Making Sense of Sentimental Clutter

Of all the things that I help declutter, sentimental items take the longest because each item jars a memory. And, there is no way I can determine if it should be kept or not. We all have something (or many things for that matter) that serve no purpose other than they remind us of someone, some place, an event – good or bad, etc??

So, how do we decide what is truly worth keeping and what isn’t?

Some questions to ask about that “treasure” or sentimental item:

  1. Is the memory good or bad? If good, are you honoring the memory? If bad, how does it really feel to still have it?
  2. Do I have anything else that is a better representation of the event/time period/ person? You don’t have to keep everything from a person to honor their memory.
  3. Is it useful? Beautiful? Do I LOVE it?
  4. What has more value to me? This object, or the cleared space? Clutter takes years to accumulate, it won’t go away overnight. “Cleaning up” and “storing it” does not deal with the clutter.
  5. A “home” for something is not in a box put away (unless it is seasonal decorations, clothing…) Some things placed in a “home” of honor, while other clutter is removed around it can highlight an item and truly honor it.

We need to enjoy the sentimental things but also make sure we are using what we have. Let go of the things we do not use/enjoy.

So, with the tips on decision making above, here are some additional tidbits to help get through it all.

  • Items that have a strong sentimental attachment should be organized in a manageable system — taking a picture of an item still retains the visual memory but not the actual bulk of the item.
  • Pass along items to others that may have a more sentimental value to them such as cards, pictures or news clippings.
  • Set your criteria and don’t do it alone. If you tend to hoard, invite a person opposite of yourself to help make sensible decisions, they said.
  • To manage current and incoming treasures – always establish a keepsake box for each family member – cards, letters, tickets, drawings and such. It should be easily accessible so when you get a “keepsake”, you can drop it in!

As with all organizing projects, it takes time to go through. Set-up some sessions to work on the items and pencil them into your schedule. Enjoy the trip down memory lane but be sure to ask the above questions on each item so true progress is made!