We all know decluttering can be overwhelming. We have all been there. Getting rid of things feels like such a task at times. Mostly because humans have the tendency to make attachments with physical things. Some more than others.
And while decluttering is hard, decluttering items that are sentimental is where the real struggle lies. So much so that we often tend to ignore decluttering the sentimental items. And these are usually the things that keep piling up and creating clutter.
And I am not talking about those of you who have emotional attachments with every single thing they own. Seriously. I have seen people being sentimental even about every piece of clothing they own. These people usually find it difficult to let go of stuff.
But I am talking about other sentimental items that hold emotional value for the rest of us, normal, sane people. Things like gifts, wedding favours, photo frames, awards you won in kindergarten, paintings that your kids drew and what not.
In this post I am sharing 9 Useful tips, that will make it a little easier for you to let go of these sentimental things that are just creating clutter in your house.
Of course not everything that is of a sentimental value to you is clutter.
WHAT IS sentimental clutter?
Sentimental clutter are mostly things that are of no value or use to you now. But you simply keep them around because you have sentiments attached to these things. It could be a piece of clothing, things from your childhood etc.
Let me give you some examples.
Are you one of those people who have collected every card they have ever received? Even the ones back from their school days? I know some people who even collect cards and notes that come with bouquets.
But do you really need all these cards? How often do you look through them? Would you be better off with just keeping a few that you actually really cherish. And perhaps you can let go of cards from your childhood that one of your classmates gave you for your birthday.
WHY DO YOU NEED TO declutter sentimental items?
While it’s totally okay to keep some of the sentimental items and even displaying them if they bring you joy. The problem comes when you simply have too many.
Having too many sentimental items often indicates an underlying issue. Maybe you are a hoarder. Maybe you form attachments with every other thing. And you need to declutter the sentimental items especially when they start having a hold over you and when they start holding you back.
What you need to understand is, decluttering sentimental items will allow you to be truly able to enjoy the items that you do decide to keep. And it will make it even easier to find the things when you want to see them. you might even be able to display them because there won’t be too many. You would not need to dig through boxes and boxes of “stuff” from your childhood to find something that means a lot to you. You would simply be able to find it because you’d know exactly where everything is.
Sentimental clutter is costing you:
Moreover, you need to declutter sentimental clutter because whether you accept it or not, it is costing you. Sentimental clutter can cosy you space, money, energy, relationships & even your mental health.
Do you ever wonder why people need bigger homes these days? It’s usually not because they need more “living” space. But because they need for storage space. Accept it or not, it’s true. We are simply needing more space because we have so much stuff.
And a lot of this stuff is usually stuff from your childhood that we *think*we value and might even need some day. But you never really do. So you are basically paying for a bigger house to be able to store things that you’ll probably never need.
Bigger houses obviously cost more. Try dividing the total cost of your home by square foot. You are paying that much money per square foot for your storage space as well.
But that’s not all the money that storing things is costing you. Of course there is the per square foot cost, but there is also the cost of storage bins. And we all know you keep buying more and more.
Storing so many things is quite time and energy consuming, especially if you are someone who loves tidying and loves to keep their house clean. The more stuff you have, the more time and energy you have put into cleaning it. Even if you clean out your garage only once or twice a year.
And if you clean very month, even more so.
Yes, storing a lot of sentimental clutter can affect your relationships too.
Especially when your partner or spouse absolutely despises the clutter. You both have to live in the same house after all.
And having too much sentimental clutter can be one of the reasons for arguments between you two. And they aren’t coming from a completely irrational place either.
Having too much clutter in the house can affect your mental health as well. And if your clutter is affecting your partner’s mental health, then is it really worth it?
Emotional & Mental Health:
When you have a lot of sentimental things that bring back negative memories of someone, that’s when clutter starts affecting your mental and emotional health too. If you have too much stuff of people who have passed, and you get sad every time you come across these things, then are they worth keeping? Or is it time for you to let go and move ahead?
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TIPS TO make decluttering sentimental items easy:
No matter how much sentimental clutter is affecting you, decluttering sentimental items can still be quite difficult. It can be difficult to decide which items to keep and which items to let go. Moreover, letting go of sentimental items can feel like letting go of memories from your past, so it can be overwhelming.
