How to Get Rid of Sentimental Clutter

One of the biggest struggles I see is people who do not know how to get rid of items they deem to be sentimental. Those family heirlooms, old cookbooks, or even that thimble collection you got from your great-grandma. It can be tough to decide what to keep and what to toss – but never fear – we can go through them together.

You may not need to get rid of the sentimental items if you declutter the rest of your house; or if you repurpose the sentimental items. Follow along as we break down how to get rid of sentimental clutter.

What is Sentimental?

Sentimental is defined as being prompted by feelings of tenderness, sadness, or nostalgia. Basically, it's an item you have problems getting rid of because it means something important to you or your family. Below we will cover ways to take the sentimental items you want to keep and store them efficiently, but how do you know what to get rid of? The answer – is you don't.

I can't tell you what sentimental items to get rid of. It's not my place. I've never been very sentimental because having a clutter-free home is more important to me. However, my husband and his family are very sentimental and keep just about everything. The best advice I can give you is that if you are going through and doing sentimental decluttering in your home, and EVERYTHING is deemed as sentimental, then really none of it is truly special. The whole point of an item being sentimental is that you can not see any way to get rid of it or live without it. Surely not everything in your home is sentimental.

How to Let Go of Sentimental Items

I'm going to give you some ideas on how to declutter sentimental items in your home while still holding on to the memories. Yes – it is possible. However, you will need to put the work in to declutter your home and gather the items that you want to store in the following ways:

Option 1 – Make a Keepsake Box

This is my favorite method. My husband and I both have our own keepsake box in the attic. They are filled with childhood memories and high school achievements. We also have started a keepsake box for both of our kids. Lastly, we have a separate bin to store the childhood items his parents kept for him. These items he wants to keep because they hold sentimental value to him, but they don't necessarily fit into the home decor of the home or are not of practical use for our kids.

Now – do not get carried away and put ALL of the sentimental items in totes in the attic or garage. Ask yourself if you genuinely need or want the item before putting it in for safe keeping in the bin. An excellent way to sift through your heirlooms is to ask yourself if when you pass, will your loved ones want the item?

This may seem a little morbid, but if your family came and was going through your things, would they keep them? Would they even know what it is? If the answer is yes – then store it. I also recommend adding a note/label to the item so that anyone who comes across it will know what it is. If the answer is no – see if another family member wants it, try to sell it, or let go of it.

Option 2 – Use as Home Decor

Personally, if an item is deemed sentimental and a must-keep, it should be on display in your home. I have a very modern aesthetic in my home, so I rarely display keepsakes, but I don't have very many, either. If you can take a sentimental item and use it as decor, it's a win-win! However, this does not mean you should create clutter to keep these items. What does this mean? I mean – if you have an area with current decor, don't push the everyday items to the back and stack the sentimental items in front of it. This isn't what I mean.

Instead, I would suggest decluttering the existing decor to make space for the sentimental items you want to keep. If you have an emotional attachment to your great-grandma's nutcracker collection, get rid of the typical decor you purchased at Hobby Lobby to make room to display them. If you must keep the sentimental items, you must eliminate the non-sentimental items.

Use sentimental items as home decor

Option 3 – Repurpose

Lastly, I would recommend looking at ways to repurpose your sentimental items. Here are some examples of what I mean:

  • Family Photo Albums – Take a picture of the picture and store them in a folder on an external hard drive.
  • Family Handwritten Recipes – Take a picture of them and make them into wall art.
  • Kids Artwork – Take a picture and make an “Artbook” for them!

You can come up with many ideas to repurpose an item you don't have the space for but want to hold on to the memories. After a little Google search, I'm sure you will come up with something!

Hereditary Hoarding

Since I am not a very sentimental person, it's hard for me to empathize with people when they are holding onto items that have sentimental value. However, I have noticed an increase in hereditary hoarding when it comes to these items. I am not calling you a hoarder – I simply want to point out that you may be holding onto things because that is how you were raised.

Think about it; my Grandma lived through the great depression and world war II. She will never get rid of anything. It is engraved in her head that she must keep everything in case there is another time when she cannot get something. Due to this, my dad also holds on to things. He has deemed them as sentimental, but I can assure you that when I go through their things, I won't see them the same way when the time comes. Why? Because I am in the generation where anything you need is a click away. Old history books and random collections just don't hold a lot of importance to me.

I'm not a scrooge, but I don't want to hold on to things that don't provide value. Rather, I would prefer to put in the work to identify these items and store them in another way. That could be in a bin in the attic, as decor, or repurposed. Either way, I am clearing the clutter of the generations before me. Hereditary hoarding is a very real thing – are you suffering from it?

Getting Rid of Childhood Memorabilia

Our childhood memories are something that we all want to hold on to. If you come from a family that kept your most loved toys as a child, and now they are being used by your kids, you may feel the need to do the same with your children's toys. I totally agree with this! (Say what?!?)

My boys love hot wheels, dinosaurs, and monster trucks. We have quite a collection of them. They also both have their beloved stuffed animals from when they were babies. These are items that I will keep in hopes that if they have kids that their children will enjoy getting to play with something that was “daddy's when he was a little boy.” This is because I can see my kids' joy when playing with something that was their dad's.

However, this does not mean that I do not get rid of toys—quite the opposite. I am great at going through and purging toys. You may feel guilty when going through toys to declutter – because maybe you don't want to hurt anyone who purchased the toys – but I assure you that they bought the item knowing at some point that the kids would outgrow them and the toys would be passed on. All this to say – yes, keep the beloved toys of your kids – but do not let that thought cripple you in your decluttering process. If it's not handmade – it's not intended to be a family heirloom (my opinion, but it's true.)

Letting Go of Sentimental Things

I hope these tips will help you clear the sentimental clutter in your home. You do not have to get rid of anything you have an emotional attachment to. However, I think it is important to note that if you are reading this article, then you WANT to get rid of some of the things you are holding onto. Remember, if everything is sentimental, then really nothing is sentimental. Try to store them neatly in a keepsake box, use them as home decor, or repurpose them to save the memories.

If you need help to kick-start the decluttering process or if you need a declutter your home checklist, I've got you covered. When wondering how to get rid of sentimental clutter, it all starts with what is TRULY sentimental.

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