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Make Space To Declutter The Sentimental Stuff

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Declutter the sentimental stuff you have in boxes

In the world of decluttering, the sentimental stuff is usually the hardest. Memorabilia, and by that I mean any item you have saved for sentimental reasons (your own sentiment or someone else’s) is fraught with feelings of pleasure, loss, guilt, nostalgia and even anger. The roller coaster of these emotions is why most people don’t declutter the sentimental stuff; they are afraid of facing and feeling the feelings. Those feelings are the reason you kept all of those things in the first place, and because they are scary you store that memorabilia away where it sits, just taking up space. But it doesn’t have to be that way, you can take the reins back!

Why You Should Declutter The Sentimental Stuff

Years' worth of kids' artwork

You are living with those scary feelings, even if they are buried subconsciously in the dark corners of your mind they are there, a cognitive weight on your mental health. Going through your collection of memorabilia and editing out what isn’t important will lift that cognitive burden at the same time it is freeing up space in your home.

You don’t need to get rid of everything, there are positive reasons for keeping things you’d like to visit every once in a while. A curated, organized collection of memories is one you are more likely to enjoy. When you declutter the sentimental stuff you set yourself up for a pleasurable experience instead of a chore. You can store it properly, keep it someplace where it is accessible and share it with family members who may enjoy it like you do.

Set Yourself Up For Decluttering Success

Letter box full of memorabilia

It is so important to understand why you are keeping a specific item that evokes feelings. Here are the common refrains I hear from clients:

  • It was my (mother’s, brother’s, grandmother’s, etc.)
  • My daughter/son/child (made,wore,played with, etc.) it
  • It was mine when I was young
  • My (family member) gave it to me

All of these are valid feelings and could be reasons to keep something, however, context is important. If you keep everything that falls into these categories you will have too much. The thought of visiting it and taking a trip down memory lane won’t be appealing, it will feel like a chore. The trick is to edit down to a manageable, amount of meaningful items that can be stored together – you are the curator.

Here are some good reminders for when you get stuck:

  • The physical item isn’t the memory, you can safely detach from it and you will still remember
  • It’s not honoring your loved one more or less if you get go of something that was theirs, the physical item does not represent your feelings
  • If everything is special then nothing is, you are more likely to cherish and enjoy a curated collection of memories

What To Keep and How To Keep It

Declutter your kids' old toys

When you prepare to declutter the sentimental stuff, go in with a framework for decision-making. Don’t make it up after you’ve already started! Preparing a framework will help you go faster and keep you from getting stuck. It will also save you precious mental energy. So first, remember why you are doing this in the first place:

  • When I ‘visit’ my memories I want it to be a pleasant experience.
  • I want my memories to be accessible
  • I want to free up space in my home and in my mind

It’s helpful if you tether back to those reasons when you hit a rough patch; keep them handy!

Now, what should you edit? Here are some easy ones:

  • Things you associate with negative memories.  I had a client who kept everything from her painful divorce, get rid of anything that makes you feel bad!
  • Things you don’t like. Just because the person who gave it to you liked it doesn’t mean you have to.
  • Things that aren’t functional but take up a lot of space. If it is something that’s meant to be used, like a piece of furniture, then use it! If you aren’t using it – donate it so someone else can.
  • Things you have a lot of. You don’t need to save every letter or card from your parents (or every Mother’s Day card your kid ever made!), just a few meaningful ones will ensure you come back to read them every once in a while.

Here are a few suggestions of things to keep:

  • Items that are functional (as long as you are using them!)
  • Things you can easily display like art
  • Things easily stored in boxes, like letters and photos. I’ve curated a collection of great looking boxes to house your memorabilia, you can access it here. In boxes like these, you memories can live on open shelving and can be labeled and easily accessed.

You’ve Got This!

It’s time to declutter the sentimental stuff in your home so you can take back the power it has over you. A well-curated collection is a little window into your personal and family history, and that is well worth visiting from time to time, and saving for posterity. If you need some support in this process, I offer 30 Minute Decluttering Support Sessions to help you through, providing energy, accountability, and structure to help you accomplish your decluttering goals. Future you is thanking you for prioritizing this project!

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