But here are some tips that will make decluttering sentimental items a little easier for you. So let’s get right in, shall we?
#1: Get right into it:
Just like I said right now, you will have to get right into it. Otherwise you’ll probably never get around to doing it. Because the longer you keep procrastination, more difficult it keeps getting. And anyway, taking the first step is often the hardest step.
And if you can’t get into it right away, schedule an appointment. Set a time and date and make a promise to not miss that appointment, no matter what.
#2: Take it slow:
I know I juts said get right into it. And while that’s true. You need to start one day and it’s better you start sooner rather than later. But, when it comes to decluttering sentimental items, you need to take it slow and give yourself enough time. Because when you are dealing with sentimental clutter, you need to address all the emotions and memories associated with these things. It can be overwhelming for sure.
So give yourself the liberty to take it slow. If you are really struggling to decide whether to let go of an item or not, set it aside and move on. And you can revisit it later. More over, because it’s sentimental items that are in question, you need to go at a pace that’s good for you.
Do not let me or anyone else tell you how fast or slow you should be decluttering. You do not want to make hasty decisions while decluttering. You will end up regretting them later. So, take your time and declutter at a pace that suits you.
#3: Consider more sittings than one:
Dealing with emotional and sentimental clutter can be quite the task. And even more so when you are the kind of person who is highly sentimental about things. If that’s the case, allow yourself more than one sitting.
And if you have a lot of sentimental things then it can just be too much to get done in one sitting. Let’s say you have 10 boxes of sentimental stuff, you can definitely do 10 sitting for them. That’s totally upto you.
But even when you are dealing with just one box, you might need to do multiple sittings. So in one sitting, just allow yourself to feel all the feelings. Maybe you are decluttering photo albums from your childhood, take your time with each album. Re-live those happy memories, remember the good times.
And of course there won’t all be good memories. Sometimes you will find yourself sitting on the floor, surrounded by boxes, crying and struggling to declutter and let go. And that’s because letting go of things can be difficult even when we associate negative feelings with something. If your childhood wasn’t particularly a happy one, you might still have trouble letting go of the albums. Because it feels like letting go of a part of yourself.
So it’s a good idea to do it in multiple sittings.
#4: Find another way to preserve the memories:
We often find it difficult to declutter sentimental things because we associate memories with them. Letting things go almost feels like letting those memories go. So maybe you could find a way to preserve those memories. If you have golf clubs that your grand father used in his lifetime, ask yourself do you really need to keep the clubs or could you maybe simply keep a picture of him with the clubs.
I think photos (within reason) are one of the best ways to preserve the memories. And they take up so little space that the actual things. But, do you need 50 photos from your first birthday? Definitely not. I think that’s the problem we have these days too. We click so many photos every single day that we forget to live in the present. And we think we are taking the photos to preserve these memories, but then there are just too many that you never actually go through them.
So, photos, within reason, are the best bet. But there are a lot of other ways too. Maybe instead of keep an entire collection of china dolls that your grandma once had, you could keep one or two that were her favourites.
#5: Consider whether you can use the items without adding clutter:
If you could use some of the items than keeping things in your garage, consider that. Maybe you have your grandmother’s china, but is it really serving you sitting in a box in your storage? Maybe you could use that on the daily instead of just keeping it saved for special occasions.
That way you could use it everyday and be reminded of her, even though you’re serving your regular pasta on a week night. It doesn’t have to sit around in your garage only to be brought out once a year for thanksgiving.
But when you are deciding to use the items, make sure they are not adding to clutter in your house. If you already have more dishes than you have the space, and then you’re considering of using your grandmother’s china too, then that’s just going to add clutter. Instead, think if you could let go of some other items. You only need so many dishes.
#6: Use as decor:
Instead of having sentimental things in boxes, maybe you could use them as decor? Have them as display decor items around the house instead of buying generic home decor items from stores, that makes every other house look the same.
These sentimental things will add a unique touch to your house and you will be decorating your house with things that actually mean something to you, right?
BUT, don’t think that just because you can display the items, you should display as many things as you have the space. Display only the things that are truly special, otherwise you’ll just be shifting the clutter from one place to another. And it will add even more visual clutter to your house.
