Going Deep in Decluttering

In my journey to return to simple, I began to declutter yet, again. This time I went a little deeper, examining the items I passed over time and time again. I stopped asking myself, “Does this item spark joy?” It was too easy to say yes, believing my sentimental items did, in fact, bring me joy. I now acknowledged the object itself did not spark joy; but a joyful memory of a person, event, or season in my life. I needed to change how I thought about the process of decluttering sentimental items. Now I ask, “Will I miss this if it’s gone?” Typically my answer is no.  

Erica Layne, author of The Minimalist Way, discusses habituation (the way things lose their effect after multiple exposures) associated with the accumulation of sentimental items. She asks, “So what’s the point of having dozens of sentimental items if you can’t use and appreciate them – if your brain has literally stopped seeing them.” After reading Erica’s words, I thought of several items I had displayed with good intentions but hardly noticed anymore, walking past them daily without really seeing them. I concluded I wouldn’t miss an item I no longer noticed. 

As I moved from room to room, I looked at each possession and determined why I kept it. Was it a gift, something intended to inspire me, an antique, a family heirloom, or something I had invested a lot of time or money?

These are common obstacles when it comes to parting with sentimental possessions. We often feel like we have to keep an item, even if we don’t want it. I spent many years clinging to items I didn’t want because of emotional ties. Keeping them gave me anxiety because of clutter they created, but the thought of letting go made me feel guilty.  

I recently parted with a beautiful, professionally framed photograph. It lived in my trunk for months as I tried to find the perfect home for the art piece I paid over $100 for years ago. I finally decided to let it go for $25. I hope it sparks joy for its new owner. No regrets.

Joshua Becker, author of The Minimalist Home, states, “Just because we wasted a lot of time and energy and money on things in the past, doesn’t mean we need to hold onto them if they’re not contributing to us living our best life today.” 

You don’t have to continue letting guilt keep you from living the life you want to live. You can stop pushing clutter to the back of the closet, free the stuff, and free yourself.

If you are having trouble letting go of items with strong emotional ties, here are some steps you can take to make the process easier.

  1. Discover the value. If you are holding onto something because it was expensive or you feel it might be valuable, visit online auction sites or an antique dealer to find its value. It might be easier to donate your grandmother’s china when you discover it’s only worth $30. On the flip side, if it’s worth $3000, maybe your family might enjoy a vacation instead of storing dishes in the attic.
  2. Create a legacy. Consider taking a picture of the item and writing a little note about its history or going online and creating a memory book. Heidi Capterton recently started a business helping people create legacies with a collection of recorded interviews that can be made into a book. A legacy is a dignified way to honor a person, event, or season rather than keeping it hidden in a box under the bed.
  3. Repurpose. Go online and find creative ways to repurpose sentimental items like wedding dresses, baby clothes, letters, collections, and travel souvenirs. Repurposing is a great way to display a treasured item or give it a renewed purpose instead of allowing it to create clutter.
  4. Donate. If you don’t have relatives that want your family heirlooms, consider donating to a historical society or local museum.

I love what Courtney Carver, author of Soulful Simplicity, has to say about sentimental items. She says, “When I go, I don’t want to be remembered by the stuff I left behind, but how I loved while I was here. Now that I’ve identified why I want to let it all go, the paper and plastic stuff that made up my memories doesn’t have a hold on me or my heart.” You don’t have to live a life in bondage to those sentimental items. Consider releasing them, let yourself breathe, and let someone else give them a new purpose.

When you let sentimental items go, you are not being inconsiderate or shallow. You are not dishonoring a memory, you are honoring your home and the people who live there. You are choosing freedom over guilt. You are choosing freedom over the weight and stress of clutter, and you are choosing the present over the past.

I encourage you to discover the joy and freedom found in living with less, because when life is simple, life is grand!

Until next time,

Be well.


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  1. Kelly Rice

    Thank you for sharing this, Lori. This is one of the hardest things for me to do. The anxiety I feel when I have so many things around me that are so insignificant to my life now, is overwhelming at times. I am working on it and this blog has motivated me even more! Have a blessed day!!!
    ❤️ Kelly

    1. admin

      Kelly, I’m so glad you found this motivating! It has been so freeing to let go of things that were really weighing me down. I was even keeping things that brought back sad memories. Wishing you well as you let things go!

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