reasonably clean and usable. If you have an abundance of items to donate, pack them roughly into categories. This will enable the charities to work more efficiently when sorting stuff for sale in their charity shops, or for giving it away to homeless or destitute people.

These organisations often have paid staff to sort through all the donations. If you perceive their attitude to be in the vein of the above reservation, after having sorted your possessions with care and packed them up in boxes or bags, they don’t deserve what you are willing to gift them. Find an organisation that will appreciate your donation, believe me you will find one.

  1. Will my precious possessions find a proper home?

Rest assured whoever buys them or is gifted with them, will want them, need them and they may even find a much more loved home than living in an overstuffed drawer or shelf never to be used again or looked at, nor loved!

Imagine someone who acquired your precious possession gifting it to a deserving homeless person, how precious do you believe it will be to that person?

  1. Can I really donate this, it really doesn’t look good anymore and probably does not work

If it isn’t torn or broken, any person who cannot afford to buy an item will be happy to receive it and will be able to use it, love it or fix it!  

  1. These books are so old who will still want to read them?

Have you ever acquired a book from a second hand book store, a street vendor or at a church bazar? My guess is you inevitably enjoyed the book despite the obvious signs of old age. You may even have passed it on to a friend with commendation.

There are many reading and adult literacy programs that are run by welfare organisations that will use any book they can lay their hands on.

There are many financially challenged students that may find your text books of real value in the pursuit of their dreams.

There is that somebody that is waiting for your book to appear.

  1. There is so much stationery, who will want to use these bits and pieces of crayons which are not in sets anymore? Who can use these broken blackboard chalks?

There are many schools who wait and wait for deliveries of such items from the authorities. They in desperation will acquire and use them.

There are homeless and destitute children who will love such bits and pieces, even if it is just one crayon or colour pencil in a different colour to complement a wanting set. Imagine the joy on that face, do you see it?

  1. “I really can’t deal with all these toys and just look at all the stuffed animals”

If they are in a fair state of repair, if the stuffing has not popped out of goofy’ belly button all of them can be donated to some institution or orphanage. There is always someone out there in need of a toy to race with, a doll to love, a fairy to escape to a faraway land with.

Don’t get me wrong though, giving a toy is not comparable to giving love and spending time with a child! Welfare organisations are in dire need of people wanting to hold or spend some time with a destitute or homeless child.

  1. These dresses and suits are surely too good to be donated to welfare?

If you have as yet not passed them on, how much longer do you want to hold on to them?

Nothing is too good to be donated, there are many deserving people out there. People that, after having acquired their dream qualification having used that textbook he found at the street vendors’ store, are now seeking employment and want to put their best foot forward in that interview neatly dressed in your charcoal suit! Your too good clothing may just become a life saver, may just lift a family out of abject poverty.

  1. What do we do with all of these magazines?

Donate if they are still current, often even if they are not that current. That one edition of Car magazine for example may just be the one a collector needs to complete his collection, such collections are worth a pretty buck and will be bought by collectors even at a premium, ultimately to the benefit of the selling welfare organisation with the resulting ripple effect.

Old and torn magazines should be recycled, not burnt. Hug a tree for that tree that was not cut down to be pulped for more paper.

  1. What should I do with these beautiful evening dresses?

Keep your ear to the ground, gift them to deserving parents or persons and make a girl be a princess for one night, she will remember forever.

  1. What do I do with all these old blankets?

Donate them to charities or to the SPCA or animal welfare. Anything that will cover an exposed limb at night, will bring a little hope and comfort to a homeless child.

I thank each and every one of my clients who have so gracefully donated, with open hearts, to various charities over the past years. Donations many of which I delivered to these charities and was thanked, hugged and kissed out of appreciation. If only I could reciprocate to all of you with thanks, hugs and kisses. Again from the bottom of my heart, thank you!

I can but agree with Paulo Coelho: No, I never saw an angel, but it is irrelevant whether I saw one or not. I feel their presence around me.”

Thank you for being an angel!

Heidi Meyer

Professional Organiser, trainer, speaker

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Cut Magazine Clutter

After clearing 50 years of magazine clutter that had taken over every conceivable space in a client’s home, I was trying to figure out why it is, that it becomes such a challenge to letting them go? Continue reading

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