Here’s The Minimalists’ Best Advice for Dealing With Sentimental Clutter

published Apr 25, 2018
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(Image credit: Jacqueline DuBois)

My husband and I recently replaced our dresser, which spurred an event which I’ll be referring to in the confines of our relationship history as “The Great T-Shirt Eradication of 2018.” You see, between us, we own many, many tees. We could, as a couple, each wear a different shirt every day and maybe make it until Independence Day without doing laundry.

At least, that was the case before “The Great T-Shirt Eradication of 2018.” Our new dresser represented a commitment to keeping clothes off the floor, so it quickly became very, very full. We tried to purge. Some shirts — a free promo tee with well-worn holes — were easy to say goodbye to. Others, not so much. It’s not that we actually wear fifty-something shirts each in regular rotation. Rather, they represent moments in time for us. A tee from an epic college theme party. Something custom printed on pink cotton blend to make sure an obnoxious bachelorette party stood out as much as possible on our bar crawl.

More succinctly, those t-shirt collections were mostly made up of sentimental clutter. Something you hang on to for the memories more than its usefulness.

There exists plenty of advice out in the world about how to handle sentimental clutter. Take pictures. Make it digital. Enlist a friend to put everything into perspective. The suggestions always amount to one thing: Get rid of it. And if that’s the route you decide to take with your sentimental clutter, I think The Minimalists (Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus, who you might know from their Netflix documentary) have a great strategy for making that part — the goodbye — go a little easier.

How to Get Rid of Sentimental Clutter, According to The Minimalists

In an essay about sentimental clutter on their site, The Minimalists first suggest that a ruthless “purge it all!” attitude is one way to success, but they also offer up a second path that feels a lot more doable:

The second option is to take Baby Steps, which works because it helps you build momentum by taking small, incremental actions. What sentimental item can you get rid of today that you’ve wanted to get rid of for a while? Start there. Then pick a few things each day, gradually increasing your efforts as you feel more comfortable.

As for “The Great T-Shirt Eradication of 2018?” It’s in a standstill. We managed to separate our sentimental shirts from the ones that are actually worn, but that pile is currently taking up residence in an IKEA FRAKTA bag in the hallway — our version of decluttering purgatory. I think I’ll take a cue from The Minimalists and try to say farewell (Marie Kondo style) to a new one each morning.

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