Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Spring Cleaning Brings Up Many Memories

DEAR HARRIETTE: While doing some spring cleaning, I have come across quite a few nice clothing items that I forgot I had. I haven’t worn them in years, but they have sentimental value. One dress was given to me by my mother, who is now deceased. Another top was a gift from my great-aunt, who is also gone. There’s a purse that my mother used to carry to church every Sunday. The trip down memory lane has been wonderful, but now I have a sizable pile of items that are just staring at me. I’m finding it hard to give away these items, even though I will never wear them again. How can I let go and still hold onto the wonderful memories that they bring? -- Shedding the Past

DEAR SHEDDING THE PAST: Start by taking photos of the items, and write down your thoughts to acknowledge the importance of the person who gave you each item. Take a page out of Marie Kondo’s book and thank the item for serving you in the past. In this way, you make space to release it.

Consider if there is anyone in particular to whom you might want to give these special items. If so, you can present the items as gifts with a story about how they came to you. If not, find a good-quality thrift store or resale shop that may want to take them. By treating the items with respect and recalling the good memories that you shared with your mother and your great-aunt, you can create space to share them with others who may be able to use them. This is far better than simply having them stored in your closet for years on end.

For more tips on gracefully getting rid of things in your home, read Kondo’s book: "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up."

DEAR HARRIETTE: I recently had a birthday party, and one of my friends gave me a gift that I don’t really like. Normally I would just return it or give it away, but she owns the store it is from. Do you think it would be OK for me to thank her for the gift and ask if I could exchange it for something that better matches me? -- Return Gift

DEAR RETURN GIFT: Because your friend owns the store your present is from, it makes sense that she would welcome an exchange of the gift for something else. Be gracious when you let her know what you would like to do. Also, do know that whatever you pick in exchange could cost more than the original item. If that is the case, you will have to pay the difference. On the other hand, if what you select costs less, do not expect to pocket the difference. It was a gift.

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)