Posted by: angiefm | February 20, 2010

Emotional Decluttering

“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”

William Morris, 1834-1896

For a whole week now, I have been clearing boxes of personal stuff which were stashed high up in our cupboards.  These contained letters, cards, photos, trophies, various knick-knacks from years gone by.  I started tentatively, reading every card and letter and asking myself if it was something I should keep. 

A card from an aunt on my 12th birthday, a letter from a secondary school friend after we parted ways to go to different junior colleges, a hand-made note from a Sunday School friend telling me how much she enjoyed being my roommate at church camp, a few hundred (no kidding!  We wrote each other almost DAILY even though we were in the same class!) letters and notes from a few close friends during our Hwa Chong days, a letter from the UK with news about an exciting new life in university, some notes and cards from friends and work associates whose names I no longer recognised.  Then the letters from ex-boyfriends (yes, I had those too), photographs of times I did not care to remember, and of times I was pleasantly surprised to be reminded of.

On the road from pensive to depressive, I was at right about melancholy when I took a break to have lunch with my beautiful family.  I wasn’t in the mood for anything.  Even the spectacular food didn’t taste good.  And conversation was certainly out of the question. 

So I sent an SOS text message to my dear friend Serene with the burning question: “What should I do with photos and letters from ex-boyfriends?”  Her quick response back was, “Shred them.  Better still burn them.”

I took a deep breath and realised she was right!  Why was I holding on to things which depressed me?  Which brought to mind times past which didn’t matter to me and to my life now?  Who were some of these people anyway?

Then the quote from William Morris came to mind.  I had read it once before when blog-surfing and had to Google it with the key words “USEFUL BEAUTIFUL QUOTE”.  “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” 

That did it!  I redoubled my efforts.  And this time, I didn’t even stop to read the letters anymore.  I started tossing them out by the handful!  And ah … it felt good!  🙂  Think Emotional Decluttering!  These things had meaning only to myself.  Not to anyone else.  And I didn’t need them to remember my past.  My mind had already filtered out the bad stuff and kept the good!  😀  And that was all I needed. 

The only thing I told TC I wanted to remember was how aimless and silly and utterly lost I was in my JC years.  Not just me but all my friends too, in various degrees.  I want to remember that so that when our children reach that age, we remember it well enough not to be dismissive of their problems, and to be able to empathise.

So this is what I have kept – birthday cards from my parents and some close relatives, one or two letters/cards from each good friend I have/had, cards/postcards/letters/doodles from TC  (not many, TC isn’t a prolific writer), photos of the good times and good people in my life.

Only things that make me smile.  🙂

What have you stored up in your homes?  Are they useful or beautiful and do they make you smile?


  1. Gosh, thanks for this posting. This is like God-send.

    I am also into hoarding past old items. Always thought it will be nice to re-read them and be reminded how silly I was. But truly, if I have not looked at them for more than 20 yrs, what make me think I will look at them in another 20 yrs’ time. Maybe it’s time to throw out.

  2. Thanks, Angie, for the reminder. I too have boxes of stuff like that!
    Have to throw them out soon!

  3. I’m from hwa chong too! were u in humanz?

    stumbled on a letter i wrote to a good JC friend on real pretty paper with some strident views on parenting and having children. surprised at myself! And in some ways glad that the letter never got posted!

    • No, was in A13! 😀 Probably like 20 years before you. *sob* Everything is 20 years ago for me now.
      I know how you feel about those unposted letters! I found one I wrote to someone I had a crush on, which I tried to make sound like I didn’t … OH MAN! SO EMBARRASING! *faint* I just cannot imagine what DID get sent!

  4. no lah, cannot be 20 years.

    anyway, live the present! 🙂 You’re doing such an awesome job with your kids.

    errr… I know what did get sent to the person I had a crush on, and still cringe at the memory. but to both our credits, after i got rejected by him, we’re still friends to this day! Better than ex-bfs are those who never became bfs! haha.

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