Mrs Green declutters her sentimenal items

Filed in Blog, Videos by on June 25, 2009 14 Comments
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Mrs Green attempts to recycle and declutter her past

Mrs Green attempts to recycle and declutter her past

I knew this moment was imminent. In the back of the garage were a few items belonging to me. A large fish tank, a pile of vinyl records (they are so not being thrown away) and the most difficult item of all: a small crate of ‘things’ that belonged to my Grandmother.

It’s easy to be ruthless with every day items such as nuts, bolts and planks of wood, but what do you do when faced with items that remind you of someone you love? How do you declutter or recycle the things that tug at your heart strings?

I’d like to be the objective sort who thinks ‘All that is import are the memories and the love in my heart, these are just *things* which have no value or place in my life.’ It’s easy to say that when not faced with the ugly figurine of the woman playing the flute and the hideous wind up fruit stand, but when you’re holding them in your hands you get transported back to the delightful days of childhood when you’d eat your chocolate blancmange with the fruit stand on the table infront of you, housing not bananas and oranges, but keys and loose change.

Then I put my practical head on and think, oh this is so bad to admit in public, but look me in the eye and tell me you wouldn’t be thinking exactly the same: “What if something in here is valuable? What if you’re sitting on that one item that could keep you in Jimmy Choo shoes forever?

So the most difficult part of our WRAP’s Recycle Week pledge for me has not been the endless trips to the recycling centre, heaving bags of stuff through the house that has left dust and dirt everywhere or catering for hungry tummies when all I want to do is flop into bed. No, the hardest part for me has been being faced with the decision I’ve been putting off for over 10 years.

Have a rummage through my box of memories with me and see if I’ve reached a decision:


About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (14)

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  1. Grandma Green says:

    Well now, Mrs G, that took me down Memory Lane as, of course, I grew up with many of those items and I can tell you the origin of some of them. If the green dog bears the word Sylvac on it (I can’t remember) stick out for a decent price as it’s ‘very collectable’ at the moment acording to the Antiques Roadshow. The dog came from my Grandmother’s house in 1956 but I don’t know when it was purchased. The floral plate is the insert to a wooden fruit stand that is on my sideboard now. It hosts not fruit (naturally!) but various treasures lovingly donated to me by LMG over the past three or so years. If the plate has no value I’ll have it and restore it to its stand. The shallow bowl, green, orange and yellow MAY have a small monetary value. That and the plate are 1930s. The flautist is a 1960s popular figurine purchased at my local post office and the Chinese man is 1990s Weston souvenir given to your Grandma by her neighbour at the sheltered accommodation. The fruit dish/music box is a souvenir of a foreign holiday given to her by her sister on returning from Austria/Switzerland in the 1950s.

    How’s that for a potted history of one corner of a cluttered garage? Good luck with it all but I doubt if this inheritance will be ‘life-changing’!!

  2. John Costigane says:

    Hi Mrs Green,

    Anna’s stuff from the grandparents home is similar with lots of figurines and holiday cups. I intend to keep these items with a view to finding more family detail. My mother liked a pair of kitten oval plates hanging on the wall. This was a particular memory of her late difficulty in communicating due to MND, Motor Neurone Disease. finding more details is essential for the rest of my family, as well as myself.

  3. indiebird says:

    Oh Mrs Green and the lovely Grandma Green too!! How fantastic!! I have really enjoyed your video clip as it is one of the most difficult types of clutter to address if you ask me!! I have a load of ‘sentimental items’ that I know are of no value that are in storage back in the UK and although part of me feels ready to part with them I know it is going to be hard. I also have a collection of music boxes that my mother brought me for my 18th Birthday from one of those companies who advertise in the magazines of the Sunday Papers that I have always hated since the moment I received them. I have no idea what possessed her, all i can think was she thought that they may be valuable in years to come but I am convinced that they are not. I have only kept them all these years out of guilt and I am getting to the point where I might have to find out the value of them really and sell them for whatever I can get because they are hold so many negative feelings for me. Not least that I am ungrateful daughter!! Wish me luck!! and good to see that I am not the only declutterer this week!!

  4. Hi Mrs G you’ve hit a real big nerve here because it is hard to detach yourself from items that attach you to people you love and who have been a huge part of your life. But I think you have made the right decision. I love how Grandma Green is able to provide the provenance to the items as well. Wouldn’t Little Miss Green like the sparkley brooch or could you pass it on to one of your friends. If not and it holds no particular financial value, then I’ll happily take it off your hands as I collect vintage brooches. However you may be surprised at its value, some I’ve seen sold for just £3.00 and others have fetched a price of up to £30. As with everything it depends on the collector and fashion at the time. Good luck at the auction house. It’s a brave but correct decision and I wish you well. x

  5. I know what you mean, exactly. I spent quite a bit of time combing through the detritis of a century in the house where my father and his family had lived. I came home with many items and let many go as I realized I didn’t have space. I don’t miss them when they are gone. I still have a few and need to finish letting them go. It is easier for me, I think, to honor the memory of these family memories by just going into my own head.

