Sentimental Items – Save the Memories, Not the Clutter

Letting go of a sentimental item is hard. Sometimes memories attached to that item are very important to us. We don’t want to lose those memories.

The the fear of losing those memories may be a lot stronger than our love for the item. Especially if the item is not being used and it’s in the way or hidden in a box or drawer somewhere. So we continue to hold on to those memory triggers much longer than we need or want too.

Inheriting Items

After we moved my mother to a nursing home, we had to sell her house. I was the only one living in town so the majority of the work fell on me. On the plus side, it gave me the opportunity to see which pieces of furniture I might want. Since it was a local move it was a lot easier to move any furniture to my home instead of across the country where my sisters live.

One item I took was a treadle sewing machine. It was actually my grandmother’s on my father’s side. My parents got it after my grandmother passed away many years ago. My mother wasn’t a sewer but she liked the way the cabinet look. It became a piece of furniture in her bedroom. Her jewelry box sat proudly on top.


Anyway, for close to 30 years the antique sewing machine was closed up in it’s antique sewing cabinet in my mother’s bedroom.

When I moved it to my house I put it in a corner of my dining room. Along with the sewing machine and cabinet came all the memories I had of it in my grandmother’s house. I remember seeing it in her second bedroom between the beds. My cousins and I would play in that room when we got together for holidays.

Even at a young age that sewing machine grabbed my attention. To have it in my own home felt like an honor. Since I was the one who became the sewer in the family, that added to the special significance of it.

What to do with it?

A few times I lifted the machine up out of the cabinet to see if it worked. It did except the belt that moved the wheel was broken. For some reason my old dog thought it was something to chew on. I didn’t replace it because I didn’t want her to chew on the new one. She was old with some strange behaviors so I didn’t bother fixing it at that time.

Shortly after she passed away we decided it was time to pull out all the old carpeting and replace it with new wood floors. At that point, I let go of a lot of the old furniture. I planned to buy some new things after the floors were done. I wasn’t ready to let go of the sewing machine yet so I moved it around the corner into the laundry room. It’s not a large room but the machine wasn’t completely in the way.

Deciding to let it go

The sewing machine first became a problem when the floors were completed and it was time to move the furniture back. The wheels were rusted. There was no way I was going to have those old metal wheels on my nice new light wood floors. I considered getting a floor rug to put it on. But the more I thought about it, I didn’t want to cover up a part of the wood floors with a throw rug. But I also didn’t want to let go of the machine.

So it sat in my laundry room month after month until I could decide where to put it. The new furniture was mixed with the old pieces we kept. With the beautiful floors becoming the focal point, a light, minimalist look became a relaxing environment to be in. Less furniture also made it easier to clean the house. I can’t complain about that.

In the meantime the sewing machine and cabinet sat in my laundry room becoming more of an inconvenience than anything else. I finally reached a point it was time to let it go.

Preserving the Memories

Before I let it go I wanted to make sure I had a way to preserve the memories. It wasn’t just the sewing machine and cabinet that were memory triggers, it was also all the sewing items my grandmother had put in the drawers so many years ago. Apparently my mother never touched anything in the drawers. It was like a time capsule from my grandmother.

Sewing cabinet drawers time capsule.

In the drawers were wooden spools of thread, needles, pin cushions and cut off hems from dresses and pants. She was a short woman so most of her clothes needed to be shortened. Why she kept the extra cut off material is anyone’s guess. Maybe she thought it would come in handy one day.

To preserve the memories of those time capsule drawers I took lots of photos before putting things in the trash. But I still wanted a little something I could physically touch. That’s when I went searching for some ideas. Pinterest is a great place to find creative ideas.

I decided to keep the old wooden thread spools, pin cushions, and other small sewing items in a medium size glass vase. Each time I look at it I think of my grandmother hemming her clothes. The vase is sitting on the counter next to where my new computerized sewing machine is.

The old and the new right next to each other.

Old memories in the jar. New memories as I sew doll clothes for my granddaughter, cute masks for my family, gifts for a new baby, or a holiday gift for a friend.

Memories preserved in a jar.

Any Regrets?

Do I miss the sewing machine? Every once in a while I have a small regret. But for the most part, I love the clean open space where the cabinet use to be. I still have the memories each time I see that glass vase full of the sewing items. Whenever I run across a photo in my digital albums, it sparks the memories. Even though the big physical item is no longer in my house, I didn’t lose the memories. I digitalized and miniaturized the memory triggers.

If you’re struggling with letting go of sentimental items check out these blog posts for a little more inspiration.

What Value Does An Item Have

Treasure Lost And Found


To a lighter load along the way.

Janice Scissors


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