Stuck on Decluttering Sentimental Items?

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© 2013 Christy King

An exercise in decluttering sentimental items

Is decluttering sentimental items hard for you even after you’ve tried the suggestions in my Minimalist Keepsakes post? If so, try thinking about what you’d take if you had to evacuate on short notice.

Some of you may have already experienced this. In that case, remember what you took. Also think about the things you wished you’d taken but didn’t have time or room to pack.

Most of us, thankfully, haven’t had this experience, so we’ll have to use our imaginations.

Either way, grab a notebook or open your note-taking app. Make a list of what you’d want to take – limiting it to what fits in the trunk of a medium-sized car. Nope, not your Suburban. The trunk of, say, a Camry. I’ll call this List 1.

Don’t bother listing stuff like your kids, pets, prescriptions and wallet. [If you’re curious how to prepare for a real evacuation, click here].

Also, even if you don’t have homeowners’ or renters’ insurance, pretend you do. This exercise isn’t about money. It’s about keepsakes.

Once you’ve finished List 1, make a list of the stuff you really wish you could take, but it won’t fit in the trunk of your imaginary car. I’ll call this List 2 (see how creative I am?).

“The hurricane flooded me out of a lot of memorabilia, but it can’t flood out the memories.”

– Tom Dempsey

Now that you’ve made your lists, see if there’s some way to make room in your imaginary car for the items on List 2. Are there some items on either list you could save in a smaller format?

Maybe you’d be just as happy with photos of some of the items. Perhaps you’d be content keeping 1 or 2 photo albums and digitizing the rest of your photos. Maybe you need only a few pieces of Grandma’s china to remember her by instead of the whole set.

Try to get the contents of both List 1 and List 2 to fit in the trunk of your imaginary car.

Once you’ve gotten as close as you’re going to get, grab your real life items. Start photographing your kids’ craft projects, digitizing photos, and giving away some of Grandma’s china.

With the exception of big items like furniture, you can safely give away most, if not all, of the sentimental items that didn’t make either list. Apparently, they turned out not to be as important as you’d thought.

Happily, this exercise serves two purposes. You’ll not only declutter those problematic sentimental items, but also make it easier to prepare for a real evacuation.

Your Turn

What’s your biggest challenge in decluttering sentimental items? What’s been most helpful for you?