A big part of simplifying your home means getting rid of physical clutter, and let's be honest...sentimental items can create a lot of physical and mental clutter.
A home that is cluttered with sentimental items can keep us mentally in the past. Honoring our memories not a bad thing, but let's focus on making new memories in our homes instead of filling them with old ones. It's entirely possible to honor the loved ones, events and memories in your past without hanging on to every item associated with them.
I promise. This is coming from the girl who sold her own wedding dress.
So much of this sort of decluttering happens in our heads, so here are some ways to think through letting go of sentimental items.
1. You do not need the thing to have the memory Is there any possible way that you could forget your grandpa just because you don't have his seventeen sweater vests and pipe tobacco pouch? No. Our memories are not bound within our possessions. There are tons of ways to honor loved ones and special events in our lives without hanging onto piles of things.
2. An item will not bring back the past Friend, I say this with all tenderness and love. Holding onto boxes upon boxes of mementos instead of letting go of the past is not a healthy way to live. It is good to honor the past and to remember it, but we cannot live there. Nor should we try.
3. Your home is not a museum If sentimental items are taking up more than their fair share of space that could be used by things that you and your family actually need/use, put up a sign and start charging admission, because you've become a museum. Your home should be used! Enjoyed! Lived in! It should serve you, not the other way around.
4. Your home is not a museum for other people's stuff, either! Got a closet (or attic!) full of boxed up mementos that your mom schlepped off on you, or a snippy aunt who just insists that you display the heirloom piece of fancy (completely useless) crystal she gave you for your wedding? Start charging them admission ;) Or at least initiate a conversation about passing those items along to other family members who might enjoy them.
5. If it brings you guilt or shame, it does not belong in your home The love letters from an unhealthy relationship? The jacket from the university you dropped out of? The throw blanket you angrily bought on a Target run after you had to get out of the house because you and your husband had a fight? If an item brings you any flicker of shame or guilt or regret, let. it. go. The day ahead is going to have enough troubles. You don't need to be mentally hauling around yesterday's, too.
So, how do you actually let go of sentimental items?
1. Pick your favorites Those seventeen sweater vests that belonged to your grandpa? Just keep the one that represents him the best. Maybe turn it into a pillow! Find your favorite giraffe in your mom's gigantic giraffe collection, and display it proudly. There's something to be said for simplicity in decorating...the less you have, the more the eye is drawn to the things that are there. Make sure those things are there on purpose.
2. Make it useful My husband is taking old t-shirts from high school and college and getting them sewn into a t-shirt quilt. Brilliant! My mom uses her mom's colorful original Pyrex mixing bowls all the time, even though they might get broken. Instead of keeping my wedding dress, I kept my weddings shoes and earrings, which I can wear regularly.
3. Consolidate it One of my smarter ideas has been keeping all my old journals and cards/letters in a very small vintage suitcase. It's a practical storage solution for me because the suitcase can be displayed as a decoration, and could be easily grabbed in case of a fire or natural disaster. But, I don't allow myself any more storage than what will fit in the suitcase, which means that putting anything new in there normally requires throwing a few old things away.
4. Share it There are probably other family members who would love to have the old globe that belonged to your grandfather. Is your cousin getting married? Maybe it would be nice for them to have the set of extra silverware that was your mom's. There are probably a homeless man in your city who could benefit greatly from your uncle's old army coat. A great way to honor someone's memory is to give their things a second life outside of a box in storage.
5. Keep the memories, not the things. It's true - seeing a specific item can instantly "take us back". Take pictures of those things and create a journal, photo album, or even a Project Life album to hold your memories. You could snap a photo of your child holding their first place ribbon at the science fair instead of keeping the ribbon itself, and then paste the picture into a journal along with a description of their experiment.
- Kids Artwork + Schoolwork Turn your kid's artwork or their school papers into a "portfolio". Scan the pieces into your computer and turn them into a book using a website like Shutterfly. That way, the pieces can be preserved in a neat and orderly album instead of a pile of papers crammed into a storage bin in the basement. Bonus: these can be reprinted for Grandma ;)
- On storage If you're spending money on stuff to store your stuff, maybe you have too much stuff.
- If you're not ready to let go Box it up and store it away. Set a reminder in your phone or calendar to go through that box again in six months. It can take time to emotionally be ready to let go of items, and that's okay. Give yourself grace and time to think about it, and then re-evaluate.
We hold onto sentimental items because we do not want to forget the memories that we associate with them. But it's entirely possible to have the memories without having the things. It just means being a little more intentional and organized than the average bear ;)
Thank you for reading along, friend! I hope this post encouraged, inspired, and challenged you. What sentimental items would YOU have a hard time getting rid of?