How to part with sentimental items

by Katrina - The Organised Housewife

PLEASE NOTE:  For the purpose of this post, let’s presume the ‘sentimental items’ as items you hoarding away, not currently using and don’t know what to do with.  This doesn’t include items you lovingly display on the wall or china cabinet and giving true purpose to.

This is a question I have been asked alot and see that this is the basis for alot of clutter around the home.

What could be some of your sentimental items causing this clutter:

  • ornaments
  • family heirlooms
  • furniture
  • jewellery
  • linens
  • silverware
  • vases
  • baby clothes
  • kids artwork
  • photo’s
  • clothing
  • crockery

Understandably each of these treasured items you have chosen to keep over these years have precious value and meaning to you.  However, are you storing them in the box in the top of the cupboard, behind closed doors in the buffet, in the garage under blankets or in the roof or shed.  Is granny’s vase chipped and unusable or your son’s trophies he received 10 years ago collecting dust?  It’s time to let go of these items.

sentimental-clutter---tea-cup

Ask yourself the following questions:

1.  Why are you holding onto these items?

  • It reminds you of a specific time in your life – it is a memory forever in your heart
  • It reminds you of a specific person – instead have a photo of this person displayed
  • It reminds you of happy moments – then display it, don’t box it.
  • You don’t want to offend the person that gave it to you – give it back to them or you know what they may not even notice. If you are displaying an item you want to part with but don’t want to offend somebody place in a storage container away for 6 months, if they haven’t noticed then give it to charity.

2.  Are they being displayed proudly?

The best piece of organising advice I have ever received was when I was watching Aussie Organising Guru Peter Walsh on Oprah (yep i’m an Oprah girl through and through) many years ago.  This sentence has stuck and I have repeated it so many times.  “If you value an item, it should get honor and respect – not be buried in dust or shoved in a plastic bag somewhere”.

Treat your times with the respect it so deserves otherwise part with it. 

3.  Have you looked at or touched these items in the past 1-2 years?

Clearly this item isnt’ truly sentimental to you otherwise you will be treating it kinder, part with it and allow somebody else to enjoy it.

Suggestions to part with your sentimental items

  • A suggestion recently given to me about kids artwork, which can be easily adapted to this subject would be to take a photo of your item, then part with it.  Create an album filled with your items.  It’s the memory behind the item you are holding in your heart not the actual piece itself.  Thankyou Marita from Stuff with Thing for your wisdom.  I love scrapbook for the pure purpose of the journalling that is placed with the photos, write about your item and the memories you have.
  • Consider the space the item is being stored is more valuable for a different item or purpose.

 What sentimental item are you having trouble parting with?

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36 comments

Alicia Ilievski February 5, 2011 - 1:56 AM

Hey whilst decluttering my linen cupboard I came upon a couple of unused pillow cases. Some where from my daughter (now 5) cot sets, some from my sons cot and a couple of full sized ones from our spare bed. They are all brand new.

I 'repurposed' them by putting them in my gift wrapping box. I used 2 yellow ones to put my daughters gifts in for her SPongebob themed bday. I tied a blue ribbon around. The birthday sacks wre a hit. It meant less wrapping for me, looked super cool in photos and was easy for storing all her loot in after she had opened all the gifts from her party. Just something I thought I would share. xxx

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Clancy January 6, 2012 - 7:05 PM

Much better for the environment too! 🙂

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Felicity Jorgensen September 23, 2012 - 4:55 PM

I did the same thing for Christamas, except I made the bags from old Christmas material and ribbon. Tags attached using the ribbon and then collect them at the end to reuse next year!

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Lisa February 5, 2011 - 3:56 AM

Sorry but you didn't convince me, LOL.

My sentimental items are happily staying stored in boxes. Even though I don't look at them often, I like the fact that I can look at those things whenever I like and remember such great times, that honestly if I didn't have these objects to remind of them, I probably would forget.

