For many people, it’s difficult to part with items we’ve had for years; if they’re sentimental, it’s even worse. In this blog, I’ll share the impetus to gift a very sentimental item to someone I had never met and never would.
I’ve procrastinated posting this blog for a long time now. The reason? I knew it would bring back a flood of memories… some of which would be sad. I’ve learned that about myself. Because I’m so emotional and sentimental, I tend to gravitate to things (and people) who bring me joy and avoid the rest. But the time has come to share this very personal story with you because it does have a happy ending.
The day Mom passed, my brother and I gathered up her belongings from her skilled nursing facility. Being the daughter, I automatically assumed responsibility for her pocketbook. I went home and tucked it in a drawer. There it would sit for months because I didn’t have the emotional strength to go through it. I also didn’t have the strength to decide what to do with it. It wasn’t until several months later that I finally had a reason to open that drawer.
At the time, I was living in my hometown in Massachusetts. Unlike Mom, I never had the confidence to run for an officer role in high school. But somehow, just like my Mom, I became very involved in planning almost all of the high school reunions years later for my “sisters” at St. Mary’s High School (SMHS), an all-girls Catholic school.
As we planned or reunion, I learned that one of my favorite nonprofits (Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley), which typically serves clients “of age,” was holding a donation drive called “Project Pocketbook.” They were looking for donations of new or gently used pocketbooks for homeless women. These bags would eventually be filled with the essentials each woman would need when she moved out of the shelter and to a place of her own. The SMHS reunion planning committee loved the idea, so we asked reunion attendees to each bring a pocketbook to the reunion. They were thrilled! And then it clicked for me… Mom’s pocketbook FINALLY had its purpose! So as tough as it was, I finally cleaned out Mom’s bag and polished it up for its future recipient…whom I would never meet.
The High School Reunion/Donation Drive:
The reunion finally came, and my “sisters” and I were all overwhelmed by the mountains of pocketbooks donated that day. But our class even took it one step further. We decided that inside each bag, we would tuck some inspirational words of encouragement. We knew that the day each bag would be opened by its new owner would be an exciting, yet scary day. So we wanted to let them know we were with them in spirit. Each note read:
“If you believe in yourself, anything is possible.” Miley Cyrus
“The St. Mary’s High School Class recently held its 40th reunion, and this pocketbook was donated by one of the fine graduates of this Catholic, all-girls high school which closed in 1996. It was reopened several years later as Notre Dame Christo Rey High School, and our graduates toured the building so we could take a walk down memory lane and see our new and improved school. We found the beautiful inspirational quote above proudly displayed on one of their walls, and we wanted to share it with you as a reminder to believe in yourself. Please know that We believe in you!!! “
Sending you hugs, love, and hope…
The St. Mary’s High School Class
My Vision of its Future Recipient:
I don’t know who ended up with Mom’s bag, but I do have a visual. In my mind, I see the back of a woman standing in the doorway of the shelter she called home for too long. I see her standing tall, her head held high and her shoulders back as she proudly prepares to take her first step. She has Mom’s black leather pocketbook hung over her right shoulder and she tightly grasps it with her right hand on the strap (as Mom did). She tosses her head to her right to flip her long hair behind her shoulder. And then she takes her first step out of the shelter toward her new beginning. As I picture this, I feel someone grab my hand, and when I look, I’m thrilled to see that it’s Mom. Now in my head, I know that Mom is gone but she’s really always with me, in spirit, and, I do believe in signs. I believe that Mom was looking down… so happy and so proud to see that someone less fortunate was putting her pocketbook to good use. Mom was also thrilled that I had finally parted with it.
How to Handle Your Own Sentimental Items:
Do YOU have sentimental items hidden in a drawer, closet, attic, garage, etc.? Do you think you have too many and want to reevaluate their future? If so, here are some questions to ask yourself about each item. I hope they give you insight into what to do with them.
- Can I see/appreciate this item daily or is it hidden in a space where I can’t see/enjoy it?
- Does it evoke a good memory or a sad memory?
- Am I keeping this out of guilt?
- Would my loved one want me to keep this out of guilt?
- Would my loved one want me to keep this forever?
- If it’s part of a collection (china set, etc. ), how much of this collection do I NEED to keep?
- What will happen to it once I pass?
- Am I burdening my loved ones by leaving this for them to deal with when I pass?
- Do I want to be in control of its future while I’m still alive, or do I trust my loved ones to honor my intentions when I pass?
- Are there people in need that this could help?
My Answers to these Questions:
As I reviewed these questions, the last one really struck home with me—are there people in need that this could help? Mom was a giver. I know she wouldn’t want me to hang on to her pocketbook. I know that when she no longer wanted or needed it, she would have gifted it to someone less fortunate. Taking the time to ask myself these questions made my decision to gift it to someone in need so much easier .
One reason I’m such an effective professional organizer is because I can relate to many of my sentimental clients. Because I’m so nostalgic, I find it difficult to part with certain items… as do they. And because I’m so eco-conscious, my goal is to reduce, recycle, reuse, repurpose, and upcycle as many items as possible to keep them out of the landfill.
When I help clients declutter, many of them are tempted to toss an item vs. donate it. Why? Because they feel it is too old or too worn. But then I remind them that to those less fortunate, it’s the symbol of a new beginning. So please… I know it takes a little extra effort… but please donate your items to those in need. As they say, one woman’s trash is another woman’s treasure.
Not sure where to donate? The top options I always recommend (listed alphabetically) are Goodwill, Habitat for Humanity and Salvation Army. I also love donating to local churches, many of which have parishioners in need or thrift shops.
If you’d love to donate but need the cash instead, don’t feel guilty. Check out my blog on How To Turn Your Clutter Into Cash!
LET ME HELP YOU:
What sentimental item(s) do you want to downsize but don’t due to fear, guilt, indecision, etc? Please comment below– I’d love to help!
Brenda Tringali, CPO® (Certified Professional Organizer)
Organizing | Productivity | Speaker
At Your Fingertips Organizing
Serving Greater Myrtle Beach, SC or “virtually” anywhere via video
Brenda Tringali is the owner of At Your Fingertips Organizing. She provides Speaking, Organizing & Productivity services to Workplace/Residential clients both in person in the greater Myrtle Beach, SC area & “virtually” anywhere else via video, phone, etc. Brenda is an active member of NAPO (National Association of Productivity and Organizing professionals) and the former Chair of NAPOCares, NAPO’s Social Responsibility Committee.