Poll: What Mementos From Old Relationships Have You Held On To?

Broken heartToday’s column about the girlfriend who hadn’t bothered to box up her ex-husband’s belongings, including his wedding ring, before moving in her new boyfriend, wasn’t as bad as a column from a few years ago about the woman who found nude pictures of her fiancé’s ex-wife. Remember that one? (She then later mentioned in the comments that he admitted to having LOTS of nude pictures of multiple exes). And it got me thinking about the things we hang on to from relationships past. Nude pictures are one thing, but what about vacation photos, love letters, a favorite t-shirt, gifts, etc.? Are you a packrat who hangs on to everything? Or do you ditch mementos from a relationship the minute you call it quits? Poll below.

[polldaddy poll=”5557470″]


  1. I mostly trashed a lot of things that had any “special” memories, pitched them out or gave them to goodwill. I held on to the rings for awhile, contemplating if they would be anything my kids might value someday. I concluded that they would not after a year or 2 & sold them. Being the practical person I am however, I kept some useful stuff. But you would never know it was “Ex” stuff. The pictures were harder, in that I felt bad throwing away family pictures of Dad (the kids still loved him). I compromised by moving a few to our back room/homework room & putting them on a high shelf where the kids can see them if they want, but they are not conspicuous by any means. The rest are off the walls, replaced with pics of the kids, grandparents, etc. There are still pics of us as a family in albums as well, but its a valid part of our past. Throwing them away doesn’t mean it didn’t happen & I have to respect the fact that he is my children’s father also. I found a baseball cleat this summer, just one, that was his. Its been 5 years & I have no idea where it was hiding all this time. Just from sheer laziness, that thing is still in my closet right now. It makes me laugh, my ex has one shoe in my closet!

  2. RedRoverRedRover says:

    I’m surprised at the number of respondents who thought it was disrespectful to keep anything from past relationships. I mean, they were part of your life. They helped make you into the person that your current partner loves today. It seems weird to need to cut every bit of them out. I’d only care if my partner still had feelings for their ex; but if he did, I wouldn’t be with him anyway, so that’s neither here nor there. If the feelings are gone, the mementos are just like any other memento. I have vacation photos that I’m definitely not getting rid of because regardless of the fact that I have exes in some of them, they were still great experiences. Or they’re of me (and him) in amazing locations and I want the picture to remember the place by!

  3. My college boyfriend was extremely special to me and probably one of my most meaningful relationships. I also learned a lot about myself at that time. I have a small box of mementos containing cute cards, a couple photos, etc. He also gave me a monkey that I sleep with to this day. I’m not sad we’re not together and there are no “what ifs.” IDK, it was just a special relationship and my first love and I feel like that’s something to remember.

    I also have a few photos and a couple comfortable T-shirts from my ex-fiance. Again, no what-ifs. Just a couple items to remember that time of my life, which was important to me.

    1. I just remembered. I have two really nice backpacks from two different exes. Actually, both mentioned above. I also have a really nice sleeping bag. Hmm, there’s a pattern of the type of guys I date.

      Both of these relationships ended on good terms, no hard feelings. I just didn’t see the point of getting rid of useful items that are in great condition, and cost quite a bit.

      I’m sure there is other stuff somewhere in my apartment.

  4. allegrofox says:

    My very first highschool relationship was hardly serious – we met in band, hung out at school, went to a couple dances, kissed a few times. Then we drifted a bit and it ended very naturally with no hurt feelings. I still have some things from then – some drawings, songs we shared, a few pictures, because they remind me of a nice time. He got together with his current fiancee shortly after we were “together”, and I’m still friends, though distantly, with both of them – so there are no negative feelings associated with the stuff.
    My next relationship was the first I thought of as “my boyfriend”, and there was a lot more stuff…we exchanged Christmas and birthday and valentine’s day gifts. That breakup was tough, and I don’t have anything left from that relationship, with the exception of a game that I held on to but don’t really use anymore. Everything else I kept in a box for a while, because I couldn’t bring myself to toss it right away – and then every time I went to move the box I’d go through it and get rid of a few things until there wasn’t anything left. I found the last couple of Christmas cards he sent me in the bottom of a drawer in my parents house probably six months after meeting my current boyfriend (over five years ago), read them, and had an immediate “augh don’t want those any more” feeling. They just had no positive associations left.

