Decluttering sentimental items can be one of the hardest tasks on our journey to live simply. We all have sentimental items we cling to like postcards, photos, faded letters, artwork from our children or grandchildren. They may remind us of a person we love, a beloved bygone era, a unique place or feeling from the distant past. 

When it comes to letting go, decluttering sentimental items can bring a lot of emotions to the surface. But crucially, accumulating clutter in our homes can actually hold us back from freedom and living in the now. Often, we store these sentimental items away without a second thought. 

In this article, we outline the KonMari Method of decluttering sentimental items and explore how to store keepsakes, with a special focus on how to organise memories in creative, emotionally-satisfying ways that bring fresh life to and celebrate the memories. 

What Is The KonMari Method?

The KonMari Method focuses on streamlining your possessions for a more focussed, fulfilling and organised life. By adopting a minimalist lifestyle and decluttering, you gain freedom, space, time, money and clarity to live your life the way you want. 

Marie Kondo, the creator of the KonMari Method, counsels dealing with sentimental items in a practical way. Here are two simple guidelines to make decluttering sentimental items easier: 

#1 Declutter non-sentimental items first

Delving into sentimental items early on can slow down or stop you from tidying. By leaving sentimental items until last, you’ll give yourself the time you need to process your thoughts and emotions fully. 

#2 Tidy by category, not location

Tidying by category prevents the confusion that arises when you try to declutter objects stored in multiple locations. Instead of deciding to declutter your living room, for example, focus on decluttering photos throughout your home. 

Decluttering Sentimental Items: Questions To Ask

All of us secretly fear that if we throw away sentimental possessions that no longer serve a practical purpose in our lives, we will lose precious memories. But the truth is, decluttering and making way for the present is not ‘throwing away’ or dishonouring your past. 

The key is to decide which items to display, which to store and which to say goodbye to. Here are a few questions to guide you when decluttering sentimental items: 

Question 1: Does this object bring me happiness or spark joy?

Try holding each item in your hands and pay close attention to whether your body reacts with joy when in contact with the item. When something sparks joy, you should feel a serene wave of happiness washing over you when you interact with it. The key is to keep sentimental items that continue to bring you joy right now, in the present. 

Question 2: Am I holding onto this possession out of guilt or duty?

Sometimes, we hold onto sentimental items not because we love them or they give us joy, but because of duty or guilt. There is no use holding onto an item out of guilt or duty. 

If you find yourself wanting to let go of an item associated with a lot of memories, you may find it useful to say a heartfelt thank you. Bidding an important item farewell is an excellent way to honour the memory and remove or significantly reduce any guilt you may feel from parting with the object. 

Question 3: Do I think I will forget this person or moment if I discard the item?

Your most precious memories of that person will live on because that person is important to you, whether you keep the physical item or not. 

Question 4: Can this item be repurposed and turned into something new I can display proudly in my home?

If a particular sentimental item brings you real happiness, keep it. Decluttering sentimental items is not just about looking for items to discard, but being thoughtful about and cherishing what you keep. This includes making space for it in your current life, perhaps in a new form. 

Question 5: Do I really need this in my life right now? What is the purpose of this item? Do I actually use it or look at it regularly? 

The sentimental items you choose to keep should be the ones that genuinely matter to you most and bring a smile to your face every time you look at it. 

We recommend taking the time to reflect on these questions. Challenge yourself to be crystal clear and honest with your answers. 

Decluttering Sentimental Items: A Step By Step Guide

Decluttering Photos

  1. Collect all the photos you have around the house. 
  2. Layout all of the photos on the floor. Organise them into groups, categorising them by year, event or both. 
  3. Discard any duplicate photos, photos that are similar or scenes you don’t recall. 
  4. If you have several photos from the same day, choose only the best one to keep. 

Why not invite multiple generations of your family over so you can laugh, talk and share memories together as you sort through the old photos? This is the perfect chance to invite your grandchildren and make sense of your family’s story across generations: all the special and ordinary days, the births, the celebrations, the people who have died, and the places where your loved ones lived. Ultimately, the decluttering process offers an opportunity to enjoy memories and respect and honour your family history, while organising and streamlining your life so you can fill the present with the things that matter and bring you happiness right now.

How To Store Keepsakes

What about the sentimental items you decide to keep? Rather than keeping your most important sentimental items hidden away in boxes, find a way to upcycle and creatively display them in your home so they can bring you joy as you go about your daily life. 

Here are our best tips for how to organise memories. 

  • Display baby clothes as art and hang them in a frame
  • Repurpose old baby clothes by crafting them into a quilt or blanket
  • Frame children’s art
  • Create a collection of framed photos in your living room
  • Create gifts for your loved one
  • Create a scrapbook with your grandchildren for a lovely photo legacy spanning generations
  • Store your sentimental items in clear boxes or shadow boxes, rather than piling them inside containers where you cannot see the contents
  • Display photos on your bookshelf, coffee table or a wall

Get in touch today for a free consultation with Bob Morton about how decluttering you or your elderly loved one’s home can help improve the quality of life.