3 Keys to Help you Declutter Sentimental Items

Let's face it.

It's easy to discard things you don't care about.

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But what about when every box you open seems to have something that makes you stroll down memory lane or even cry tears of nostalgia? It can be hard to let go even if you know you simply can't keep it all. I can be very romantic about things -- I understand how difficult it can be to let go.

If you want to become more minimalist but are feeling overwhelmed and indecisive, chances are you've had a run-in with stuff that carries emotional weight for you.

Here are 3 keys that have helped me declutter even the most sentimental of items.


1. Remember that some things thrive in circulation. 

Books are the obvious example here. I'm not like Marie Kondo -- I don't think books have feelings. But I do think books were created to be in circulation and that it's sad when they're stuck on a shelf not getting read. Sure, you may have some books you love to read and re-read. Keep your favorites. But for the most part, once you're done with a book, pass it on so someone else can enjoy it.  If you haven't read it in a year or two, admit that you probably don't really want to read it, and let it go. The same thought applies to many different collectible items. We all have limited attention to enjoy collections. Pass them on so other people can enjoy them.

2.  Release guilt.

Guilt is a trickster.

It can masquerade as duty, tradition, or even love. Often guilt kicks in when it comes to decluttering gifts from someone we love with all our heart. But remember that most people who love you would rather you embrace space and freedom than be burdened by too many possessions.  Plus, you don't have to tell them you got rid of that bracelet you never wore anyway. Very few people ask or care about what happens to gifts in the long run. It really is the thought that matters -- and that magical moment of giving and receiving.

3. Photograph, miniaturize, digitize.

Take a picture:

  • I generally snap a quick photo on my cell phone before putting something emotionally weighty into my giveaway pile. That way I can remember it. I store all my digital photos organized by month so if I want, I can take a trip down memory lane that includes my old stuff.

Save it, but just a piece:

  • Miniaturizing means taking a small piece of something and turning it into art or something useful. For example, have you seen a t-shirt quilt? I've seen crafty people cut small squares out of old t-shirts and make a colorful quilt. They get rid of shirts they never wear but keep the memories AND create something to keep them warm during a Netflix binge.

Save it, but in cloud and hard drive form:

  • Digitizing is really the same as taking a digital photo of your item, but it also includes shooting a video for certain special items. I created a quick video tip that goes deeper on that topic. You can watch it here. Back up your photos and videos to a cloud service and your computer and/or a storage hard drive.

I hope these three keys unlocked some major decluttering motivation for you.

Now it’s time to hit the attic.

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Finally, if you haven’t signed up yet for the free 3-Day Decluttering Challenge, you have a chance to do so below. You’ll get a three-day burst of inspiration and instruction, plus The Simple Sunday, my weekly note on how to edit your life for more joy.

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