Either because it’s spring, or the KonMari trend is still a big thing, or maybe it’s because I’m terrible at moving on (most likely it’s this), but I have decided that I am no longer keeping photos of my ex-husband or mementos from our failed marriage. It’s been four years since my divorce, and there isn’t a single reason why I can rationalize holding onto these things.
My best friends think I should get rid of all of it—the photos, the cards, the keepsakes, the marriage certificate (why the hell do I even still have that???). My therapist agrees. So does 73% of Twitter.
Okay, it’s not actually 73% of all Twitter, but you get what I mean. The general consensus is that the healthiest decision a person can make in order to move on is to rid herself of the past by eliminating those things that remind her of it. And, that’s what I aim to do.
For the most part, I have not been keeping any photos or keepsakes out and about in plain sight. Unfortunately, now and then, I have come across an old picture or memento while doing something such as cleaning out a drawer or searching for stamps.
Recently, one of these smack-you-in-the-face discoveries consisted of a photo of him and me during our college years, before I got sucked into the concept of happily-ever-after, before I devoted decades to a relationship that eventually died. I texted my friends, bummed, annoyed to have stumbled upon it. They said to trash it. It has taken me two weeks, but I accomplished the feat today.
Most of the keepsakes from my marriage are in a box in my attic. They may not be in view, but daily, I know that these things are taking up space in my home, and consequently, in my head. Their existence is an ever-looming presence above me, and, I swear, I can feel their energy up there, like ghosts haunting and waiting for the chance to be seen again.
What is the past, anyway? What are memories? They really are like ghosts: harmless, invisible, and only bothersome when acknowledged. When ignored, ghosts float away, finding someone else to torment. I guess it’s the same with the past.
Photos of my ex, anniversary cards, silly notes and love letters are just things. Throwing them in the trash won’t erase my past, which couldn’t be accomplished even if I wanted to, but throwing them out can eliminate their presence from my present-day life, while also preventing any subsequent buildup of cobwebs and dust bunnies from polluting my future.
Marie Kondo is right. If it doesn’t spark joy get rid of it. After all, it was a lack of joy that inspired me to end my marriage, so why hold onto symbols of it? Pictures of my ex and mementos of my marriage do not spark joy. They spark a sense of sadness for something that no longer exists.
Should you get rid of photos and other stuff from your ex?
Only you can answer that. Don’t do it until you know you’re absolutely ready, because once you get rid of it there’s no going back. Here are my ideas for ridding yourself of mementos from a failed relationship:
- Trash them. Just gather all of it up and throw them out.
- Pack them up and send it away. My mother offered to keep pictures, cards, etc. for me when I first divorced. If you are not ready to trash these items yet, at least remove them from your home and send them to someone you trust.
- Give the gifts away. For those pieces of the past that aren’t photographs, cards and letters, donate them. The gifts he gave you will spark joy for someone else.
- Sell them. Make some quick cash by selling presents your ex gave you on Poshmark, eBay, or on NeverLikedItAnyway.com, a website created specifically for unloading stuff from your ex.
Stop holding on and start moving on. Get rid of the past and make room for a better future. Yes, it will be challenging, saddening, maybe even depressing, but those feelings are temporary (much like your finished relationship).
Instead, think of getting rid of these things as a cleansing—a healing experience with positive, permanent, beneficial results that last. Don’t give up on love, but do bury the past.
Now that I have trashed that old photograph, I feel lighter and lifted. I am finally motivated to pull down the attic ladder, climb up, and find the ghosts that need to be exorcised from my home and thoughts. I’m ready to eliminate from my life those things that are not sparking joy. I thank them for their service, but now it’s time for them to go.