One of the biggest hurdles to becoming organized is letting go of stuff. The most difficult items to get rid of are those that have sentimental value. These are items that someone gave us that have great meaning. They can also be items associated with a day or time period in our lives that we have strong memories of.
I am one of the most sentimental people on the planet. I love to reminisce about old times, look through old pictures, and see items from my past that I treasure. The problem is that an excess of these items can overwhelm you and clutter your home. If you have too many of these types of items, they eventually lose their value.
So the question becomes, how and when do you sort the treasure from the trash? How do you know what to keep and what to let go? Here are the 9 questions that will help you let go of sentimental clutter.
Will you use it?
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The best items to keep are the ones that are actually useful to us. My child hood bedroom set is a hand me down from my grandparents. It is a beautiful pineapple post bedroom set that was a gift from my grandfather to my grandmother. It now belongs to my daughter. We keep this set around because it is not only cherished, it is useful.
Do you have room for it?
My home is less than 1800 square feet. This may seem big, but not when you consider how much stuff families have these days. The average new home size last year was 2600 square feet. When you have a smaller home like me, you have to be vigilant about what you allow in your home. It is amazing how fast clutter can pile up. If you don’t have room for an item, you have two choices. You either have to get rid of other things to make room for it or let the item go.
Can you re-purpose it?
There are certain items that are difficult to get rid of because of the meaning they hold. These items are also difficult to give away because they are unique to you, such as a high school jacket or souvenir t-shirt. For these types of items you have to be creative if you really want to keep them.
There are many ways you can re-purpose items so that they are useful to you and not just taking up space. One of the best ways to reuse old clothing is to make a quilt out of it. This is only a good option if you have the time, skill, and energy to make the quilt or if you have the money to pay someone else to do it. I’ve also seen pillows made out of high school jackets.
Another good way to re purpose items is by using them for Halloween costumes or dress up days at school or at work. The possibilities are endless, just take a look at Pinterest.
Will a picture suffice?
Taking a picture is a great way to hold on to the memories of a sentimental item without actually keeping it. A picture also takes up way less room and will often last longer than the item itself. I recommend doing this as often as you can if you are able to let go of the item.
Could you display it or make a keepsake out of it?
If you truly value an item, it should be given a place of honor in your home, not just shoved in a box or closet somewhere. There are many ways you can make a keepsake out of your memories. You can make a paper or digital scrapbook out of photos, awards, certificates and ticket stubs. You can display items in a shadowbox. You can make a teddy bear out of old baby clothes. Again, I suggest taking a look at Pinterest for ideas. Here is a great post from Life As Mama about how to turn your children’s memories into keepsakes.
Which items mean the most to you?
It is better to curate a small collection of meaningful items with good memories than to have a museum to your past or your family’s past taking over your home. Instead of keeping every card your parents ever gave you, keep the top 10 with the most meaning or heartfelt notes. Instead of keeping every piece of jewelry your mother ever had, keep a few pieces that you personally treasure.
Are you keeping it only because you spent money on it?
Is the item truly special to you or are you keeping it because you spent money on it? If the answer is the latter, then it is time to part ways with the item. Don’t keep items in your home simply because you spent money on them and you feel guilty about getting rid of them. This is one of the biggest reasons people keep items in their home they don’t need. If you have items like this I suggest trying to sell them on Facebook marketplace, Craigslist, Offerup or a consignment store or sale. If you can’t sell it, donate it and cut your losses. The money you spent is gone and you won’t get if back. Why burden your home with it and feel guilty every time you look at it?
Are you keeping it out of guilt?
I would say keeping items out of guilt is the second most popular reason we hang onto items we don’t need. There are many people in our lives with good intentions who give us gifts or hand me downs that we really don’t want or need. Make sure you really value an item in your home and are not just keeping it out of a sense of duty or guilt.
Will it harm someone?
This might seem like an odd question to ask, but think about it. Could the object you are keeping physically harm someone in your home? Is it a weapon? Does it have sharp edges or parts? Is it made from material that is not healthy or safe? If so, you either need to properly dispose of it or put it somewhere safe.
There are also sentimental items that we may want to keep that could be emotionally harmful to another person in our home. Will it bother your significant other if you keep old love letters? Have you asked yourself why you are holding on to them? The harmful item does not have to be love letters. It can be any type of memorabilia that contains material of a sensitive nature that could hurt someone. Be sure the item is really worth holding onto before you decide to keep it.
I know that getting rid of sentimental clutter is tough and emotional. I know that it is much easier for men than woman to get rid of things. You don’t have to do it all in one day. It will take you longer to make decisions on some items than others. When you finally finish this task, the items you did keep will have a cherished place in your home. It is good to remember your past, but never let it take over your present.
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