Letting Go through Story Telling
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One of the things I found most challenging about residential organizing was helping clients decide which mementos were worth saving. Perhaps it’s because I have a tendency to form a sentimental attachment to certain objects myself. I probably acquired this trait from my mother, though whether through genetics or exposure, I’ll never know.
Clients are often advised to take a picture of such things and to pass the items themselves on to someone who can make use of or enjoy them. Although this can be a viable solution, a picture doesn’t always capture the feelings associated with the original object. Take the above photo as an example. What do you see? Probably nothing more than a bunch of old buttons.
I took this picture just a few days ago, before handing those buttons over to a local woman who is hopefully going to use some of them in a number of different projects. When I responded to her request on a Recycling Kindness group on Facebook, my intention was to let her choose a few so I could keep my “collection.” After a gentle nudge from my husband, I realized I was ready to let them all go, especially since I actually had to check whether I still had them before replying to her post.
As I fondly looked at the collection for the last time, I realized why a picture wasn’t going to satisfy me: it’s not the collection itself that I’m attached to; it’s the story behind it. So I decided to write the story of my button collection.
When I went to Gramma’s house as a little girl, sometimes she would bring out a green tin filled with buttons and other trinkets. I probably spent hours sorting those buttons by color, size, and style, but the best part was coming upon special ones like the brown leathery ones at the top and bottom of the photo. Gramma died when I was nine, and the button tin came to live at our house, and I continued to enjoy it with my mother.
After I’d grown up, I bought an old house which had been in the same family for generations. The house went on the market when the last surviving family member moved into a nursing home at age 90. Some of the contents were sold, but much was left behind – including a large assortment of old buttons which were still on the original cards from the sewing shop. At some point, I took them off the cards and sorted them into one of those drawer units that are typically used for organizing nails and screws.
When my Mom passed away, the green button tin came to live at my house. Eventually I removed the trinkets and placed them in my own “treasure box;” discarded the tin, which had become a bit rusty with age, as well as the drawer unit, and tossed all the buttons into a larger biscuit tin, where they’ve been sitting ever since.
It’s not much of a story, but it has now been preserved for posterity. Perhaps some day I can tell it to my grandchildren, and who knows, maybe someday they will be telling it to me.
I think this would be a wonderful way for your clients to preserve and pass on their memories, without holding on to things that are only seen when it’s time to clean out the closet. Some might even like to incorporate their pictures and stories into a scrapbook. Others might enjoy writing a longer, more detailed story. Those who don’t like to write could perhaps make a video of themselves with the treasured object, while telling the story behind it.
Have you used this strategy with any of your clients?