6 Steps to Solving Your Sentimental Clutter Chaos

Sentimentality is oftentimes the most difficult part of decluttering a home. Discarding an old tv or the well-loved living room sofa is one thing, but tossing photographs, ticket stubs, love letters, and souvenirs are another. Just take a look around at all the items you have some sentimental affection or attachment to. And I do mean those that you know you never use and maybe only see, occasionally. (Junk drawer stuff.) With all the various reasons people cling on to clutter, this emotional attachment is most difficult to beat.


What I am saying is not new to the professional organizers out there. Often the root of the “problem” is fear. The fear of forgetting the beautiful memories associated with the items. It is like an inner voice says that the only way to never let go of those memories is to hold onto all those things. But the items do not hold the memories you cherish…you do. The memories will remain.


Anyway, I wanted to share 6 ways to make your sentimental decluttering or downsizing a little easier….and, perhaps, even feel good about it.


1. Organize the memorabilia.


To make decluttering simpler, start by gathering together all those mementos and little keepsakes and put them all together at one spot. Additionally, empty all closets, drawers, and other storage areas in the house to make sure no keepsakes and mementos pop out later from any place.


2. Begin with what is easier.


Once you have compiled all those items, take a break. I suggest you do not handle everything in one day and work in short intervals. Perhaps setting a timer for half an hour, and so on. When that is all done, head back to the pile with a fresh and rested mind. If you have come across any broken items that are beyond saving, such as a stained dress or a broken lamp from your first marriage, etc. now is the time get rid of those and move on to what you can work with.


3. Sort the items in groups.


It is common for a home’s memorabilia heap to span many generations, comprising of children’s artwork, antiques, handmade blankets, and so on. The ideal approach is to sort out these items into categories or genres such as photographs / postcards, specific collections, antiques, and old files and papers. This approach reduces the possibility of becoming emotionally overwhelmed. It also makes it a game….the match game. Once you have done this, you can tackle one category at a time.


4. Pass on, donate or sell the items you are parting with.


With things sorted into different categories, this next step should be quite easy. If you come across items that you no longer want to keep in the family and they are in good condition, the options are now selling or donating. This is where you can call your local auction house. See if they can send out an expert to review whether you have anything of significant value or would do well at auction for you. You may just be surprised. If you are planning on donating, check with your local thrift stores beforehand to make sure they are currently accepting your specific items. Do brace yourself for reality. Do not expect a windfall since many of these collectibles may not have much resale value. Plus, that way you can be pleasantly surprised if you do. It is a better mind set. Also, for those items you believe are valuable to your children or loved ones, consider giving them as a gift.

5. For the downsizers and movers…Compare the new place you are moving in with your old one.


This is step is crucial if you are moving to a smaller place. It’s one of the most common scenarios I am consulting on these days. In such a scenario, you need to declutter as much as you can to fit into the new place. If you are struggling to downsize, do not shy away from asking help from friends or a relative or even a professional organizer who could assist you in assessing which items are worth keeping and which to toss or sell.


6. Enjoy the entire process of decluttering.


Do not look upon the process of decluttering as a means of getting rid of memorable items or your past but as a journey through a long life. Look thru that old photo album and think back on all the beautiful memories you have lived through. Let this time be an instant replay of hopefully your favorite movie, starring you and your family, so enjoy it. If clearing space is not an issue and you are not ready yet to discard any item now, you can put it away for a year or so and wait for the time you are finally ready to let go of it. At least it will be properly organized. Make the process of decluttering as enjoyable as possible. When you create a positive experience in your decluttering sessions, you will feel less depleted and more energized.


I cannot tell you how many people have shared important. They found when this process was complete, they had a strange sense of intense relief. Most have said it felt like a heavy burden had been lifted. You may not even realize that you are subconsciously being burdened. The caretaker or curator of the family’s “stuff” can take its toll. Letting go can be very powerful. Good luck and just breathe. It is going to be okay.


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