Being Selective - Dealing with Clutter that has Sentimental Value

clutter in a drawer
This article covers:

Kate Ibbotson is a professional declutterer and organiser. She blogs over at A Tidy Mind. We asked Kate if she'd come and write a blog post for us on how she helps others to deal with their sentimental clutter. Her advice on this tricky subject is the best we've read! Here's Kate's blog post, written just for you:In my experience as a Professional Declutterer and Organiser, sentimental items are, hands down, the most challenging category of possessions for my clients to deal with. Perhaps you too find it difficult or even unthinkable to go through certain possessions with a view to sorting and streamlining them?  These things may be associated with a loved one who has sadly passed away. A child now grown up, a past relationship, an important or a historical event. Or they may be a family heirloom, a potential collectors’ item or even passed to you in a will.The point of decluttering if often misunderstood. Far from it being about throwing things away, the focus should be on what truly adds value to your life, whether that value is functionality, monetary value, a special memory or a simply a positive feeling.The benefits of decluttering include time saved searching for things, a calmer environment, satisfaction through donating to someone else, a feeling of freedom, more space and a home which is easier to clean

But how do you make the call on these items? 

Decide which ones make the cut and which don’t? Ask yourself the questions below, designed to aid this decision-making process.  By following this structured questioning, you have a framework to rely on, which will enable you to avoid procrastination and make a balanced assessment about those extra special belongings. 

Does it have true sentimental value – now?

An item may once have appeared to have sentimental value but perhaps it won’t remain that way forever. Take cards as an example: it’s worth remembering, the purpose of a greetings card is to convey a greeting. Once it has done that, in the vast majority of cases, it has served its purpose. Remember that the more cards you keep, the less time you have to enjoy the few extremely special ones you will receive over the years. Select the ones that are truly memorable, have a sentimental message written by the sender and are from a unique occasion.

How does it make you feel?

Take note of the initial feeling that floods through you when you consider an item. You might have mixed feelings about sentimental items but one will prevail and that’s the one to notice.  Do you like this item? After all, you’re the one who has to store and maintain it. Listen to how you really feel rather than how you think you should feel and if an item elicits negative energy or emotion, there could be zero value in keeping it.

Do you own something else which does the same job?

It is understandable that you would want to keep something to remind you of a memory. But do you need 50 ‘somethings’? Do you need to keep an entire collection of items? Or can you keep one thing, simply as a representation? If you keep numerous items relating to the same person or era of your life, this could take away meaning from each individual one.

Would it add more value if it changed its function?

Could the item be changed in some way in order to give it a new lease of life and bring it back to the present? Here are some examples of how you could do this:

  • A ‘too small’ ring passed from a grandmother could melted down and made into a necklace
  • A grown-up child’s old Babygro can be upcycled into a cushion cover
  • A wedding dress might be made into a christening outfit
  • A coin collection could be displayed as striking framed art on the wall.

Can you store/maintain it?

Things do degenerate over time, so can you adequately preserve them? It’s also futile to own a meaningful possession should it be buried in the bottom of a box and ultimately forgotten about. Your sentimental items should be proudly displayed in your home where possible. Allow them to do their job: to bring you joy and increase your satisfaction within your home, on a daily basis

Do you have room for it?

Increased property prices in the UK mean many people have to compromise on space. A room crammed with too much furniture can make it feel dark and oppressive. Don’t forget that, the more possessions you have, the more work you have to do to maintain and clean them. It can be tempting to store sentimental items a loft or basement. But would you or your family benefit more from converting these into living space? At times, it makes me sad that many clients feel they need my permission to let go of certain items and even then, they struggle with guilt. They often feel disloyal and cold at the thought of discarding excess photos of their family members or belongings of those who have passed away.Please remember: the memories are not inside the “things”. They are inside us instead.

Being selective does NOT make you a bad person.

Kate Ibbotson: is a declutter expert and professional organiser, who founded ‘A Tidy Mind’ 3 years ago.  She helps people simplify their lives and create order in their homes, in order to achieve the end goal of a calm, functional home and a relaxed, focused, energised mind.We hope you enjoyed this brilliant advice from a professional! Do you have any questions for Kate? Drop them in the comments.

Looking for more excellent decluttering advice? Take a look at these:

10 sites that will make you declutter- don’t hate us for #665 Things you can throw away right now

Share article

Ask us anything, and we'll reply as soon as possible

Our friendly online customer support team will answer your questions seven days a week.

* Asterisk means this is a required field
Get your FREE postage pack