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The Turtle Is Gone

Image: Michelle Meiklejohn

A few weeks ago we said ‘good-buy’ to ‘the turtle’. The turtle never had a specific name beyond ‘the turtle’ but he had great history.

I met ‘the turtle’ about 12 years ago.  I was approached in the streets of Papua New Guinea by a street vendor who had carved it out of a single piece of wood.  I don’t have a picture of the turtle, but he was an impressive 30 inches long by about 18 inches wide.  It was a wooden dish instead of a shell that had a tale, 4 legs (with cute carved toes) and a long neck and head with shells for eyes.  The whole thing was stained and finished a dark walnut color.  ‘The turtle’ was pretty cool.

Bringing ‘the turtle’ back to an American home was a challenge.  Since he was longer than my big duffel bag he was impossible to put in check luggage on the two day air ride back.  So I carried the turtle back like a child…on my lap.  This was not easy on the plane and through the airport, but ‘the turtle’ made it.  During college my mother babysat the turtle.  When I finally grew up to the point of getting married and having a house of my own ‘the turtle’ was finally able to come home…to home after home…all 7 homes that we have lived as a couple.

The turtle has sat on top of the dresser and held cloths and keys, it has sat on top of the fridge and held candy and fruit, it has sat in front of the fire place and held books and magazines and it has sat in the basement and in storage.

Finally two weeks ago we passed the turtle on to have a new owner (goodwill).  There was just no good place to keep a ‘dish’ of that size in our little apartment.  ‘The turtle’ just kept getting in the way.

It was tough to see him go, we have long memories together, but it just didn’t work out to keep any longer.

I have wanted to write a post on what to do with sentimental items as a minimalist for a while. It is a tough topic and one that is kind of personal on application.

A post I loved on this is by Small  It is under her ‘begin here‘ section as her favorite post ever (really, you need to click through and read her article). She writes about the scene in My Big Fat Greek wedding when the grandmother passes on a box of keepsake items and compares it to the grandmother passing on a storage unit.

I have never seen the movie but I would love to pass on a few items to my kids of memories. The thing is (and is pointed out with this article) that less is more in this category.  Passing on or keeping a lot, is a burden for us and our loved ones later.

Lots of things feel like they are special with the memories they represent, but most of those things aren’t the big memories that will last.  Here are a few of the things I want to keep for my kids:

  • The watch my dad proposed to my mom with
  • My husbands and my love notes to each other (an impressive pile that is embarrassing to read through, but I know they will enjoy reading some of the cheesiness later)
  • A baby blanket of mine and my husbands from when we were babies
  • The blanket Lily had in the hospital.  (not sure what Ian used)
  • The outfit both Lily and Ian came home from the hospital in
  • Some needlework dish towels done by their great-grandmother

What I have decided to do is to keep a tub for memories.  Probably not everything in the tub  is that important, but it works good to store and it is contained and limited. Right now, the tub is stored in my in-laws attic and isn’t completely full. As time goes on we get more things the contents of the tub will probably change over the years.  Things in and less important things out.

(I also have a tub with my wedding dress in it because I want to keep it, so technically I have 2 tubs)

Maybe a tub is too small for you, but I want to encourage you to take a look at everything you are saving for memories and figure out how much space you want it to take up. When your kids go through your stuff 50 years from now, what are they going to be excited to find … and what are they going to have to wade through and throw out.

Sentimental memory objects have away of hiding all over the place and taking up much more space than you realize.  I realized this when we downsized and got rid of most of our stuff.  Storage areas, kids closets, garage, decorations throughout the house, basement, drawers, and many more places seem to collect these things that aren’t needed beyond the memory connected to them.  Find them, set a limit, and keep the most important.

Thanks so much for reading!  If you like this post or this blog I would love it if you would help me get the word out by sharing on your social media.  Have a great day!


  1. Kim Kim

    Another Great Post, Thank You! My Mother was a pack rat, she kept EVERYTHING, always hoping something would end up to be worth more in the future. At the age of 59, my Mom passed away last August from Lung and Brain Cancer. The majority of her stuff is at my Brothers house as he has a large home with basement storage. We spent a few days going through some of her stuff, some Goodwill, Garbage and, yes, a lot I took. There is still so much more still in storage at my brother’s house, I’m hoping it magically disappears before my next visit. At the time, just days after her funeral, I didn’t want to let go, packing up my car with a lot of her “stuff”, My daughter and I drove from Wisconsin back to Montana with a car over packed full of “stuff”. Now, trying to declutter I find myself working around her “stuff”. Truthfully a lot could be tossed, they don’t even hold memories for me besides the fact that it was hers.
    I’m hoping it will be a lesson to myself so Greg and I don’t leave the same kind of mess behind for my daughter. Our stuff has been thinning over the weeks as I dig-in. Its my Mom’s stuff that’s just completely overwhelming… Ugh!

    As for your turtle, that would have been hard to get rid of. I have a hard time remembering its just “stuff”. I’m hoping that gives me the extra push to get rid of a few more items.

    Thank you and have a wonderful week!

    • I think different things have a time when they are ‘ready’ to go. I am with you on passing stuff on to my kids, I would rather already have it paired down and not have them have to make all the decisions when they are going through emotional loss as well. It makes it hard to get rid of stuff, because you can ‘control’ and keep stuff in your life when you can’t control the people or health. We just grasp for any control we can in the situation. Good luck with the process, sorry about your mom 🙁

  2. This is something I struggle with. One of the things I’ve done is incorporated the items into my life. For example, I use my grandmother’s comb (the one she used for over 40 years) everyday. It’s in my drawer in my bathroom. I have one shadow box with special bric-a-brac from various family members (i.e. a vase my grandfather bought in Japan during ww II) on display where I can see and enjoy it. I have a handful of items that I can’t or don’t’ want to use that I’m not sure what to do with at this time. I like your idea of just packing them in a box and not worrying about it too much.

    • it is safer packed away too. Thanks for your comment 🙂

  3. It is really hard to know what to keep. Occasionally I have donated things that I regretted giving away, but usually I remind myself that their memory and the memories that the object was connected with was really what was important. Not the thing itself.

    • Just think of all the things that get destroyed in peoples basements and storage by weather or bugs and then have to be thrown away. You helped more people enjoy them before that happened 🙂

  4. I have no children to whom to pass tangible memories so am beginning to share my treasures with nieces/nephews and thrift stores. I do have some family treasures: antique china bowls, one from each side of my family, a cup and saucer from my mom’s china set (the rest my sister uses), a photo of my dad feeding me as an infant and yes! hand embroidered towels from my great-grandmother. I display them and will hand them off to siblings at my death.

    • If you can list what you have you are doing great! That sounds like a really special collection of things 🙂

  5. My hubby and I have two tubs of yearbooks, pictures and journals. Those ate our keepsakes. My wedding dress is gone-my sister wore it 2 1/2 years later for her wedding. We’ve been doing pretty good on the getting rid of stuff we sky need, use, want. You were a part of that inspiration!!

    • Sounds great! Glad your wedding dress could be used again. My daughter thinks she wants to wear mine… we will see what she thinks when the time comes 🙂

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