What better month to ask such a question. In September I explored the idea of possessions themselves, but what if things have gotten turned around?
The most difficult category of objects encountered by organizers is memorabilia. It is the single stickiest bunch of stuff I ever seen, and seems to be the place even otherwise rational people get reduced to gibbering puddles.
Clearly a case of possession. Even if I can’t see the head spinning ala The Exorcist I can usually hear the thoughts and emotions ricocheting around.
First, what are memorabilia? The trick is that they can be just about anything tied to a memory. It can be paper, photos, linens, clothing, books, toys, art, music, sets of dishes, furniture…just about anything can be justified by calling it memorabilia.
Before we go one step farther I want to relate a powerful Aha! had by a client of mine. I am mortified to admit that I was not the one to ask her this, but here it is:
Whose memory is it???
In this case she was struggling to toss decades of travel photos belonging to a beloved but very deceased relative. The photos seemed to create a link to the person. But consider, how could that link really be severed by letting go of some photos of a trip the person didn’t even take? Better to keep ONE photo of a SHARED experience.
Hanging onto other people’s memories is a form of possession. It is different from treasuring objects that reflect shared history or one’s lineage. Anytime a piece of memorabilia causes mixed emotions I question its real value to the person. This should be the stuff we keep because it feeds us.
Mere haunting, on the other hand, is transitory. It’s that little tickle of anxiety or apprehension that pops up when you look into the box containing 3 sets of perfectly matching china that you will never use. It’s the ripple of angst that ruins your day when you open the garage door and see decades of tools and metal bits and totally functional electronics of a bygone era.
Ideally those conflicted thoughts and feelings should be the big red flag that says: Alert – Potential Possession Ahead! This is the moment you can consider exactly whose memories you are keeping around the house.
Things you “should” keep and memorabilia both fall into this very difficult area, and it takes a clear head to tease apart your real reasons for hanging on.
The bottom line is your own balance of space available and comfort with how it’s used. Does it feel right? You can trust your gut on this one, but please listen carefully to what your head says.
You might just be possessed.