8 TIPS TO DECLUTTER SENTIMENTAL ITEMS
I promise this post isn’t about getting rid of your memories! It’s about keeping the items that truly bring you joy and preserving them in a way that honours the memories and people associated with them. Read on for my best tips to declutter sentimental items so you can enjoy your keepsakes in a clutter-free space.
Decluttering Sentimental Items is Hard
Decluttering keepsakes and sentimental items such as children’s art, photographs, mementos from relationships or experiences, and inherited items, is HARD. These items are reminders of different people, places and times from our life.
The strong feelings attached to these things make it difficult to let them go. Even if we keep them stored in a box at the back of a closet and rarely look at them, the idea of letting go is still daunting.
The good news is there are things you can do to make the process easier. Below are 8 tips that will help you declutter sentimental items so you can enjoy your memories and your space.
#1) An Object Is NOT The Person Or Memory Associated With It.
Your memories and feelings may be triggered by the sight of the object, but they aren’t part of the object itself. The feelings reside in you.
While this may seem obvious, it’s often forgotten when dealing with sentimental items. But once you realize your memories are independent of the objects you associate them with, it’s much easier to let the physical reminders go.
#2 Repurpose Items
Think of ways you can repurpose an item that will honour the memory or person from your past and align with the life and space you have now.
Could you take a photo of the item? Could you digitize your photos? Could you reset the stone from family jewellery to make it something you love? Could you make a blanket from clothing?
I recently repurposed my beloved Buffy The Vampire Slayer pregnancy t-shirt that I continued to wear it for years after my daughter was born. Although I finally accepted it didn’t make me feel good anymore because the fit was so bad, I didn’t want to let it go either.
Rather than leaving it unworn in my drawer, I remembered my daughter needed a new art smock. Now my favourite shirt has a new purpose and I get to enjoy it every time my daughter crafts!
These are just a few ideas. The possibilities are only limited by your imagination.
#3 Keep A Sampling From Collections
If you have a collection from your past or one you’ve inherited, keep a few favourites to represent it and let the rest go. Keep your favourite 5 snow globes from your childhood or your favourite 3 broaches you inherited from your grandmother.
If your grandfather loved to fish, rather than keeping all his gear unseen in boxes in the garage, honour his memory with a shadow box of his favourite items. Place a piece of fabric from a favourite fishing shirt, a photo of him fishing, and a lucky lure in it.
Keeping your favourite 1-5 items almost always invokes all the same memories as keeping the whole collection. And by creating a smaller representation that can be properly stored and displayed, the memories are more accessible for you to enjoy.
#4) Does Anyone Else Want The Items?
If you have family heirlooms, see if anyone else in your family would like them. If not, look into local museums and historical societies to see if they would be interested in the items.
#5) Ask For Help
As discussed in this post, the sense of touch is very powerful. The mere act of holding one of your possessions can cause you to become more emotionally attached to it.
Someone else physically handling your things reduces this reaction and allows you to be more objective. He or she can also help keep you focused and stop you from going too far down memory lane.
#6) Declutter Sentimental Items Last
The sentimental stuff takes longer to go through and the decisions are harder than other decluttering projects. Make the task easier by saving sentimental items for last when you’ve experienced some decluttering successes and built momentum.
#7) Don’t Try To Do It All At Once
Decluttering all sentimental items at once will leave you physically and emotionally drained. Instead, tackle one category at a time: kids’ art, photos, trophies, a collection etc.
Make sure you’ve gathered everything that falls under the category before you begin. As with all decluttering, this allows you to see just how much you have and makes it easier to choose your favourites.
#8) Don’t Get Stuck
Finally, if you’re having a particularly difficult time with an item, don’t let it slow you down. Set it aside in a “maybe” pile to return to later and move on. By the time you return to the “maybe” items, you’ll often have built more momentum and be ready to make decisions.
There’s nothing wrong with keeping sentimental items to honour your past. But if something is buried in a box or at the bottom of a drawer, it’s not honouring anyone or anything. These decluttering tips help you properly preserve your memories so you can actually enjoy them.
For more on decluttering, click here for general tips that make the process easier, here for tips to overcome feeling overwhelmed, here for tips to deal with decluttering guilt, and here for tips to deal with “I might need it someday” clutter. Check back on July 16th when I’ll be ending the decluttering series with easy tips to keep your space clutter-free.
Do you have trouble letting go of sentimental items? Let me know in the comments below.