How To Part With Sentimental Items

Today I am sharing how to part with sentimental items.  It is hard to let sentimental clutter go.  

how to part with sentimental items

A lot of these items bring back memories and we can feel attached to the item more than the memory.  Memories and the mementos are separate, we can declutter and keep the memory.

How to Declutter Sentimental Items:

Sentimental items can be very hard to part with.  Most of these items come from family or friends and can be tied to memories that we don’t want to forget.  It turns out there are real reasons, like the endowment effect, giving us the feeling we need to hold onto these items.

When we know there is a reason why it’s hard to part with sentimental items it can help us rationalize and let go.


Watch Decluttering a Sentimental Item Video:

In this video, I am decluttering one of my sentimental items, a box that stored my wedding bouquet.  After our wedding, I saved a lot of items from our wedding day.  My wedding dress, shoes, this bouquet, and some of our wedding signs.

About a year ago I realized I didn’t need to keep my wedding dress any longer.  It didn’t fit anymore, so that was one good reason, and it took up a lot of space.  I thought I would keep my wedding shoes, but those ended up breaking.

As I found these “things” breaking and not fitting, they started to lose their sentimental value.  I began to realize they were just things!

When it came to this wedding bouquet, I realized I was always looking for a place to display it.  Instead of thinking, oh it can go here or here.  I was actually thinking, I don’t want it there or over there.

A good indicator of when to declutter something is when you don’t want to look at it.

Why is it so Hard to Part With Keepsakes?

When we understand that there are real reasons why it is hard to part with sentimental items it can be easier to let go.

One reason is the endowment effect: “the finding that people are more likely to retain an object they own than acquire that same object when they do not own it.”  It turns out, once we bring an object into our lives and home it is way harder to now get rid of it. 

A good example is this study found on Wikipedia, “In an exchange paradigm, people given a good are reluctant to trade it for another good of a similar value. For example, participants were first given a Swiss chocolate bar were generally unwilling to trade it for a coffee mug, whereas participants first given the coffee mug were generally unwilling to trade it for the chocolate bar.”

How to Part with Sentimental Stuff:


Declutter During a Huge Life Change

The LONGER we have something the more we feel we need to keep it.  The Psychology of stuff and things says, “As our belongings accumulate, becoming more infused with our identities, so the preciousness increases.

People whose things are destroyed in a disaster are traumatized, almost as if grieving the loss of their identities.”

This is why it can be easier to declutter sentimental items when we are ready for a change. 

Most of the comments I receive on my YouTube are from people that are making a huge life change.  Maybe their children have just moved out or they just had a baby.


Have a Reason Handle Sentimental Clutter

Having a reason to declutter makes it so much easier!  The reason doesn’t have to be deep and meaningful, it can be very simple.

I first started decluttering only after I became completely overwhelmed with kid stuff!  Once my decluttering process was started, and the ball was rolling, it became easier as time went on.

Kid stuff may not seem sentimental, but it was to me.  I would hold onto a lot of my kid’s things because it reminded me of when they were babies. 

Becoming completely overwhelmed before I would finally start letting these sentimental items go.


how to declutter sentimental items 


How To Let Go Of Sentimental Items Tips

Start slow with sentimental items.  Decluttering doesn’t need to be a race. 

I have realized I declutter sentimental items over time, not in one day.

Most of us have a lot of sentimental items that have accumulated over our whole lifetime. 

So going slow will allow you to do two things; enjoy your memories and give yourself time to let go.


Limit the Amount of Sentimental Clutter

I am a fan of setting limits.  It is much easier to decide what is really important when there is a limit to what you can keep.  I currently have one large plastic bin for sentimental items and photos.

When decluttering a lot of people have an all or nothing mentality. 

We can still have some mementos that we really enjoy and declutter all the extra things that don’t really mean as much.

If the items can’t fit in the bin, or I can’t use them in my daily life, I declutter them.


How to Store Sentimental Items

Try to use these precious items in your everyday life.  I have a frame that my son made me for Mother’s Day that I proudly put out on my dresser.

I prefer to see my important items and use them in my everyday life if possible. 

Storing a bunch of souvenirs, reminders, and tokens seems like a waste of space and future time.

When it comes to photos, yearbooks, and other important items I store them in a plastic bin as I mentioned above.  I am sure to go through these items often to make sure they still have meaning and that I still want them.


Sentimental Items are Just Things

I have realized my memories are not in the item.  If you can, try to imagine the sentimental item for exactly what it is.  Another fun game is to imagine all of this sentimental stuff belongs to someone else.

Would you keep these sentimental things if they weren’t yours?

When I finally decluttered my wedding dress and shoes, I realized I still had all the great memories from my wedding.  Getting rid of those items in no way took away my memories.


When It’s Really Hard to Donate Souvenirs!

Sometimes it is really hard to get rid of a sentimental item, almost impossible.  This is when I would declutter what you can and save the rest for another time. 

Box up all of the precious items that you don’t intend to use daily and store them, for now.  With the intention of going through these items again later.


Declutter Again

Decluttering slowly and thoroughly will help you get rid of the excess, but I have noticed that with time I am always open to decluttering more items.  I like to go through my mementos at least once a year.

Something that might have meant a lot a few years ago might not be as important now. 

This was very true with everything that I saved from high school.  As time goes by things that seemed special to me back then aren’t as important now.


Photo Of the Sentimental Declutter

Did you notice I said take a photo, not photos?  Some of us are afraid if we declutter these sentimental items our memories won’t be triggered. 

Having a photo to remember the items or trigger a memory might help with letting go.

I would recommend one photo with you in it.  This way you only have one important photo to become sentimental over. 

This photo will not only remind you of the decluttered items, but it will remind you of the day you finally let go.

By only having one photo of your sentimental items you are not creating even more keepsakes to hold onto.


Do a Mental Declutter

Imagine the sentimental items are already gone.  Think about how you would feel.  Are you relieved or sad?

Sometimes the hardest part of decluttering is worrying about making the wrong decision. 

Make the decision in your head by imagining all of the items you are struggling to declutter are gone.  When I imagined my wedding dress gone from my closet I realized I would be ok to get rid of it.

In my mind, the dress was gone, but I still felt fine.  I still had my memories of my wedding too.


Sentimental Items Bring Happiness

Having a few sentimental items can make you happy.  If your sentimental stuff is making you happy and you enjoy it, by all means, keep it.

On the other hand, if these items are a burden or cause stress to declutter them.  The decision is yours, but I hope some of these tips on how to part with sentimental items helped those of you looking to downsize the sentimental load.

Here is a great article about how to handle sentimental clutter without feeling bad.  Memories and the mementos are separate, we can declutter and keep the memory.



If you are spending a ton of time continually organizing the same area, check out The Declutter Your Home Minicourse.  I created this course for anyone who is sick of all the time wasted tidying their home. 

This course is easy to follow and helps you figure out a decluttering schedule so you can declutter your entire home.


This is the perfect course for you if:

  • You worry about your home before having people over (aka shoving things in closets).
  • Things are always “missing” in your home.
  • You wonder why your home doesn’t ever look clean or tidy, no matter how much cleaning you do.

If you need direction on how and where to start on your decluttering journey check out The Declutter Your Home Minicourse!



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how to part with sentimental items

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