Decluttering Sentimental Items: How to Know What to Keep and What to Toss (Without Guilt)

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Are you decluttering and coming across a lot of sentimental items and memorabilia that make you question whether you should toss them or keep them?

Decluttering can be so freeing, but feeling guilty or worried when tossing out some of the more precious items can leave you questioning if it’s worth it.

This post will guide you through the questions you need to ask yourself to find out your true motive for wanting to keep something, and then ways to either keep it, or get rid of it guilt-free (while still cherishing the good memories).


Why Declutter?

When you declutter you make room to breathe.

You make room for the stuff you truly love.

You give yourself time back by not having to care for items or search around and through excess.

Having less can be very freeing spiritually, mentally, and physically.


Should You Keep It?

If you came to this page with a specific item in mind that you are wondering if you should keep, the answer is most likely no. Because there is a question in your mind whether or not you should keep it, you are not adamant about it and you should probably let it go.

Only you can weigh out your reasons if something should stay or go, but here are some questions to guide your decision:

  • Do I use this on a regular basis?
  • Is it big or in the way?
  • Does it clutter my space?
  • Do I have definite plans for this item, or am I keeping it “just in case”?
  • Could this be used by someone else?
  • How much sentimental value does this have, really?
  • Am I wanting to keep it out of guilt?
  • Does this item bring me joy when I see it or use it?

Truthfully answering these questions will help you decide if it’s worth it or not.


Ease the Guilt

If you are keeping something purely because you would feel guilty about getting rid of it, here are some ways to ease the guilt:

  • Give it to someone who cares. If it is a family heirloom, see if a sibling or cousin would appreciate and use it more than you. If it was a gift, see if someone else who cares for the giver would want it.
  • Give it to someone who will use it. If you don’t use it, wouldn’t it make you feel better knowing that someone is using it and loving it rather than just collecting dust in your closet?
  • Sell it and use the money for good. If the item you want to get rid of has any value, you could sell the item and use the money for a good cause or to fund an experience that would honor the sentiment you hold for the item.
  • Donate it to a good cause. You could donate to a resale store that you know will use the profits to help people. If you have a wedding dress, you could consider donating it to a place that will do good with it- much more than letting it sit in the back of a closet.


Savor the Good Memories

When an item you have is only kept so you can remember the good times, memories, and people you associate with that item, it can be hard to give it up. But if the item is large, clutters up your space, or you don’t use it or display it in a way you like, then you may want to get rid of it.

Here are some ways to still cherish the memories without holding onto the item:

  • Take a picture of it and put it in a photo book.
  • Write a journal entry about the item and all the fond memories you associate with it.
  • Take a video of you holding the item and talking about it.


What if You Decide You Want to Keep It?

If you are adamant that you keep an item, then keep it. You should not feel pressured to get rid of something you love, have plans for, or that you use, just for the sake of decluttering.

I still have the dress I wore the day I met my husband. It doesn’t fit me now and I wouldn’t wear it even if it did because my style has changed, but I am keeping it as a measure for my current weight loss goal. It will just make me feel good to fit well in that dress again. Once I meet that goal I will most likely take a picture and then get rid of the dress.

I also have a few trinkets and mementos that I keep from childhood. I have allowed myself one small box that I keep tucked away in the garage. They are small and don’t take up a lot of space, and I love to look at them and tell my children the stories I associate with them.

Here are some tips for keeping and storing items:

  • Have a specific place for them. If it is a decorative piece, then display it properly. If they are trinkets or small things, then corral them together in a box.
  • Limit the space you give to purely sentimental mementos, such as a shoebox or small plastic tote.
  • Have a specific goal or plan for larger items. If it doesn’t fit in your memento box, then decide when and why you will use it. This should be specific- such as if you are planning on having more children and you have a blessing gown for them to wear, or a baby blanket for your future grandchild, etc. Make sure, also, that you are storing these things properly so they aren’t getting damaged.


 Do you need to get rid of a few things that you just can't seem to shake because of guilt or that nagging "I may need this" feeling? This post will take you step by step to help you decide what to get rid of and how and what to keep and why.


Moving Forward

Once you have made your decision on what you will do with your item(s), do you feel at peace with it?

If not, then maybe you should pick a different route.

If yes, then follow through with your choice and move forward.

When you are able to clear your home of things that you were keeping out of guilt or what ifs, you will feel lighter. Your home will feel cleaner and more open. And it will be easier to clean and find the things that you actually love, use, and value.

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