Day 30 – Sentimental Items | 31 Days of Decluttering


Hello friends! 

Today we are looking at the last physical decluttering session. Are you ready? It's time to identify and cull our sentimental items that we've accumulated overtime.

These are the trickiest of all since they are charged with emotions and memories, but after a month of decluttering I think you're ready to tackle this beast :)

The Goal

  • getting rid of old, useless clutter
  • less dust catchers
  • focussing on the present, not the past 
  • valuing your sentimental items
  • finding closure 
  • freeing yourself of the emotional weight
  • reclaiming some space in your house

Guiding Questions

Why am I holding onto this item? 
If I had an image of it, would that be enough?
Does this object spark joy in my heart?  
Am I keeping it because I "should"?
Which memory is connected to this item? 
Does this memory make me happy?
Is this item useful to me?
Can I repurpose it into something useful? 
Could someone else get something out of it?
Does someone else I know need or love it more? 
How is keeping this item helping me now? 
Can I ditch the item without ditching the memory?
Which items can be digitalized?

Working Steps

1. Declutter

Gather all your sentimental items, including:

love letters
meaningful jewellery
awards & achievements
old children's books
toys from your childhood
old drawings from kindergarten
movie tickets
old magazines / newspapers
other bits and pieces that are of emotional value to you

Take this opportunity to give the empty drawers, boxes and surfaces a good dusting.

2. Go through your guiding questions

Which items do you actually use? Which are connected to a bad memory? Do you really need to keep this break up letter from your first boyfriend? The cinema tickets for the first Harry Potter movies? Those lovingly handmade gifts you don't really love any more but don't have the heart to throw away?

3. Assess and organize

If you want to get rid of an item, but the only reason you are holding on to it is for sentimental reasons – and if it is weighing on you – then perhaps today is the time to let go of it.

Get rid of anything that
  • doesn't make you happy
  • you don't love
  • is not useful
  • is broken
  • can be useful for someone else.

If you're not using or enjoying it, it's just clutter! You can love and remember friends and family (and they'll still love you) without keeping their stuff just because you feel like you "have to". If it's a present, they gave it to you to make you happy, not to weigh you down. So handle it in a way that makes you happy!

If letting go of certain items is still a challenge for you, here are some tips for you:

Make it useful. Instead of waiting for a special occasion to wear your grandma's pearl earrings, just wear them! Otherwise they will sit forever in your drawer, useless and uncherished.

Shoot it. If you want to keep the memory of a certain item, but not the item itself, take a photo of it and save it on your external hard drive or your computer. For instance, if you saved a pair of ballet shoes from your time as a ballet dancer, take a picture of you (or your child) wearing it.

Scan it. Digitalize memorable printed photographs and documents that you don't want to part with yet. That way they won't clutter your basement.

Don't keep it in boxes. Putting away items from your maybe pile for a while is a great way to see if you will miss those items – but not in case of sentimental items. Instead of keeping boxes full of memories stashed in the basement or the attic, reduce them to 3-4 specific items that you display proudly in your home.

Focus on your favourites. Instead of concentrating on what you're going to throw out, focus on what is absolutely dear to your heart. Once you know your favourites, it's easier to let go of the remaining items that didn't make the cut. Keep the best, toss the rest.

Give it a last hurrah – and say farewell. As Marie Kondo suggests: Always show your gratitude to an object before getting rid of it. You can do that by wearing it one more time, posting one last picture of it on Facebook, featuring it on your blog, or simply show it to your partner before parting with it. That way you can honour and find closure with that item and the memory attached to it.

Remember: Our memories are within us, not within our things.

4. Return

Now that you've purged your items, return the keepsakes to their designated home – or find a home for them.

Again, consider putting some of your favourites on display. That way you will be actively reminded of the person or event it reminds you of, instead of the item just lying dormant in a dusty box.

Another option would be to keep a (small!) memory box with all your cherished little items in your bedroom. That way you can easily access them when ever you need a pick me up or want to take a trip down memory lane.

5. Donate / Discard

Sell items that in great condition and not too sentimental to give to strangers (furniture, dinnerware, sterling cutlery, lamps, books, plants etc).

Donate items that are intact and still useful for others, and you can't be bothered to sell them, such as furniture, dishes, clothing, jewellery, decorative items, books, cute knick-knacks etc.

Give away any memorable items that are too personal to be donates, but make for lovely gifts to friends or family members, such as photos, artwork, handed down jewellery, wedding dresses, baby clothes etc.

Return any items or gifts to the original owner or giver if you feel like they would be devastated if you got rid of it. That way you will make the person happy who still values the item.

Repurpose or repair anything that is too old or broken to give away but too meaningful to toss. For example, turn baby clothes into patch-work quilts or little toys, display beautiful postcards or your partner's little love note in picture frames, create a window cover using old picture slides, repurpose a beautiful old picture frames as a serving tray, turn your father's old piano into a flower bed...

Toss any items that are broken, useless, or of no value to others (old ticket stubs, letters, yearbooks, your wedding day menu etc). Remember to recycle where you can!

6. Celebrate

Wow. We've mastered the last declutter assignment! Make sure to drop by tomorrow for our very last session, it's going to be fun – we are going to treat and recharge ourselves after the long and exhausting month of decluttering and letting go :)

My little memory box :)