Do you want to declutter your life? A good place to start is by letting go of your attachment to sentimental stuff. When that’s sorted, the rest is 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.
In Which I Defend the Disclaimer
That said, we’re not completely devoid of feelings either. We know that everyone is on their own minimalist journey.
Maybe you’re right at the beginning of yours or perhaps you already have a few miles under your belt. It could even be that you have yet to begin packing.
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.
How We Plan to Help You to Declutter Your Life
Aside from our small pool of personal experience, we don’t have to much to offer in the way of good advice when it comes to letting go of your attachment to sentimental stuff.
So to make up for our glaring lack of expertise on the subject, we put together 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 life (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.)
Abundance is a process of letting go; that which is empty can receive. —Bryant H. McGill
The Experts Weigh In
The Minimalists: Letting Go of Sentimental Items
When Joshua’s mom died in 2009, his initial plan was to rent a U-Haul and 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:
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.
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.
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.
“Trust us. You’ll feel better once you let it go.”
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.
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.
Rethinking the Dream: Decluttering Sentimental Items (aka 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.
Apartment Therapy: Breaking Up With Your Belongings: Decluttering Tips for the Sentimentalist
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 realised 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.
A Slob Comes Clean: How to Deal With Sentimental Clutter
It took Dana’s mom and mother-in-law to help her realise 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.
Becoming Minimalist: Simplify – 7 Guiding Principles to Help Anyone Declutter Their Home and Life
The final example is a book rather than a blog post, but at a mere $2,99 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.
My Own Thoughts on Letting Go of Your Attachment to Sentimental Stuff
After rooting through Mostly Mindful’s archives I dug up these two posts, both of which have at least a couple of useful ideas to contribute:
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 then I thought about how 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 life, then maybe you’ll take their message onboard and start clearing out your own home.
Enjoy, and let us know in the comments how your own journey to a less cluttered (and less attached) life is progressing. Have you been able to let go of the sentimental stuff yet? If not, do you plan to?