When you’re faced with the tough task of decluttering sentimental items, it seems easy to abide by the principle, “just keep the things you love!” But sometimes, even after decluttering, you’re left with a house that is too full, so learning how to let go of stuff becomes essential.
How do you deal with having too much stuff you love or that have sentimental value to you or your loved ones? It’s extremely common to have things in your home that you feel obligated to keep or have a hard time parting with for whatever reason.
The set of china you were given for your wedding that you don’t have space for in the kitchen, so it sits in a box in the garage. The boxes of items you inherited from a family member and felt you should keep to honor their memory. The leather jacket you used to wear in 1989 but would probably never wear today, so it hangs in the back of your closet.
It might seem simple to declutter in theory, but when it comes down to it, all of us have had those moments of stress and even guilt about what to do with a sentimental item. The following advice will help you with the process of letting go of possessions in a way that hopefully makes you feel lighter and happier.
1. Get rid of easy items first.
To start, go through your house and clear out anything and everything that you don’t need or want. Be as thorough as possible in this step so that you can genuinely rid your house of things that are just filling space. Maybe your kitchen is filled with gadgets and appliances that you haven’t used in years. Or perhaps your living room is cluttered with knickknacks and decorative items that you purchased ten years ago and are now collecting dust.
Whatever room you’re in, go through it with a fine-toothed comb and make decisions about items that are not sentimental first. By starting with simple things first, you’ll acclimate yourself to the decluttering process and be more willing to part with sentimental stuff when you’re ready.
After clearing out the things you don’t need, you can donate the items to a local charity or community thrift store so that others can enjoy your items.
Read Also: 13 Things You Can Get Rid of Right Now!
2. Discover your motivation behind keeping things.
It’s quite easy to confuse our wants versus our needs. We may think we need the new phone that was just released or the purse that catches our eye at the department store. But if we are physically able to survive without having that item in our life, well, then it’s just a want. If we are truly trying to live a happier life with less, then we need to evaluate what we feel we really need. Take some time for introspection and discover what your attachment is to specific items. Feel the emotions that come up and try not to judge yourself in the process. Letting go doesn’t need to happen all at once, and this process will look different for everyone.
Questions to ask yourself:
- Do I feel burdened by keeping these items? Are these items limiting my enjoyment of my home or my storage space in any way (whether it’s the item individually or the combination of ALL the sentimental things causing clutter and stress)?
- Do I see these items often enough that they can bring me joy? Is there a way to use them so I would enjoy them more?
- Why do I feel the need to keep this? Is it because I love it? Is it because it has good memories attached to it? Do I use it often enough to make keeping it worthwhile? Would I feel bad for the person who gave it to me if I was to let it go?
3. Cultivate a gratitude practice to make letting go easier.
Having less “stuff” makes it easier to practice gratitude. One way to practice gratitude is to make a list of things you have in your home that make you feel thankful. Write down everything that resides under your roof that you are grateful to have in your life – family and pets included.
As you make your list, you will realize just how fortunate you are. Frame the list or tape it to your bathroom mirror to remind you daily. You can also fold it up and keep it in your wallet to remind you of what you already have when you’re in a situation where you want to buy more or are having trouble letting go of items that no longer fit into your space.
Shifting to a place of gratitude can help lessen the harmful sting associated with letting go. It can provide a space for positivity and allow you to keep the things around you that you are genuinely grateful for and part with the rest in your own time.
4. Try not to compare yourself or your home to others.
You might find yourself in a place where you’re happy with what you have until you see what your neighbor has. Maybe their home is decluttered, and you’re envious, but feeling stuck. We’ve all heard the phrase “comparison is the thief of joy.” Don’t let jealousy steal your joy of having a simpler life. Take it slow but keep moving in the direction of letting go.
Go back to your gratitude practice and remember what you have versus where others are in their life. The point here is to lessen the judgment and negativity associated with letting go of sentimental items. Focus on the things money can’t buy or replace, like memories and friendships. These will live on whether you keep certain items or not.
5. Slowly get rid of items with sentimental value.
You can get rid of sentimental items or not. This decision is a personal choice that should make you feel good. Remember, no hard rules are stating you need to declutter all sentimental items to live a minimal and happy life. You should strive to find a balance that works well for you and your family.
Ways to let go and how to hold on:
- Display it! Frame children’s old artwork, hang heirloom plates on the wall, etc.
- Offer a sentimental item to another family member who would enjoy the memories just as much as you do but will have more room to display it.
- Keep one; lose the rest. Keeping one sentimental plate out on display can be more meaningful than keeping the entire 12-piece set hidden away in a box.
- Acknowledge and cherish the memories, but lose the clutter. Photograph the item for an album if you want to be sure to remember it.
- Make it into something functional, so it is more useful. Turn your dad’s old flannel shirt into a pillow you can enjoy every day!
- Sell it and then donate the money to a cause you believe in so you feel good about your choice.
- Give items away, knowing what you have been holding on to will now bring joy to others.
Remember, what you keep and what you choose to give away is a personal decision. We believe that paring down excess belongings and letting go can bring more joy to your home and life, so it is worth the effort! By making space in your house, you can be more grateful for what you have as you learn to live a happier life with less.