Decluttering Sentimental Items – Learning To Let Go

Once you have figured out how to declutter you may face a big decluttering road block, and that is sentimental clutter. If you find yourself struggling with a sentimental attachment to objects in your home, then you have landed in the right place!

Let’s tackle all of the overwhelm and emotions that can surface when decluttering sentimental items.

how to declutter sentimental items the art of letting go

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Once you get started on decluttering your home there is one area that can be super tough. And, that is sentimental items.

I mean, who wants to be the person that got rid of that knick knack that your great aunt gave you a million years ago? Or, dare I say it…a wedding gift, or even your child’s artwork!

So what are you left to do? Should you hold on to those items forever? Where they are probably shoved in the back of a closet, or collecting dust somewhere.

You know that you need to declutter the memorabilia and inherited stuff, but you also need to know exactly how to let go of stuff in your home.

So, let’s break this down and figure out exactly how to work through the tough emotions, and get you started on decluttering sentimental items.

declutter sentimental baby items like baby booties and blankets

What are sentimental things?

Before we dive in let’s break down exactly what is sentimental clutter.

Basically, sentimental clutter is going to be anything that you have a strong emotional and sentimental attachment to that you do not need or use. And, let’s be honest, you may not even actually like it.

Think an old bridesmaid dress, every piece of artwork your child has ever made, or it can be a gift that was given to you by a family member that you are only holding onto out of guilt or obligation.

Here are some other sentimental items examples:

  • items from your childhood
  • inherited items from family or friends
  • memorabilia from events or special moments
  • gifts from family and friends
  • items from family or friend that has passed away
  • your child’s clothing
  • your child’s artwork and crafts
  • cards – birthday, holiday, sympathy cards, etc.
  • items from a first experience – a ticket stub from a first date, flowers from an anniversary, etc.

learn how to declutter sentimental items like these old photos in a box

How do you let go of sentimental items?

When it comes to letting go of the things that you own, a lot of emotions can surface. In fact, there is psychology behind being able to let go of sentimental clutter.

If you want to dive really deep into this info be sure to check out this fabulous article on the psychology of sentimental clutter.

For now, let’s focus on a few questions that will definitely help you to let go.

  • Does this object bring me happiness?
  • Am I holding onto this item out of guilt?
  • Do I think I will forget this person or moment if I get rid of this item?
  • Can this item be repurposed or combined with others?
  • Do I really need this in my life right now?
  • What purpose does this item serve?

I encourage you to take the time to sit with these questions, and really challenge yourself on the answers. Get really clear on this!

Also, take some time to sit with yourself, and honestly grieve if you need to.

And, remember, the memories that you have of a person or event are not tied to that physical thing. They live in your heart and soul. It is okay to let go!

decluttering sentimental items while looking through an old photo album

How do you deal with sentimental clutter?

Here is the thing. If you are only holding onto an item out of guilt or obligation, please let it go. If it does not serve you or your family in any conceivable way, and doesn’t bring you joy. Get rid of it!

What brought significant meaning to the person that passed it down to you, may not hold the same meaning for you. And that is okay!

Because guess what? It might for someone else! That is why you can absolutely donate that item, or you can also sell it too.

So you may be thinking, okay but what about gifts? Ummm same rule applies.

Again, if it doesn’t serve you or your family why are you holding onto it? The answer is probably guilt!

Do you think the person that gave you the gift wants you to feel guilt? Do you think their intention was to weigh you down? No, of course not!

So allow someone else to have that item that was gifted to you. That person could have so much fulfillment out of that item, that it fills their heart with so much joy that they are doing happy dances.

Doesn’t that sound like a better place for that item rather than hiding in the back of the closet in your home?


Decluttering Inherited Stuff

Another area of contention for you may be what to do with the inherited items. I know this one can be super tough!

You don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, and you are at a total loss on what exactly to do.

Again ask yourself the questions from above, and really take the time to challenge yourself with this. I have definitely had to set some boundaries with inherited things, and guess what? Everyone was totally okay with it!

Most of the time, the person passed down that item to you because they thought you would use it and love it. If that doesn’t work for you, then communicate that…as nicely as possible of course.

You may be surprised at how much they are more than okay with it. And, you have now given them the opportunity to pass that item along to someone who will totally enjoy the heck out of that thing too!

decluttering sentimental items with mom and daughter on bed with treasured quilt

However, there are some exceptions.

Let me give you an example…it all started with a quilt. A bajillion year old quilt.

I don’t like this quilt. I don’t want this quilt. I have this quilt.

It is not my style at ALL. It is super ornate, and frankly speaking, it is kind of tacky. So, why do I have this quilt?

Because it would truly crush the person who passed it down to me. Like, deep in their soul crush them. So, I kept it. Not gonna lie though…it’s in a closet. And is only brought out in need of emergency. AKA grab the quilt because that person is coming over!  😉

So, if you have a sentimental item that you genuinely must keep. Because it will truly hurt the gift giver, or wage a war on your extended family and friends, if you get rid of it. Then keep that thing. No amount of decluttering is worth hurting those we love!

how to declutter sentimental items with kids handprint artwork

How do you keep sentimental things?

Now that we have discussed how to let go of sentimental clutter, and let go of things in your house. What are you supposed to do with what is left? Because you certainly are not going to get rid of everything!

I do have two rules about the items that you keep. You must absolutely love them, and try your absolute best to display them!

Think about it. These are the sentimental items that have probably the single most meaning to you. Over all of the other things that you own.

You should absolutely display them, and showcase what means the most to you, and probably reflects your amazing and incredible personality as well!

Let’s talk about options on how to keep these sentimental items.

How to display your sentimental items

When focusing on which sentimental items you will be keeping a few main categories come to mind.

  • Artwork that has been inherited and/or your children made

Let’s face it, kids bring home a lot of artwork. And, it is tough to decide what to actually keep.

You don’t want to be the mom that crushes their little spirit by tossing the bajillionth piece of paper with ‘special’ stickers ALL over it! Am I right?

No worries mama, I got you!

Enter the photobook! Simply take pictures of the artwork that you know you will NOT be keeping, and then upload them into a photobook.

You will be left with a one stop book showcasing your little artist’s many talents. And, they feel super special because all of their creations are in a hard bound book! Shutterfly and Minted are my personal faves for this!

  • Quilts and and handmade blankets

how to display inherited and sentimental items with blanket ladder

My best and absolute easiest solution for this is to get yourself a blanket ladder! Not only are they totally functional, but they look amazing in your home decor too!

Just put that blanket ladder against a wall, and proudly showcase your quilts and blankets. See easy peasy!

  • Pictures of family and special moments

This one is obviously fairly easy. Grab yourself some picture frames, and get to it.

You can also create a stunning photo gallery wall too. I love this post by Princess Pinky Girl that gives you a ton of ideas on how exactly to make your gallery wall.

  • Clothing and memorabilia

how to keep and display sentimental items in a shadow box

You may have some inherited clothing and memorabilia that you really want to hang onto. And, of course we ALL have special sentimental items of clothing from our children too!

But, you may be asking yourself how you should display and showcase these items. And, it is a fabulous question!

This is where I absolutely LOVE to use shadowboxes!

You can get super creative with how to display the sentimental items that you love, and they look SO good too! P.S. I may or may not have a bunch of shadowboxes. Because seriously they are the best!


Wrapping Up

You now know exactly how to declutter sentimental items. You are clear on how to let go of the inherited stuff, and things that really aren’t serving you or your family.

You know how to ask the tough questions when purging memorabilia, and how to deal with any emotions that may surface.

And, you also know exactly what sentimental items to keep and how to proudly display them!



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