Dictionary editors have missed the point when it comes to defining “keepsakes”. Here is my definition along with the reason they are a downsizing challenge.
Let’s start with some traditional definitions:
“A small item kept in memory of the person who gave it or originally owned it”
~ Oxford Dictionaries
“Something kept or given to be kept in memory of a person, place, or happening.”
“Anything kept, or given to be kept, as a token of friendship or affection; remembrance.”
~ Dictionary.com (Random House Unabridged Dictionary)
“A keepsake is a small present that someone gives you so that you will not forget them.”
“A keepsake is a physical object that is used to help you remember.”
~ Collins English Dictionary
“A small present, usually not expensive, that is given to you by someone so that you will remember that person.”
“Something that helps you remember a person, place, or occasion.”
Example: “Her aunt gave her a little wooden elephant as a keepsake.”
~ Cambridge Dictionary
The standard synonyms also don’t cover the depth of meaning in the word keepsake. Typical synonyms include: souvenir, symbol, token and reminder.
Here’s my suggested definition:
A keepsake is the blending of an emotion, an object and a memory of a person, place, or event.
~ Paul Ferri
A keepsake creates an emotional connection between a person, a object and another person, place or event. In other words: Keepsake = Emotional Memory + Object
The sequence is: Sense an Object ⇒ Recall a Memory ⇒ Invoke an Emotion
“Sense” can be any of the five senses: see touch, hear, smell, taste.
In its simplest form, a keepsake is an emotion that is evoked when sensing an object associated with a person, place, or event. That’s why professional organizers often have challenges when helping clients downsize. They are really dealing with emotions, not just objects. That is why it is so easy for the professional and family members to consider discarding the item that is important to the downsizing person. The object itself lacks emotion and it lacks memory. Therefore it has no meaning to anyone other than the owner of the keepsake. Objects don’t have emotions. People do.
The definition that I believe gets closest to the emotional aspect of a keepsake is this one suggested by LovePopCards.com.
Keepsakes are tangible tokens that connect us across generations and provide comfort, happiness, and security.
However, I believe keepsakes themselves don’t provide any of these benefits. It is the memory of a time and place when we originally felt those emotions that provides a way to experience them again indirectly. It is the person with the memory who feels the emotions. If there is no memory, there are no emotions.
What is your experience with keepsakes?
* You may notice some Canadian spelling in these posts. The words may look odd but that’s how we spell them. We’re used to it.
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Unless otherwise credited, all posts are happily authored with a quill pen …
Paul Ferri, Broker, ASA (Accredited Senior Agent)
RE/MAX Unique Inc. Brokerage*, Toronto, Canada
*Each office independently owned and operated.