tidying mementos


This is the sixth and final post in my series on tidying following the book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo.

I’m finished! Tidying the final category, mementos, has been a pleasure. It’s lovely to go through boxes of our most cherished things and relive memories that otherwise laid hidden in the back of our minds. All along, anytime I came across an object with sentimental value, I didn’t even bother to include it in the tidying I was doing at the time. I just put it aside for the end. Well, the end came and what I was left with was:

  • photographs
  • letters and cards
  • wedding mementos
  • my boys’ baby boxes
  • paintings and drawings
  • papers, notebooks, and other memorabilia from college
  • crafts and projects my older son has made

Kondo claims that by the time devoted followers of her method reach this final category, we are experts at recognizing what sparks joy and what doesn’t. She promised that it wouldn’t feel difficult. And that just holding each object, or picture, or letter in our hands would be enough to tell us what to keep and what to discard. And it’s true! Tidying mementos was entirely painless. It was fun.

I started with photographs and, as prescribed in the book, removed each one from its album and made my choices about what to keep. Yes, that’s correct. I removed hundreds of photographs from albums and frames and sorted them. Perhaps it sounds tedious, but it was the only way to properly tidy. I had the initial thought that I would put the ones I am keeping back into the albums but I actually decided to discard the albums. I am left with one and a half shoebox size boxes of photographs, plus a small metal file box with some larger photos.

One shoe box contains all of our pre-parenthood pictures. And the other box holds all of our pictures from the time our first son was born on. I divided the photos into some broad chronological categories: essentially our individual childhood photos and anything from before we met, college years, after college, wedding and honeymoon, and then Portland years. I really like having everything arranged in these boxes. That said, I may purchase several matching albums and move the photos at some point. I haven’t decided yet.

(Separate from these photo prints, we do have our wedding album and five other photo books.)

As I delved into boxes of cards and letters, my heart began to swell as I sorted and read. I knew instantaneously when something was for keeps. As I leafed through some handwritten letters from my beloved and now deceased grandparents I felt my hands tremble and my eyes well up with tears. I thanked my younger self for holding onto these precious letters–letters they sent me in college, or even earlier when I was away at summer camp. I carefully refolded and saved letters from my parents and other family members. In the age of email and text, these personal artifacts are precious and lovely.


I sorted out all the letters and cards my husband and I have exchanged over the years and gave them their own box. It is incredible to read what we wrote to one another in the early years of our relationship, nearly 17 years ago. I didn’t think I would need to keep all the cards from our wedding, but I did need to keep them. I cherish them and the well wishes and love that our friends and family poured into our hearts during that life-changing milestone.

I have a baby box of mementos for each of my boys. They hold things like ultrasound photos, hospital bracelets, birth announcements, first hats, locks of hair, and a couple small items of clothing.

My own artwork fell into this category for the most part although I had already discarded some paintings I knew I didn’t want during the miscellaneous phase. Again, it was surprisingly easy. I had some terrible paintings that needed to go. I ripped the canvas off the stretchers, and offered up all the stretchers for free on Craigslist–they were gone in five minutes.

Instead of storing the majority of the kept paintings in our dusty laundry room, I hung them up in our house. Imagine that! I think I needed to gain some distance and perspective on my artwork before I was ready to live with it, but now I am. We did have a few paintings already displayed, but not many. My husband actually encouraged me to “take down this framed Ikea art and hang something of yours.” Well OK, then!

I laughed as I sorted old life drawings (nude figures) because some of them were so terrible. I was giddy throwing them in the recycling bin. And you know… others were so good and I never gave myself credit at the time I made them for how accomplished they are. I actually plan to look into taking a life drawing class soon just to have the experience again.

My sons are only three and one, so we don’t have many of their creations saved yet. But I know that will change. I have my older son’s crafts in a portfolio for now but I will need to be creative and thoughtful about what we keep and what we let go of as the years go on.


It was enjoyable to sort our college things, mostly papers, fiction, poems, and plays we wrote. I also found slides and write-ups for real and imagined exhibitions I curated as part of my studies, and I am keeping them for no other reason than that they give me joy to read and look at. It all fits in one large-ish plastic tub–not bad for two prolific creative types for college treasures.

As I neared the end of tidying my mementos, I felt some immense gratitude and a welcome lift of spirits that has stayed with me. I was able to let go of some items and memories that took up soul space and box space.

If you would like to read the other posts in my series on tidying, start here.


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