  5. My acoustic guitar was a gift from my only significant ex from before my wife. I have not felt it necessary to tell M this, as I put in most of the money and my ex gave the rest to get me a good instrument. I have written many more songs for M on it than Ex, not least because the relationship ended about 2 or 3 months after i got it. I also have some his and hers coffee mugs (with the names “Harry” and “Edith” from Palm Springs) from another friendgirl (as in, she was a very good friend but were not intimate), whom M knows all about, and which we still use, as FG and I had, to somewhat ritually represent the 60s suburban lifestyle which we would never quite achieve.

  6. Avatar photo Crochet.Ninja says:

    i kept some things. held onto them for quite awhile, until i was ready to let them go.

    except the nudes i took with him. those i have kept, along with the negatives! sometimes i think i should just chuck em, but they’re sort of a reminder that i’m not as unpretty as i think i am. i was HOT. i just didnt know it at the time lol

  7. findingtheearth says:

    I’ve only really ended up with books or movies lent to one another. I always try and make sure all items are given back, but sometimes some fall through the cracks. I have some gifts, one is a scarf I rarely use. I like to give gifts, not receive.

  8. Avatar photo MaterialsGirl says:

    I have a few mementos from my college boyfriend, but I did a little ‘burning’ of my diary and a bunch of the letters between us when i started dating my now-ex husband. He was a jealous douche so i didn’t want him to stumble across them cause it would have caused problems. I’m not sad that I got rid of them, i would just rather have not done it because I was afraid of someone’s wrath (when we weren’t living together). I have my wedding and engagement rings (i wear my wedding band on my right hand). Haven’t figured out what to do with the engagement ring yet, i DID pick it out and it is my birthstone.. i love the setting too. I might just throw it on once in awhile for fun. The photos from the wedding and other things are in a box and sealed up. Wedding dress I sold.. I have a few mixes I still listen to cause I like them, but I am still having a hard time listening to the Beatles (We had a string quartet play all beatles during the ceremony)

  9. eelliinnss says:

    We kept the stuff. My ex bought me my KitchenAid mixer, my boyfriend’s ex left her golf clubs, which are now mine. We don’t associate any of this with exes.
    We tossed the memories. He had a drawer full of cards with love notes. I had a box of pictures, letters, and trinkets. I would go through it every time I cleaned out my closet or moved, once every couple years, and would reminisce and wonder where people are now. Reading them this last time, before I threw them out, was cool. The I will always love you’s, and the promises of forever… The more I read the more grateful I was that none of those relationships worked out. Moving in with each other, it didn’t feel right to bring that stuff into the new space we were going to build together. So we threw it all out.

  10. Avatar photo veritek33 says:

    My first substantial relationship was also damaging and emotionally abusive..so while I don’t want any reminders of him around, I also can’t pretend I never dated him. Pretty much any gift he gave me the last year of our relationship I sold or threw away. I gave all the cards/pictures/momentos to mom to keep so I didn’t burn them and regret it one day and I honestly have no idea what she’s done with them, and I really don’t care. The only two things I kept were a small decorative tree he bought me in the beginning of our relationship when we went antiquing and a dress that he bought me for a wedding that has good memories attached to it. Otherwise, all that shit is gone. I also did a boudoir photo shoot for him and when we broke up I got the book back, ripped out the page that has a photo of me just wearing his college alma mater t-shirt, and kept the book. He ain’t in it, and I look hot and it cost a fortune. No way am I getting rid of that.

  11. Since my high school ex dropped off everything I’d given him or left him in a box on my parents’ stoop, I did similarly. The only thing I have left are a few pictures (mixed in with other pictures from the time). He got me a tiara type thing to wear for prom and I think I still have that somewhere in my parents’ current house.
    I had some other random things from exes, but every time I moved, I’d find some of them and there was no good reason for whatever it was to take up space, so I’d pitch them.

