After my mum died in 2014, I discovered among her possessions a suitcase stuffed full of my artwork from when I was little. The artwork smelt of mould, the paper was damaged and discoloured. After days of ruminating over what to do with it all, I photographed each picture and put it on the cloud.
For me to be able to move on from the past (and because there was no way I was going to store a huge pile of mouldy pictures in my home), I held a burning ceremony and burnt each piece of artwork except one.
The picture I kept is called ‘Peacock’ which I painted when I was eight. It’s a childlike watercolour that I framed and put on my wall. It reminds me of a phoenix – rising above adversity – and makes me feel happy when I look at it.
I wish my mum had kept five carefully curated and stored pieces of non-mouldy artwork, rather than a huge mouldering pile. Her hoard became my responsibility, and I spent days working out how to emotionally and physically process it all.
When we don’t know what to do with sentimental things, we can ask ourselves: what’s the purpose of the sentimental things stored in our attic, drawer, under the stairs, garage? How will we ensure sentimental things bring value – not a burden – to our kids, grandkids or other family members?