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stayathomemummy February 5, 2011 - 8:56 AM

I have just stumbled upoon your blog. I have been overwhelmed by the task of decluttering so I have decided to declutter 11 things a day for 11 days and blog about my progress to keep me on track. I am going to read your 52 week process though as I am sure I will gleam many tips!! Thanks Stacey x

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Karene February 5, 2011 - 11:15 AM

If you are finding it hard to let go of things then try reading Lessons in letting go – confessions of a hoarder by Corrine Grant. It's her story of changing from a fully fledged hoarder who falls apart at the thought of throwing out anything, even old broken toys and clothes from her childhood, to being completely clutter free both physically and emotionally in 12months. Found it inspiring and gave me a new perspective on how we view our 'stuff'. She learns that we don't need every single thing from a period of our life to invoke memories, but just one or two things. She also visits refugees who have had to flee their war torn homes, and the thing that they miss the most is not their possessions but their stability. Made me feel so much more grateful for what I have and that the 'stuff' that I procrastinated about throwing out is just that, stuff. The end result is that I am decluttering with ease and I am keeping only what I need or what is important to me.

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Katrina February 5, 2011 - 5:59 PM

Is that Corrine Grant the comedian, she's so funny, I'll keep my eye out for her book….thanks Karene!!

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Karene February 10, 2011 - 11:32 AM

yeah it is. It was a really good but easy read. I was on holidays so I finished it in a day and half. Have been passing it around my friends who also feel overwhelmed by their chaotic cluttered homes. Hopefully it will inspire them out of a hole too.

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Mal Ashford May 21, 2019 - 9:02 PM

Yes I read that book too 🙂 Highly recommend it 🙂

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Kimberlee Tan February 8, 2011 - 4:58 AM

i do not why i often keep items but i always think they will come in handy one day!! Thank you for this post i shall take it to good use by disposing some of my items!

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Thelovedays December 30, 2011 - 6:29 AM

I found my kids’ baby clothes very hard to part with. I guess it’s similar to peoples’ reaction to clearing out a person’s clothes when they’ve died? Anyway, I heard a wonderful tip: keep one bag of favourite clothes from your baby days and repurpose them by turning swatches of the material into a blanket or quilt! I have my bag, all I need now is a class on quilting 🙂

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Katrina December 31, 2011 - 2:16 PM

I saw this in a TV show, Gilmore Girls maybe??? and I love the idea, I have kept the most sentimental of kids clothes and a dress of my grandmothers, I hope one day I can do the same.

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Clancy January 6, 2012 - 7:02 PM

Oh I love this idea! I struggle BIG TIME with ditching my children’s clothes (and toys actually)… This has inspire me to make a quilt from them. Great idea, thank you!
PS I will upload a photo once I’ve done it 🙂

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MJ May 25, 2012 - 12:04 PM

Taking photos is a great idea! I like to hang on to baby things… I have decided I am going to keep a few special items for the kids’ memory boxes and donate the rest. In terms of muslin wraps and blankets, NICU’s or SCN’s are always in need. I am sure local hospitals could use them as they are always running out.

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Jane June 4, 2012 - 6:37 PM

My kids ‘Bunnykins’ stuff …

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vicky varvadouka June 6, 2012 - 5:29 PM

This is very helpfull! Thanks!!

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MelodyJain October 15, 2012 - 10:33 PM

some of my mums belongings from before she passed away … her hats….and more

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Nik Kapernick September 25, 2013 - 11:47 AM

I read Corinne Grant’s book after hearing her on a podcast one night and realising “That’s me too!” I have blogged my experience of letting go of sentimental things, some I had held on to for over 30 years. http://www.nicole-let-it-go.blogspot.com

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Katrina September 27, 2013 - 8:15 AM

What a fantastic idea to blog about it, I’ll pop on over and check out your blog

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Joanne April 18, 2016 - 9:40 AM

Hi Katrina, I am helping my mum in law shift from a big family home to a unit. She has suitcases (decades worth) full of letters and cards from people who have deceased and she is loathed to part with them but will not have the room to keep them. Any suggestions?

