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Tidying Sentimental Items {The Secret to Decluttering}

October 25, 2015

The hardest area of the home to declutter is the sentimental items that you store as keepsakes, but there are a few decluttering tips to keep the amount manageable and in order. 

Welcome to the final post in our decluttering series!  Today we are each discussing sorting through sentimental items like photographs and keepsakes.

In the book, author Marie Kondo suggests doing this category of possessions last because they are the hardest to get rid of.  Through practice in decluttering clothes, books, and the other items in your home you should be more prepared for knowing what you should and shouldn't keep in terms of sentimental items.

In case this is your first time here, each Sunday I have been joining some of my blogging friends in posting about my views about how to gain control over your clutter.  Many of us are focusing on things that we learned from The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up  by Marie Kondo.  Links to everyone participating appear at the end of this post.

This week I'm not going to talk to you about getting rid of things.  I'm not really even going to talk to you about finding keepsakes that spark joy.

Things that you have saved from your past are hard to declutter.  They were kept for a reason.  Sentimental items are part of your history.  They tell a story about who you are and where you came from.  And that is scary to get rid of because you get the feeling that them memories will disappear along with the item.

Marie is pretty clear that the majority of the items from the past should go.  You should embrace the person you are now.  That is easy to say, and for many may be easy to do as well.  For others, it is an almost impossible job.  Even though I don't view myself as overly sentimental, there are many items that I'm just not willing to part with.

I have a large suitcase where I store keepsakes.  It isn't opened often....normally just when I want to add something else to it.  But when I opened it to do this post, I realized there isn't anything inside that I was willing to get rid of.  Maybe without knowing it, I've already gone through the steps of keeping only what sparks joy.  Or maybe I found nothing to declutter because my keepsakes are stored in a defined space and as long as they all fit, I don't feel the need to purge.  Or perhaps it is just because each item stored here has a memory attached to it and I enjoy being transported back in time when seeing them.

Would my life be altered if I got rid of the items contained in my suitcase?  Probably not, but I enjoy going back in time occasionally and remembering the events that lead me to keep what is inside.

When decluttering sentimental items, it is still important to sort through those items that you've kept one by one, taking each piece in your hands.  Maybe you have accumulated a large amount and will find things that don't mean the same to you anymore.  Or maybe you are more like me and have always just kept the items that are truly special.

Many of the things that we've saved can probably fit into the categories below...

Childhood treasures

Pieces of my childhood that have a lot of meaning are hard to get rid of.  The Velveteen Rabbit and Love You Forever are my two favorite children's books and were read over and over.  The Dalmatian puppy was purchased at a gift shop for me by my dad on a trip to see the Clydesdale horses and Budweiser gardens.

Items from your childhood can transform you back to days when all that mattered was what toy you were going to play with that day.  For most, memories of being a kid are happy.  Problems occurring in a family normally do not affect a child as it does a parent.  Keepsakes that remind you of a childhood friend, family vacations, or a favorite toy are important items to keep.  Life as an adult is hard and oftentimes filled with problems.  Having a piece of those carefree days is a way to remind you of when times weren't quite so difficult.

Keepsakes from high school and adulthood

Old yearbooks might not be important to everyone, but I enjoy every once in a while looking back at the old pictures and reading things written inside each book.  While I rarely wore the sweatshirt purchased when I started college at Edinboro, it reminds me of the four years I spent there.  And even though it seems like just a random piece of paper, the Ticketmaster ticket reminds me of the Daughtry concert my friend Amanda and I attended.

As we get older, there is probably fewer items that we need to keep.  But there are still a few things that will transport you to another time and place.  You should keep reminders of things you may have accomplished over the years, places you've traveled to, or mementos of events you participated in.

Greeting cards

People don't send greeting cards like they did many years ago.  And many cards that I do receive aren't something that I treasure and keep.  But those that were obviously chosen for the message and sentiment are ones that I treasure.   I like cards that say something and show that the giver of the card took the time to think about what to buy.

 Old letters fall into this category, too.


Photographs are probably one of the hardest things to get rid of, especially when they are old family photos.  They are irreplaceable.  Through the years, I've been lucky enough to be able to gather a collection of my ancestors dating clear back to many of my great-great-grandparents.  I enjoy being able to put a face to a name when doing research into my genealogy.

There may be random pictures that you are able to get rid of.  Blurry pictures, multiples of the same scene or event, or images that don't mean anything to you now years later.  But in my eyes, there is nothing wrong with saving pictures that are important to long as you have an organized way to store them in order to enjoy the pictures.

And before you just throw away the pictures that you don't want, be sure to check with other family members who may be interested in them.  I always hate to see that family pictures aren't being shared.  Maybe it is because I treasure them so much and enjoy a look into the past, but I just don't think that pictures should be hoarded and then destroyed.

Regardless of what or how much you decide to keep in this category, you need to have an organized way to store the items so that they can be enjoyed.  And you also need to have a way to decide what you'll do with future keepsakes.  Once your "suitcase" is filled, what will you do?  Will you continue to save or must you declutter again to keep your collection at one size?

Enjoy this journey through your past!

So that ends our two month series in decluttering.  I hope that through the past posts, you've been able to get a little inspiration for cleaning up your own space.  I still believe that this book has so many amazing tips to help you get control over your possessions and create a more peaceful life.  It is one that I will refer to on a regular basis for help.

Here are what my friends are sharing today about their journey....

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