Decluttering Sentimental items and your guilt!
If you are on a journey to owning less, then at some point you are going to have to face the challenge that decluttering sentimental items brings about. I want to help release you of some of not only the stuff in your life that clutters your mind and home, but of the guilt that you have from keeping it and from letting go of the stuff! Here is a (not so easy) list to guide you in decluttering sentimental items so that you can feel more free!
When I was growing up, we moved a lot. As a military family, we didn’t get too attached to anything because we knew it was just going to either be put in boxes again or gotten rid of in just a couple of years. As we stopped moving around so much, I started accruing more and more items. But seriously, this stuff would just sit in a box for years untouched. So when we downsized to save money, I had to really consider what I kept in our home. It has been a year and I still am going through stuff and that is okay!
Why do we have a sentimental attachment to objects?
Gah…emotions!!!! I mean, we need them for self preservation and all that scientific mess, but sometimes I wish that they would just go away! End rant.
No, but seriously, emotions help us bond with others, feel loved, feel worthy, and so many other good emotions. It is when we take those emotions and place them in objects, that we end up having issues with too much clutter that takes over every square inch of our storage closets. Sentimental attachment to objects is sometimes due to really big life events (death, birth, love), but sometimes it is as silly as a memory of a fun time at a carnival and so you keep that oversized stuffed bear even though it gives you serious allergies.
List of examples of sentimental items
There are so many things that you might have kept over the span of your life that you may feel some emotional attachment to. Depending on your age and how much of a
hoarder collector you are, you may have just a little or an attic full! Here are some examples of sentimental items that may be lying around your house:
- School books, I mean really, who wants to remember this? Lol
- Love letters, valentines from grade school, cards, or notes from friends
- Remnants of a hobby once loved but no longer in use
- Baby clothes, toys, or other baby gear when you are clearly out of the baby making zone
- Old pictures with people or places in there that you cannot even identify
- Kids art, Sunday school papers, all school work
- Clothes from a fun time in your life that you wouldn’t dare wear now
- Decorations that were handed down or given to you that you don’t love
- Programs from graduations, births, funerals, or similar
How to let go of sentimental stuff
When you are letting go of the sentimental stuff, you need to:
Step 1. Pull out all of the emotionally charged clutter
Anytime that you are looking to declutter anything, you need to first pull out all of the clutter to really review it. Do this one small area at a time. Possibly do your closet, then your bedroom, then the living room. If you have one space of the house that you know houses a lot of the SUPER sentimental stuff, then save that for last.
Step 2. Evaluate what you have
The KonMari method of decluttering is a little, um, excessive, for everyday items, but I indeed feel it is useful for decluttering sentimental items. If you don’t know about her methodology, she encourages everything to be touched and held to discover the emotion that is attached to it. So sit down to one box at a time and go through each piece of decor, each picture or anything else that I listed in the examples of sentimental items and see what emotion it brings you.
Is it sadness, happiness, nothing? If you experience sadness or any other negative emotion, then the item should almost instantly be leg go of. You don’t need that negativity in your life. There is no space! Also, if you feel nothing, then it is probably safe to get rid of it. Sometimes we pack up decor items, but discover a (good and worthwhile) use for them and that is perfectly okay, just make sure that it is not an emotional decision.
Step 3. Go through the box fairly quickly
The goal here is to just get rid of the stuff that you know to be useless and/or has a negative emotion attached to it. I also want you to consider getting rid of at least half of the items from this one box. If you have multiples of something that you like, get rid of at least 1 of the multiples.
Step 4. Set aside the questionable item
If there is something in the box that you are unsure of, then set it aside. This could be something that you want to maybe find a use for, you want to see if your Aunt Sally actually wants the picture before you toss it, or you just need to give it time to discover the emotion. It is okay to set something aside for a short time to see if your mind comes back to it.
Step 5. Close up the box and save for later
I know I suggested leaving the really hard stuff for later, but even the semi-difficult stuff is still hard to get rid of especially if you are new to this decluttering thing. Once you have gone through the box and gotten rid of half of the items, I encourage you to close it up. Leave it back on the shelf for another 3 months and come back to it at that point. This will give you plenty of time to really evaluate if you want to indeed keep those items for good.
Step 6. Come back to the box of sentimental items
You set the box back on the shelf, waited 3 months or more, so now it is time to go through it again. You have had time to really think on it and really, the second time going through sentimental items is not nearly as hard as it is the first time. This is where you really learn how to let go, you have to be incredibly ruthless and honest with yourself. You need to really ask yourself these questions:
- Do I love this?
- Does this bring me a positive emotion?
- Will this be useful?
- Will this stay in the box for another 5, 10, 15 years or more?
Once you have answered these questions, decide if it is really worth keeping.
Step 7. Keep a small token of memory
For those really special and positive emotion items that you decide you want to get rid of, take a photo of them, keep a small piece of it to display, or keep 1 if it is a set. If the item brings you joy, it is perfectly okay to keep it. Just make use of it.
I know this is not an easy task. Believe me, I have gone through my own items with the same discernment that I am teaching you. But hanging on to clutter is not bringing you happiness and fulfillment. I hope this list of tips helps you learn how to let go while decluttering sentimental items that you have hanging around your home. Remember to ask yourself the hard questions, be honest with yourself, and keep the goal in mind! You can do this!!!
So let me ask you, what is ONE super sentimental item that you just can’t get rid of, but it really has no use?
PS, if you are a working mom who is trying get out of just getting by, grab this FREE printable for a weekly schedule!