Let’s face it: decluttering is exhausting, not only physically but emotionally as well, especially when we have to declutter things that we have a sentimental attachment to. Decluttering sentimental items is probably one of the hardest things to do.
When I downsized 6 years ago it was because I was leaving my country and only bringing two suitcases with me. 53 years of my life was not going to fit, so I had to get rid of basically 95% of my life.
Was it hard? Yes. Especially all the sentimental stuff I had an emotional attachment to. But I did it, and honestly, I don’t miss anything I got rid of.
Now, I’m not much of a pack rat or a hoarder, but when I was going through my things, I found things all the way from high school! Oy. That was quite the trip down memory lane! Haha!
But I also found photo albums and family heirlooms I knew I just couldn’t lug around the world with me. I had to let go of sentimental items I’d been holding onto for most of my life.
They were a part of me. You know what I’m talking about.
Anyway, the decluttering process sucks, but I’m going to try to make it easier for you with some simple tips.
Decluttering Sentimental Items – We All Have to Do it At Some Point
This isn’t something that you can avoid. Eventually, we will all be decluttering sentimental items at some point in our lives, whether we like it or not.
I think it’s important to know and understand that you’re not alone in this. It’s not easy, it will take some time, but there is definitely support out there if you want it, and take the time to reach out and find it.
Emotional attachment to people and things can become quite toxic to you if you don’t have a good handle on it.
Here’s an excellent article from Healthline.com that I think you might enjoy. It shows the good and the bad of emotional attachment.
Is Emotional Attachment Bad?
Well, yes and no. I’m no expert or psychologist, but if your attachment is to a physical item or a person is consuming your everyday life, then I’m gonna guess that’s a bad thing.
If there are negative emotions attached to something or someone, you definitely need to dump that.
I also think (remember, these are my opinions only) that an emotional attachment is bad if you can’t or won’t let go and move forward in life. It’s like you’re still hanging on to the past and won’t let go. I think that’s bad, and you should probably seek professional counseling or talk to someone who can help you.
I know many women love to hang on to all the baby items from their firstborn. Oddly enough, I never did this.
But most of us women like to hold onto those cute little baby clothes and all those other cutie little things like baby books and children’s artwork from their first years in school.
I mean, there are so many precious memories in each and every item, right?
And can we talk about that wedding dress? Are you still holding on to yours even though you’re separated and divorced or it’s full of closet moths? haha! Girl, come on.
The moths themselves would be a good reason to remove it and toss it. Take a pic! It lasts longer.
What is Unhealthy Emotional Attachment?
As mentioned above, unhealthy emotional attachment is when you are completely obsessive over an item or things and can’t seem to let go and move on. You’re pretty much stuck in the past.
You could be holding on to an item from a deceased loved one or a past relationship. Whatever the case may be, if you are hanging on too tightly and unwilling or ready to let go, you could have an unhealthy attachment, but I think it would all depend on how long you’ve been hanging on.
If it’s been years and years, that’s kind of unhealthy. Grief counseling may be needed, and please understand there is absolutely no shame in seeking professional help. AT ALL!! Do it for you!
How to Break Emotional Attachment to Your Things
I will break this down into 8 small and simple steps because I know how hard it will be to declutter sentimental items. Trust me, I know.
Not to mention, it’s stressful af!
When I had to go through all my things, the sentimental items that were the hardest to declutter were my son’s cute little school things. He’s my only child, so these things were like gold to me. He’s also now in his 30s, so he’s not a baby anymore.
But still, you get it.
So, let’s move on to ways to break the emotional attachment to our things while trying to declutter. Now you may be decluttering because you want to become a minimalist, or you simply may just realize you have too.much.stuff!!
Either way, I’m gonna share some ways to detach and get rid of sentimental clutter.
How to begin your decluttering journey
Before we dive into this, it’s important to figure out how to begin your decluttering journey. It was easy for me because I was leaving the country, and I had no choice.
It might not be the case for the rest of you.
Maybe for some of you, your clutter is taking up too much space, and you need to clear it out. Maybe for others, there was a death in the family, and you need to clear out their house.
Whatever the case may be, starting the process is just as hard. Here are a few tips to help you get started with your decluttering sessions.
But I should note that if you have too much stuff and feel you need a professional organizer, please call one!! That’s what they do. That’s their jam!
