The ultimate guide to decluttering sentimental items: how to get rid of sentimental clutter?


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Wondering how to get rid of sentimental clutter? Check out this ultimate guide to decluttering sentimental items!

Throughout our lives, we collect sentimental objects to remind ourselves of fond memories, loved ones, and happy moments.

These items then become little treasures we cherish and that we hope to keep forever.

However, sometimes, things can go out of hand and we may have accumulated way too many, which makes them a lot less special.

Having too much stuff can also impact our well-being and make living in our homes a lot less enjoyable. 

So from time to time, it’s great to go through what we’ve accumulated over the years and let go of the excess.

Especially with sentimental items, less is more! 

But it’s easier said than done.

Letting them go can be very difficult as we attach all kinds of emotions to those items.

If you need guidance and are wondering what to do with sentimental items, you’re in the right place! 

In this ultimate guide to decluttering sentimental items, you’ll learn how to get rid of sentimental clutter to lighten your load both physically and emotionally.

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What are sentimental items? + Examples of sentimental items 

Sentimental items are objects we keep because they remind us of a memory or a person, or because we’ve become emotionally attached to them. 

These items help us remember what happened in our past whether that’s a trip we went on, a big life event, or special moments shared with loved ones. 

We, particularly those of us who are very sentimental, can give emotional meaning to basically anything.

Here are some examples of sentimental items: 

  • Photos 
  • Drawings from our kids 
  • Our favorite toys from our childhood
  • Plushies 
  • Old birthday and Christmas cards
  • Letters
  • Clothes we wore at a special event
  • Items from our wedding 
  • Old journals
  • Clothing our kids wore during their very first days 
  • Plane tickets
  • Family heirlooms 
  • Yearbooks 
  • Things that belonged to deceased loved ones 
Wondering how to get rid of sentimental clutter? Check out this ultimate guide to decluttering sentimental items!

A few reasons for decluttering sentimental items

As we go through life and experience all kinds of things, we can easily accumulate tons of sentimental items.

And the problem with that is that if we attach sentimental value to too many things, nothing is truly special and meaningful. 

Getting rid of the excess in that category frees up space in our homes and minds.

As a result, we get to enjoy the things we decide to keep even more. 

But that’s not all.

Some sentimental items bring up negative memories and can be an emotional burden for us.

A great example of that is items inherited from loved ones who are no longer here that we don’t actually enjoy using.

We might think that we should keep them even though they don’t add value. 

Having too many sentimental items can also keep us in the past way too often.

While it’s great to remind ourselves of the past from time to time, we shouldn’t be stuck in there and should instead enjoy our lives in the present moment. 

For all those reasons, consider decluttering sentimental items if you are ready to.

Doing this will come with many other benefits as well! 

My experience decluttering sentimental items 

For the first 25 years of my life, I was emotionally accumulating all kinds of sentimental items.

I had kept all the toys from my childhood, most of my school and university papers, and all the ticket stubs and plane tickets I could collect.

Not to mention the thousands of photos I took and the different family heirlooms I had inherited! 

Luckily for me, I was able to keep them in my childhood bedroom when I moved out.

But a few years later, my parents decided to move cross country, which meant that I had to go back there and finally tackle the mountain of stuff. 

Looking back now, I’m so grateful that I started my minimalism journey a few years before that and that I could learn some helpful decluttering hacks.

It made the process a lot less challenging. 

I've learned tons of things when decluttering sentimental items!

Nonetheless, going through everything I had ever collected was incredibly overwhelming.

I had to address emotions from the past and reflect on different aspects of my life to finally let go. 

It was a very hard and emotional process, but doing it was very freeing.

Those items were keeping me in the past, so lightening my load was truly life-changing.

I didn’t get rid of everything I had, but I easily decluttered 95% of what I had.

I’ve kept my favorite sentimental items, those that remind me of the fondest memories and the most special people and moments in my life.

In this article, I share with you my best tips on decluttering sentimental items and how to get rid of sentimental clutter without any regret! 

The ultimate guide to decluttering sentimental items: how to get rid of sentimental clutter? 

1. Get to decluttering sentimental items only after you’ve tackled everything else

Decluttering sentimental items is incredibly difficult for most of us.

And the thing is, we don’t want to make mistakes when getting rid of sentimental clutter because we can’t get it back if we end up regretting our decision.

