How to Tackle Sentimental Clutter
Sentimental Keepsakes vs. Sentimental Clutter
More than clothing, paper, sporting equipment, or perhaps any other clutter, sentimental clutter is very challenging for most people to sort and part with. There is a difference between sentimental keepsakes and sentimental clutter. Your wedding dress that your daughter is going to wear someday, or your mother’s Thanksgiving turkey platter that makes you smile each year when you use it for the holidays, those things are not clutter because they add value to your life. The 7 giant plastic bins of random photos that fill up your guest bedroom, the porcelain doll collection of your grandmother’s that is just collecting dust in your basement, or the old suitcase that has a broken handle and is no longer functional but you keep because it was your grandfather’s, those things are clutter because they have no use in your current life. In order to differentiate if something is a sentimental keepsake or if it is sentimental clutter, ask yourself these two questions:
Before You Begin Tackling Sentimental Clutter
There are a few important things to consider before you tackle sentimental clutter. One is that it is hard to go through everything all at once, and it is easy to get discouraged if you bite off more than you can chew. Tackle one project, area, or category at a time. Complete that successfully, and then move on to the next one. Another thing to be aware of when going through sentimental clutter is that it can be an emotionally taxing process. Be kind to yourself. Take your time, ask a friend or give me a call to go through it with you if you need some support.
Tell yourself you are only going to keep the things that make you happy and add positive energy to your life, and that you will let go of the items that might bring up painful or negative memories or that take up valuable space in your home. You also might need to go through your sentimental clutter a few times before you can really pare it down to just the worthy keepsakes. Let yourself do one round of elimination, see how that feels, and then proceed to get rid of more the second time around if you can.
Strategies for Ridding Sentimental Clutter
When you’re ridding to dig in, here are a few tips for sorting through sentimental clutter:
Reduce the Size of a Collection – Pick your Favorites
- Collections are a source of sentimental clutter for many. Whether it’s a stamp collection from childhood, a collection of snow globes from your travels, or a Beanie Baby collection that you were hoping would pay for your retirement, consider reducing the quantity and just keep a few favorites. If you have a collection of 20 items, consider picking your favorite 5, and parting with the rest. Sometimes when the collection is smaller, you can actually enjoy it more by finding a special place to display the few items that you keep instead of having boxes and boxes of them in storage.
Don’t Keep Things out of Guilt
- Some common ways people accumulate sentimental clutter are gifts given to them and family items passed down or bequeathed to them. You are not obligated to keep anything that you do not actually want. If someone has given you something, they have already had the enjoyment of that transaction, and it does not mean that you owe it to them to keep that item. Write a thank you note, take a picture of yourself wearing the sweater to send to them or simply pass the item along to a charity, a friend, or to anyone who might actually enjoy it more than you do. Keep only what you want and love, not what you feel like you should keep.
Getting Rid of Sentimental Clutter from the Past Creates Space In Your Life for the Future
As you go through this process, you will probably notice that it can be very challenging and emotional to part with something that reminds you of a person, a time, or a place in your life. While that is completely understandable, it is important to remember that getting rid of that item does not take that memory away from you. Memories are not in things, they are in you. Holding onto the past can actually inhibit your growth and movement forward, and the memories and people in your life will always remain within you, whether you have a physical item to represent them or not. Eliminating clutter creates space in your life and invites new energy and possibilities to enter. Tackling your sentimental clutter might allow you to let go of the past and open up to new potential for the future more than you could have ever realized.