Recently, two friends expressed great sadness at having to downsize and give away treasured possessions that they simply did not need or have use for at this new stage in their life. They felt the loss of things that triggered precious memories and times. Stephanie Land, writing on The Class Politics of Decluttering in the New York Times describes the depth of meaning “things” can have:

My stuff wasn’t just stuff, but a reminder that I had a foundation of support of people who had loved me growing up: a painting I’d done as a child that my mom had carefully framed and hung in our house, a set of antique Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls my ferret once chewed an eye out of when I was 15, artwork my mom had collected over the decade we lived in Alaska. Things I grew up with that brought me back to a time of living a carefree life.

Children's book pocket page 1

I remembered a solution I devised several years ago when I had to give up some of my own precious possessions: I photographed them to make a Digital Memory Archive. I found that just seeing an image of a meaningful item could trigger many of the same memories that the real thing would.

When I mentioned this to one friend, she looked crestfallen. She had given so many books aways and WISHED she had images of them, even though she could easily buy them to read again.

There is nothing like a physical book that accompanied you during a certain period of your life…

Random Kindness book spread

…Or may have been someone’s before you. A picture can spark their memory as well.


Digital photos take little room. You can document just about anything...

…the linden tree in your garden whose fragrant blossoms gave you joy every summer…

Sally Schneider
Sally Schneider

The sculptural cuttings you found after a huge beloved tree was taken down…

Sally Schneider
Sally Schneider

The beautiful French barometer inherited from a friend…

Barometer meaning index

Random treasures found here and there…

Fritz Karch vis Sally Schneider
Fritz Karch vis Sally Schneider

Persimmon stem flowers collected over a winter of eating persimmons in a particularly good season…

Sally Schneider
Sally Schneider

…not to mention the hot shoes you used to wear with impunity (at top)…


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5 replies on “How to Prevent Decluttering’s Savage Aftermath

  1. Ha! Your article about de-cluttering will have the opposite effect on me later this year when I start eating persimmons later this year and saving the flowers. So beautiful!

  2. Pictures! A good idea… although I need need need to touch my books, and lived through a few blackouts in New York City, making me a bit of a luddite!

    What is the title of the book in picture 3 just above the picture of The Secret Garden? That was THE perfect page to read in my life right now!
    Pam in Paris

  3. You’ve been posting so many lovely posts these days. Maybe it’s the season — Spring about to burst forth! Lovely things in these photos. Especially the little dresses you(?) drew as a child…

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