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Katrina - The Organised Housewife April 18, 2016 - 6:48 PM

Hi Joanne, do you have a scanner? You can scan them all to create a digital version? This post may help you: https://theorganisedhousewife.com.au/organising/kids-rooms/organising-part-2-kids-drawings-digital-photo-frame/ Your local Harvey Norman, JB-Hi Fi, or Officeworks may have a budget friendly product that can help you.

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Danielle January 9, 2019 - 1:27 AM

This is a great idea – she can look at anytime but in so less space

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Jude October 4, 2017 - 11:00 PM

When we moved house I thought I would get rid of so much stuff especially books and toys. We didn’t. We bring out the quality toys from their tubs in the shed when other children visit us and we love it. We loan them out to friends or groups. Many of these things we use once or twice a year. I am always gently decluttering – especially junky or broken stuff but I don’t think we need to follow the latest trend and get rid of 80% of stuff. If it needs fixing give yourself a time limit (on a post-it note on the item) and if you haven’t done it by the written date – ditch it! One of our children really misses early childhood years in our old home and the stuff of that era is strongly linked with happy memories of carefree childhood play and shared family time homeschooling. I am glad we have so many photos and stories to tell and the quality toys and books we have kept. Children also love stuff that us Mums don’t. Sometimes they love the piece of furniture that is a little bit dented or scratched but we may want to redecorate and get a new look. If they are going through a big period of change, we should respect their feelings of wanting to preserve some things for their own security and stability. Our children like giving away some of their favourite toys to their younger cousins. We also open up their baby boxes about once a year and look at all the baby stuff – shoes, toothbrush, cuddle rugs, dummies, outfits – we have such a good time! For clothes I keep 3 big cardboard boxes in the cupboard – labelled “op shop”, “give away girl” and “give away boy” so all the outgrown clothes just get popped in the box and then we bag it up and send it on when it is getting full. Another tip I had with preschool, early primary kids junky treasures is to pop a whole lot in a garbage bag out of sight. Wait 6-12 months and if they don’t ask for it then it is safe to pass on or throw out. Now our children are older they understand we can’t keep absolutely everything so generally stuff only goes out with their permission. Also they understand that if they don’t want to maintain it, feed it, etc then we need to find it a new home. It is learning that in real life if you want stuff or pets you need to care for them or find them a new home where someone else will love and care for them. Our next project will be to downsize some of the quality toy collections using gumtree and the children can put that money towards something else more suited to their current stage. I guess my philosophy is constant gentle decluttering to avoid overwhelm, get it right and care for the children’s feelings as well as meet the need for parents to have a manageable home.

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Katrina - The Organised Housewife October 5, 2017 - 11:02 AM

Thats beautiful Jude. Sounds like you have some great storage space available to store it. I love that you can lend items out to community groups and bring the boxes out to go through together with your children. Beautiful

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Anna Rogers May 8, 2018 - 9:31 AM

Some great advice Kat! I really struggle with letting things go, but have just made a resolution to go through and photograph the artwork and create one of those photo books. That will fit in the children’s keepsake box much better and be a “great read” for them throughout the years. Thanks, as always for your fabulous advice and tips – I look for you in my inbox every day! Anna 🙂

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Katrina - The Organised Housewife May 10, 2018 - 9:13 AM

I’d love to see the keepsake box you created when you’ve finished Anna 😉

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Adrienne December 31, 2018 - 8:53 AM

I’m not a hoarder but there are certain items I do struggle to part with. Going through your questions I do struggle to justify keeping them! One thing that springs to mind is my wedding shoes. I had a pink tinged dress and found these perfect embroided shoes for $5 at an op shop in my size that matched the dress perfectly! No other shoe would have matched as well and these shoes would not go with anything else. It was fate. They are in a shoe box at the top of my cupboard and only get looked at when I am cleaning out said cupboard. My only justification is it’s ‘just one little box’. I don’t want to cover them, paint them, reupholster (they’re fabric) them or anything like that as they are perfect and have such a great backstory. They are always the first thing that spring to mind though when I think about de-cluttering. Maybe I should find a way to display them?

