office of a hoarder

Are You Sentimental? It Can Make Life Difficult! 

This is the time of year when many of us feel compelled to clean closets, donate clothes and shoes, or get rid of stuff we aren’t using. If you are sentimental, as I am, this whole process can be torturous. For those of you who are not sentimental or only slightly sentimental, this blog may cause you to roll your eyes in disbelief at the power sentimentality can have on a person. I have a few friends who can’t understand my struggle to donate or discard.

As a case in point and a sad story for me that only sentimental people would understand: a few years ago, a friend – in an attempt to help me clean up my garage – threw away some artificial mums in green plastic pots that probably looked pretty tacky. However my younger daughter gave me these many years ago as a gift. Whenever I saw them, I felt connected to her. Just writing this makes me feel sad that they are gone.

Some thoughts shared in a blog by Marissa: 20 Signs You Might Be a Sentimental Person: “What does it mean to be sentimental – and is it good or bad? If you are a sentimental person, you might be sick of hearing about how being sensitive and emotional is a weakness, when in actuality, it can also be a strength! Sentimental people are often some of the most caring and compassionate people around!”

Some perspectives and specific signs of sentimentality I paraphrased from this blog: What does it mean to be a sentimental person? You are emotionally attached to people, places, things or memories. You can become attached to things that have sentimental value like a childhood toy or jewelry passed down from a family member. You could be attached to places that are important to you: where you grew up, the house you have lived in for decades. You can feel sentimental about old photographs, love letters or objects associated with someone you love or once loved.

Some of the signs that a person is sentimental shared in this blog on minimalism:

  • You often feel overwhelmed by your emotions.
  • You attach meaning to things.
  • It is hard to let go of things that are important to you.
  • You spend a lot of time reflecting on and reminiscing about the past.
  • You care more deeply about your relationships than less sentimental people.
  • You can be deeply moved by stories and movies that have sentimental themes.
  • You are highly empathic and compassionate.
  • You are deeply comforted by traditions and rituals.
  • You are fiercely loyal to people and causes that are important to you.

There are pluses and minuses to being sentimental: your sentimentality can cause you pain, anxiety and fear and it can also bring you energy, joy and happiness.

Some people encourage minimalism as a kind of “cure” for sentimentality. Minimalism is defined by the as “a tool to rid yourself of life’s excess in favor of focusing on what’s important, so you can find happiness, fulfillment, and freedom.”

From my perspective, the best I can do is work on donating things I haven’t used for a long time and ask friends to help me make hard (for me) decisions, knowing I will recover from short term sadness and within a short period of time will probably forget about something I can no longer see.

I hope if you are not strongly sentimental or consider yourself a minimalist, that you can also appreciate those of us who are both blessed and cursed by our sentimentality are not choosing to be difficult or obstinate. Some of us have inherited our tendencies to hold on to things because one or both parents were like this. Some may have attachment issues and find attaching to things to be comforting. Some are just very indecisive in general. Whatever the reason, being kind and compassionate towards yourself is an important, caring and helpful attitude to adopt.

In either case, I wish you well as you clean up after the holidays.

Invitation for Reflection

  1. Under what category do you see yourself fitting: somewhat sentimental, highly sentimental, more of a minimalist than someone who is sentimental? What beliefs and behaviors you exhibit validate your decision?
  2. If you are more of a sentimentalist, what do you think the underlying causes of this might be?
  3. If you are in a relationship with someone who is a sentimentalist, and you are not, how have you navigated some of the potential conflicts this can cause?
  4. What can you do to help yourself if your need to hold onto things or even consider yourself a hoarder?