Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Decluttering: Sentimental Items

You've got rid of all those books you'll never read, you've halved the clothes in your wardrobe and there's finally some space in your chest of drawers.

You know that something's lurking though... In dark corners of cupboards, hidden in the attic, underneath the bed... It's all your keepsakes and sentimental items. Gifts from relatives, birthday cards, favourite children's books, occasion dresses, stuffed toys.. If you're anything like me, the list goes on and on!

Trouble is, it gets to the point where you're keeping more stuff for sentimental reasons than the useful stuff you have! Linda over at Practical Parsimony commented on a recent post that “Hoarders are very sentimental”. I don't want to be keeping, storing and moving boxes and boxes of meaningful-yet-never-see-the-light-of-day stuff!

How do you go about reducing the volume of sentimental stuff? Here are some techniques I have been/will be using!

  1. Get rid of all of the replaceable things. This knocks a lot of my children's books off the list. I was half-heartedly keeping them for future offspring, but I can save myself some space now and replace them in the future, possibly via Ebay or bookshops.
  2. Digitalise it. If you're only keeping something so that you can look at it in the future and evoke some happy memory, take a photo of the item! This could work well for wedding or prom dresses, as well as old artwork/schoolwork.
  3. Keep one favourite, donate the rest. Do you have a big box of your childhood toys? Why not pick just one favourite, take photos of the rest of them and save yourself some space. You could even display the one you picked, rather than leaving it buried in a box somewhere.
  4. Set a size limit. Decide to keep just one box of things. Fit the most important things into that box. Donate or throwaway the rest.
  5. Will you ever look at it again? Would you notice it's absence? If not, why keep it?
  6. Would you pay to keep it? People often buy a bigger house for more space. People often rent storage. Moving home is more expensive with more stuff. If your many boxes of stuff are costing you excess money, are they really worth it? If so, is there something else you could get rid of instead?
  7. Make sure you save things that are truly important to you. I know I will never part with the ~100 year old bear that my Great-great grandmother gave to my Grandma, who gave it to me. Well, I may one day give it to my granddaughter! I will never get rid of a letter from my Nana from my 18th birthday, nor the doll handmade by my Mum when I was a baby. Anything that you truly love, keep.
I think Rachel from Small Notebook hit the nail on the head when she said

the fewer things you keep, the more special they are.

Do you have a stash of sentimental items? Is it under control, or is it a vast pile of stuff like mine? How do you feel about letting go of it?


saving for travel said...

A great list of advice!

I was doing great with my de cluttering last year until I attacked my sentimental things. I was proud when I finished it and now have to keep it tidy.

Sft x

Practical Parsimony said...

I have a trunk my father made me when I was eight. That 58-yr-old trunk holds most sentimental items. It is a rather large trunk just to hold old things, but the trunk is one of the few things I have from my father. It has been useful through the years to hold a tv, as a night stand, as a makeshift coffee table, so it stays, plus all the things I have inside.

My children get lots of sentimental stuff. At my age antique shops now pay a good price for my toys and keepsakes.

LOL...yes, I am sentimental but not a hoarder. The things I keep are whole, not things that might be valuable in the right hands that have the right skill or need. Plus, I continually make adjustments.

For example, today I needed to change a lightbulb over the sink. For this chore I took items from the kitchen window since I had to climb on the counter to do it and did not want to accidentally ruin some antique pottery. I have a cute dish in the kitchen window that I recently chipped but could not bear to throw out. Today, I handed it to the friend who was spotting for me and instructed him to put it in the trash. I just had to have a bit of recovery period before I tossed it, but it's gone.

While I don't mind having excess and I don't mind my children will have to dispose of do mind that they saw I kept something broken!

skipandscatter said...

You definitely struck a cord there, Bryallen!

When I was still living with my parents, I had major hoarding issues. But now that my husband I have a (much smaller) place of our own, I have gotten the hang of things (sort of).

I only buy new clothes if I can get rid of something in exchange (if I don't wear it, why let it take up closet space?). It was harder for things my mom made for me. But if something doesn't fit anymore, maybe its time someone else enjoyed it. And my mom always encouraged de-cluttering. :)

I critically evaluate every possession. If I'm unsure, I give the item in question a "trial period". If I don't use it during this time, out it goes!

And it is true that if you only own a few truly sentimental items they are that much more special. In general, I try to have a close connection to everything we own and I enjoy it that much more!

Thomas Watson said...

Thanks for the tips. One of the hardest forms of clutter to tackle is sentimental clutter – I need to decide at some point & let go of those things I don't use.