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Decluttering Sentimental Items

So maybe you're well on your way on your decluttering journey, or maybe you've just started out! Stumbling upon sentimental items while decluttering can become such a roadblock. For me, it definitely isn't the first thing I worked on because I was stumped.

I have a bad memory, what if I forget the sentiments that are held by these items? What if I lose my sentimentality? Will I become an emotionless robot?

As I've decluttered more and more, I've gradually tackled sentimental items in small doses. Isn't it weird how something can mean so much one year, but 365 days later, it no longer holds that same value? I've gone through many items that have simply lost their sentimentality over time and I was keeping them because at one point they held value. It's okay that the value of things change based on us changing as people. In those instances, it felt good to let go.

But what about the items that are still sentimental? Well for me, there are two options. I have a sentimental box where I keep things like photo booth pictures and tiny mementos. Things that are sentimental and that I'm not ready to part with. This is housed in a small box and I know I'm not going to exceed that box. If I want to add a sentimental item in, I'll have to take one out. This box gives me a physical limitation as to what I "am allowed" to hold onto. Obviously this rule is entirely trivial and made up: I am able to exceed that box, however I hold myself accountable and don't.

It also helps to avoid bringing in items that risk becoming sentimental over time. Stuff like souvenirs from trips or a memento from a particular moment in time. I try to avoid purchasing those things so that I don't get that sentimental attachment in the first place. Like The Minimalists say in their podcasts: "Love people, not things." I'd highly recommend their essays, books and podcasts if you're wanting to learn more about their take on minimalism. They tend to focus on the "why" behind pursuing minimalism, but they also give practical tips and even have a rulebook if you need some structure to help you on your way. I would highly recommend! If you have Netflix, they also have two documentaries up, which may also give you insight into their unique perspective.

Another thing I do when decluttering sentimental items is to detach myself from the idea that objects are hosts for intangibles. What I mean by that, is that an item can't be the holder of a memory or a feeling since it's an inanimate object. I hold those memories and feelings and I'll still hold them in myself, even if the object is no longer there. It's not like I suddenly have no childhood memories if I don't see or own a toy from my childhood anymore. It doesn't really work like that.

Some questions I ask myself:

Do I want to store this item forever? What is the value in holding onto it?

Is this item stressing me out? Is it taking up too much physical space or mental space?

Can a picture of this item "trigger" these same memories?

Will this item bring more value to someone else?

Does this item bring me joy, or do the memories I associate to this item bring me joy?

Does this item bring me the same value that it did previously?*

*This question is really important because sometimes it's hard to let go of items that were once so useful to me, but now don't hold that same value. For example, in my undergrad I had a lot of sketchbooks and they were so important to me. They were almost a diary in certain ways. That being said, I graduated 3 years ago and haven't cracked them open since. They won't bring value to anyone else and they no longer bring value to me. At one point, I flipped through them daily, but now they just take up space. As I flipped through them one last time, I took pictures of any bits that might be useful in future endeavours, and then recycled them. Most likely I won't open those pictures either, but sometimes taking a picture is a way to ease the "pain" of letting go of the physical object since I still have some reference to it.

Have you decluttered your sentimental items?! How do you find the process? If you have any tips, definitely leave them in the comments below, because it'll likely help someone out in their minimalism journey!

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