Sentimental things are probably the most difficult kinds of things to let go. It's the stuff that was part of our history, part of who we used to be and what made us who we are today.
For me, pretty much everything my husband and I keep squirreled away in our attic is sentimental. Some people would call the stuff in our attic clutter, but is it really clutter? I think the first step in choosing what to let go of is to be really clear about what clutter means to you. To me, it's NOT clutter simply because you don't use it.
I determine what clutter is by looking at through a cost-benefit lens. A kind of pain vs. pleasure scale. How much is it costing me or how much pain is it causing me to keep it, versus how much benefit or pleasure I get from it. It's a personal decision for everyone.
So, for example if I really need more space in my garage to hold things I use, then I have to be consider letting go of things that I love but I haven't been using like my motorcycle. It has been sold to someone who really uses and enjoys it. It was a really hard decision to make - I hugged it and then cried watching it drive off. Letting it go - felt like I was having an out of body experience - like a part of me was torn away forever - and I still feel a pang every time I go in my garage and don't see it there. But I lived through it, and the extra space in our garage feels awesome and has made our lives easier and simpler. I don't regret it at all, In fact I'm very proud of myself for letting go and letting someone else experience the joy I once got from it.
This guest post by Jeri Dansky provides some excellent tips to help you sort through your sentimental treasures and decide what to keep and what to pass on.
8 Ways to Sort Through the Sentimental Clutter
The souvenirs from your last 10 trips. The Christmas cards from 1998. The prize-winning science project your son or daughter did. Your grandmother's china. How do you sort through all of this, and decide what to keep? Here are some guidelines to help.
1. Decide to honor the past, but not be chained down by it. And realize that disposing of an object does not in any way reflect on your respect and love for the person who gave it to you, or who owned it before. If we don't ever dispose of things from our past, we leave no room in our spaces for the present and the future.
2. Be selective; consider employing some rules of thumb. For example, you may decide you don't need to keep any Christmas cards that don't have a personal note or a photo. (And please don't save cards from your newspaper carrier, your dentist, and people you don't particularly like - or even remember!) Watching and listening to my clients, it's usually easy to tell which items are the keepers - they are the ones that bring on the big smiles or the laughter.
3. Consider setting limits. Limits can be numeric (I will only save x number of my child's drawings from this year) or space-related (I will only save what fits in this box). And if you are deciding about your children's artwork or schoolwork, it's often wise to involve them in making the choices.
4. Consider space-saving alternatives. Sometimes taking a picture of a bulky item will preserve the memory just fine, and you can let the item itself move on. I horrified a friend by ripping up my high school yearbook - but I really only wanted about 10 pages, not the whole heavy thing.
5. Be realistic. Do you like making scrapbooks? If not, it's perfectly fine to save memorabilia in a nice box.
6. Preserve what you're keeping. If it's worth saving, it's worth either displaying, or storing it appropriately. I'm always sad to see mementos that have been ruined by bugs, water, sunlight, etc.
7. Be gentle with yourself. If you are dealing with the belongings of someone who has recently died, or are grieving from some other loss, you are often best served by taking things gradually and deferring many of your what-to-keep decisions.
8. Be cautious about what souvenirs you buy in the first place. It's easy to get carried away when traveling and buy something that you'll find less enchanting once you've been home for six weeks.
Jeri Dansky is a professional organizer, who works with people in their homes and offices to develop organizing solutions that suit their individual personalities and needs.
After 30 years in organizing-related roles (project manager, process engineer, etc.) at three multinational corporations, Jeri started her own organizing business in 2004. She is delighted to be working with people on a more individual level and facilitating improvements in their spaces - and lives. She is constantly learning about new organizing products and techniques, and shares that information on her organizing and decluttering blog.