Getting Rid of Sentimental Clutter
Getting rid of clutter is generally pretty straightforward, but getting rid of sentimental clutter is not. While decluttering your home of typical clutter can be an easy afternoon project, tackling things that mean something to you can be a little harder. Items that remind us of people, places, events, or other memories are hard to let go of. Luckily, there are many ways to tackle getting rid of sentimental clutter that lets you still hold on to those memories while making more room in your home.
Give Yourself a Timeframe
Going through sentimental clutter can be very overwhelming. The best thing you can do to avoid becoming stressed and giving up altogether is giving yourself a set time limit across multiple days to tackle the clutter. Keep decluttering sessions under three hours to stay productive and avoid becoming emotionally overwhelmed. If you find that going through these sentimental items is too difficult on your own, ask a friend or family member to assist you in going through everything.
Declutter Something Non-Sentimental
The easiest way to get yourself in the right mindset for getting rid of sentimental clutter is to begin getting rid of non-sentimental clutter. Pick somewhere easy to declutter like a bathroom cabinet or the junk drawer in your kitchen. By getting rid of items with no emotional value, you’re essentially warming yourself up to tackle the task with more difficult items.
Start Small and Sort Through Clutter
When beginning to tackle your sentimental clutter, start with the easy stuff first. Go through everything briefly and find the items that no longer hold value to you. Set them aside to be tossed or given away. As you’re going through your items, ask yourself the following questions:
- If I saw this item in a store today, would I buy it?
- Do I have a plan to use this item? If so, when and how?
- Does this item make me happy?
If you answer no to any of these questions, it may be time to part with your item.
Understand the Difference Between Item and Memory
Items are typically not sentimental in and of themselves. What’s sentimental is their association with a person, place, or time in our life. Remind yourself that your memories are not tied to physical items, but instead, they are tied to you. Do you need to keep certain items in order to keep those memories? Likely, the answer is no. That being said, if an item truly brings you joy, then it is not clutter.
Limit Yourself to One Item Per Memory
If you are someone who keeps a lot of keepsakes, you likely have multiple items for the same event or memory. If you have two souvenirs from a vacation you took, pick your favorite and get rid of the other one. The same goes for collections of items. Keep one piece from the collection to represent the whole and get rid of the rest. Obviously, there is room for negotiation on this one. You should keep more items from your wedding day than from your yearly vacation.
Give Your Sentimental Items to Others
This tip can go two ways. Your items may be sentimental to other members of your family. Reach out to see if anyone would like to have them. This spreads joy and makes it much easier to get rid of, knowing it’s going to someone who can also give these items the love you have. For things like your child’s old toys or clothes, these things may be sentimental for you, but likely not for other family members. The best way to repurpose these items is to donate them and allow another child to create new memories with the items.
Put Your Memories in the Cloud
Living in the digital age means you don’t have to fully sacrifice your sentimental items to reduce clutter. Scan things like photos, children’s art, concert tickets, and other things that hold emotional value. Upload them to a file sharing service like DropBox or Google Photos. This lets you keep them somewhere you can always visit them. If you are ready to get rid of an item but want to remember the things associated with it, you may want to take a photo of it and upload it into your drive. That way, you keep the sentiment and can get rid of the clutter.
Document Your Memories
A great way to let go of an item without letting go of the memories associated with it is to write down what it means to you. If you have an item that has a deep meaning behind it or a great story that goes along with it, grab a journal and write down everything you feel about it. Having this all down in writing and being able to revisit your story may provide more value than the item itself.
Don’t Feel Guilty About Getting Rid of Gifts
Many of us hold onto gifts that were given to us out of a sense of obligation. We feel bad getting rid of something that someone has gone out of their way to get to us. What if that person asks about the gift or looks for it next time they’re at your home? At the end of the day, a gift is yours to do with as you please. If you love the gift, you should absolutely keep it. But, if you have no use for it and are just holding onto it because you feel obligated to, it’s time for that gift to go.
Repurpose Your Sentimental Items
Many times, we place sentimental items in a box somewhere and don’t really revisit them that often. The best way to honor those items is to bring them into your everyday life. Say you have an old jacket that belonged to your grandfather. What if you took the buttons from his jacket and sewed them onto one of yours? That way, you are constantly reminded of someone who meant something to you, and you can make new memories with the item. You can also repurpose jewelry or old furniture into something new that you can enjoy every day.
Designate All Sentimental Items to a Box
Pick out a box that is large enough to fit your sentimental items, yet small enough that it’s easy to set aside and not take up too much space. If you find that the items you’ve decided to keep don’t fit, you may need to go through everything again and pare down. It’s important that you set your rules for how much space you want sentimental items to take up.
Revisit Items You’re Struggling With
Lastly, when you have finished sorting and getting rid of items, take a second look. Revisit items you struggled with and kept during your first round of sorting. Now that you’ve been able to let other items go, do you still feel as strongly about keeping it? Going through another time around will give you the chance to get rid of more items that you weren’t ready to the first time.
Getting rid of sentimental clutter can be emotionally draining, and is certainly not a task many of us enjoy doing. At the end of the day, it’s important to recognize that you are not your belongings. All of the memories and the places and people tie back to you, not these items. While it may be hard to part with the keepsakes you’ve collected over the years, going through this process will give you space to make new memories.
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