  12. anonymousse says:

    I am a purger. I threw it all away over time. When I visited my parents house this summer, my sister and I went through my old room and found more photos and other old relationship junk. Trashed!
    My husband doesn’t have anything from his exes either. He’s probably influenced me to get rid of more stuff over the years.
    We don’t keep “stuff,” though. If it’s not useful or important to someone in my house, it’s tossed pretty quickly. Maybe it’s part of growing up with someone who is a borderline hoarder. We just don’t have sentimental attachments to inanimate objects unless it’s an object passed down through the family or something like that. Plus, I just feel lighter without the clutter, or without boxed up things. We have enough belongings and gear without boxes of momentos added in. And we move fairly frequently. That helps cut down on what’s worthwhile to lug around and pay moving and storage costs for.
    Whenever I’m on the fence, I picture the junkyard woman from “Labrynth,” and all her precious things.
    Sometimes my need to purge has come back to haunt me, like donating and giving away all our baby and maternity stuff…only to get pregnant a few months later.

  13. dinoceros says:

    I haven’t had a lot of serious relationships, so I have never gotten many gifts or other mementos. I don’t every keep ticket stubs or the like. I might keep a gift if it was something I like or use, and might keep something like a letter or poem if I have good memories of the person, but that’s about it. I don’t think I’d get rid of photos unless things ended badly and I thought they were terrible.

  14. The relationship I’m in now is the most serious one I’ve been in. But I still have photos on my computer of me with exes, I didn’t delete all of those from my hard drive. And I have a pair of earrings that my ex gave me that I kept, they’re pretty but I do have the association so I never wear them. My boyfriend doesn’t know they are from my ex, if I were to wear them, though. I’m sure a bunch of my boyfriend’s stuff is from his ex because they were together a long time, but he doesn’t have anything visible that invokes memories of her. My boyfriend is in the process of painting a landscape for me for Christmas, and he has painted another landscape for me in the past. I’ve told him that if we ever broke up, I would feel like I couldn’t keep them because they would hold too many memories!

  15. I throw away everything but what physically hurts to chunk – usually within a few days of being dumped. Sometimes I regret that but usually I don’t. Whatever I didn’t have the heart to chunk I’ll hide away, then a long time later I usually stumble on it on accident, feel nothing and throw it away then. I try not to keep anything at all, if at all possible.

    1. After my last breakup everything physically hurt. I couldn’t throw anything out. I put it all in a box and left it at the top of the closet for months. And then one day, when I felt ready, I cracked the box open, tossed all the personal stuff, and sent the rest to Goodwill. By then nothing hurt, everything went (except a couple picture frames, sans picture, because those things cost $)

  16. Nancy Pants says:

    I have some jewlery and some art. Otherwise I don’t keep anything.

  17. I picked the “would you give up an iPhone” one. I have 2 things from past relationships:
    1) a pair of noise cancelling headphones my ex bought me a month before we broke up. I still use them every time I fly.
    2) the first love letter I ever received, from a guy who liked me in 12th grade (we never actually went out because I wasn’t into him like that, but that letter man, was some high school poetry)
    Amusingly, when packing up our last house to move, I found a pair of earrings and necklace in a little box. They weren’t my style at all (and my husband is good at that sort of thing) so I suspected that they were meant for someone else. I showed them to my husband who confirmed that they were a gift he bought for his ex gf, who dumped him before he could give them to her and he didn’t know what else to do with them so he just kept them. For what was by then over 8 years and had already survived his move to my house post-wedding.
    I don’t think its disrespectful to keep stuff from past relationships, but I am ruthlessly opposed to clutter so I don’t usually keep sentimental stuff or stuff without a purpose around. Goodwill and done.

  18. I can’t remember anything I might have from my exes. I got rid of the pictures of my ex before my husband as he was horrible but there are still photos of the ones before that in my albums. If they gave me anything practical over the years odds are I still have it but mushy stuff probably got purged just because I’m not remotely sentimental. If my husband and I split up you’d better believe I’d keep the softball bat he bought me for my last birthday, I have been kicking arse all season with that thing. 😉

    1. Oh and to add he still has pics with his ex, NBD. No nudes though so that saves me a text at least….

  19. Bekahtravels says:

    Nothing, but I didn’t date much before I got married. So my only serious relationship with mementos is the one I am currently in.

  20. laurahope says:

    I have a photo album (tucked away) of all my old boyfriends. What’s wrong with that? They were part of my life. I also still have gifts they gave me–some jewelry and a belt. I don’t see the big deal. I don’t still harbor feelings for any of them.

