I have been living in France for more than 15 years. I have moved 4 times and moving is the thing I hate the most in the world. Each time I ask myself: how is it possible that I accumulate so many things? How many objects can I own? This is a question we ask ourselves only when we have to make a life-size TETRIS with our possessions to put them in the boxes.
When I moved into my current apartment, which is much smaller than the one I had with my ex, I decided to reduce my possession of objects to a bare minimum. And yet, I can assure you that between my apartment in Paris of 18 m2 and my life in Grenoble, I had already reduced the number of bulky things in a consequent way. But anyway, in 10 years, we’ve been accumulating a lot of things again.
In the last 3 years, I have also attended 4 moves of my friends. To be clear, I’ve only been actively involved in one of the four. The others have gone over me. I did not understand why do someone move from one place to another damaged, unusable objects, or thousands of dusty trinkets. I think it was the trinkets that made me loose my patience every time. I understand the fact of having some decorative objects, with an aesthetic design that goes super well in the apartment… But keeping hundreds of usefull (and often ugly) objects only because they remind us of a person or an event, that I don’t understand. We already have a handy tool to keep our memories: our brain. We do not have to keep an object full of dust that occupies the space for fear of forgetting a place or a person.
How to keep memories and not clutter up with useless things.
1. Never buy souvenirs while travelling
How many of you have brought memorabilia from your travels? Sometimes they are trinkets (contrary to what one wants to believe, they are very rarely made locally), sometimes they are natural bric-a-brac things like shells or stones. Sometimes we buy “practical” things, like fabrics, cushions, clothes, etc. I understand the desire to have something that will remind you of the good times you spent in a particular place, But we don’t have to bring back bulky memories. Because often, when you get home, you quickly realize that the clothes are super kitsch and that you’ll never wear them, that the decorative objects don’t match the design of the apartment and that the trinkets take up space and collect dust. I bring back 3 things from my travels: photos, spices and recipes of dishes we ate. Sometimes I can bring a small pebble from the beach – but it must be really tiny and beautiful.
2. Do not keep sentimental objects
This may be surprising, but I’m not a fan of keepsakes. Not only because they pick up dust, but I don’t think we should have things with a great sentimental load everywhere we lay our eyes. I don’t understand how someone can charge their internal battery at home if every time they turn their head, they see an object that reminds them of a love story that ended, a family member who is gone…. Even having a memory of a past vacation, when you’re at the end of your rope, can overwhelm you more than anything. Daily life is very stressful and I think our house should be the quietest space possible. Having a minimalist, aesthetic decor, without souvenir objects, allows our brain to find the much sought-after rest. Minimalistic – doesn’t mean “soul-less” – flowers, cushins, candles – create a nice, warm atmosphere at home.
3. Create a Memory Box
What to do with all the objects of our «past» life, how to keep our “memories”? The best solution is to have a memory box. I had this idea when I went to live in Paris. I wanted to keep pieces of my life in Poland without it taking up too much space in my luggage and in my new apartment. I took the box from my Hermès scarf where I put the love letters, some pictures of my friends and family. My recollection of five years of journalisme is a newspaper clipping with the job advertisement I responded to. My grandmother’s memory is a little napkin made by her. For 15 years in France, I added a second box of scarf and filled it with the same kind of objects. You just have to have a small object to remember a few years of your life. And what’s really great about these boxes is that if I know they exist, I don’t take them out until I get sentimental.
4. Transfer music to the computer
Since we have music streaming sites, I don’t see the need to buy CDs. At least not the ones you can find on these sites. If it’s a small band or a «collector» CD – of course, buy it, keep it, it’s often even a small work of art. But don’t surround yourself with hundreds of CDs. They take up space and collect dust. I only kept a few CDs of small local bands that I bought during concerts. You can transfer the music to your computer (or to an external hard drive) if you are afraid of experiencing an Internet connection problem one day.
5. Learn to grieve
It is about grieving not only for people who have left, but also for past relationships, for events that we have experienced. Grief doesn’t mean forgetting people, forgetting situations. You just have to learn to rearrange the memories in your head. Sometimes you have to forgive yourself, forgive others. But above all, we must accept that things have an end and we have to continue to live. It’s even very soothing to accept the fact that something will never come back. I have noticed that the people who keep a lot of souvenir objects in their apartments are often the ones who don’t know what to do with the love that remains when the “object” of that love is gone. Suddenly, realizing that the person is no longer there to give them love, they transfer their feelings to the objects that remind them. Unfortunately, if we do this we live surrounded by the “corpses” of the old life that haunts us. It’s possible to say: “it’s over”, “it’s irreversible” and learn to live in the new reality without having ghost objects that clutter up space and memory.
6. Accept that everything has an end
One thing that shocked me the most during the moves I’ve been involved in—or, to be more specific, that I observed—is the number of broken objects that people want to move from one apartment to another. Oddly enough, they weren’t even often souvenir objects. I have noticed that the more expensive a product is at the time of purchase, the harder it is to throw it away when it is no longer usable. All of a sudden, we end up with 4 coffee machines – which we hope to fix one day. Design lamps that no longer work, but we have the same hope of repair. If an object can be repaired, it must be taken to a competent person who is able to do so, immediately. If the repairman says it is not possible, leave it to him for pieces or throw it at the recycling center. You should never keep a broken object just because it was expensive at the time. Our house/garage/cellar is not a trash can. We have to accept that things have an end. And we have to learn to invest in objects that the producer can guarantee us its lifetime repair. Of course, these types of items, with the same guarantee, are often super expensive – but it’s the same thing – buy a super expensive item for life or a little cheaper every 5 years and keep the “corpses” around us.
7. Talk to your friends about your changes
We need to inform our friends and close family that we have decided to change our lifestyle. It is very often our loved ones who clutter us with «useless» objects that we have trouble getting rid of so as not to offend the person in question. I suggest you tell your friends that you will be more than happy if they no longer offer you items such as CDs, cooking utensils or trinkets. Of course, do the same for them. Personally, the best gift anyone can give me that will make me think of the person is a book or a plant – even if with plants I might offend people, because I don’t have a green hand, but I do my best to learn how to grow my plants. Another good idea is organic cosmetics which can sometimes be super expensive. A treatment or massage is also a great gift, especially if you propose to make this experience together. A spa day with a friend is always a nice vivid memory.
This post is also available in: French