10 Tips to Declutter Sentimental Items (and Declutter Your Life for Good)

If you want to declutter your life you first need to declutter sentimental items. Why? Because those are often the hardest things to let go of. Eat that frog and the rest will be a breeze.

Sporty and I aren’t all that sentimental about stuff. So from that perspective, we’re probably not the right people to ask for advice on how to declutter your life.

We’d be diplomatic about it, of course, but we’d probably just tell you to get over yourself and dump all that crap.

That said, we’re not completely devoid of feelings either. We might not fully understand it, but we get that you have things in your life that are important to you and that, for whatever reason, you feel compelled to keep.

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Declutter Sentimental Items for Good: 10 Tips from Experts

Declutter sentimental items like ticket stubs, photos, etc.
Photo by Kirk Cameron on Unsplash

To nudge you in the right direction, we’ve curated a list of blog posts that offer all sorts of great tips and tricks to deal with the pesky problem of being attached to physical objects.

We have every confidence that at least one of them will help you declutter your sentimental items (or at least get you started).

The one thing we will say on the subject is this: You need to use the things you own in order for them to retain their beauty. (I gleaned this nugget of wisdom from Pat Conroy’s South of Broad.)

1. The Minimalists: Letting Go of Sentimental Items

When Joshua’s mom died in 2009, his initial plan was to rent a U-Haul, pack up every last one of her things, and take it back with him to Ohio. He thought that by hanging onto her stuff he’d be able to hold onto her. But then he found four sealed boxes under her bed and their contents helped him realise that his efforts were futile.

Of course it was difficult to let go, but I realized many things about our relationship between memories and possessions during the experience:

I am not my stuff; we are more than our possessions.

Our memories are within us, not within our things.

Holding on to stuff imprisons us; letting go is freeing.

You can take pictures of items you want to remember.

Old photographs can be scanned.

An item that is sentimental for us can be useful for someone else.

2. Be More With Less: On All the Sentimental Stuff and Clutter

Courtney used to keep everything, from the plastic bracelet they put on her in the hospital at birth to report cards, ticket stubs, love letters, and more. She’d been decluttering like crazy and making great inroads in every area except one: the sentimental stuff.

But then she remembered the question she’d committed to asking herself: “How is this helping?”

I don’t want my legacy to be storage containers of stuff. In one hundred years, no one will care about a letter of recommendation I received from an art professor that meant so much to me. No one will care how excited I was to get a ticket to a sold out concert at the last-minute. The stuff won’t matter, but the stories will.

3. House Beautiful: 8 Rules for Ditching Sentimental Clutter

Lauren shows you how to make emotional decluttering a little easier (and finally reclaim some space in your house).

From starting your decluttering process in the bathroom to finding closure by giving an object one last hurrah, the article has plenty of excellent advice on letting go.

4. Happy Herbivore: How to Honor Your Memories Without Stuff

Lindsay is actually a plant-based food blogger, so I was super chuffed to see that she’s also a fellow minimalist advocate. She had a similar experience to Joshua i.e. sealed boxes full of stuff she never looked at and her resulting post is equal parts useful and entertaining.

I knew I did not need all this—a museum of my life—for me, or my future kids.

5. Man vs Debt: Deal With Sentimental Clutter Without Feeling Guilty

In which a grown man parts with one of his stuffed toys. If he can let go, then anyone can. Literally. I wonder what awesome adventures Mountain Lion has been on since he was finally set free?

There’s nothing wrong with hanging onto sentimental items, but something needs to be done if you’re honestly trying to simplify your life because there will be memories everywhere you turn.

6. Rethinking the Dream: Decluttering Sentimental Sentimental Clutter

Eric might have set the declutter wheels in motion, but it took his five-year-old daughter to show her parents how it’s done. A minimalist in the making, clearly.

Make sure the sentimental items trigger very specific fond memories.

7. Apartment Therapy: Breaking Up With Your Belongings

Like Courtney, Alisha used to keep everything: birthday cards, notes passed in class, arbitrary scraps of paper, you name it. Living in a small apartment, she soon realized she needed to find help or risk death by stuff overwhelm.

She turned to Google for help and came up with five clauses for keeping (or not keeping) her belongings.

Chances are someday will come and you won’t like the thing anymore anyway.

8. A Slob Comes Clean: How to Deal With Sentimental Clutter

It took Dana’s mom and mother-in-law to help her realize that she didn’t have to get rid of absolutely everything, that it was, in fact, perfectly okay to keep just one thing.

