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4 Ways to Downsize the Memories That Are Amplified When You Let Go of Stuff

By Margaret Manning September 01, 2023 Lifestyle

When I began my reductionist initiative a few years ago, I assumed I would actually end up with fewer things to think about. Less stuff to worry about and more emotional freedom. Seemed a logical expectation at the time and in fact was my motivation in getting started. I knew it would be overwhelming but truly believed physically removing the unwanted items in my life would dissolve the fact they had ever existed.

But after opening up box after box, drawer after drawer and finding things that I could not even remember buying, my life felt more crowded than ever. Instead of being overwhelmed with an abundance of possessions, it was consumed with a cacophony of memories. They filled every single cell in my body.

Memories Are Amplified When the Things Are Gone

Downsizing is like opening a Pandora’s box. This container, by the way, is defined as, “A process that, once begun, generates many complicated problems.” So true. When you first start a downsizing process, especially as an older woman, you first look at the neutral items that you need to reduce. Things like shoes, hats, jewelry, and clothes seem relatively easy to release.

Pictures, handmade items, children’s art and personal treasures are more emotionally loaded. Often, when everything is neatly packed up in garbage bags and charity shop donation boxes, you quickly find yourself weighed down and surrounded by memories.

So, then you need to embark on a whole new kind of downsizing! What can you do to clear the clutter of Pandora’s memories?

Appreciate True Abundance

You may have collected hundreds of items in your life that brought you great pleasure and joy at the time. But as you let them go, you realize that the true power of the abundance often lives in the memories. When you let them go, it is important to allow the memories to make you smile, but for them not to become the replacement possession. Memories are like waves that caress and nourish but their abundance should be gentle and deep.

Embrace Complexity

Life is complex at any age, but as we get older the sheer amount of personal experience, relationships and connection can be overwhelming. Things defined our life and reflected our decisions. We may have saved for years to purchase a home that was lost in a financial crisis or surrendered in a divorce.

We may have bought a dress for a special event that turned out to be a sad memory. The complexity of our lives helps to enable growth and allow a wiser, stronger person to emerge. As I learned to simplify my life, the softening of memories was part of my downsizing process.

Welcome the Tears

Crying is a good way to surrender to memories and acknowledge that the tears are the last manifestation of the things you are letting go. When I went through the exercise of throwing away pictures, after scanning them to my computer, external hard drives and the cloud, I cried for hours.

I celebrated the memories with those tears. I appreciated the intensity of their power but knew the next chapter of my life was to make new memories with less stuff. I was looking forward to memories grounded in relationships and experience and not in things.

Transform the Memories

As I downsized the memories associated with tangible items, I realized that the deepest recollections moved to the top of my mind and were transformed into something lighter and less overwhelming. They were part of my being, instead of something I carried.

Even the memories associated with my marriage and divorce took on a lighter presence in my life. Instead of missing the items that I had downsized, I focused on the woman I had become because of that experience. Letting go of some of the memories made me feel more in control, lighter and hopeful for a future based on truly experiencing more life with less stuff.

I am not suggesting that we deny or repress memories or erase them from our mind. The suggestion to simply tone down their amplification. To let them become part of who you are, rather than control you and hold you back from a simpler, more meaningful life.


Let’s Have a Conversation:

Have you found yourself held back by memories associated with the items you have let go on your downsizing journey? How have you transformed those memories into something positive in your life?

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Teresita Abad

I have a different story about downsizing. I downsized not because it was a conscious effort for me to do. It happened because of the force from a circumstance. I was a newly separated woman from my husband. I have fled from my relationship because our marriage seemed irretrievably broken. I asked him for a quiet separation but he disagreed and wanted to keep me while he was actively having an affair. Due to our age, filing for an annulment is not a realistic solution anymore. So, I left him everything and went on my own. This left me with practically nothing but my car, my driver’s license and 2 luggage.
For a while, I stayed with my second daughter’s family, who eventually sold their house because they migrated to another country. I rented a place for myself and lived as a separated woman.
I grieved for all those things that I have never got the chance to even sort out and hold and say “goodbye to”. Those material objects with happy and sad connections with my life. I felt how it was to let go of the things that are so important to you.
Reading this article opened my eyes to all those days and nights that I cried because of the forced downsizing that happened to me, if I was a big loser then now I am a big winner even huge with the kind of woman that I am now.
Downsizing whether it’s by choice or forced, will still end as a gain.


Take photos of items you need to downsize, this may help.

Catherine Vance

Very good article,Margaret. In our 60s, not only do we have OUR stuff, but our
children’s stuff and our parent’s! I remember my mother boxing up each of her six
children’s stuff into memory boxes and forcing us to take them off her hands! I have
a box ready for my own 30-something son, too, something he can cherish or share with his
wife (none yet) and kids someday. We have to do it like any other down-sizing. Stiff upper lip, pick a rainy day and pick one box, one drawer, one closet at a time. I appreciate you
acknowledging you cry through the process because I know I will be a sobbing wreck over some of my past. Love this site, Margaret. You feel like a real friend! Cathy

Marguerite Ferra

Excellent article. Thank you.

The Author

Margaret Manning is the founder of Sixty and Me. She is an entrepreneur, author and speaker. Margaret is passionate about building dynamic and engaged communities that improve lives and change perceptions. Margaret can be contacted at

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