How To Declutter Sentimental Things

You can accumulate a staggering amount of stuff over a lifetime. Most of it is easy to part with, sold to the highest bidder on eBay, heavily discounted at the local boot fair, or given away to a friend who would actually use it. But many of us find ourselves holding onto some things that have sentimental value, and even though we rarely look at them or use them, they’re difficult to let go. In this article, we’ll offer some advice on how to declutter sentimental things, so that you can finally surrender items that you don’t need. 

How to declutter sentimental things—questions to ask yourself

When you’re going through the decluttering process and getting rid of old things, when you come across a sentimental item, try asking yourself the below questions.

Is it sitting in a box somewhere?

If the item that you’re clinging onto is sitting in a cardboard box in the garage, and you rarely even see it, do you really need to keep it? What value are you getting from it? If it’s something that will look good on show, like an old picture frame or a vase, try finding a suitable spot for it in your home. Otherwise, think about whether it’s really worth keeping, and if it’s adding value to your life.

Will it grow in value?

If you’re in the middle of decluttering sentimental items, and you’re considering whether to get rid of something, a good question to ask yourself is whether you think it’ll grow in value over time. Some people have treasures hidden away in their homes that are worth a lot of money, either because they’re antiques, or collector’s items. For example, if you’re an 80s kid who collected WWF figurines, they can sell for thousands of dollars online, particularly if they’re a rare edition.

Will a family member or friend benefit from it?

Many of our sentimental items are hidden away in boxes, where they’re not benefitting anyone. Might an item that you’re struggling to part with be useful to someone in your family? Perhaps a friend might find a use for it? If you gift a sentimental item to somebody you love, you’ll be happy in the knowledge that it has purpose once more.

Is it something you’ll pass onto your kids?

If the item that you’re clinging onto has family history, is it something that your grown children would want to hold onto? One of your kids might love to take ownership of a family heirloom, and place it proudly on their mantlepiece.

Could you use the money for something worthwhile?

It sounds a little heartless, but as mentioned above, some sentimental items that you own might be worth a lot of money. Perhaps you’re holding onto an old diamond-encrusted necklace that belonged to your great grandmother, which has been tucked away in its case for 20 years, and that you’re never going to wear? The money that you get from the necklace might help to fund something important in your life—your upcoming wedding, a deposit for your first property, or a trip to the Maldives that you’ve always dreamt of, but never been able to afford. While you might feel uncomfortable about selling a small piece of your family history, if the money goes towards something significant in your life, the happy memories that you gain from its sale seem more important.

Would you purchase it again, at full price?

Some of us clutch onto possessions that we paid a lot of money for, with the idea that we’ll use them again one day. But we’re kidding ourselves most of the time, and we can convince ourselves to part with the item by asking whether we’d purchase it again, at the same price. If the answer is no, you might consider selling it and using the money for something worthwhile.

Can you keep just one of them?

Some sentimental items that we keep are part of a collection—for example a collection of chinaware handed down by our grandmother. If they’re collecting dust in the garage, and you don’t intend on bringing them out for dinner parties, birthdays, or other special occasions, could you keep just one piece from the collection and actually use it? If so, you still have a single piece of the memory in your home.

Can I come back to it later?

We might find ourselves stuck for certain sentimental items. If it’s a family heirloom, selling it can almost feel like a betrayal, with the narrowed eyes of your great grandfather invading your mind’s eye. If you find yourself immobilised when it comes to certain items, don’t stress yourself out too much. You can always come back to it in a few weeks, months, or even years. At that point, you might be in a different headspace, and have the confidence to make a final decision.

The process of decluttering sentimental items can be tough. But if you’re struggling to get rid of particular items, try asking yourself each of the questions above. They can provide you with a fresh perspective, and help with the final decision.

For more advice and tips on decluttering, read one of our other blogs on the subject – (a) decluttering your house (b) declutterig your life