published about 8 hours ago
Earlier this year, I wrote about how my urge to donate to Goodwill was something I was fighting as I got older. I had realized that my distaste for holding onto mementos meant I wasn’t able to reminisce in the same way that, for example, my girlfriend does when she opens a mislabeled box in her closet and out comes a diploma, family photos, an old driver’s license, and more. I consider myself a sentimental person; however, during my various moves of the last decade, I haven’t made a point of keeping things because they didn’t matter in the moment.
For more content like this follow
But in writing this article and receiving the feedback I did, I’ve realized that an item that doesn’t feel like it matters now might matter a whole lot later on. One of the comments that stuck out the most to me on my article was from a reader who appreciated how I wrote about emotional attachment to objects. “Usually people acknowledge it and then promptly tell you to get over it, scan the item, and move on,” this reader wrote, then shared that they were going to help their mother begin artifacting her possessions and, in doing so, discover the memories and stories attached to those pieces. I love that the story I wrote made someone feel heard and perhaps even more inspired to learn more about their family tree.
As it turns out, my experience resonated with many people. The piece was the most-commented-on post in Apartment Therapy’s Lifestyle section this year, and second-most-commented-on post on Apartment Therapy’s website overall for 2022. I’m thrilled by that; chatting with more than 120 other readers in the comments section of the article helped me learn the stories of readers’ personal “clutter” and how they feel about it. It was eye-opening for me to find out how many people are left with the objects of their past loved ones and, though it can be a burden for some, how the process of going through the items can be its own type of closure.
Of course, there is definitely a fine line when it comes to holding onto things. Living in a 200-square-foot apartment, I’m adamant that I feel like there’s space to breathe between the stacks of books and tchotchkes, that I have room to stretch among the thrifted furniture and newly purchased rocker (thank you, Facebook Marketplace). At the same time, I now make sure my desire for space and ease doesn’t lead me to a one-in-one-out rule.
My home has become less empty recently — a stack of letters from my girlfriend sits in a thrifted basket, while I’ve used a frame to house a book of stamps she gifted me and two inspirational cards — but each object feels like it has earned its spot. After all, it really isn’t the items that make the home, but the home that invites in the items.