Decluttering: Dealing With Sentimental Items

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Having a less cluttered home allows you to destress more easily and feel more comfortable in your surroundings. When it comes to keepsakes, what do you do? These sentimental items can be tough to part with.

how to declutter sentimental items

Whether it’s a childhood toy or a piece of jewellery gifted by a loved one, these items can represent significant moments in your life. They are tangible reminders of people, places, and experiences that have shaped you into who you are today.

For me…I feel an emotional attachment to items like this.

The psychology of sentimental clutter

Sentimental items are hard to part with, believe me. Though by no means am I a hoarder. I have several meaningful items that I’ve kept and that I either store away or have on display as conversation pieces.

Some treasures I have repurposed. For example, I transformed a cardigan knitted for me by my beloved father into a cushion cover. Yes, my dear departed father could knit and he created beautiful pieces for me, my family and my friends (that’s another story).

Why it’s difficult to let go of such mementos…

Some say the reason is because of the fear of forgetting memories. You worry that if you get rid of the treasured item, you’ll lose the memory associated with it. More or less, it serves as a physical reminder of a past time, and without it, you fear you’ll forget that moment altogether.

The idea that guilt is associated with getting rid of gifts or inherited items is also floated. Even if you don’t have a strong emotional connection to the heirloom, you may feel guilty for parting ways with something that was given to you with good intentions.

It can be challenging to let go of something that was meant to be cherished and passed down through generations.

It’s important to recognize the sentimental items that hold a special place in our hearts, and it’s okay to hold on to them.

The memorabilia I have kept mean a lot to me. But sometimes I think that when I’m gone, they’ll be lost and should I do something with them now. But what?

Preserving memories without the clutter

I keep a selection of items for sentimental reasons. I’m not the perfect declutterer but instead of discarding souvenirs, trinkets and remembrances, I’ve opted to preserve my collection of keepsakes without adding the clutter.

Like me, to honour the memories associated with these items without feeling overwhelmed by their presence in your day-to-day life, you can…

  • Create a designated space for the sentimental items you decide to keep.
  • Repurpose them into something decorative or useful. For example, you could turn an old t-shirt into a quilt or use ticket stubs to create a unique piece of artwork.
  • Revamp them. Be creative with them. Give them a makeover.
  • Store them in a way that is organised and accessible. This could mean investing in storage containers or shelving units or utilising space-saving techniques like vacuum-sealed bags or under-bed storage.

How to let go of sentimental items

Back to the dilemma of what to do with family heirlooms and other sentimental pieces in the event you can’t continue preserving them. Here are some ideas…

You can donate sentimental items to charity or other organizations that could use them.

For instance, you could donate old photographs or letters to a local historical society or museum.

You could also give sentimental items to friends or family members who might appreciate them. They’d make a great gift idea that won’t cost you and you could wrap them to give them that special touch.

Coping with letting go of mementos

Decluttering items you are sentimentally attached to can be quite the emotional rollercoaster.

It can raise a lot of memories and feelings including about people who have passed on or are no longer in your life. I know I am affected that way.

Sometimes the memories are fond, and the emotions positive, but then there’s this feeling of missing the past that erupts because we can romanticise the past and have a longing for it.

Dealing with the emotional attachment

When it comes to dealing with difficult emotions, there are a variety of coping strategies that can be helpful.

  • Take breaks. Giving yourself permission to step away from a situation or task can help you gain perspective and reduce stress.
  • Journaling. Writing down your thoughts and feelings can help you process them and gain clarity.
  • Support from loved ones. Talking to someone you trust can help you feel heard and validated.

Remember, it’s important to find what works best for you and to be gentle with yourself as you navigate difficult emotions.

Mindful decluttering of sentimental objects

Here’s what to know…When you’re going through old photos, love letters, or childhood keepsakes, it’s natural to feel overwhelmed with nostalgia and memories.

But, it’s important to remember that you don’t have to hold onto everything. Take your time and be mindful of what you truly want to keep.

Maybe choose a few items that hold the most meaning and let go of the rest. It’s okay to feel sad or even a little guilty, but remember that your memories will always be with you, no matter what you decide to keep or let go.