How to decide if it is memories or just stuff?

how to decide
How to decide if it is memories or just stuff?

Are all the items in your living space sentimental clutter or valuable memories that you simply can’t live without? How to decide if it is memories or just stuff?

As a life writer, this question sneaks its way into every interview I do with clients. ‘I keep nothing, it’s just clutter’ some say, whilst others tell me ‘It’s the memory it brings’.

Memories or Just Stuff

Material possessions are a way of recalling emotions of the past or reconnecting with someone who is connected to that item. Reconnecting with a special memory through a material object can be an amazing experience and leave you joyous and excited. Equally, if it is a sad connection, it can ignite strong negative emotions of hurt, anger or guilt.

At the end of the day, you are left with a lot of material possessions that consume precious space in your living environment.

From my own perspective, I didn’t realise I was a hoarder of every item and photo that had passed through my hands from the time I became a mother until I started writing my own life and resurrected all the ‘preserved jewels’ stashed in every cupboard, drawer, wardrobe or hidden box under the bed. These days I call them emotional memories and whether the evoked memory is good or bad, the associated item was something I could not part with. It was a load to carry.

Keep or discard

Holding an item allowed me to muse over a joyous moment in the past and to relive the pleasure, love or pride I had experienced. Even some memories that had escaped my short-term memory and were forgotten, were able to be resurrected and articulated with a ‘do you remember this…’.  This is one of the amazing things about our minds and human memory.

Equally, negative experiences and things you would prefer to forget can also gain memento once more, losing none of their intensity from their years of isolation. This is something I always discuss with clients and give them choice on where they want to go with this memory.

Recently, a lady shared with me that she had ‘thrown everything out’ when her husband died, it’s just ‘stuff’ she said. She couldn’t write her life story she told me because there was nothing to tell. I felt very sad for this lady as I know she had experienced a wonderful life with her husband, raised beautiful children and travelled the world extensively. By discarding every photo, household item and personal memorabilia of her life with her husband, she triggered a negative barrier that has not allowed her to move away from the anger she felt when her husband passed.

How to deal with it all

From my own experience, I found the journey of writing my life, categorizing and preserving photos and treasured items very rewarding. Recently the young grandchildren found the book and read every single word and asked so many more questions. I am so glad I took the time to compile that book of memories and hope the great-grandchildren enjoy the life story just as much. I felt much lighter and free since I decluttered my life and yet I still have all my memories and emotional attachments intact in photographs and wonderful descriptive stories that will mean so much more to my family and future descendants than aged artefacts that I have treasured, but they may not.

Here are a few morsels that may help how to decide if it is just memories or stuff

life story
Your family will want to know the story of your life. Your life story is important to them
  • Reflect on your individual items and let them take you on their journey so you can recognize where the sentiment for the object comes from. Only then can you decide the value of keeping or discarding.
  • Photograph the possession and document its story. You can then discard the item knowing you have the memory and emotion intact.
  • If you choose to keep the item, preserve it in a way that is meaningful and accessible. Don’t put it in a box at the back of the cupboard never to be seen until you repeat this process. If it can’t be displayed or stored satisfactorily, you have your answer.
  • Deciding what to keep and what to discard is often a practical decision based on storage facilities available, depreciation of the item and the actual value of the artefact be it emotional or financial. Perhaps you could value each item on a point score of 1 to 10. This would force you to confront your inbuilt emotional calculator and put a hard face to your attachment.
  • Some people like to ask questions of the item such as:
    • ‘have I looked at you in a year?’
    • ‘do I want to display you in my house?’
    • ‘are you harbouring emotions I would be best to discard?’

Let us help you document your story

If you want help with documenting your memories, I am happy to assist you. I can turn them into a beautiful book that will last for generations.


Memories or just stuff, memories or just stuff, memories or just stuff

Significant Birthdays

significant birthdays
Significant birthdays are a rite of passage.

Significant Birthdays evoke Forgotten Memories. It’s a Rite of Passage

Significant birthdays evoke the most forgotten of precious memories. Those memories carry such strong messages on how quickly times passes and those precious events that for no reason were shelved but are now given permission to be dusted off and enjoyed and discussed. It’s a rite of passage and those memories should never again be hushed into a dark cupboard.

