Letting Go of What I Once Decided to Keep

Less clutter without letting go of cherished memories

Words by Shannon Colton

While sheltering in place this spring, I cleaned out my attic—a looming task that was on my to-do list for years. I went through everything: decades worth of important documents, photo albums, yearbooks, keepsakes, books, love letters, my kids’ old toys and artwork…

My goal was to photograph or scan the important items and memories while physically getting rid of everything by donating, recycling, shredding, or tossing out every single thing.

As I sorted through the items that had so many memories associated with them, I realized this: it is hard to let go of something I once deemed important enough to keep.

These things were important enough for me to move them in boxes from house to house over years which turned into decades. It felt strange at first to dispose of some of these things.

But then I reconciled that even though I had chosen to keep these items in the past, today I am choosing to do away with them. I now know that I’d rather have a digital photo of my kids playing with their favorite stuffed animals than to have the actual items—musky and old, stuck in the attic.

So I sorted through it all and smiled when memories were sparked. I captured photos and scanned documents here and there, and I pushed through those uncomfortable feelings of letting go and kept moving toward my goal.

Now I feel free. I am free of the burden of holding onto all the stuff. The relief gained from simplifying and living with less is worth the effort of letting go.


Here are the resources I use for donating/disposing/selling items in my hometown in California:

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