Sentimental items of clothing are a tricky business, whatever method of evaluation you use. With the KonMari method you hold an object and assess whether it ‘sparks joy’; you may be tempted to pack all your items away and keep only what you use. First of all, let’s define what we are talking about. Sentimentality is a form of nostalgia, tenderness or sadness towards someone or something. What we are talking about, really, is the concept of clothing having sentimental value:
sentimental value: noun, the value of an object deriving from personal or emotional associations rather than material worth. – Oxford English Dictionary
Whether sentimental items of clothing work well in a capsule wardrobe, or can even be included in one, is an interesting dilemma. There are degrees of ‘value’ that an object can have. A wedding dress or suit is a different proposition to a wedding ring, for example. What we wear can have a peculiar level of importance attached to it. Even if you took the extreme approach, and wore the same outfit everyday, that outfit is imbued with a level of singular importance. It is possible to break free of this paradox, just as it is possible to really hold on to certain items.
Possible examples of sentimental items of clothing
- Old, favourite garments that may be past their best. That t-shirt that’s worn through in places, or a jacket with more holes than working pockets.
- Outfits worn to important, and positive, life events (e.g. weddings, proms, graduations etc.)
- Items that are sentimental, but ultimately just cause clutter, because they are never used, or are crowded out by everything else.
What sentimental items of clothing do I have?
First of all the idea of even having ‘sentimental items’ implies there has been a level of categorisation of your possessions. Something like the KonMari method is made effective because you categorise things – Clothing, Books, Paperwork (etc.). Inevitably there are sub-categories, and one of these could broadly be considered ‘sentimental items of clothing’. The affliction of a true, compulsive hoarder is that every item, however insignificant, unused and unloved, is imbued with some kind of sentiment or attachment. That aside, I think it is important to look at concrete examples from my own wardrobe:
1. The suit I wore as a best man.
One of those days I will never forget is being the best man for my oldest friend. The suit I wore still fits me. I have even worn it since, both to a wedding reception and to a christening. My friend wore the trousers and a shirt/tie combination to one of our best friend’s weddings. To me this counts as a sentimental item of clothing that has still got some use. The fabric is a lovely, warm tweed. The wedding day itself was very warm, and we didn’t exactly bake. For my own wedding, next year, I have always planned to wear an outfit that I can wear over and over again. More on that in the future, perhaps!
Once I cannot fit into the suit, or it does not flatter me any more, I will let it go. But for now I see it as an option for events, one with the most positive of memories.
2. My grandfather’s watch.
My grandfather and I didn’t have the greatest of relationships. He was a very frustrating, if very talented, individual. All that changed, however, when he stayed with us during his terminal lung cancer. He had previously lived with us, for a year I guess, when my grandma died. I was around 12 then. When I was looking after him during the day that summer, with my parents at work, I was a university student, transitioning into my final year. We bonded over jazz, history, and the BBC documentary Wild China.
My granddad spent a great deal of his life repairing, servicing and even creating clocks and timepieces. He was a big reason why I even had watches as a child, as he would pick up cheap, quartz pieces from local markets and dealers (I particularly remember a white plastic, black-and-red dialled, Ghostbusters watch. Which was cool, but I still haven’t seen the film, 20 years later). Looking back, I am so glad that I was able to reconcile with him, and develop a more evolved relationship with him. We still had our moments, when he took things the wrong way, or when I got frustrated with his refusal to accept a hearing aid (combounded by the fact he had lost much of his sight, because of sunlight directly shining on his face at the workstation in the factory he worked).
I’ve always liked wearing a watch. And not in a way that an advertising-driven menswear publication like Esquire, GQ or the like promote. I realise that a whole generation may, now, rely on their phones as their watches. Why carry around / own another item that fulfils this function? I got my first mobile phone when I was in my teens, not tweens. And before that I wore a watch, even when I was in infants/primary school. So to me it is not a contrivance to wear a watch, rather something I am genuinely used to on a daily basis. After he died, my main keepsakes from him were his jazz vinyl records, an antique samurai sword, and this Seiko watch (above and below). Little did I know but this is actually somewhat of a collector’s piece.
The ‘/84’ signifies that the watch was issued to the RAF in 1984, with the model being issued from ’84 to late-1990. The arrow symbol at the centre signifies it as government property. Incredibly, watches like this have had their price tracked for years by dedicated individuals.
What I like about this item is that while it is technically expensive, and it is definitely a lovely watch, it doesn’t have the ridiculous, conspicuous consumption-based flash of most watches regarded as desirable or expensive. But most of all I am reminded of the complex role my granddad has had in my life.
I do not necessarily need this item to bring up those memories. But it is nice to have something useful, that nevertheless has sentimental value.
- Utilise Marie Kondo’s “Spark joy method”, so that you focus on what to keep rather than what to “discard”, “throw away” or “chuck” (a very harsh-sounding description for the necessary editing that it takes to live a meaningful, ordered existence.)
- Develop the attitude that ‘I am not my stuff’ . This is key. The items I count as sentimental items of clothing in my collection have some kind of use associated with them, not just as triggering memories. I can’t claim to ever have had to get rid of something like a wedding dress, probably the most common item that comes up in discussions about sentimental value and clothing. But to me whatever event or memory it is associated with, the clothing is not the sole vestige of that memory.
- Repurpose or preserve.
- Simply store. That is, if you have the space, the means, and crucially the recognition that storing something away is often about putting off the whole process of discarding/repurposing/reusing.
- Prepare for the victory lap of joy, to reuse the item one last time, so you can finally banish that nagging sense of neglect, and you can then declare that have finally dealt with the most difficult, powerful kind of clutter: sentimental items.
Featured image from Pixabay