So make sure not to start your decluttering journey by tackling this category.

Start building your decluttering muscles and learn to let go by going through other areas of your home.

First, choose easier categories such as your wardrobe, kitchen cupboards, or bathroom cabinets

Keep your sentimental items for the end so you don’t get overwhelmed and discouraged. 

Read more: 70 things to get rid of for a minimalist home

2. Only keep the best of the best

As I mentioned earlier, if you attach sentimental value to too many things, nothing is truly special.

So remember that, especially for sentimental items, less is definitely more!

Not all sentimental items are created equal: some are very meaningful while others bring up negative emotions or aren’t special in any way. 

Decide to only keep the best of the best.

Curating a small collection of your absolute favorite items will make them even more special and meaningful.

While making decisions, be honest with yourself.

Only you know what holds meaning and is dear to your heart and no one should tell you what to keep.

Everyone is unique and has had different life experiences, so we all value different things and memories.

Listen to your heart! 

Want to know how to get rid of sentimental clutter? Only keep your favorites when decluttering sentimental items.

3. Things you might not want to keep

While going through your sentimental items, hold each thing in your hands to see what you’re feeling.

If you come across items that you completely don’t care about, declutter them immediately!

There is no point in keeping them.

I also highly recommend that you let go of any item that brings up negative memories and that makes you sad or angry.

Sentimental items are here to remind us of the beautiful, special moments of our lives.

Those that remind us of negative events and things we’d be better off forgetting about will only keep us in the past and prevent us from enjoying the now. 

What’s more, you may also want to get rid of items you’re keeping out of guilt.

For instance, you might feel compelled to keep something that belonged to a loved one, or that cost a lot of money.

Or you might feel pushed to keep an item because you used to love it in the past (even though you don’t anymore).

In those cases, we’re keeping items for the wrong reasons and making excuses as to why we should hold on to them.

However, keeping something out of guilt or because we’re afraid of what people will say if we get rid of it isn’t worth it! 

We should be true to ourselves and what we feel.

Our sentimental items are ours and we should do whatever we want with them. 

4. Ask yourself specific questions when decluttering sentimental items

Asking ourselves specific questions may be very helpful in deciding whether we should keep something or not.

These specific questions help make the decision process easier and less overwhelming.

They guide us toward the answers we are looking for. 

I think that the most important ones we should ask ourselves when decluttering sentimental items in particular are: 

  1. Why am I holding on to it? 
  2. Am I keeping this out of guilt? Am I keeping it because it belonged to a loved one or because I used to love it in the past? Are other people expecting me to keep it? 
  3. Does it make me happy or sad/angry? How do I feel when I hold or see it? 
  4. Do I need to keep the item or is a photo of it enough? 
  5. Do I have a place for it in my home? 

I have an entire blog post about the best decluttering questions you should ask yourself, so definitely check it out! 

When decluttering sentimental items, ask yourself specific questions.

5. Don’t rush the process of decluttering sentimental items

When decluttering sentimental items, do not feel rushed and go at your own pace.

If you have a lot of sentimental clutter to get rid of, tackle it little by little every week.

Don’t feel like you need to do it all in one go, and only get rid of the things you are 100% ready to let go of. 

Listen to your gut and feelings! 

And if you’re struggling with making decisions, start with the easier things that maybe aren’t that special.

It could be ticket stubs or cards from people you no longer talk to.

Leave the harder stuff such as your wedding dress or your kids’ baby clothes for later. 

The more you strengthen your decluttering muscles over time, the easier it will become to identify and get rid of sentimental clutter. 

Give yourself all the time you need to tackle that project and don’t do anything you’ll regret because sentimental items aren’t replaceable.

We can’t get them back once they’re gone.  

Read more: How to start decluttering when overwhelmed?

6. Give your decluttered items to people who will cherish them

When decluttering sentimental items, you might find that you don’t want to keep certain items but you don’t want them to go to the thrift store or worse, be thrown away.

Because they still mean something to you. 

The best way I’ve found to address this issue is to try and find a good home for those items.

By that, I mean selling or giving your items to people who will cherish them and take good care of them. 

Knowing someone else will be able to get value from them can make letting them go easier for you.

That’s what happened to me when I finally got rid of my childhood toys. 

I sold many of them and donated the rest to a good cause.

