Smart and Simple Strategies for Dealing With Sentimental Clutter

Smart and Simple Strategies for Dealing With Sentimental Clutter

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Taryn Williford
Sep 22, 2017

Deluttering can be a very emotional endeavor and especially so when the "stuff" isn't just "stuff." For this decluttering task, I'm not going to point you to an area as much as I'm going to direct you to follow a feeling. Our target today is less about the location of your clutter and more about the stuff itself. The sentimental stuff.

What counts as sentimental stuff? Anything you're hanging onto not for its usefulness or even its beauty, but just because of what it represents to you. Maybe they're relics from a past relationship or boxes of things you felt like you should keep from college. Guess what? Those quiz bowl t-shirts? If you haven't pulled them out in three years (ok... it's been 10, sue me!), you might not miss them as much as you think.

This is a hard area to declutter, so take the weekend if you need. Open up the closets, drag out the boxes, and let's power through it.

(Image credit: Anik Polo)

Today's Assignment

Sort through some (or all) of your sentimental clutter, and try and decide to let some of it go.

I'm not asking you to toss your great grandmother's crystal to the wolves at Goodwill, just to think long and hard about the things you're keeping just for memories' sake. What might be on the chopping block? Things like old baby clothes, birthday cards, unused gifts, wedding and party favors, and memorabilia that didn't quite hold its value like you thought it would.

If you need to, call in some backup over the weekend. Writer Julia Brenner knows how much a trusted friend can help you stay in check:

"I enlisted help. This might seem like an obvious thing to do, but I am not always the best at admitting when I need help with something ('I've got it' or 'I'm fine, I can handle it' are popular catch phrases of mine). However, being able to talk over the process with someone helped lighten the mood and helped me think more clearly about certain items, like certain books and CDs I've been hanging onto, because I wasn't stuck in my own sentimentality."

Julia knows it's hard. I know it's hard. So I don't want to send you off without a few tricks up your sleeve. When it comes to getting rid of sentimental objects, here are some strategies that may help:

4 Strategies for Dealing With Nostalgic and Sentimental Clutter

Say goodbye. That Marie Kondo... she stumbled on a goldmine here. Spending a few moments to appreciate something before you pass it on to its future life somehow helps your mind to get used to the idea of seeing it go.

Take photos. Just because you're getting rid of the thing doesn't mean you have to erase the memories it brings back. Snap a photo as you say goodbye and memorialize it in an album or maybe as a print for the wall one day.

Curate and contain. Know you want to keep some things but not everything? Find a small box (with a lid!) and limit yourself to keeping only what fits inside.

One and done. If you're hanging on to a treasured collection that you just don't have room for, consider keeping one thing — your favorite thing — and using it to represent and remind you of the rest that you're passing on to a new life.

Feeling ready to go? Let's pump each other up and cheer each other on in the comments!

And don't forget...

Grab more thing from the monster zone! Next week, we'll worry about what to do with all the stuff we set aside all month.

Want to catch up with Apartment Therapy's September Sweep decluttering plan? You can see all of the month's assignments right here.

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