    However, I still regret that I did not make more of an effort to make money off some items. I did organize a sale and got a lot of money that way. But I’d taken some items and at the time, was not sure how to go about selling on eBay. I could see that they were potentially quite valuable, like, kick-me-for-not-selling-valuable. If I had not stupidly given them away to an antique shop that assured me they were worthless, I would now go ahead and see about selling them. I am sure my family would be glad to send a little extra cash my way!

    I am not sure eBay is what it was, but you can always check closed auctions and see what similar items go for.

    Good luck. And thank you for the reminded to continue to let go of some of these items I still have.

  6. Wendy says:

    Wonderfully touching video and I loved reading Grandma Green’s comment! Sentimental clutter is very tough… we just went through a lot of our clutter with our recent move and the hardest things for me to part with where clothes, shoes, toys, etc. that our girls have grown out of. They are attached to such fabulous memories. We ended up giving some to friends and some to charity… It helps a little knowing that hey will be used and loved by other little children.

    Thank you for sharing this personal look into your clutter!

  7. I know what Wendy means about the children’s stuff. That’s where my weakness lies and I end up keeping a handful of things that are totally precious.

  8. Pure Mothers says:

    Just find your site through twitter. Touching video. I am going through this with baby stuff. But he’s still only 2!

    If these items have no real monetary value, might you consider repurposing them and making some other form of art? You have several ceramic pieces that could be broken and make a mosaic with them.

    There’s a design school here in San Francisco that has been repurposing so many different items – especially jewelry – like your brooch- into new jewelry.

  9. Mrs Green says:

    @Grandma Green: You are a veritable fountain of knowledge, Grandma Green – thank you! I’ll let you know how I get on and perhaps we can reunite our fruit stand and bowl!

    @John Costigane: Good luck with your information-finding John. It is fun to piece together all parts of the jigsaw.

    @indiebird: Oh Indiebird, what a great comment. how is the decluttering coming along? Keeping things out of guilt – I’m sure your Mum would not want that for you? Is she alive? I think if you told her about it, she would probably laugh at you for being so silly 😉

    Good luck though; I know it’s hard.

    @Almost Mrs Average: What a great solution, Mrs A. I have several brooches like these. Some of them may be arriving in a letterbox near you – nothing would give me greater pleasure 😉

    @ThinkingWoman: Thanks Thinking Woman – what an interesting story. Hindsight is a pain in the arse, but a wonderful thing to be shared with our friends 🙂

    @Wendy: Thanks Wendy; I feel that passing on items to people who will love them certainly helps. It’s very hard to let go of baby things, isn’t it! First shoes, tiny babygrows, locks of hair! I have limited myself to one box and even now, LMG loves looking through it with me 🙂

    @Pure Mothers: @Pure Mothers: How is it going, Pure Mothers; Only 2 well give yourself time to let things go – it is early days.
    Repurposing is a lovely idea. I’m not arty myself, but I could definitely look at donating them to someone or having a piece commissioned. Thanks for a fab suggestion 🙂

  10. Grandma Green says:

    Did you ever have any joy with getting this collection of memorabilia valued?

  11. Layla says:

    Ooh, only found this now!! 🙂

    Well, how did it go?? Any Jimmy Choo Choo’s yet?

    I’d personally love that brooch too (& I think it would look fab on you too, they got trendy again a while ago!!) and am happy it got itself into Mrs A’s loving hands!!

    Some of the figurines are quite pretty & could adorn a mantelpiece easily (believe me, my parents have MUCH worse what-to-do-with-thems!! (eg sparkly Jesus-that-becomes-Mary? How am I ever gonna explain that to their grandkids, if I ever have any?) This stuff is actually pretty! Did it belong to Grandma Green or the other Grandma?

    I also have some friends who love kitschy retro vintage stuff so I’d actually consider inviting them over, also, the neighbours’ kiddies have adored my box of ‘treasures’ at a time, so if I ever need to get rid of anything… (It would be better to clear it with the parents though!)
    I wouldn’t break or remake anything unless absolutely necessary, since things can be repurposed many times, and can serve well as ‘knicknack holders’ or such, in a closed space/shelf/drawer if necessary!

    I second looking at similar items on eBay, as you can’t always rely on ‘experts’ either!
    It’s great to find loving hands for them! (Of course it would be good to also ask Little Miss Green 1st, if she wants any of the heritage?)

  12. Mrs Green says:

    @Layla: It’s all still here in the garage, Layla 😀 How’s that for organisation! These belonged to MY Grandma; long since gone – that’s Grandma Green’s mother.

  13. Valerie says:

    Hi – If anyone’s having trouble letting go of ‘stuff” there’s a really good book called ‘Clear your clutter with feng shui’ by Karen Kingston. It might sound hippy dippy and off with the New Age pixies, but at heart it’s a down to earth book. I found it very useful, especially the sections about letting go of books and giving away gifts that you’ve been given but don’t want. It talks about how we accumulate clutter and why it drags us down, affecting us mentally and physically. My local charity shop benefitted from me chucking the clutter out and the book definately makes the reader think twice about future consumer purchases.

  14. Mrs Green says:

    @Valerie: Hi Valerie; thanks for the book recommendation. I read it years ago but it obviously didn’t strike a chord then. I’ll have to have another read as I know lots of people who have found it very helpful. Glad it has helped you too.

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