Luckily, in the age of technology and how-to articles, there are brilliant compromises to be made that ensure that you're preserving some of the touchstones of your existence without tripping on them all over the place.
Take a look at these nine clutter-free ways to preserve your memories, and see if you can't preserve who you are while getting rid of all that stuff.
1. SNAP PHOTOS WITH STUFF YOU'RE TOSSING
For tangible items that you're sending into the afterlife, a great way to remember the good times you had with it is to take a photo with that item in it. Perhaps it's a favorite piece of clothing that you once cherished, board games that made many memorable nights, or musical instruments that helped cultivate your love of culture. Set up a nice photo up — perhaps a snapshot with friends with the discarded item as the centerpiece — so you can look back on it with fondness whenever you want.
2. SCAN PICTURES, LETTERS, AND CARDS INTO YOUR COMPUTER
Reduce that pile (or massive box, as they case may be) of beloved photos, letters, and cards that you've accumulated throughout your life by scanning them into your computer. You might find it hard to part with the original hardcopy documents, but try to remember that it's only paper that you're tossing out. By scanning these items, you're preserving the thought that went into them when they were originally given to you — and that's what counts. Plus, this way they can never be destroyed, whereas the original versions will eventually deteriorate over time and are at the mercy of fire, water, and other elements that can destroy them completely.
3. TRANSITION TO DIGITAL PICTURE FRAMES TO ELIMINATE PAPER PHOTOS
If you're anything like me, each of your single picture frames is home to about half a dozen photos. I keep the old photos in the frames when I update a picture by simply laying the replaced images behind the new one. While this method reduces the clutter I see, it only allows me to enjoy one of the photos opposed to all of them (even though rediscovering the old ones during the swapping process is a welcome surprise). Nowadays you can enjoy many photos without fussing with any paper by digitizing them and adding them to a digital frame. These frames rotate images automatically so you see multiple pics — and relive the memories — on a regular basis.
4. TRANSFERS OLD VHS TAPES AND DVDS TO COMPUTER FILES
My husband has a huge cabinet full of VHS tapes from his wrestling days that — mark my words — he will never do anything with until they're so old they've deteriorated beyond repair. I even bought him one of those VHS-to-DVD thingamajigs a few years ago that I recently sold on Amazon new, in-the-box. Hey, I tried. In any case, if you want to ensure that your old VHS tapes and DVDs stand the test of time, consider transferring them to computer files that you can save in your cloud. There are plenty of companies that specialize in this service, but you also can DIY it if you're fairly tech-savvy.
5. REPURPOSE USELESS LITTLE THINGS INTO ONE USEFUL BIG THING
Before you donate all that extra clothing, think of ways you might be able to use the fabric to make something new — like a blanket, tablecloth, or shower curtain. For instance, you can turn a bunch of old T-shirts into a rad quilt if you've got sewing skills (or, ya know, send away for it if you don't). You may not think about it a lot, but many items in your closet — especially the really old, ratty stuff — hold a special place in your heart; repurposing these thrift-shop-ready beauties lets you keep them a bit longer without becoming a hoarder. (See also: 20 New Things You Can Make With Old Denim)
6. TURN A SPECIAL MOMENT INTO A BEAUTIFUL TATTOO
One of my buddies gave me this idea, and I thought it was very interesting. Computers — and especially the cloud — help us preserve many of our tangible memories while cutting the clutter, but what about adding those memories to our own bodies? Thus, a tattoo is an awesome way to recognize an important event or time in your life. The result is a permanent reminder of that particular memory, and you're bound to be asked about it over and over again, allowing you to tell the story many times over.
7. CREATE SENTIMENTAL ARTWORK OUT OF ATTIC-BOUND ITEMS
I recently came across a Buzzfeed post that I thought was really cool. There were lots of great ideas in author Mike Spohr's 26 Incredibly Meaningful Gifts You Can Give Your Kids,but I thought the framed teddy bear was kind of genius. Expanding that concept a bit further then, you can basically take anything of sentimental value that's perhaps tucked away in a box and turn it into a treasured family heirloom that will serve as a reminder of a special time as well as a conversation piece. It goes without saying that it'll be super fun to go through the attic to see what resources you have to work with when creativity strikes you.
8. START A BLOG DEDICATED TO YOUR MEMORIES AND TREASURES
Maybe I'm speaking for myself here, but I like to share many of my fond memories with, well, basically anyone who'll listen. I mean, who doesn't like to reminisce about the "good ol' days," right? I bet we're of a similar mindset, which makes starting a blog dedicated to your memories and treasures a decent idea. You can write about fun times that you've had, post pictures of moments you never want to forget, and then share them with the world so you can bring joy to it.
9. KEEP YOUR TREASURES IN THE FAMILY BY PASSING THEM ON TO LOVED ONES
You know that old saying — one man's trash is another man's treasure? Absolutely true, and it provides a great opportunity for you to unload some of your cherished items that are perhaps taking up too much space on family and friends who want or need it. With this tactic, the clutter is out of your way, but the things and the memories they conjure are still part of your life, which makes this easy option the perfect compromise.