Decluttering Sentimental Items (How To Let Go)
Decluttering When You Are Emotionally Attached
Decluttering sentimental items is hard. These are items that hold memories.
Items that were given to us by loved ones. Items from our childhood.
Belongings that have been passed down for generations.
How many of these types of items are sitting in a storage box in your basement, in a chest in your attic, or in a shoebox in the top of your closet?
Does it bring you down, make you feel sad, or make you feel guilty?
Why is it in a box and not displayed in your house?
These are questions you should ask yourself about the sentimental objects in your home.
Is it clutter or is it an object that brings you joy?
I’m going to be sharing with you all of my best tips for decluttering sentimental items.
Then, I will share my personal experience.
Hopefully, this will help you get rid of those things you are holding onto that have no purpose in your life.
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Why You Should Declutter
Real quick I want to make sure you know the benefits of decluttering.
There needs to be a reason why you are decluttering your sentimental items before you actually do it.
Less Clutter = Less Chaos
First of all, when you have less stuff, there is less stuff to take care of.
Your home becomes less chaotic and you have less to clean.
You also feel more peace in your home because you are not being bogged down by all of your belongings.
Decluttering Has Health Benefits
There are also health benefits to decluttering and the opposite is true as well. Clutter can be harmful to your health.
Deals with Emotional Clutter and Guilt
When you declutter sentimental items you will also be getting rid of some emotional clutter.
You’ll be letting go of pieces of your past and maybe even some guilt.
But the good stuff… those are locked in your memories forever. (Or are attached to things you will not be getting rid of.)
More Room For What Is Important
When you declutter sentimental items you will make room in your home for the items that have a true purpose.
For example, we do not have an area to keep our office supplies and craft supplies.
These are things we use all of the time, but they are all in random places in our home, causing an overflowing closet and items to constantly be on the kitchen counter.
When I decluttered sentimental items from the basement this left open space for me to keep our office supplies.
This is the goal for you as well. Clear up space in your home for what you are actually using today!
Not what you used 10 years ago or what you “think” you might use again one day.
Tips For Decluttering Sentimental Items
Remember You Should Enjoy The Items in Your Home
If you have been keeping sentimental items in a box and have no intention of getting them out, then this is clutter.
If it’s down in the basement because you feel obligated to keep it but will never use it, then this is clutter as well.
Clutter you have grown some sort of attachment to.
If you have been keeping sentimental items in a box, then get them out. Find a way to display them in your home.
This is also a way to determine which sentimental items are really just clutter.
If you feel excited about the idea of putting these items in your home then it is not clutter.
If you want to keep them shut away in boxes then it is clutter and you should really consider getting rid of them.
Give Items Away to Someone Who Will Love It
Maybe you have a family heirloom that has been in your attic for years and you have no intention of using it.
Is there a family member who would love to have it? Give the items to someone who will find joy in the item.
This also goes for selling your items online. If someone is willing to pay for an item you don’t want then they obviously want it or need it more than you do.
Plus, you now get a little extra cash.
Honor the items by bringing them out of storage and using them in your home
If you have a collection of your grandmother’s old china, can you display it somehow?
You don’t even have to use the whole set. Get one plate, make a pretty display and then donate or sell the rest.
I did this with a collection of porcelain dolls. There were 20 dolls sitting in my basement for 5 years.
I took one doll, displayed it in my daughter’s room, then sold the rest.
Before hiding something in the basement for the rest of eternity, ask yourself if there is some other way that you could use this item?
Can sentimental t-shirts be made into a quilt? Can a scrapbook be made? Pinterest is great for ideas like this.
I had a friend who had some coasters that her kids had made her. These coasters sat on her kitchen counter for years.
She always felt they cluttered up the counter but since her kids had made them she didn’t want to let them go.
We searched on Pinterest and found a solution. It was to tie the coasters together with ribbon and hang them on the wall.
This was a great solution. She was able to keep them and they were no longer cluttering up the counter.
Gifts Should Not Equal Guilt
We often hang onto an item because someone gave it to us. If you love the item and use it then, sure, keep it.
However, if you are only hanging onto it because of guilt then it really is okay to get rid of it.
Guilt is one of the biggest reasons for hoarding sentimental items.
Often times the pressure that we put on ourselves about the gifts others give us, is not pressure that would really come from the person who gave it to us.
I’m sure they wanted us to use and love the item, but in reality that doesn’t always happen and most people know this.
Decluttering gifts is okay! You’ll feel better when you let it go.
With a lot of sentimental items, you can save a virtual memory. Take a picture of your kid’s artwork and put it on your computer.
Make sure you have a good back up system.
You can take pictures of anything and keep those instead of the actual item that you will never use.
This can even help you with decluttering old photos. Scan all of your old photos into the computer.
You can even make these things into other memories such as videos.
Just keep in mind that there is such a thing as virtual clutter.
Storage Boxes Are Sometimes Necessary
I understand that there are some things you will never want to part with.
First, keep in mind you will part with it one day, I know that’s hard to hear, but it’s true. Someone at some time will have to deal with all of your things.
However, there is nothing wrong with holding onto certain items.
Getting rid of childhood memorabilia can be hard.
There is nothing like sitting down with an old memory box and going through its contents.
It can stir up memories that don’t come to mind often and remind you of times in your life that you will always cherish.
