Ask Done & Done: How Do I Get Rid Of My Sentimental Items?

Want to Get Organized?

Dear Done & Done,

I am in desperate need of your assistance. I wouldn’t call myself a hoarder, but I feel like I might have hoarder tendencies. My home is clean and it’s by no means bursting at the seams, but I am definitely at full capacity. I don’t think I can bring another thing into my house and I have currently come to the realization that all of the stuff is causing me anxiety.

The problem is that I have a deep attachment to the things I own. Everything reminds me of something – a special occasion, a family celebration, the times my kids succeeded at sports or school. It all means so much and I can’t imagine getting rid of any of it!

But lately when I look around, all the clothes and mementos and odds and ends aren’t bringing me joy. It just feels chaotic and claustrophobic.

Can you recommend any organizing products or tools I could use so I don’t have to get rid of anything?

Thanks in advance,

Drowning in Darien

Dear Drowning,

Oh, if only we had a bottomless bin where you could put all your stuff! We would love to tell our clients that they didn’t have to get rid of a single thing and we could magically make their homes serene and organized.

Unfortunately, life is rarely that simple and most good things require work and sacrifice. The good news is, we can talk you through a couple of strategies that might make it easier for you to let go. And if you want a more intense solution, we’ve worked up an entire course for every area of your home. You aren’t alone in your struggle and our Love Your Home Again course may be just what you need!

Sentimental Items

We categorize all the sorts of things you’re referring to as “Sentimental Items”. And we believe there are two reasons why people hold on to them. The first is because they create a road map to the life you’ve lived so far. Perhaps it’s your first swimming trophy, your high school year books, the mug you always used in college, or the dress you were wearing when you met your husband for the first time.

All of these mementos serve as reminders for the important occasions in your life. But you don’t necessarily have to own the item to possess the memory. Take the swimming trophy for example. If you snapped a photo and kept it in a folder on your phone entitled “Sentimental Items”, wouldn’t that trigger the same memories as the trophy itself? And just think, you wouldn’t have to dust it or make room for it on your bookshelf! We highly encourage our clients to employ this strategy. We’re all on our phones so much now anyway, it makes it so easy to access a memory whenever you’re feeling nostalgic (just make sure you have them backed up!).

As you’re discovering, you can’t keep everything. You don’t want to devalue the really important things you own by crowding them in among the things you simply can’t get rid of. So another method you can employ is to prioritize your stuff. Your grandfather’s pocket watch that was with him always? That might be a for sure “keep”. The trinket you had on your first keychain? That might be a “let go”. Once you start to understand that some items really do have value, the other stuff just becomes stuff.

Holding On For The Future

The second reason we believe people hold onto sentimental items is because they are saving them to hand down to their children. But, sadly, very few things these days have monetary value. If you are keeping things because you think they will be part of an inheritance, do your research. Get an appraisal, speak to an estate agent, find a reputable jeweler. You may be shocked to find out that your “valuable” keepsakes aren’t valuable. It may come as a shock, but better to know now than after a decade of holding onto something.

As for your sentimental items – consider that they are sentimental to you, not to your kids or grandkids. Try to mentally go through the things you can’t let go of. How many of them belonged to your parents? Likely very few. We all create our own memories as we go through life and your children are doing the same thing. They won’t want the majority of things that mean something to you, precisely because they mean something to you, not them.

A quick note: If you are afraid your kids will come back to you in the future and accuse you of throwing away their childhoods, consider keeping 1 folder per year in a weather tight bin. It may be of interest to your adult children to see what they were drawing in 3rd grade, but that doesn’t mean they want to see every workbook page or spelling test.

Live In The Present

You may have noticed that the two reasons for holding on to sentimental items have to do with past or the future. But your stress is happening today and your items aren’t serving you.

Living in the present and making space for happiness and ease is the very best organizing tool we have!

Best of luck letting go!


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