Recently I attended such an event of a couple celebrating their 70th year.  This couple preferred small groups of friends gathered together to enjoy each other’s company and over a wine, relive many memories that most had forgotten.

It was amazing and inspiring to hear the individual memories that people had retained and held close for decades. The white gold ring with a small diamond given by two older sisters to a third (and younger) sister was produced and it was evident that this ring had been worn and cherished for 45 years. The older sisters struggled to remember and couldn’t believe they had never noticed the ring being worn and yet, the younger sister had worn it lovingly and thankfully. How excited they were when many other such memories associated with that time, became stimulated and oozed out from the three sisters.

Relationships and life messages are so important to the younger members of the family. I was reminded of one client a few years ago, who asked me to write a letter that she could give to family members and friends who were important to her on her 80th birthday.

A Letter of Life Celebration

Significant Birthdays
A Letter of Life Celebration

We called the letter ‘a letter of life celebration’ but you could also call it an ethical will. The client talked about how she wished she could live her life backwards and could use the attitudes and knowledge that she now has to enable her to lead a fuller life. She spoke about the wisdom of considering other people’s perspective and their journey and this understanding, she said, has made her wiser person. ‘It’s not about giving children more, it’s about giving them more understanding and experiences’ she said. Her words were much appreciated by her family and the younger generation who listened intently to her every word.

A few quick hints to remember the significant birthday stories

If you are attending a significant birthday celebration for someone you love, you may like these short hints to help your own memory.

  • Have a notepad and pencil handy.
  • Ask their permission to record some important stories.
  • Record their voice with some of their stories.
  • Take people aside and so some short recordings on the guest of honour.
  • Take lots of photos.
  • Put your photos into a book and package your audio recordings so it can be retained and appreciated by all and future generations. You will be glad you did.


If you are having trouble remembering and recording your life memories, give me a ring and we can do it together.


Significant birthdays evoke forgotten memories. Significant birthdays

Mother’s Day Tribute

Mother’s Day is a reminder to reflect on the wonderful woman who nurtured us and worked tirelessly to make our journey through childhood what it was. Those memories are too precious to be lost and getting them in print is a wonderful way to preserve life messages for generations.

You might find a few hints here to help you with your memory reflection.

  • When reflecting on memories, it is helpful to take a thought and let it flow. In this following excerpt from my personal memoir, the thoughts were triggered holding my mother’s hands in her nursing home. Equally, you could use a photo, an artefact or some other item. 
  • Take the time to sit in the moment. This process may take hours or it could take days or even weeks. It took many weeks for me to sit fully in the moment of the thoughts regarding my mother’s hands.
  • I was able to find historical context and used that to support the story. The historical context also provides insight into the life of a young mother in the 1950’s and young people of future generations may take life messages from the story.

If you would like help with your life story, I am happy to work with you on your memoir. Give me a call Rose 0407 487 495.

My tribute to Mother’s Day

Personal letter
A Personal Letter of Life Celebration is priceless

Excerpt. 2016. Rose Osborne Memoirs. Growing up in Central West, NSW. Unpublished.

My Mother’s Hands

My mother’s hands are soft and artistically designed by events and challenges of her long life. Her hands are a road map of all that came before. No expensive soft and creamy hand lotion ever touched those hands and yet they remain tender and gentle on her lap in her nursing home. No doubt the endless emersion in water hydrated the tissues and allowed any roughness to dissipate and fade away – washing the kids, washing the dog, washing the car, washing the floor, washing the dishes, washing the clothes – did it ever stop for my mother in the prime of her life as a mother of seven children in a NSW country town during the 50’s and 60’s.

Every day of the week was allocated a category of washing – Monday was sheets day, Tuesday was towels, Wednesday was kids’ clothes and so on. It was never-ending. The sheets day was the most gruesome. My mother would be enslaved over a copper boiler which viciously boiled those white sheets until they relieved themselves of every spot of dirt and grime – and no doubt they needed quite a bit of boiling to rid themselves of the marks and stains of all us kids.

