As you begin to simplify your life, you may notice that the things you still have hold the most importance or sentimental value, like kitchenware, clothes, toy chests, and family treasures. More often than not, the things that hold memories for us are the things that are the hardest to get rid of because we become so emotionally attached to them. Your daughter’s macaroni art from kindergarten, your first pair of ballet shoes, or even your great grandmothers necklace all tend to flood your mind with positive memories. However, you find yourself not wanting to clutter your home with all these treasures, so they get stored away in boxes that gather dust in the dark corners of the basement or attic and are only rediscovered during a move.
So, how do you get rid of the things that mean so much to you and bring forth so many emotions and memories? I’m going to go over a few ways you can organize and simplify your sentimental treasures.
Put it in a Box
If you’re not ready to purge, it's okay to put things in boxes, label them, and store them somewhere safe. However, if you are coming across things that are obviously junk, toss them and don’t look back. In fact, give yourself a pat on the back, sometimes it can be hard to get rid of stuff, even if it is just junk.
For some people, it’s hard to get rid of possessions due to significant life changes, like moving into a smaller home, transitioning to an empty-nest, or grieving because of a death in the family. In these types of situations, it is sometimes best to put the items in a box and then wait around six months before sorting through those items with more sentimental value.
Put it on Display
Unless you’re determined to live life with only a certain amount of things, you might want to consider putting some of your sentimental items on display. Paring down your sentimental treasures doesn’t mean you’re getting rid of them all, it just allows you to focus on the ones that are the most meaningful.
More than likely, many of the objects that have the most meaning are hidden away in boxes in the attic. Go through those boxes and choose some of the things that are the most meaningful to you and your family, and put them on display.
Sometimes, we keep things as a way to hold onto loved ones that have died. By displaying these things and sharing them with others, you are honoring their memory. A box full of possessions buried in the depths of your attic or basement is much less meaningful than the few specific things that are displayed in your home. Go through your boxes and choose three things that best represented the life and influence of your loved one and put them on display in your home. Remove the items that you do not choose.
While a digital photo isn’t the item itself, taking a picture and storing it on the computer will not only save you space, but it will also preserve the memory. Physical possessions, even with protective sleeves and covers, can fade over time or even get lost.
Consider taking some photographs of your sentimental objects before letting them go. You can even get creative when taking pictures. For example, if you saved a cowboy hat from your rodeo days, take a picture of your child wearing it. You can also put together a photo album or scrapbook with images and descriptions so you can take a trip back down memory lane whenever you want without all the extra clutter. One of these photo books may also make a good gift to someone else in your family who wants to enjoy these memories.
Put it on the Computer
If you’ve been saving physical documents, receipts, photographs, and other miscellaneous paperwork, it might be time to digitize them. Sort through all your papers and toss those that are trash. Scan the rest of your important documents or have someone do it for you, and organize them into folders in the Cloud, Google Drive, or Dropbox.
Find a New Home for Things
It’s always hard to part with sentimental objects, but it tends to be a little easier when we can envision those objects being used and loved by someone else. You’ll want to be considerate on how you distribute these items though. Not everything can be passed on to friends and family members. Sometimes, one person’s junk is not another person’s treasure – it’s just more junk.
Make sure the items you’re giving away are really wanted before you hand them over. If family and friends don’t want the items, donate them instead. Plenty of organizations out there would be grateful for your donations, or you can even donate items for use in your community. If you’re not sure where you can donate your possessions, Google search the type of organization you’d like to give them to along with your ZIP code.
Do you have things that were passed down to you that you can use or wear? Why not do it then? If your grandmother passed down a special necklace to you, wear it every day, instead of just taking it out on a special occasion and then completely forgetting about it. If you have some china that has been passed down through the family, consider selling your everyday dishes and using those instead.
For the things that you come across that you can’t use and don’t want to keep, remember, those can be given to family members and friends, or donated to organizations. If you’re not going to use them, pass them on to someone who will.
Write it Out
One of the most special things we can deliver is our own story. As you begin simplifying your life, you will start to realize that it’s not the sentimental possessions that are the most meaningful, but the stories of the people and places we love. How we spend our time and who we spend our time with are the things that matter most.
Write about the things you love rather than keeping them. Start a personal journal or blog. When you start describing your father’s baseball cap, you might find it turning into an amazing story about how the two of you went to your first baseball game and had such a fun day.
Take it Slow
It can be emotionally draining to go through all these meaningful possessions, so make sure you limit your sessions to about three or four hours. If you think you can get your home clutter-free in a day, it’ll be tough to follow this rule. However, a fresh and rested mind will help you make smarter decisions and avoid “Purger’s Regret.”
If you’re stuck on something and don’t know whether to keep it or get rid of it, think about it: In what way is this item significant to you? Do you like it enough to display it or use it? Does it have lasting emotional value? Would it be more valuable and useful to someone else?
Always Be Clearing
Your connection to sentimental items will likely change over time, and you may even come into more items over the years. Give yourself the permission to let go of things that you once loved, and every year take a hard look at some of those things you kept. Toss or donate items that have become more of a burden than a positive memory and save a few things that you can use or display.
If You Need Help, Ask for It
There’s nothing wrong with getting help. This can be from a family member, a friend, or a professional organizer. Make sure you’re asking for the right kind of help, though. Do you need someone loving and sweet because you don’t want to go through everything alone? Do you need someone who can post images and sell your items on the web? If you need help or even just some company, don’t be afraid to ask for it – it can be nice to have someone there for comfort or to bounce ideas off of.
When it comes to letting things go, approach each area of your life in the same way, and enjoy the thoughts and emotions it invokes. By simplifying your life, not only are you making room for the good and useful things, but you are also identifying what is most meaningful to you. Instead of amassing things that define your past, spend more time creating your life and living in the present, give things to others, and share your story through actions and thoughts.
By letting go, you’re coming to the realization that you’re attached to something, usually due to longing or fear. People often think that letting go of something means that they’ll lose something important, but the truth of the matter is – we also gain something. By giving up these possessions, we are gaining peace of mind, space, money, and time.
Love is in us, not our possessions. The love we have for someone, the love they have for us, and the memories that we share, can’t be found in objects, they can only be found within the heart and mind. Letting go doesn’t mean we will lose the memories, we can do many things, like take pictures or write, to help us remember. Focus on giving love now, in the present.