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Mel January 2, 2019 - 2:18 AM

The sentimental things I know I will have teouble parting with are my trophies. I competed in a lot of sport when younger at a national level. I have many trophies but they are all stored in a box in the shed. I havent looked at them in atleast 2 years but how can I just throw them away?

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Federick Smithson January 6, 2019 - 12:01 PM

Hi, I got out all my trophies and medals for my kids to play with when they were little. They loved Awarding themselves for doing something. It created discussion about my achievements. Sure they got damaged, but most were plastic anyway. I have removed the engraved plates and put them in a photo frame with some pictures of me playing sport.

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Ruan January 3, 2019 - 11:19 PM

What a great idea about the artwork – this is a major thing for me – I absolutely love it all and feel huge guilt whenever I put any of it in the bin. I’m going to take photos like you suggested and make a photo book of it all. Even if my kids aren’t interested when they are older I can always look back at it – *happy sigh*

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Carmen January 4, 2019 - 2:16 AM

I am having trouble parting with (or finding a place for) my son’s years worth of sports trophies. He recently moved out on his own but still left a lot of personal belongings. He has a shelf in his room full of trophies that I can’t seem to part with. They take up so much visual space but I can’t just throw them away! Any suggestions?

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Ange January 6, 2019 - 9:52 AM

It’s funny you mention this as I just went thru my dads sentimental things when he passed. The things I kept was like a bible that when I flick thru the pages I can smell him. If that sounds creepy but it’s conforming. I will keep that till he passes. Yes others that I feel I have no attachment to I was ready to pass. I think you have to get to that stage or take a photo as you said as you visually have that memory as you would if it was in a box. I’m currently getting a quote for a clock that he gave me. Not antique but no longer works. It might cost almost 1/2 of what the clock is worth. I’m stuck in that one as the chime drives everyone nuts including me but occassionly I like to hear it. Not sure what to do there yet? Take a photo ? No one else in the family wants it.

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Eliza January 6, 2019 - 9:36 PM

I grew up in a very sentimental household, my Mum kept all the cards and dolls I was given from birth, my baby towel, baby clothes, clippings of achievements and awards I received throughout school made into a display book, she had her mother’s recipes books with her mother’s recipes (so my mums grandmother) and I loved being able to go back and look at all the things she kept for me.
So when she passed away these things were the only things left of her, so when my children were born I did the same thing.
My husband came from a totally different family, he is lucky to have photos of his childhood so he thinks I’m a hoarder and put too much value into “stuff”
I can’t bare to throw anything my mum gave to me or my kids in the short time she got to know them, even though they are sitting in a box, I can’t do it.
It hurts me too much to think I was getting rid of the little pieces I have left of her.

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Renee January 8, 2019 - 10:25 AM

We are about to move house so I’ve signed up to receive some motivating tips and tricks to help make sure that I am not moving clutter from one house to the next. The kids’ rooms and our garage are the main areas of clutter and unused items. Reading about how to deal with sentimental items will help me have conversations with the kids about some of their ‘special’ things that they actually no longer need.

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Farah January 16, 2019 - 7:46 PM

I have just realised (duh moment!) that my boy who has autism and totally lives in the moment – actually irritated when asked to ‘remember when’ – has absolutely no interest in all the trinkets acquired on trips, certifications or trophies and he is now assisting me to declutter his bedroom, removing everything he doesn’t currently use or love. He NEVER looks back do I don’t fear him changing his mind afterwards. Wish I could be so clear cut with my own stuff

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Katrina - The Organised Housewife January 17, 2019 - 9:52 AM

Yes I think we all wish we could be so firm about getting rid of things! Thats great getting him to help you clean out his room, makes it so much easier for you 🙂

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