  21. I have kept most things (probably more than half)…but I’m not a packrat either. Other things I’ve donated/recycled. But for the most part, I separate the meaning with the person from the item. And for those really personal gifts (like letters, photos), I have them in a box somewhere. I think it will be a trip down memory lane to shown future children/grandchildren things from my past (not just ex stuff), along with stuff from my husband! I still have plenty of things my parents gave me even though I don’t have a relationship with them. It’s all a part of me and it rarely occurs to me who they’re from. My husband has things from exes too, but he only kept the innocuous stuff like video games, movies, and threw everything else away.

  22. I purge. When I left my ex husband, I knew his new girl would be moving in. I threw out all the food in the fridge, all the toiletries, got rid of all decor, all the spices, pretty much everything I ever bought to make our life better in that place.

    I didn’t keep anything from our relationship that was “special”, just the basics kitchen stuff, etc. I even threw out the sheets, pillows, blankets, etc.

    Yes, being with him will always be a part of my past, and he’s left enough emotional scars that made me stronger. I don’t need anything from that relationship. I even deleted all the digital photos I had (including some with friends), because it was better not to have them. I think I kept one thing though, a headphone case, because I use it for my bobbin spools for my sewing machine. I’ll be replacing that soon with a nice small cookie tin.

  23. Anonymous says:

    I have a CD from the first boy I ever dated, but only because I like the music.

    For the first two years we were together, my husband had a little figurine of a dragon from one of his exes. It was gaudy, but he collected dragons, and it never bothered me. He eventually got rid of it because he isn’t sentimental.

  24. Avatar photo Cleopatra_30 says:

    I have a bouquet of fake blue lilies from one of the guys I had a summer fling with, it was in reference to my screen name from POF. And I didn’t ant to throw them out, just felt it was a waste, but I have them stuffed in an old dresser in my parents basement. And then I have a very nice necklace from my recent ex, won’t be giving that away any time soon! It is a silver star with a piece of a meteor from Argentina (thank you I F***ing Love Science!).

    1. A piece of meteor?! So cool. Yeah, I wouldn’t be getting rid of that either!

      1. Avatar photo Cleopatra_30 says:

        I know right? I love space stuff, and it is so unique!

  25. suzyinthesky says:

    I’ve got a shoe box with little mementos (notes, cards, letters, a few photos, drawings, little gifts and other tiny things that were special to me at the time) that I have no intention of throwing away. I never take it out except to put new stuff in there every blue moon. I think that when I’m very very old and wise and wrinkly it will be cool to be able to take this box out and look through it. And think back to when I was very very young, naive and beautiful.

  26. snoopy128 says:

    I have a purse and a necklace that I kept and still use from an ex. Both were name brands and with both I was actually ticked that he spent that much money on me for them (back in our broke college days). But they don’t hold any significance to me. I stopped wearing the necklace for a while after we broke up, mostly so he wouldn’t get the wrong idea, but now I wear it every now and then.

    1. for_cutie says:

      Similar story, my college boyfriend bought me a really nice, unique ring and paid to ship it for my birthday when I studied abroad. I was surprised he spent so much, and then shipped it half way across the world (yet never once bought a phone card – remember those! – to call me, which is a whole other story). I really loved the ring, but didn’t wear it for the memories. Two years later my aunt was getting married and needed something blue (it was sapphire) so I gave it to her to wear for her wedding. I was glad it went on to have a positive sentiment for someone I care about. I still think of that ring from time to time though.

  27. Avatar photo muchachaenlaventana says:

    I keep little things, notes and what not from the more important relationships. My one big relationship before the one I am in now, I gave everything back to him and I regret that a lot. By everything, I mean the 300+ postcards, love letters, poems, jewelry, drawings, music, etc. I just knew if I had it around, I would never have gotten over him. A few things missed the great purge and when I stumble upon them I smile and it reminds me of that time in my life when I was young and crazy in love. My boyfriend now has a box filled with little mementos from ex girlfriends, he keeps it in his attic, and it is the same thing. I think its natural to have those things laying around, especially from the important relationships.

  28. I have bits and pieces from old relationships all over the place. Some are well integrated into my day to day life. Some are packed up in shoeboxes and hard-drives here and there. Mostly, I keep things that contain fond memories of younger me and wherever I was at that point in my life. I’m a bit of a sentimental packrat, especially with old cards and letters. They aren’t pertinent to my life now, but I want them to look back on when I’m old and drunken naked pictures are likely completely off of my horizon =)

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