What’s in Your Attic? What the Items You Save Say About You

by Sally Matheny

Attic Stairwell by Van Gogh, courtesy of wikimedia
I’m thankful for many things, however, I have too many things.
Are you a collector?  I’ve reduced my collections. My Santa figurines are long gone, and my angel assembly has reduced to three or four—if you include the one that sits on top of the Christmas tree. Although I’ve held onto my collection of teacups, I no longer scour second-hand shops for another lovely addition. As I’ve grown older, I’ve realized these things take up too much room and too much time dusting. So, I stopped collecting these things. Sounds liberating, doesn’t it? It sounds like it. Yet, I still cringe when I look in my attic. I’d die if you saw my attic right now. Even though, I stopped collecting items years ago, I still have too much stuff. I’m not a hoarder, but maybe I’m holding onto some things which I need to let go. This week I went to the attic and considered long and hard why I’ve saved the items I have.  Perhaps what I am learning will help you determine what the items you’re saving say about you.

Heirlooms – Sentimental or Clingy

While some folks’ heirlooms hold monetary value, most of mine are of sentimental value only. The quilts my grandmother made, I want to keep. The same goes for the wood carvings of my grandfather. There is a huge collection of baseball cards given to my husband by his dad. The list goes on of things dear to us, but my attic is overflowing. I need to begin taking baby steps and cut a few heartstrings.  
Many items have come to rest here when a loved one passed away. It was my way of hanging on to a part of the one I loved. I have a bag of scarves my Maw Maw wore. Her Chantilly perfume scent faded away from them long ago. I can’t even remember her wearing half of them. The scarves can go.  I’ll keep the blanket she made for my ninth birthday. It means so much more than the scarves. I’ll keep her handwritten notebooks and donate her cookbooks. There is no recipe that can duplicate her mouth-watering, homemade biscuits anyway.
Perhaps the men’s homeless shelter could make use of the rough, half-carved figures my grandfather never had a chance to finish. From his completed work, I’ll dust off a few and give them to my children. True stories about their great-grandfather’s life will accompany the carvings.
The baseball cards aren’t mine. My husband thinks they may be of value someday. But mostly, he cherishes them because his dad gave them to him before he passed away. The heartstrings to the cards are not mine to cut.
Like me, you may be a sentimental sort. I encourage you to use the heirlooms that occupy your home. Display them. The items you leave in storage, reassess why you’re still clinging to them.
The love, life lessons, and memories are what we cherish most. Those are easily stored in the mind and heart. Remember to respect the inheritance of others. There is a season for everything. The seasons for clinging to and parting with heirlooms varies with different people.   

Survival Gear- Prepared or Mistrusting

Okay, I got rid of a good bit of stuff after that crazy Y2K thingy. But there are still a few things in my attic, which should the grid crash, we’ll be somewhat prepared. However, this is not the survival gear I’m talking about. When I look around my suffocating storage area, I wonder why in the world I have kept some things.  Do I really think a time will come when I will need an additional five blankets, four comforters, three kerosene lamps, two bedroom suites, and a partridge in a pear tree? Really?
I bemoaned all this to a friend and her response was enlightening. She thinks we hold on to the memory of a time when we didn’t have these things. Early in our marriages, we did not have much at all. We tell ourselves we should hold onto all this stuff just in case that day comes again. My friend was right. And you know what? I think it boils down to not trusting God to meet our needs. It’s one thing to make plans and be prepared for an emergency, but it’s another to hoard so much stuff because we think we may need it later. I’d say probably half of the things in my attic I’ve not needed in the past decade. The sad thing is that someone out there did need it. Someone may have prayed for what I stashed away in a Rubbermaid. A child shivered in the cold. A family took turns sleeping in the one bed they owned.

What's in your attic?
Our surplus is someone else's need.
(flickr photo)

Our surplus is someone else’s need. No matter what happens tomorrow or ten years from now, I plan to trust God to meet my needs. Today, I want Him to take my selfish hoarding and use it to answer someone else’s prayer for survival.

Mementos – Treasure-Keeper or Trash-Accumulator

This one is difficult.  Mementos remind us of a special time in our lives. Remember the expression on your child’s face when she handed you the picture she drew of the neighbor’s dog? Yeah, me neither. Yet, there lies the artwork dated 1999. Must have been a special moment then
Okay, you know my sentimental heart isn’t going to throw out everything my children made over the years. But let’s face it, we saved way too much stuff from that firstborn’s childhood! Much of it is faded, torn, or not special in any way (sorry, kids, but it’s true.) My ultimate favorites that really highlight my child’s personality, I’ll keep, or I’ll photograph their creations and keep them on a CD. The rest I’ll box up and let the creators of the “work” decide what they want to do with it.
Donate, but if it's trash, throw it away.
Old love letters from my husband are definitely family history and treasures to keep. Broken bobble heads, bits and pieces of childhood toys, and a conglomeration of all kinds of paper are evaluated and trashed.
Just because you adored it once, doesn’t mean it still is worthy of accolades. And don’t think because you found value in it once, someone else will now. If it’s trash, throw it away. Donation site volunteers have more important work than filtering through trash.
So, there you have it—my unprofessional analysis on saving things in a nutshell, attic, or the storage unit of your choice.

I can’t remember a time when I have actually prayed about the stuff I have saved in my attic. I need to, because much of it deals with me trusting God with my past, my present, and my future.

What about you? What’s in your attic?


  1. This is so on point for me at this stage of life. I am overwhelmed with too much "stuff." I hope your advice will help me declutter some of it.

    1. I have too much stuff, too, Cathy, but I'm trying to let go of a lot of it. It's a slow process but I'm making progress! One thing that motivates me is the knowledge of those out there who don't have much of anything. Why should I have 9 blankets in storage when there is someone out there who does not have even one?
      It's good to hear from you, Cathy!


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