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How to Declutter Sentimental Items

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In my quest to live a simpler, minimalistic life I have found a very tough part of the decluttering process: sentimental items. I am someone that keeps everything, for example, I still have my birth announcement cards. I have no problem throwing out the easy decluttering items like magazines, unworn clothes, and Tupperware lids. For the last few months I have been working through it and here are the best tips on how to declutter sentimental items from your home.

How to Declutter Sentimental Items

1. Get a Clear Understanding of How Much You Have

I thought my Memory Box was just one small plastic shoebox. Yeah, I was wrong. Once I finally decluttered my office and my craft area, I realized I have a lot of sentimental items. Plus, there were things here and there in random totes. I got all my things together in one area and realized, I had way too much. 

2. Only Go Through So Many Items at a Time

Getting rid of sentimental items is tough, especially if you are going through items of a lost loved one or a broken relationship. I had an abusive past and have had a few significant losses in my life. Going through old letters, cards, and other little trinkets brought back emotions that I took the time to go through. 

Getting rid of some items provided healing and letting go of the clutter felt good so I keep going through things. When the sentimental items get too hard I switch gears to another room like the kitchen or office. 

3. You Can Ditch the Item without Forgetting the Memory or Person

My late friend, Jeanette gave me a large, beautiful stuffed Mickey and Minnie set. I would sometimes display them at Christmas time because of the snow print on their outfits. Other times there were kept in a bag and stuffed in a closet. Overall, I did not use them but every time I tried getting rid of them I thought about her. In my heart, she is there and I know she wouldn’t want me keeping things that prevent me from living my best life. Recently, Mickey and Minnie made their way to the thrift shop and I have more space in my closet. 

4. Digitize the Item

I had some special toys, school papers, and items that I didn’t want to forget. I just scanned or took pictures of. For example, I had a cute hand-painted room sign that said “April’s Room”. Well, since I am married I share a room and cutesy teddy bears are not part of my decor so it just became something stuffed in a box. I snapped a picture of it and donated it. 

5. Give to a Family Member that Might Want It

I received a whole tote of vintage family pictures from my husband’s mom. I was planning on making a scrapbook, the crafty one. Now I am into simple scrapbooks made with MixBook since they are smaller and a lot less expensive to make. After I finish scanning all the pictures, I am going to be handing down the pictures to my husband’s little sister. 

6. Keep One of a Set

In high school, I had a penpal from the Philippines. We wrote letters to each other for years even during my first few years of college. I kept almost every single one them. I finally decided to keep 2-3 and let the others go to the recycle bin. I have done the same with cards and other trinkets and collections. 

7. Evaluate the Value of Your Items

Now, this step was a lot harder for my husband than me. Some things are memories and some things are just things and/or trash. This is especially true of pictures. Back before digital photography became popular you may only have 10 of the 24 pictures that actually came out. Go through those and toss blurry, over or underexposed pictures. 

Does the beautiful card have a message or does it just have a name signed at the bottom? Keep the one with a message. 

8. Don’t Get Rid of Everything

If the item still makes you smile and gives you joy, keep it. There are several items I will not part with because they mean so much to me even if I don’t display them. That does not mean I am not embracing a minimalistic lifestyle, it means I am human. I have so many Disney items I will not get rid of, they bring me joy! 

9. Ditch the Guilt

While you declutter sentimental items, you may feel pangs of guilt. Ditch the guilt. Your loved ones would not want you to feel guilty about getting rid of something they gifted to you. I can’t think of anything I have gifted someone that I would be mad if they got rid of. 

10. Donate

Of course, with my love of Disney, I need to tie in Disney into this post. Andy in Toy Story 3 gave us the greatest example of donating treasured childhood memorabilia. Andy donated his precious, well-loved toys. He could have kept them up in the attic, collecting dust and not giving anyone joy. Andy donated his toys so that Bonny could have joy. Do you have some sentimental items that would give others joy? Donate them! 

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Linda Turner

Sunday 28th of April 2019

I really do not like to do away with things so I keep them. I am 71 and in good health - when I am older I might part with things I hold on to at this time.


Monday 29th of April 2019

If the items still bring you happiness and joy then it's fine to keep. With me, the amount I was saving was causing me anxiety. I had too much. Now that I have less I can enjoy the things that really matter more.