Doing this was very healing to me and helped me move on from the past

Trying to find a good home for your items might take more time and effort than simply dropping them at Goodwill.

But it helps us process our feelings and let go. 

Giving away an object to someone who will cherish it makes decluttering sentimental items a lot easier.

7. Take pictures of the items you are ready to pass on

Sometimes, we may feel reluctant to let something go because we’re afraid that we’ll forget the memory if we do so.

If you have such items, consider taking a photo of them so that you can go back to them whenever you get nostalgic. 

However, don’t go overboard with taking too many pictures either.

Only photograph special things that have meaning to you and try to only take one or two pictures per item. 

Then, organize those photos into a specific folder on your computer or print them out and put them in a photo album. 

That way, you’ll keep the memory without needing to store a physical item. 

I did that with many things, including my drawings from kindergarten.

I used to have six entire notebooks filled with drawings, and not only were they very heavy, but they also took up a lot of space.

So I decided to take pictures of the best ones and then recycled the notebooks.

While it was bittersweet, doing this was very freeing! 

8. Use your sentimental items in your daily life

For all the sentimental items you decided to keep, see if you can use them in your daily life.

It’s a great way to honor them and see these meaningful items that are filled with positive memories every day!

For instance, I have a gorgeous wooden sewing box from my late grandma that I use for storing all kinds of things including stationery bits and bobs.

I love seeing it all the time! 

Similarly, my partner got beautiful dishes that were family heirlooms.

We decided we would get a lot more value out of them if we used them to eat on every day.

So that’s what we do.

Yes, some of them might break over time, but at least, they’ll have served their purpose and we’ll have enjoyed them in the meantime.

I think it’s worth it. 

Another great way to use your sentimental items is to display them around your home and use them as decorations.

You can also repurpose some of them.

For example, some people decide to turn their kids’ baby clothes into a lovely quilt. 

Repurpose your kids' baby clothes and turn them into a quilt.

9. Keep the remaining sentimental items in a memory box

For the items you can’t use or display around your home, consider storing them in a safe place.

If you’re wondering how to store sentimental items, a beautiful memory box like this one is something you might want to try out! 

If you don’t care about how it looks, a simple shoe box or plastic tub can do the trick as well.

Choose the size of the box according to what you decide to keep. 

The benefit of choosing a box for storing sentimental items is that it creates a boundary, a limit that you cannot go over.

If you see that your memory box starts to overflow, it means you’ve accumulated more items and that it may be time to declutter again.

It’s also great to know that your sentimental items are contained in one single box so you know where to go whenever you want to take a look at them.

10. Take the time to reflect and process your emotions

When decluttering sentimental items, give yourself time to reflect and process the emotions you’re feeling.

Many items will bring up positive memories, so savor these emotions and rejoice in the fact that you got to experience them. 

If you see items that make you feel sad or angry, acknowledge your feelings and respect them.

Allow yourself to feel what there is to feel, give yourself grace, and mourn what is no longer here.

Cry if you need to. 

What I love about decluttering is that it forces us to process our emotions and reflect on our past.

It helps us to let go and move on. 

We can grow and learn a lot from decluttering sentimental items!

Allow yourself to feel emotional and cry if you need to.

11. Remember that your memories are inside of you

A final tip on how to get rid of sentimental clutter: remember that your memories aren’t in the items you decide to keep or declutter.

They’re inside of you (in your mind and heart). 

Physical items may remind us of certain memories, but getting rid of the items won’t make us forget them.

Or if it does, that memory wasn’t that important to begin with. 

In your process of decluttering sentimental items, trust that you’ll remember the important things.

And allow yourself to forget what isn’t special and meaningful to you.  

Memories take up space in our minds, and not everything belongs there. 

Final thoughts on decluttering sentimental items and how to get rid of sentimental clutter

I hope you’ve found this article about decluttering sentimental items helpful and that you could learn how to get rid of sentimental clutter. 

Letting go of the excess in that category is incredibly freeing!

Just keep in mind that if you’re not ready or simply don’t want to declutter sentimental items, do not do it.

Follow your instinct to make sure you do not end up with regrets. 

What have you learned when decluttering sentimental items?

What are your favorite objects you’ve decided to keep?

Please leave a comment below!

Don’t forget to share this blog post with your friends to help them learn how to get rid of sentimental clutter without regret and guilt.  

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