Decluttering

5 Tips For Decluttering Sentimental Items Without The Guilt

“Get rid of clutter and you may just find it was blocking the door you’ve been looking for…”-Katrina Mayer

For so many of us, decluttering can come with a feeling of guilt. We sometimes hold onto things for too long because we feel bad just getting rid of them and wasting or we don’t want to hurt the person’s feelings who gave that book to us five years ago.

This is especially true when it comes to sentimental items.

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Sentimental items can be anything from a card that your significant other gave to you to a tea set your grandma passed down to you before she passed away. Everyone categorizes sentimental items differently but almost all of us have at least one thing that we have kept because it reminds us of someone or something.

But, what if those items have been packed away in a box for 10 years?

What if that yearbook you saved from middle school has stayed in the same container in your garage since you moved out of your parent’s house and you haven’t even looked at it once? (Not that I would know from personal experience or anything…)

What if that box of Christmas decorations haven’t seen the light of day since your grandma gave them to you and they aren’t decorations that remind you of her or mean something to you?

5 Tips For Decluttering Sentimental Items Without The Guilt

Each person you ask will have different attachments to items. But, what if we could all find a balance between holding onto everything and keeping only those few items that are truly sacred.

This is something that has definitely been a work in progress for me and something I still am actively working on. I sometimes still catch myself keeping something out of guilt or obligation instead of my heart.

If you are like me and find yourself having a hard time decluttering sentimental items without feeling guilty, I want to share with you five tips that have made a huge change for me!

Ask yourself why you are keeping the item.

This one has made a monumental change for me!

When I come across an item in my decluttering process that has sentimental value, I ask myself why I am keeping it. What does it mean to me. Why do I feel the need to still hold onto it.

I think our first instinct when we come across something sentimental, like baby clothes or something from a late parent, is to want to keep it. To immediately say to yourself “oh, I definitely need to keep this.” But for many of us, if you sat there with the item for a few minutes and really were honest with yourself, you may find that your want for it is purely out of nostalgia.

For me, this is true with my daughter’s baby clothes. I have kept bins and bins and bins of every single onesie that she ever wore. It has been very hard for me to let go of the baby years and the fact that she will never be that little again. But do you know what I have asked myself? “Will another baby get use out of this?” And the answer is almost always yes.

Yes, I have kept her first birthday outfit and her first snow suit. But it has become a lot easier for me to part with her clothes, especially knowing that someone else can use it.

Take pictures.

With so many items, the reason we don’t get rid of them is because they remind you of someone or something. Of a time in your life or someone who means a lot to you.

Have something that makes you think of your first date with your significant other but don’t really ever take it out or look at it? Take a picture. Save the picture in your computer or hard drive and get rid of the item.

Make a special folder on your computer just for pictures of these items. The memory will still be there when you look at the picture and you won’t feel guilty about getting rid of it!

Pass it on.

You know the phrase “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure”? There is a reason it has been around for a long time!

What you may not get joy out of or feel something for, someone else may. Whether that is a family member or a completely stranger, passing the item along to someone who wants or needs it helps get rid of any guilt you feel for letting go of it.

When I realized that my daughter hadn’t played with her first dollhouse in about a year and a half, I knew it was time to let it go. It didn’t mean anything to her, it was taking up space that we don’t really have and I had a feeling in my gut that I could find someone else who would use it and love it.

And I was right! I posted it for sale on Facebook, even though I cried doing it, and sold the pieces to a grandmother who was building a dollhouse for her granddaughter. When she got the accessories home, she took a picture of it all set up for her granddaughter and it warmed my heart.

Try asking a family member if you are ready to let go of something from a late grandparent or parent. Although it might not remind you of the person, it may remind someone else and be something they will treasure. You never know!

Designate a small keepsake box.

Inevitably as you go through your items, you will find things that you want to hold onto. There will be things that make you smile, make you cry and you just can’t part with. That is okay too!

Before you begin the process of decluttering, designate a small box that will be for the things you choose to keep. But, only things that will it in the box can be kept. This will also help you re-think some objects and be able to decide a little easier on what will stay in your home. Make sure the box isn’t too big or you will keep everything and make sure it isn’t too small or you won’t have room for really anything! Here are a few examples of the size of keepsake box I would get.


Re-purpose and re-use.

So, you have gone through your items and have decided on some things you just feel like you need to hold onto. But, they don’t fit in the box you have designated for said items. What can you do with them?

Re-purpose and re-use them! Have an old shirt from someone who has passed? Sew it into a pillowcase and use it for your pillow at night. Baby clothes? Turn them into a quilt that you can keep and eventually pass on to your child. Letters or cards from someone special? Make a scrapbook to display them.

There are so many options when it comes to re-purposing old items. Take a few minutes on Pinterest and I promise you will find your next project. This is a great way to make something functional in your home, instead of just sitting in a closet somewhere, and you will able to enjoy the items even more often!

Remember, decluttering is all about removing things from your life that don’t serve you or bring something positive to you. Want to hold onto every single sentimental item you own? Go for it. Revisit them in a month or two and see if you feel any different. There are no rules to minimalism or decluttering!

What is one thing you have done with sentimental items you didn’t want to keep?

2 thoughts on “5 Tips For Decluttering Sentimental Items Without The Guilt

  1. This is one of the hardest things to declutter! Thank you for your tips on how to get through it! I love the idea of using things. I don’t feel bad once I’ve enjoyed and used up something. I kept a beautiful Brazil wood key chain in a box for years because it was sentimental and I didn’t want to scratch or break it. I finally decided to toss or use it. It’s been on my keychain for years and still looks new because Brazil wood is really hard to scratch 🤦. I love using it though! I struggle more with letters and journals. I can’t keep all of them or get rid of all of them, but I struggle to decide what to keep and how to keep it. Any ideas?

    1. It really is the hardest! It has taken me a very long time to get better at parting with things or finding ways to use the items. I love that you were able to start using the key chain! That must feel so good. Personally, I have kept all my cards from my husband and the letters we wrote each other when he was in boot camp. One thing I would do is get a small box or bin and only keep what can fit comfortably in there. This really helped me get rid of some of these items because I knew I couldn’t keep all of them and it made me go through and decide on just the ones that are special to me and that I will look at again one day! I hope that makes sense! 🙂

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