Are you struggling to sort through your memory items or those of a past loved one? Here are tips for how to declutter sentimental items.
I have been on a journey for the past 8 months to really simplify the way I live. I always felt that I was a fairly organized person, and then I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo and my whole viewpoint changed! After 6 months of decluttering a bit, I felt I had made quite a bit of progress. And yet there were still things that I didn’t need, but just couldn’t seem to get rid of. Here are some tips on how to declutter the sentimental items, those items of sentimental value that are harder for you to part with.
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I recently discovered this amazing book Let it Go by Peter Walsh. I listened to an audio recording of it in just a few days on Overdrive because I was so intrigued by the new view it gave me about the things I own.
It’s sort of an interesting choice of book for me to read if you think about it. Here I am in my mid-thirties with a newborn reading a book about downsizing your home. The kicker is that the book is geared toward people who are downsizing for health reasons, to move into a nursing home, or for adult children who are cleaning out the home of a deceased loved one. I fit into NONE of those categories, yet I found the book fascinating.
Peter Walsh said to divide your Memories (in the form of mementos) into 4 different categories:
- treasures: something that represents the most important memories of who you are and is irreplaceable
- trinkets: things that spark a memory, but aren’t truly treasures
- forgotten: items that you have no idea where they came from
- malignant: hold negative or painful memories
Out of these 4 types of memory items, you only keep the first kind: treasures.
“Treasures are few, important, and deeply meaningful.” -Peter Walsh
Keep Things that Represent your Best Self
This was one of the main points that I kept thinking about after reading this book. If someone who didn’t know anything about you were to walk into your home today, what story would your home about tell you? What an intriguing question! Are the things that hang on our walls, the books that crowd our shelves things that represent me, or are they merely things that I have kept around for no reason?
Why We Save Things
There are many reasons why we save things:
- It is a trinket. An item that reminds you of the past
- To reminisce. The item sparks long-forgotten memories
- Guilt. Someone gave it to you, it was expensive, you bought it for a specific reason and never used it.
How To “Let It Go” when Decluttering
In refection of the above list, here are some ways to let these memory items go:
- Trinket: Take a picture of the item and write a description of what the item meant to you
- Reminisce: Write the memories and stories down. Once you are gone, the item is just stuff. A written memory or a story can be enjoyed by everyone!
- Guilt: Pass the item on to someone you know who can use it. That way you are helping someone in need, and not seeing the guilt-inducing item unused on a regular basis.
In High School, it was so important to me to have a yearbook. I don’t know why I HAD to have an expensive book full of people that I didn’t know. Not being popular by any means, and never going out of my way to talk to people, it is really a mystery why it was such a big deal to me. Still, I have saved these books over the years and even packed them across the country! I haven’t looked at them once since I graduated High School though. Why do I save them?
By keeping things that only represent my best self, I don’t feel any guilt in tossing old journals FULL of entries such as “today was another boring day” or “today I went to school”. I was a dedicated journal writer, but quality is definitely better than quantity in this case. By scanning, typing, using any other means to hold onto the parts of these journals that truly represents my best self, I can be confident I am leaving a legacy that truly represents who I am.
What am I going to do with these yearbooks and old journals? I will keep the yearbook pictures that show the activities I was involved in, and preserve the best journal entries that hold interest and special memories for me. For other items, I am simply taking a picture to keep the memory, but not necessarily the item. Update: I ended up taking pictures of the photos from the yearbook that I was in and am putting those pictures into a digital scrapbook of my life growing up. I was able to save the photos that I needed, but get rid of all the other mental and physical clutter caused by keeping the yearbooks.
Why is Letting it Go So Significant in Decluttering?
In the perspective of going through people’s things after their death, I realized even more that stuff is just stuff. Why hold onto something I don’t really love? Why hold onto something that brings up negative feelings or guilt every time I come across that item? Each item in our homes represents something that we need, use, treasure, or just haven’t gotten around to getting rid of.
Live for Today
By keeping only the things that represent my best self, or who I hope to become, I am more able to live in the present. The idea of having my current value system and personality represented is much more appealing than constantly living in the past. I can do this with the clothes I wear, the pictures on my walls, and the items that I choose to keep as treasures, By getting rid of things that no longer represent me, I feel like I am allowing myself to change, and to accept that change will happen.
Letting go of clothing I will never fit into again because now I have a mom body celebrates the journey my body went through rather than the size I will realistically never be again. Donating crafts I will never complete celebrates the things that keep me busy now rather than harboring guilt for having unfinished projects. Letting go of piles of memorable items allows me to look to future memories, rather than focusing on the past.
If you have something that is special, use it! Don’t save the special dishes for a day that will never come, use it on the people that are special to you right now! Pull out the pictures you have filed away and share them with your family now. Tell them the stories of the past instead of leaving them to collect dust. Plan the legacy you will leave behind and live in a way that no one has to wonder what you truly treasured!