Are ornaments clutter? Depends. Do you love them? Like really love them? Ornaments don’t often serve a purpose, so the decisions around home decor are love-based. And even more accurately, they could be described as memory-based treasures. Ornaments are attached to memories, and this is why they are difficult to part with.
I have attempted to sort through our ornaments in the past. However, I’m a minimizer and my husband, James, is not. This creates a bit of a dance at times when it comes to our combined stuff. My rule for myself is I can minimize my own stuff all I want, and I can do most of the general household stuff with no reluctance from James, but I never touch his stuff. I encourage him from time to time and sometimes get a win, but his stuff is none of my business. Period. But then there’s the stuff we are joint on that can get to me if I don’t at least try to go through them with him by my side.
Our bookshelf wall is one of these spaces. It’s my favourite wall in our home. Adorned with books that I love (I minimized the heck out of them a while back), James’ books (left untouched), and ornaments that we’ve collected over the years — all attached to memories. But there were a lot of them.
In the past, I asked James to stand in front of shelves beside me and said, “So…. what would you part with here?” And I’m not sure I actually recall anything at all leaving those shelves. If we did, obviously it was stuff not even worth me remembering, but I know it was not a significant decluttering by any means. James stated he loved all of it. That was several months ago.
More recently, every time I looked at those shelves, I’d say to myself, “I’d part with that and that and that.” So, a few days ago, I asked James to work through an exercise with me and “just humour me.” We removed every ornament from the shelving and placed them on the dining room table.
“I have two questions,” I said. “If the house was burning down, what would you save? Alternately, if the house burned down, what would you spend money to replace?”
“How many do I get to keep?” he asked.
“There is no limit. This is an experiment and I just want to see where we end up. I have no idea how this is going to end.” I was secretly concerned he would pick it all up and put it back.
“Okay,” he said. And I told him to pick first and we’d just take turns taking one item at a time and putting it back on the shelf.
I was absolutely shocked, and I think he was too, that we kept less than half! LESS THAN HALF!
An important point we discussed was having several souvenirs from one trip, say our honeymoon in Hawaii for example. How many souvenirs do we need to remember Hawaii? Does one souvenir do it? Not quite. But with this thought, we were able to pick which ornaments were attached to the best memories of Hawaii. And we did the same with other souvenir groupings as well.
James surprised me, after finishing those shelves, he then opened our glass cabinet of “special” ornaments and said, “We should go through this too.” And because we had already got some practice and confidence, it was easier to go through these extra special breakables. We didn’t part with too many of these, however, the fact that we removed any at all spoke volumes to me. Acknowledging what is really important to us came to light.
By reducing the ornaments, we can now clearly see the ones we treasure. “I love how it has space to breathe now,” I said to James when we finished. He agreed.
When I walk into the room, all the items catch my eye because there are so few of them. I love it. And I so appreciate James’ cooperation with my “experiment” because I really had no idea how it was going to go over.
Was it difficult parting ways with what we did? Some yes, some no. I sent pictures of what we were parting with to my adult children and asked if there was anything they wanted (no obligation!) They have memories too of growing up with many of these items. And I was so happy that they were excited to pick a few for themselves. For those items, I no longer felt like I was parting with them.
Other items I offered to friends who I thought may appreciate them. Some were happy to have, others declined the offer — it’s all good. But within two days, what was left, was donated to a thrift store. An important step is to remove the items physically from your home, as the temptation to go through that box and take things back out can be high.
And now, a few days later, I can only tell you two things that went into that box. I already don’t remember the rest… maybe as I sit here really thinking about it, items are coming back to me, but I’m not missing them, I barely remember them.
Back to my original questions about the house burning down, did we keep more than we could grab in a fire? (Which is not safe to do. :)) Yes. Would we re-buy all these items we kept if the house burned down? No. But nonetheless this was a successful combined effort and certainly a surprising end for both of us.
Parting with sentimental items is difficult and can be an emotional roller coaster. But we both seemed to fair quite well through the process. Neither was pressured into parting with something just because the other one didn’t find value in it. It’s about respect. And shouldn’t be painful.
If you’re attached to your sentimental items, and need some support to sort through them, I’m happy to help. Contact me and we can set up a time to chat.