#7: Ask someone to help you declutter:
It’s probably going to be easier to declutter sentimental things when you have someone to do it with you. So maybe ask a friend to help out. They will be able to keep you on track and help you when you’re having difficulties in letting go too.
When we have someone else ask us “why do we intend to keep something” , we have to be more accountable and they’ll be able to see through our excuses as well, if they’re completely irrational.
So ask a friend to help you declutter and give them instructions to ask you if you can let go of things. And if you say no, then to further ask, what are your intentions in keeping something?
It’s very much like having a workout buddy who keeps you accountable. And having wine with a girl friend, while decluttering can be quite a healing process too if you approach it with a positive attitude.
#8: Ask yourself why you’re keeping something:
Ask yourself if you’re keeping something because it hold a special value to you, or you have some other reasons. And if you are not letting go of something because you feel obligated to keep it, or you will feel guilty of letting it go, then allow yourself grace. Tell yourself that this is your home and you are allowed to only keep things that you truly love.
This is especially true when you’re dealing with gifts. But I read an advice a few years back that has really helped me, when it comes to decluttering gifts.
See, a gift was given to you to make you feel good, and if it’s sitting in a box in a garage and adding to clutter in your home, then it’s not serving it’s purpose. And you shouldn’t feel guilty about letting it go. The person who gave you that gift would never want you to feel burdened because you HAVE to keep it. They’d want you to be happy. So, free yourself from the guilt.
Of course you don’t have to throw it away. You could either donate it to a charity, a thrift store or maybe even gift it to someone else. That’s totally acceptable too.
#9: Ask why are you saving something:
Sometimes people will have the most absurd reasons for keeping sentimental clutter. And a common one is that they’re keeping and saving it for their kids. Because one day, when their kids grow up, they’d want to have it, MAYBE.
So ask yourself why are you keeping something?
Of course if there is no clear reason, then you’re simply keeping and saving something that doesn’t hold a lot of value to you. You are simply keeping it because you do not want to deal with the decluttering process and you keep telling yourself that you might need it someday.
And if you are saving something for your kids, ask yourself “Would your kids value it when they grow up?” Or even easier, ask yourself how would you feel if your parents gave you something like that? Would it be something you’d cherish or would it simply be something that will stay in your garage and add to your clutter.
#10: Remind yourself that your home is a space for your present life:
While decluttering sentimental items, you will definitely feel the urge to keep things and not let go. But you need to be constantly reminding yourself that your home is a space for your present life and not for your past memories.
And by decluttering, you’re allowing yourself more space to enjoy your present life and make new memories. And then there’s a thing about living in the present, right?
Holding onto so many things from the past that it starts creating a burden on your present, maybe emotional burden or monetary burden(remember the cost of storing things per square foot), it’s never worth it.
#11: Revisit & repeat:
Remember that you don’t have to declutter everything at once. And decluttering is a process that take time and that takes consistent efforts. So don’t declutter and forget. Revisit these sentimental items (the ones you decided to keep) and see if there is something you can declutter.
When you revisit, you’ll not be on the same emotional roller coaster as you were the first time. And maybe that will make it a little easier for you to let go of some more things.
#12: Do not add more sentimental clutter over the years:
Yes, your are human. And yes you still form emotional attachments to material things, But remind yourself that these are not the things you should be associating your emotions with anyway. There is no real need to be clicking 100 pictures on every single birthday. We all know we never look at them again. So make conscious efforts to reduce the amount of sentimental clutter you create over the years.
Of course it’s not going to be easy, but you need to make these efforts to train yourself to live in the present and not think about preserving every single moment. Because the fact is, when you are busy thinking about how to preserve a memory, You’re actually missing out on the things happening in real time.
And that’s it. All the tips that will make decluttering sentimental things a little easier. But you must remember to be gentle and kind to yourself. Give yourself time and space to deal with emotions.
Yes you have to be rational when you’re deciding to keep things, but if something makes you way too sentimental and you’re not ready to let go just yet, then don’t.
These things take time. And even if you declutter only a few items, it’s still progress. And it’s still something that needs to be celebrated. 🙂