My parents moved recently. From their spacious three-bedroom town house to their beautiful but less-spacious two-bedroom apartment. It was a good move. Time to be on one level, time to simplify their lives, time to welcome a new era. And time to get rid of “stuff.”

And after nearly 30 years in their old home, boy was there a lot of it. When it came time to pack, the stuff was divided into piles: keep, dump, donate, sell, or pass down. Pottery that once lured them from a store shelf now sat in a dumpster. Souvenirs from long-ago vacations went to Goodwill. Only the stuff of value—usually sentimental—landed in the keep or pass down pile.

After all the piles were set, there was very little that was truly difficult for them to discard. In the end, I realized, we really don’t need all that much. Or even want it.

But since this is a blog on a personal historian’s website, let me reframe this, lest I miss the point entirely:

Which of your “stuff” has the most sentimental value? My bet is there is very little. A great grandfather’s framed photograph? A daughter’s drawing from Kindergarten? A wedding gift from a dear friend?

Usually it is something both beautiful and meaningful. Something that pleases your eyes and heart.

When you write your life story, be sure to share details about your most valuable belongings. Where did you get them? Why do you treasure them so?

What are the stories behind them?

The stories behind these most precious possessions, after all, are really stories about us. Who we are, what we care about, and where we came from.

And these stories—like the book you ultimately write—definitely belong in the keep pile.