Dear Sara:

Are you sentimental with material possessions, and do you have a hard time getting rid of them? We had my great aunt and great uncle over for supper this evening, and the topic of being sentimental with "things" came up. My uncle said that as he ages, he's finding he is more and more sentimental about stuff he was given over the years. He says it's hard to get rid of things because of the memories the objects are associated with. Personally, when I attempt to rid out, I have such a hard time stuffing things into the bag for Goodwill and letting them go. I feel sick to my stomach with sentimental feelings during the process, but I do feel liberated when I drop it off for good. I even have a hard time getting rid of my daughter's toys. I feel guilty trying not to be sentimental, as if I'm being insensitive and perhaps don't love that person enough to keep and cherish the item. Do you have the same problem? -- Q.M., Canada

Dear Q.M.:

I am not terribly sentimental over things. I've experienced a loss of possessions, and it really changed my perspective about what is important to me. I'm prone to cherishing photos, ornaments and artwork that my children have created. I enjoy them now and I display them, but I plan to gift them to my kids when they're older (if they want them). Otherwise, no, I don't hang on to much of anything. I don't even carry a purse anymore. I loved getting rid of toys in my house. I have four kids, and it was a wonderful parental milestone to reclaim a playroom and make it better suited for older kids.

I don't need material objects to hold on to memories. My little family is my top priority, and I focus on creating new memories and making a space for my family members to live in that isn't cluttered with stuff. Maybe rather than donating family gifts, you could give them to other family members or sell them. It often helps assuage feelings of guilt to know that these items are going to a good home. You don't have to be the family museum.

You explained what your "problem" is pretty clearly. You feel guilty and insensitive. I'd like you to consider that the family and friends who have given you all of these items would not want you to feel burdened by them. Where are all of these items being kept now? If they're stuffed into boxes or closets, they aren't being treated like treasures, and you can live without them. Keep what is useful to you and keep what you absolutely love (some things are worth keeping), but give it a place or space that shows it's important to you. That space can be created when you let go of the things that don't matter. Regarding collections, try to cut them in half to get started. But you'll have the liberated feeling you mentioned if you can get them down to a single favorite item and let go of the rest. You can always take photos of items for reminiscing. Also, it might help if you had a goal. Maybe you've always wanted something and didn't have the space or money. Reward yourself for purging the things that are cluttering your life.

Dear Sara:

Do you have recipes for dishwashing detergent and the Jet-Dry Rinse Agent stuff that goes in the dishwasher? -- Margie, email

Dear Margie:

Vinegar works well as a rinse aid. I do have multiple dishwasher detergent recipes on my community forums that you can try. Visit However, I don't recommend homemade dishwasher detergent, because results vary so greatly and some can actually void your warranty. If your dishwasher is older and you simply want to give a homemade version a try, the recipes that contain citric acid seem to work the best.

photo by fred hsu