Decluttering Cure

Here’s a New Way to Think About Your Sentimental Clutter

updated May 3, 2019
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(Image credit: Brittany Purlee)
(Image credit: Kath Nash)

Emotional attachment to an inanimate object is one hell of a drug. It makes sentimental clutter especially difficult to say goodbye to. And for me, a writer who makes a living helping people with their homekeeping, it’s a very difficult thing to help you with.

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So I’m not going to tell you to get rid of anything at all. At least not yet.

First, let’s open up the closets, drag out the boxes, and let’s find your 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.

You can take the weekend if you need. Once you’ve found your sentimental storage spots, let’s dig in.

(Image credit: Liz Calka)

Today’s Assignment:

Sort through some (or all) of your sentimental clutter, and decide what you want to keep.

I chose the words for this assignment carefully. Unlike when we’re rifling through the kitchen looking for cookie cutters from Christmas ’09, I don’t want you to approach your sentimental clutter searching for things to eliminate. I want you to consider the things you’re storing, and make value-rich decisions on the things that mean the most to you.

Here’s what’s worth keeping, in my opinion:

  • Keep things that bring back quality memories. Especially anything you hadn’t thought about in a while.
  • Keep a few treasured things from a bigger collection.
  • Keep small capsules from moments of your life. You might decide to dedicate a shoe box each to childhood, high school, and college, then fill it with small mementos from each stage.
  • Keep things that can be made into other, more useful things. Turn ticket stubs into art, or t-shirts into a quilt. You could decide to have professional portraits done of something like a childhood favorite toy. Even just taking an old photograph and using it as a bookmark means you’re getting to enjoy it 10 times more than when it’s stuffed in a box in the attic.
  • Keep things you want to keep. You don’t have to keep family mementos unless it’s something you personally value.

Once you’ve picked through about half of everything and found many things you love, step back for a moment. If you only kept those things, how would that feel? Could you let the rest go?

More importantly: How do you feel? Was sorting through the things a touching trip down memory lane? If you’ve got space to store it, keep some or all of it and don’t apologize. But if you were feeling distressed or remorseful about the things you’ve decided to hang on to, or the manner in which they were being stored, you’re a great candidate to let it go. Make room for the things you’ve decided to keep so far, and send the rest of it on to another home.

And don’t forget:

Clear three things from your monster zone.

All month long, we invite you to share your progress here in the comments and on Instagram with the #septembersweep hashtag!

Check out all the assignments so far on the September Sweep 2018 Main Page.

(Image credit: Kath Nash)

Download the printable PDF calendar:
September Sweep 2018