Many people find it difficult to declutter and minimalise their stuff and some rooms in your home or types of things are definitely easier to declutter than others. Sentimental items that bring back memories or belong to someone you love, are particularly difficult and is an area where a lot of people get stuck. If you need help, then check out this post on how to declutter your sentimental items.
HOW TO DECLUTTER SENTIMENTAL ITEMS
1. Be in the right frame of mind – If you’re feeling nostalgic, unsettled or emotional then it’s not a good time for you to be decluttering sentimental stuff. You need to be in the right mindset. Positive, thinking clearly and ready to take action.
2. Ask yourself some questions – When it comes to decluttering you should always be asking yourself some questions about what you keep and what you don’t. Do I really need to keep this item? Do I really want to keep it? Is it useful? Do I absolutely love it?
3. How sentimental is the item really? – Take a long hard look at the item with fresh eyes. Does it really remind you of that particular person? Or have you been hanging on to it out of habit? Rather than keeping the actual item, could you consider taking a photo of it instead? Remember that your home is for living in now. It’s not a storage space for things of the past.
4. Baby clothes – Sometimes we hold on to baby clothes and baby shoes because we want to remember what our little ones looked like wearing them. It’s easy to let the quantity of these clothes build up. But, unless you’re going to pass them down to a younger sibling, for example, then they’re probably just going to stay there in the box. Could you take a photo of your child wearing the item and keep just this photo rather than the actual clothes?
5. Keep a digital record instead – Taking photos doesn’t just apply to baby clothes. You could take photos of anything and save these safely for posterity. Think about how often you really look at the item. Don’t you think you’re more likely to look at the photos on your computer instead of crawling into the loft to look at them?
6. Photos as desktop backgrounds/screensaver/home screen – If you’ve taken photos of items that mean a lot to you and you’re worried you’ll forget about them if they’re saved deep on your pc drive, then what about rotating them as desktop backgrounds or screensaver on your pc or the home and lock screens on your phone?
7. Repurpose sentimental items made of fabric – If you have any items that are made of fabric, for example, baby blankets, handmade quilts, lace, christening or wedding dresses etc, perhaps consider cutting out a small piece and making your own quilt (or whatever takes your fancy) out of a collection of these pieces. This way you’re condensing lots of different items into just one into something usable, creative and meaningful.
8. For anything made from paper – Can you display it by putting it into a frame or making a collage out of a collection of items instead of keeping a whole box full?
9. Lose the guilt over decluttering gifts – Don’t get caught in the trap that just because someone gave you a gift, you must keep it. It’s the thought that counts not the actual present. So remember that although they were kind and generous to give you the gift, you’re not compelled to keep. If you’re worried about hurting their feelings, then make sure you say thank you, write a thank you note oozing with appreciation and then get rid of the item (donate/recycle/throw as appropriate). If it’s some clothing for your children, perhaps take a photo of your child wearing it, send that to the giver and then deal with it.
10. Lessen your guilt by giving or donating – If you’re racked with guilt at the prospect of getting rid of an unwanted gift then perhaps you’ll feel better by giving it away to charity rather than just throwing it away. There’ll be somebody out there who needs it and will put it to good use even if you don’t.
11. Pass on to a friend – Maybe a friend could make more use of the item than you. You’ll have found a good home for it with a friend that you trust so no need to feel guilty!
12. Children’s artwork – I’ve written a whole post on this topic so have a read of that if you’re struggling to work out what to keep and how to deal with the rest.
13. Keep the best, throw the rest – If you’ve got a lot of one item in particular then consider just keeping one of it, the best, and saying goodbye to the rest. For example, if you’ve been left with a whole tea set from Great Aunt Mildred, do you need to keep the entire set, or could you just keep one plate or the sugar pot, as a keepsake rather than the whole lot?
14. Photos – Today it’s easier to take photos than ever before. We’re so encouraged to snap away and share photos of our lives on social media that it’s easy to end up with hundreds upon hundreds of photos in no time at all. It’s impossible to keep them all so you’ll need to edit them regularly. Get rid of the ones that are poor quality or don’t mean much and save the rest to your computer. What about older, original photos? I would suggest scanning these and saving them on to your computer too, so they don’t get damaged or fade over time.
15. Keep a digital book – Compile a digital book of some of your most precious photos with suitable captions and illustrations. It will be totally unique and you’ll have this for posterity.
OTHER TIPS ON HOW TO DECLUTTER SENTIMENTAL ITEMS
Don’t start with the sentimental stuff – Decluttering takes practice and it gets easier the more you do it. If you’re new to the whole decluttering process then pick something or somewhere easy to get you started. A good place is the bathroom because you’re unlikely to have any sentimental items in there and there’s usually not too many of each item to get you bogged down.
If you get stuck – If you find yourself unable to part with a particular item then just put that piece aside and move onto the next. It’s ok to sit on the decision for a while if you’re really stuck and come back to it another day.
Storage – When you’ve finally gone through everything and are left with only the sentimental items that you absolutely, positively can’t part with, then you need to sort out how to store them. If they are that sentimental that you can’t get rid of them then you need to at least honour them with being stored properly. Stuffed and squashed in a bin bag in the attic just won’t do. Invest in some big clear plastic boxes to put everything in. You’ll be able to see what’s inside and make sure they’re clearly labelled in case you need to find something or you forget what’s in there.
Take baby steps – Don’t expect to be able to go from novice to expert declutterer from the off, especially when it comes to sentimental items. Do a little bit every now and then. If you’re feeling very emotional for whatever reason then recognise that now is probably not the best time. For example, if someone you love has just passed away don’t even consider decluttering their possessions until you feel ready. Maybe ask someone to help you too.
WHAT IF YOU REALLY WANT TO KEEP SOMETHING?
I love Minimalism and I could talk about the benefits of simplifying my home and my life all day. But, I also know that I can’t turn back time.
Every now and then there’s something I choose to keep just because I love it and it brings back a memory or means something to me.
I don’t care if it’s not Minimalist because the item’s intrinsic value is far more important to me. Look at each item with fresh eyes, ask yourself the important questions and go with your gut.
If you’d like to learn more about how decluttering and simplifying your home can make such a huge difference, please check out some of the links below to my other blog posts on this topic…
- How do I decide what to declutter?
- How to declutter the childrens’ artwork
- How to declutter your home in 30 days