Downsizing: Take a Photo?

Duke Mug

When it comes to giving away an object with sentimental value, I’ve heard many times, “Take a photo.”

That made zero sense to me. If you’re traumatized about giving an object away, won’t the photo break your heart every time you look at it?

I found my freshman mug from Duke in a box in the attic and snapped a photo for Facebook. Then I got brave and gave the mug away. I’ve got a lot of mugs, and this one, with my name and graduation year painted on, can’t go in the dishwasher.

Weeks later, I scrolled past the photo on my phone. And guess what? Those who push the take-a-photo method are right.

I look at the picture and remember how Freshmen Week went. How the whole year went. I should have studied harder, but oh, did I have the time of my life.

I miss being young, some. I miss those days at Duke, still. But I don’t miss my mug.

So I’m a convert, at least for something as simple as a mug.

Any naysayers to the take-a-photo method out there? Anyone swear by this technique?


My freshmen dorm on Kilgo Quad at Duke University. The mug’s first home!

28 thoughts on “Downsizing: Take a Photo?”

  1. I read this hint several years ago in reference to a woman helping her parents downsize. I was struck by how sensible it sounded. After all lots of the things we keep are just place holders for memories and a photo takes up a lot less room!! Glad this trick worked for you.


  2. Great idea! My thought is “Would someone else want it?” Otherwise it goes to Goodwill. But just found a holiday preschool plate that Dave made for me, put a pic on Instagram but just can’t part with it!


  3. All of this worry over downsizing sentimental things is making me sad!

    But, for me, downsizing started a while back! Since we moved from one end of the country to another (without the ability to bring it all here once and for all) a lot got placed in storage. We even had a “family get-together” to sort through things at the Self-Storage utility (what to save, what not to). This was a nostalgic and precious experience. It brought us all together (with many laughs and fun reminiscenses).

    Many things got saved for shipping, many got tossed (and some for our own posterity and sentimentality were captured by an iphone photo). But, NO precious memories were lost.

    This is what is most important – not the things, not the photos – but the memories.


      1. You’re right. Everyone does need to do this in their own way! I don’t have a single thing left from Freshman Year in college,I don’t think (and I was never a serious “collector” of anything, really!) So, we are so very different to begin with in our dispositions and our “collections”! I would have liked to have kept my student ID card from freshman year, except I think it got stolen out of my wallet in SF on a bus many years later).

        So, I do really get why this is not “sad” to you. And, “simplifying and tidying” can mean actually putting life stages behind us and moving on. This, in my humble opinion, is good!


      2. Hi Barbara, I just don’t think really that pictures are the same thing as holding on to the “real” item — I just don’t. As other very astute readers noted, these items (perhaps photos?) are place holders for memories . . . they are the “personal treasures” that evoke warmth, happiness, pride, challenges, success, barriers, etc. (all in a moment)!

        That’s why (as in your reader above who just could not part with a sentimental item) I say, don’t! There’s a reason!

        I love that you have collected so many wonderful things over the years. But, I hope that readers will be very careful not to discard the assumingly “archival preschool plate” – It’s not for the “kid’s sake” that we keep them — It’s for ours!


      3. Barbara,

        Yes! From my experiences, these most sentimental treasures that have been kept continue to warm the heart!


    1. I totally get how this is hard for most people. I downsized after 25 years and took photos of my entire home before I packed up. Threw away and saved a few items too. At the end of the day I found it easier for me after this experience to look at these photos. Handy on my phone. A click away to re lIve heartfelt memories … I will never “ look” at the box stored in the back of a closet again. I only know that now – I had to “live “ it to “ see n feel” what works best for me. Freeing – comforting feeling for sure 💕


  4. Such a good idea! Lately I’ve been cleaning out drawers and closets obsessively. And I’m still left with too much. I think I’ll resort to the “take a picture” technique! Thanks! And belated congrats on your theater debut!


  5. Am frantically trying to get rid of old, dear items that I’ve had since the beginning of time too! Am reading “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up”, hoping this will help. It’s like throwing away “memories”, isn’t it? Taking a picture and writing a story about the item to place in a Memory Book would be an alternative way to save the memory! Thanks, Barbara!


    1. Ah! My Dixie Swim Club sister! So good to hear from you. Isn’t The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up a neat book? I loved it and am going to write about it soon. AND I am now cleaning out my purse as she suggests!


    2. I can relate, I’m cleaning out stuff too. I understand now, why the Hopi Indians burn their encampment down & move to the next area, lol…;) :p I remembered Barbs idea and took several photos 😀


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