393: Childhood Mementos

A Thousand Things to Talk About
A Thousand Things to Talk About
393: Childhood Mementos

Do you keep mementos of your childhood around?

Show notes and links:

Full episode script

In episode 248 about keeping mementos of relationships around, there was quite a bit of very crunchy and useful information about why we enjoy holding on to mementos, and how our brains use those physical objects to trigger our memories — both good and bad.

For kids and parents, holding on to those items gets to be an even more interesting question. A New York Times Learning blog article shows a lot of the controversy when it comes to childhood mementos, especially for young adults. The author of the blog, attempting to clean out the house for sale and moving, went into the rooms of her daughters who were away at college or living in their own small apartments…

And started throwing things away. Without asking.
As she put it:

“But someday she’ll thank me. After cleaning out the bedrooms of my two oldest daughters, I realized I was doing them a favor. Just as my mother did for me. It can be hard to do it yourself, difficult to part with the physical reminders of the person you used to be, even if those items are math binders that date from sixth grade, a collection of cow statues that no one has paid attention to in 10 years and a pair of yellowed movie ticket stubs from “Toy Story.””

It’s also a question that minimalist blogs and de-cluttering advocates bring up — a lot. After all, many mementos can also be seen as “stuff” that just takes up space for no useful reason other than memory.

The author of, Rachel, wrote:

“I’ve lived in an apartment my entire adult life, and I wasn’t ready to receive the big storage boxes of keepsakes my mom saved. It’s “out of sight, out of mind” when it’s at your house, and most grown kids will be satisfied to leave their stuff at your house for as long as you’ll let them. Or maybe they want it, but not yet. Either way, it’s delayed decisions. It’s difficult to know what will hold sentimental value to another person, so the best thing to do is sort through it with their help. Just be careful to stay focused so that you don’t end up reminiscing and then putting it all back in the boxes when you’re done.”

A big part of it, possibly, comes down to the value of history and the emotional connection we have to having an actual item, as opposed to a reminder of the item. It’s a question philosophers have long asked about the nature of “authenticity” of physical objects… and perhaps just a little bit of the semi-magical power created by ownership and memory and time.

Please note: This episode script may vary slightly from the actual episode transcript