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Is Sentiment Good or Bad?


Is sentiment good or bad?


It can be a good thing for the creative person who writes, makes music, or does art. If you can show your feelings or emotions, you can be a good communicator.


It can be a bad thing if it discolors reality. It can glorify the past and keep a person from enjoying the now. It can lead to holding on to every item that at one time gave you joy or hope.


When talking with clients about why they keep things, I often hear them say, “Oh, I’m a sentimental person.” In their mind they keep things because of the importance those items had in their life or in their family. They may feel that they are the “keeper” of the family history. They see the beauty in things that other people don’t.


These people are not only sentimental about the past but about things going on right now. They are the ones who love the sunsets or cry over a dead bird. Their feelings are closer to the surface. They are the ones we call when we need a good listener or a hug.


I looked up the definition of sentiment and found that it means:

1. A view or attitude about a situation or event – a feeling or an emotion

2. Exaggerated and self-indulgent feelings of tenderness, sadness, or nostalgia


I don’t consider myself sentimental, but I enjoy reminiscing about the past. It’s fun to look at old pictures and remember past events. I think it’s wonderful to see baby pictures where the baby is wearing a Christening outfit or hat that has been in the family for years. Looking through a family Bible that has the family tree written in the front and handwritten notes from your ancestors is uplifting.


However, I don’t feel it is a good thing to sit and long for a previous time. The “good old days” were usually not as good as we remember with our “looking back” glasses.


The minimalists, Joshua Milburn and Ryan Nicodemus have some quotes about keeping things from our personal past that are worth reviewing:

  • “If we cling to the past, we get dragged from the present.” —Joshua Fields Millburn

  • “We are defined by our character, not by our things.” —Ryan Nicodemus

Emmet Fox, a new thought spiritual leader of the 20th Century states in his essay Sentiment Slays, “Sentiment is usually a short cut to unhappiness and failure…..Sentiment really means pretending.”


Keeping some items to remember a special time or person may be sentimental but I don’t see it as a bad thing. However, keeping everything and not making the distinction between a Christening bonnet and a drawer full of stained onesies is not helping a person stay happy.


It's fine to remember the past because our past has molded us and brought us to where we are now. Make note of what you have learned from your past but don’t continue to live there out of sentimentality.


Know why you are keeping items. It’s easy to fall into memorabilia overwhelm.


I don’t want to make a decision about the topic of sentimentality and is it good or bad. I don’t see it as a yes or no response. Each person is an individual. I don’t like making sweeping statements about people or passing judgement on what they do with their life.


I do feel that it is important to live in the present but that living in the now does not mean to forget our past or not to plan for our future.


Just don't let the past keep you from enjoying today at its fullest!


I would love to hear what you think about this topic.



If you want help or just some accountability in setting up or working on an organizational plan or project, join Diane Quintana and me on our Clear Space For You clutter support group. We can help you map out your plan step by step.


Jonda S. Beattie, Professional Organizer owner of Time Space Organization, and co-owner of Release, Repurpose, Reorganize. She is based in the Metro-Atlanta area. As presenter, award-winning author, as well as a retired special education teacher she uses her listening skills, problem solving skills, knowledge of different learning techniques, ADHD specialty, and paper management skills to help clients tackle the toughest organizational issues. Jonda does hands on organizing and virtual organizing. For more of Jonda’s tips connect with her on Facebook.









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Julie Bestry
Julie Bestry
Jul 26, 2022

Your post reminded me of the Billy Joel lyric in the song, "Keeping the Faith" where he sings: "You can linger too long in your dreams

Say goodbye to the oldies but goodies

'Cause the good ole days weren't always good

And tomorrow ain't as bad as it seems" I often feel that people assume they *should* have a sentimental attachment to things, so they assume that they *do* which leads them to holding onto things. I tell them that if they were sentimentally attached, for real, they'd likely have the item in a place of honor, well-cared for (dusted, repaired, displayed) and not buried in the back of a closet. If they're not willing to give loving attention, then they're probably…

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jondab
jondab
Jul 26, 2022
Replying to

Thanks for your comments, Julie. I also feel that sentimental things should be honored and seen. Pictures and cards/notes should be revisited once a year to see if they still have value to you. By scheduling a time to pull these items out, you get to linger over your memories for a day and then either dispose of them or put them away for another year.

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smqorgadm
Jul 25, 2022

While I am sentimental, I do find that it stops me from doing things and looking forward. If I have an item I want to keep, rather than just leaving the object as is, I prefer to transform it into a usable object that I can use right now. This allows me to take a thing from the past and bring it into the present. It's much more satisfying that way.

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jondab
jondab
Jul 25, 2022
Replying to

Repurposing is a great way to go! I gave my old cradle that had been in the family for years to my nephew who took it apart and made it into a small rocker.


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Janet Barclay
Janet Barclay
Jul 25, 2022

Great post, but I think everyone is sentimental about different things. My sister would love to be a minimalist and is eager to get rid of books that have been read, CDs that have been or can be converted to digital, and much more. Yet she found it difficult to let go of one of the dresses her daughter wore as a toddler (she's now in her 40s).


For a long time, I would keep things simply because I'd "always" had them. I'm getting much more practical now - in some cases I have no idea why I even kept it in the first place!

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jondab
jondab
Jul 25, 2022
Replying to

Janet, I totally agree. I go through all of my memorabilia once a year and review it. I feel that if you are going to keep memory items, then you should either display them or take time once a year and revisit them. The older I get the easier it is to let go. I have already talked to my grown children about what they might like -- and there is precious little.

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Linda Samuels
Linda Samuels
Jul 25, 2022

There is no judgment here. We each have different ways of making sense of our lives. For some of us, we need the physical reminders to jog our memories of happy times, people we've lost, or places we've been. For others, those memories can be easily accessed through thought and less through physical memorabilia.


I agree in that if the past (stuff) is holding you back from fully living in the present, if it's consuming your time, energy, and thoughts, then it could be useful to address. But there is a big gray area here.


I am somewhere in the middle. There are things from my past that I enjoy and use like furniture from my parents and grandparents, old…

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jondab
jondab
Jul 25, 2022
Replying to

Linda, I agree that it is a personal issue and like most issues we have to decide if keeping "stuff" improves our lives or hinders our lives. Does the stuff serve us, or do we serve the stuff?

I also feel that if you are letting go of items that you have had a long time and now you wonder if you still want them, it is best to take your time. I always feel sad for clients who have put off these decisions and then have to make them within weeks or a month.

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