Updated: Dec 13, 2020
Recently, I've been working with clients who've had a lot of sentimental items they don't know exactly what to do with. Items like the wood piggy bank their dad made them in elementary school, the picture of them with girlfriends in high school, the card you got for your daughter's first birthday and even the place cards from your wedding day.
To make matters worse, even the thought of sorting through the items makes them anxious. Some are afraid they will forget the event if they don't keep the item, others feel guilty to keep things that people gave them, and many just love the items because they are from a time gone by.
My observation is often that something inside of them believes they should let some of the items go since it's taking up so much space and never being used, but they just can't seem to get in the headspace to make the decisions.
What confuses me is how these same individuals who cannot let things go do little to care for the items they say mean so much. I've seen sentimental items covered in decades of dust, papers smashed into bins and linens in boxes with mice droppings.
If you struggle to let sentimental items go, but deep down know you'd like to pair down, here is what I recommend:
1. Gather all sentimental items to one place in the home
2. Sort into smaller subcategories (eg. Childhood, High School, Wedding, etc.). You're not deciding what you want keep or discard, you're simply getting your sentimental items into smaller categories putting like items with like items.
3. Bin and label items for each subcategory
4. Determine which items bring joy. Once the rest of your home is decluttered, pull out one subcategory sentimental bin at a time and sort through it keeping only the items that you love.
Sentimental items are the most difficult category to sort through because they can bring up all sorts of emotion. Since that's a reality of the process, give yourself the best chance of making good decisions by having a good nights rest before you process sentimental items and also do it first thing in the morning when you're mind is fresh.