Do your best to keep these types of items to a minimum. It’s a good idea to have a scrapbook or small box for each person in the family.
This way you can keep everything contained to a small space and not let it clutter up your living space.
I Will Not Push Extreme Minimalism In This Area
A true minimalist would say… You will always have the memories and you don’t need the objects.
To let go of things in your past and those items are holding you back.
I will never push this idea because like I said, there is nothing like looking back on an old box of photographs or reading an old love letter.
I believe in simplicity not true minimalism.
However, I know from experience that a clutter-free home, means a clutter free mind, and a home that’s easier to care for. (Plus, loads of other benefits.)
I know that I will never, ever be able to get rid of my doll, Emily, that my grandmother gave me as a very young girl.
She is dirty and balding and sits up in the top of my closet. She will probably always sit up at the top of my closet, but I won’t get rid of her.
I know she is just a material item and that she brings no real value to my life, but I just won’t get rid of her.
So if this is you, if you have an item like this, don’t force yourself to get rid of it.
I have shown this doll to my daughter and I will do so again someday.
We can talk about my grandma, and share my memories and talk about how much my grandma would have loved her. This is why I keep her.
I have had many experiences decluttering sentimental items. I might not be getting rid of my childhood doll, but I have gotten rid of plenty of other things.
I’m telling you this to reassure you that you will not miss these items. The benefits outway any negative feelings you may have about decluttering sentimental items.
First, it was my CD collection.
I had a lot of CDs. I mean a lot. But I used to spend hours of my day looking up new artist and listening to music that was off the beaten path.
I even met my husband a hole in the wall place where I went to listen to some small bands. (He was the lead singer and guitar player ;))
This box full of CDs started collecting dust in the basement for many years. I would occasionally pull these out to listen to in the car.
There is still something about listening to the whole album and not just the songs that made it to the radio.
But with technology came the ability to listen to music without CDs, hence the dust collecting.
So when our house was in a pretty desperate situation, I’m talking I couldn’t even walk to the laundry anymore, I ruthlessly decluttered and out went the CDs.
I hesitated hard on this one. My husband, who is actually the hoarder in the family, encouraged me to get rid of them and so they went.
I can still listen to any song I ever want with the help of technology. It’s a great thing.
The second challenge I mentioned earlier. It was my porcelain doll collection.
I got a doll every year for Christmas until I was about 20, so did my sister.
It was at that age that we decided to tell mom that we probably didn’t need anymore. I started thinking about what I was going to do with all of these dolls and I had no idea.
When I got married they went into a storage container and went into my basement. They sat there for 5 years.
Again, our house got into that desperate place where I just couldn’t take the clutter anymore. I wish this is the part where I said… so I got rid of the dolls. It’s not.
I held onto the dolls for another year and a half. I couldn’t bring myself to get rid of them. Mostly because of the guilt.
My mom had given these to me. I know she spent many hours choosing the perfect doll for me each year. I loved getting them, I thought they were beautiful.
It felt just so wrong to get rid of them.
BUT… I knew without any doubt that I would never put them out in my house. I would never decorate with them. There was no way to repurpose them.
So when the basement started getting cluttered again. Because that’s who we are. I don’t know why it happens. It just does.
I had to make more room and that meant getting rid of things… again. It was time.
I went through the dolls and kept one to keep for my daughter. It’s sitting up on a shelf in her room.
Then, I put the dolls up for sale and it was hard. I was actually relieved when no one seemed interested in them.
But one day someone was.
I loaded them up and sold them. Handing over the box was weird. I even hesitated before handing over the box of dolls.
The lady who bought them had her daughter with her. When they opened the box they spoke about how beautiful they were and they were truly excited.
They loved them and couldn’t wait to put them in their home. This relieved so much stress.
They loved them. They were going to someone who actually wanted them and was not going to hide them in a box.
It has been such a relief to have the dolls gone. It was a piece of guilt that has been hanging over me for so long.
I do think it made my mom a little sad, but I know she understood. I will always have the memory of those dolls and it was a fun part of my childhood.
You Won’t Lose The Memories
When you get rid of sentimental items you are not getting rid of the memories. They are still there.
I’ve gotten rid of old greeting cards, letters friends wrote to me in high school, artwork from my childhood, the list goes on.
I’ve never regretted one single piece.
My house is less cluttered, its easier to clean, and it gets easier to let go the more I do it. I’m happier with my home. I have learned a lot about material possessions and don’t put much worth in them.
They do not define you. You cannot take them with you when you die. Some of them just bring you down and keep you tied to things in your past.
Sometimes you keep things out of guilt but the guilt disappears when you get rid of the items.
And you don’t have to declutter every sentimental item. Just keep the most cherished.
I promise you are keeping most things out of some weird obligation that you have made up in your own head. You can let it go and you can live clutter free.
Need More Help Decluttering Sentimental Items?
If you are really struggling with a cluttered house. If you need to get rid of sentimental items and have an overflow of material things in your house then I am here to help.
Clutter can actually be very harmful to your mental and physical health.
If you want less anxiety, a home that you love and that’s easier to take care, decluttering is your answer.
I will list a bunch of other blog posts that you can read for free below. You should also consider checking out my ebook, Your Honest Guide to Decluttering Your Whole House In Your Own Time.
OR take my free course… 3 days to a clutter-free bedroom!
Plus, you can download a list of 101 Things You Can Easily Declutter
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