The one thing allows me to have ALL those memories come rushing back.

9. Becoming Minimalist: Simplify – 7 Guiding Principles

The final example is a book rather than a blog post, but at just a few dollars, I can guarantee that it’s worth every penny. Based on a rational approach to minimalism, Simplify will forever change the way you look at physical possessions. (It even got Sporty to put her stuff away!)

When we intentionally choose to reduce our possessions, we find more time, energy, and finances to pursue our greatest passions. And we experience the true freedom of simplicity.

10. Mostly Mindful: 5 TED Talks That Will Inspire to Live With Less

After rooting through Mostly Mindful’s archives I dug up this post, which has at least a couple of useful ideas to contribute. We’ve also since made a video on the topic.

How Can Decluttering Sentimental Items Benefit You?

Decluttering sentimental items offers a host of benefits. For starters, it’s extremely freeing. Ditch the stuff that’s merely collecting dust, and voila, you’ve got extra space and a lighter heart. Plus, it’s a trip down memory lane that can reveal things about yourself you never knew before.

But hey, don’t think ditching the stuff stuff means throwing memories away. Quite the opposite. Memories aren’t in things, they’re in us. By saying goodbye to old stuff, we’re making room for new memories and experiences.

And here’s the best part—a decluttered space equals a decluttered mind. Clear those knick-knacks, and suddenly there’s room for fresh relationships, exciting events, and life-enriching activities.

Plus, with less to clean and maintain, you’ve got more time to enjoy life. Fewer distractions mean more focus—it’s a win-win!

Donating your items isn’t just about getting rid of things you don’t use. It also gives them a second life. Your old treasures bring joy to others, all while helping a good cause.

It’s a great way to live sustainably, too. Fewer possessions mean less waste and re-homing items promotes reuse and recycling.

Dealing With Sentimental Clutter: Final Thoughts 

A lot of these posts share very similar advice, just in different ways and with different anecdotes. I could have whittled the examples down to ensure that didn’t happen, but the way people convey their stories resonates differently for everyone.

And besides, if enough people expound about how good they feel once they’ve managed to declutter their sentimental items (and in turn, their lives), then maybe you’ll take their message onboard and start clearing out your own home.

So, if you’ve been dragging your heels about bidding farewell to the sentimental stuff, take some time to read through these posts—they’re full of practical tips and inspiring stories. 

Parting with sentimental items can be an emotional journey. It may make you feel nostalgic or even a little down. But bear in mind, that the overall goal of decluttering is to create a more organized, manageable, and peaceful space for you to live in. 

Most importantly, cut yourself some slack during this process. It’s okay to feel connected to certain items—it’s what makes you human. The point isn’t to eliminate all sentimentality but to learn to control it. 

In the end, decluttering is less about losing and more about gaining—space, freedom, and energy for what really matters in life. So take a deep breath, and begin this journey of self-discovery and liberation. 

Sentimental Declutter FAQ

view from campervan
Photo by Manuel Meurisse on Unsplash

Is it OK to get rid of sentimental items?

Yes, it’s completely okay to get rid of sentimental items. Remember, it’s not the physical objects that hold the memories, it’s you. By decluttering, you are making room for new experiences and memories, like car camping someplace beautiful.

What does Marie Kondo say about sentimental items?

Marie Kondo suggests handling sentimental items last in the decluttering process. She believes that it’s easier to decide what brings you joy when you’ve practiced with less sentimental categories of items.

According to her, if an item sparks joy, keep it. If not, thank it for its service and let it go. She also encourages you to store sentimental items in a way that honors them, rather than keeping them hidden away in your closet. (Having a memory box is great for this.)

Is it worth keeping sentimental items?

Yes and no. It’s worth keeping sentimental items if they truly bring you joy and you have the space to honor them properly. However, it’s important to not let sentimental items overwhelm your space or cause undue stress.

Just because an item is sentimental does not mean it needs to be physically present in your life. It’s okay to capture the memory of an item through a photograph or a written account and then let the physical object go. (This approach is especially helpful if storage space is at a premium in your home.)

Ultimately, the decision comes down to personal preference and your emotional connection with the item. Remember, the goal of decluttering is not to eliminate all sentiment but to create balance and space for new experiences. 

So, cherish your precious keepsakes and heirlooms, but don’t let them hold you back from embracing the present and future.