It should be relatively easy to find one in your area or ask around in Facebook groups in your area, too!
Here are a few tips before you begin your decluttering sessions!
- if you have tons of stuff, look into renting a storage unit
- set aside a specific time a day/week/month/etc, to go through the special items
- ask a friend to join you if you feel you need support
- make sure your mental health is stable (you feel good before you start)
- mentally prepare yourself and keep an open mind
I’ll say it a million times: decluttering sentimental items is hard. It’s up to you to decide whether something stays or gets tossed, and you also want to make sure you don’t live with regret for the rest of your life.
Yes, it’s tough.
But the really good thing about this, in my opinion, is that the stuff you set aside to donate will probably go to a good home with people who really need your item.
That should warm your heart!
Decluttering Sentimental Items in 8 Simple Ways
1 Learn to Let Go
This is hard, I get it. I’ve held onto things way longer than I should have. Do I miss them now that they’re gone? Nope. I’ve learned that when I let go of things from the past, it’s easier for me to move forward in life.
Not only that, it opens doors and makes space in my life for new things/adventures/people to show up for me.
2 Don’t Rush Into Things
Take your time going through your sentimental things and hold onto the memories that came with it. There’s no need to rush or act in haste. You don’t want to regret tossing some items because you didn’t ‘say goodbye’ to them properly.
Feel the feelings. Hold it close to your heart, if you will. Look back on the time you got this thing. Embrace all your emotions.
And then be ready to let go of it.
3 It’s All in Your Heart and Mind
I can remember when Julian brought me home his first little Christmas ornaments he made in school. I’ll never forget those little things. I’ll never forget all the things he made me in school, but they are all in my heart.
All these memories will live forever in your heart, and you absolutely can’t replace those feelings. You can remember the day, the weather, the smiles and tears. They are all in your heart and mind.
4 Replacing Grief With Relief
I hope that doesn’t sound coldhearted, but you know you’ve been grieving long enough, and I know everyone grieves differently, but there comes a time when you have not to let it consume you.
You can’t stay in grief forever, and I’ll guess some of the things you are holding onto are bringing you grief. It’s time to let them go and replace that grief with relief.
5 Take Pictures of Things
Sorry if that sounds like a no-brainer, but I never even thought of doing that until someone mentioned it to me.
What a great way to still be able to keep your sentimental objects!
So I did. And the best part of that is you can upload them to your computer/iPad/phone or whatever and look at them whenever you please!
Lay out the physical items you are getting rid of but want to sort of keep and just take a pic of them all!
6 Don’t Toss it All!!
Just because you are decluttering doesn’t mean you have to part with all of it. No, no, no. Even I hung on to some things from Julian and brought them down to Guatemala with me.
You have to discern what you really, really, really want and have to keep and what you know you can certainly live without and is time to part with. Be honest with yourself here, or you’ll keep everything!
7 Call a Friend
No one said you have to do this alone. Get a bottle of wine, put the coffee on, and call your bestie to come over and help you. I’m sure she’ll be more than happy to do this with you.
This way, you can both reminisce and laugh and cry together. It will be a special moment you won’t forget.
8 Talk to Yourself
You can very well end up talking yourself out of doing this, so you need to keep reminding yourself WHY you’re doing this. Remember, you are doing this because you have to.
You know it’s time to get rid of everything weighing you down so you can live freer and happier. You know this. Keep telling yourself this while you are decluttering your sentimental items.
Items With Sentimental Value From a Deceased Family Member
The only deceased people in my life who meant a little to me were my parents. When it was time to go through their things to see who wanted what, I wanted nothing but a ring my mom had, and because she suffered from Alzheimer’s, we believe the ring got lost in one of her mindless wandering shuffles.
Anyway, the reason why I’m telling you that is because I honestly have no experience in dealing with this, especially if your deceased loved one is a spouse or child.
I found this really great article from refinery29.com. It helps you deal with a deceased loved one’s belongings.
Decluttering Sentimental Items Will be Hard
Let’s not kid ourselves here. It’s gonna be tough. I’m sorry.
You may need copious amounts of wine or boxes of Kleenex. You may need emotional support from friends or family. Just remember that all those icky emotions will pass.
Remember why you’re doing this. Remember, you must do this for peace of mind and to help you move on. Letting go and moving on is all part of the healing process; you owe it to yourself to heal.
I hope you found this article helpful!