The boiled sheets were lifted out of the steaming water with a thick wooden stick that was shaped like a baseball stick. The stick directed the cooked sheets to pass through a double wringer, two rollers with spring tension that attempted to squeeze water from the pathetic desperate material. Mum was expert at folding the sheets flat, so the contemptible wringer would accept them into its rotating and suffocating jaws. One slip and I knew, even as a child, Mum’s fingers would have been history. If Mum was distracted just for a second, and those sheets were not folded flat, the aggravated wringer would jump and shake, dancing violently, afraid of no-one, not even the stick. I was terrified for Mum and often thought how she could face this dangerous job.

I was four years old, but the memory of this sheet washing ritual is deeply ingrained into my fearful events mind map. It may also have been because of Mum’s reaction to an innocent comment I made about the horrors of the whole washing ritual.

‘How can you do this?’ came out of my innocent mouth. 

Mum burst into tears, threw the stick against the copper washer and yelled at me ‘Well, you do it’. Her whole body shook and trembled, and the tears were like heavy falling rain from a summer storm. Mum was red-faced, and the sweat was pouring from every pore of her body.

I vowed there and then at the age of four years of age, that I would never do this dreadful ritual. I was not to know that technology would improve to the extent that I did not have to do it, but the fear I was experiencing at that moment, was horrendous and paralysing. When the terror let go of my little legs, I ran and hid under the bed for what seemed an interminable amount of time.

This practice of hiding under or in my bed when I am distressed remained a lifelong habit.


Mother's Day
Mother’s Day thanks

Ring me for a Mother’s Day voucher to complete your Mother’s tribute and story. Let’s make a difference to your generations.

M: 0407 487 495


Mother. Mother’s Day. Mother’s Day Tribute.


Enjoy this article on the same subject. Washday Mondays

A War Story is now part of a Family’s History

Joe Ann Tailor cried uncontrollably and emotionally as she heard her father’s voice for the first time in 19 years since he sadly passed away. Her father, Joe George Taylor, was telling a story he had never told anyone; but realised it was now TIME.

Joe George’s oral history recording was made with the University of North Texas and is the only record of the full story of that day. His daughter said it was a gift from God, a blessing and so wonderful.

The war story

Unknown sailor
USS Arizona attack on Pearl Harbour. 1956

Seventy-six years ago on the 7th December 1941, Pearl Harbour was attacked by Japanese fighters.  The forward ammunition magazine on the USS Arizona exploded and over one thousand marines and sailors died.

Donald Stratton and Lauren Bruner were two that survived that day. Their story goes that they were aboard the USS Arizona when the explosion happened; they clamoured onto the ‘hot steel deck’ to join other men who were so badly burned and dying. They looked for a way to save their lives against all odds.

The USS Vestal was tied up alongside Arizona. A sailor onboard the Vestal saw the situation and started attempting to throw the stranded and desperate sailors a salvation line. After a few goes, the line was secured, and Stratton and Brunner struggled 70 feet with a hand-over-hand action to get off the burning boat to safety. They never knew the name of the sailor who saved their lives and their story was recorded in history books as having their lives saved by an unknown sailor.

The unknown sailor’s war story

Joe George Taylor was a wild boy who frequently got himself in trouble. He was an amateur heavyweight boxer who celebrated his winnings with a drinking session and so would get himself into another ‘unofficial’ fight.

MP’s escorted him back to the Vestel that night and that’s where he was on that fateful morning.

‘I’m that unknown sailor that whoever wrote the book didn’t find’ he recorded in his oral history session.

‘They were surrounded by fire on Arizona. They were stranded over on the ship and they were trying to get off’ he further stated.

The Family’s story

‘For me, personally, and my family. That’s the most wonderful thing…that now, he’s not the unknown sailor; he’s known as the man who did what he did’.  History now recognizes that Joseph L. George received the Bronze Star for his actions on December 7, 1941.

The original story was written by David Martin as the Cover Story for CBS Sunday Morning.