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How do you let go of inherited sentimental objects when there are just too many tools, teacups, kitchen utensils, ornaments, or (add your category)?

This question came from a client whom I will call Dave who had inherited 20 old tools from his father. He had vivid memories of his Dad using each of the tools around the farm or house. Every time that Dave saw the tools, he remembered his Dad with great affection. However, he was moving to a smaller space and had his own more up-to-date tools of which he needed very few. HIs Dad's beloved old tools had become a burden, yet he couldn’t bear to put the tools in a garage sale as he felt like he was ‘selling’ his father. 

As someone who leans to sentimentality about stuff,  I also find myself with small collections of objects that belonged to a favourite relative. I can have difficulty downsizing, and find that if I can create a game to make the task fun, I am much more likely to do it.

I encouraged Dave to collect all his Dad's tools from where they were scattered around the house and garage and place them on a table so he could see them all at once. Then the task was to decide whether to choose what to keep or choose what to eliminate.  Dave chose what to keep using Marie Kondo’s (KonMari) question “What sparks joy?” He selected 10 items that gave him the most positive feelings of helping his Dad on the farm. 

Dave wanted to keep only five items so he then played the comparison game. Comparing two items at a time, he chose one item to keep and one to discard. He compared the keeper with the next tool, and again selected one and let one go. Dave eliminated five more items.  And then ruefully laughed that there was no point in keeping a beloved hammer with a cracked head.

The whole process took less than 15 minutes yet had been burdening him for weeks as he made plans to move. 

We looked at a wall photo of Dave’s Dad on his tractor, and he said: “I will take this photo with me. Someday, I will let the rest of the tools go."

Dave has inspired me to downsize coffee mugs, wall art, ornaments, plants, rakes, winter hats, and a teapot (that I love) with a broken spout.

What number and comparison games might you play with some of your many collections?