Are you trying to figure out how to declutter sentimental items? Read on to get some help.
As we begin the new year many of us are feeling that itch to get our homes in tip top shape. “Organize all the things!” we cry. And while I’m a BIG fan of organizing, I’m an even bigger fan of decluttering. The less you have, the less you even need to organize. We often have way more than we need. Sentimental items pose an even bigger issue.
Because we love our things and we love our people, sentimental items might be the most difficult items to sort through and declutter. For this reason, a lot of the time we put dealing with these items off until we have decluttered everything else in our homes. And for THAT reason, they are often not dealt with at all. I can’t be the only one with a couple of large boxes in the storage room marked “LANDEE’S MEMORIES” that haven’t been opened in years. Well, yours probably don’t say “LANDEE’S Memories” but you know what I mean. 😜
How to Declutter Sentimental Items – The Memories
The funny thing about that is… are my memories actually in that box? My MEMORIES?
No, my memories are in me. They can’t be contained in some cardboard box. Even if that box was lost, I’d still have my memories, wouldn’t I?
In reality, the things in that box might help me to remember some things. But that’s literally all they can do. And oftentimes they don’t even do a good job of doing that. I have dolls that my mom made me when I was little in those boxes. I see them and I don’t have a single memory come to mind that has to do with the dolls. I don’t remember playing with them. I don’t remember receiving them from my mom. Nothing. But yet I keep them because…. because…. ???
Sometimes when we’ve had certain items for long enough or we relied on them during a certain period of our lives, we start thinking of them as a part of us. We start looking at them as “this is me” rather than “this is mine.” And once we go there, it’s as easy to part with it as it would be easy to give up our right arm.
So let’s sit back and examine our “sentimental items” for what they really are.
- They are inanimate objects.
- They have no feelings or emotions.
- Many of them were mass produced in a factory by bored workers on a factory line.
- A lot of them are one of thousands out there in the world.
- None of them are worth more than your peace of mind and freedom.
The interesting thing is that a lot of us keep things that conjure up unhappy memories. Why do we do this? We keep relics from past relationships that were unhealthy or ended badly. Or we keep items from past relationships that were fine but we are in a new relationship now. We keep items from our high school years even if we hated high school. If we really stop and think about what we are doing, this seems ludicrous! Why keep things that help us to remember less-than-awesome times in our lives? Let’s try to rid ourselves of those, ok? Present-day life can be hard enough. We don’t need reminders of past difficult times, hard relationships or unpleasant experiences.
Now let’s address those things that conjure up those happy times, shall we? I don’t believe anything is “safe” and should be kept without examining it first. This includes those mementos we kept from that amazing family vacation, the broach that was our beloved grandmother’s and every.other.thing we have “for the memories.” As I said earlier, the memories are not IN THOSE THINGS. They are in us! And the things simply serve to jog the memories back to the forefront of our minds. But I ask you, how can these items even do that for us when they have been stuck in a box in the attic or basement? Or shoved under a bed or in the back of a closet? They can’t and they don’t. If these things are so loved and adored by you that you can never part with them, then why don’t you honor them as such and put them proudly on display? Then you could look at them every day and be reminded of the happiness you once felt.
Here are some suggestions on How to Declutter Sentimental Items
- Just get started! Pulling your sentimental items out and beginning the process is by far the hardest part. Just get going and you’ll be on your way!
- Take photos of the things that help you to remember happy moments. A photo will serve the same purpose. Get rid of the item itself.
- For sentimental things that you could actually use– USE THEM. Inherited china, silverware, linens and jewelry come to mind. Don’t keep these things in storage for a “special occasion” or no occasion at all… get them out and use them now! How fun to remember Great Aunt Eva as you use her dishes daily! They don’t do anyone any good sitting in your storage.
- For sentimental items that aren’t very useful but are beautiful, pull them out and display them in some way. Maybe a shadow box or on a shelf in your living room. And if it’s not special enough to do that then consider Suggestion #1.
- If you have an entire box or boxes that have all been inherited from one particular person (a grandparent, for example) keep only the best things that represent them for you. Maybe pull out Grandpa’s pocket watch, one of his ties and his Bible and display them somewhere in your home. Or use them! And then get rid of the rest. Those three things would absolutely help you to remember your amazing Grandpa on a daily basis much better than keeping boxes full of his things down in your basement.
- Keep in mind that these things only have meaning because YOU’VE attached meaning to them. That broach belonged to your Grandma at one point in her life– it isn’t your Grandma. Those seashells from your beach vacation happen to be the 5 out of a gazillion seashells on that beach that you picked up one day– they are not the happiness and joy your family experienced on that trip. Your Grandma will always be your Grandma and you will always keep the memories of that amazing beach vacation even if your house burned down and you had nothing. Before going to such an extreme as a house fire, just let those mere representations go and cherish those memories in YOU.
- It’s OK to take a break if you’re feeling overwhelmed. Take a walk outside. Go in another room for a while. Get a snack. Maybe even sleep on it. Come back when you’ve had some time to process and get back in the right mindset.
- Remember that LESS is different than NONE. You don’t have to get rid of everything! Keep the best. Maybe have the goal of going from 6 bins down to 3. Or from 2 bins down to 1.
- Keep in mind that your home should be a sacred space for you and your family…. not a storage space for relics of the past.
- If you come across any item that creates negative feelings, sadness, anxiety or longing… let it go. And with it, let go of those feelings as well.
One more thing to keep in mind… how to declutter sentimental items
One last point I’d like to make about how to declutter sentimental items is in regards to those things that are given to us as we “accomplish” things throughout our lives. Trophies, certificates, varsity letters, etc. These things may very well bring up feelings of happiness and joy in you when you see them. You might remember when you hit that home run to win the game and thus the little league world championship with pride. And you might love looking at your cheerleading uniform and remembering cheering at the high school football games. Or you might come across your Student of the Month certificate from 8th grade and smile. No one would blame you.
However, and hear me out on this, sometimes I think that hanging on to these types of items creates in ourselves the belief that such accomplishments, such “high points” in our lives, such glories achieved are rare and are to be clung to with all our might. We feel like “those were the days” and “oh my, I really was something back then” without even realizing it. And is that a celebration of who you are today? Or of all the amazing things you are going to achieve in the future? No! It’s acting like those were the best years and it’s all downhill from here, people.
I’m here to tell you that those were not the best years you’ll ever have. You didn’t peak in high school, or your 20s or your 30s or your 70s. Your best years are NOW and you need to celebrate that rather than dwelling on the past! Those items were yours. They aren’t YOU. And they for dang sure aren’t who you are today or who you will become in the future.
Ok, today’s therapy session is over. 🙂 Now that you know how to declutter sentimental items, put what you’ve learned into action! If you’re just getting started on your decluttering journey, begin with easier items first (think that you know are junk but just haven’t taken the time to get rid of yet) and work your way up to sentimental items. Decluttering is a muscle that needs to be strengthened before doing the heavy lifting but I know you can do it.
Clear the Clutter & Breathe
This post is part of my “Clear the Clutter & Breathe” email series which is a free email series dedicated to changing our mindsets on all of our stuff and things that are cluttering up our lives! If you’d like to read the entire series and have it delivered to your inbox, you can sign up here!
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