Decluttering (Part 7) … Is it time to “Say Goodbye” to your Sentimental Clutter?

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I love to declutter and get organised and I can be quite ruthless. So much so, that hubby tells the kids not to stand still in one spot for too long or they could end up either in a box (with a label, of course) or in the rubbish. Surely I’m not that bad am I? But when it comes to getting rid of sentimental items … well, that can be more difficult!


Sentimental items are the things we get attached to because they can pull on our heart strings and trigger emotions and memories that relate to:


  • a person who was close to us
  • a special time in our own life like an engagement or a birth
  • an event that was significant, both good and bad
  • a celebration of some sort like a wedding, a christening, a special birthday, a graduation, etc.
  • a place that we visited and loved
  • our children and their childhoods, and so on


We accumulate things that remind us of those events, people or places, and as a result, we end up hanging on to things we don’t necessarily want, need or like but are still afraid to get rid of. We attach memories, feelings and emotions to items and worry these will disappear if we no longer possess the item. I think sometimes too we worry that getting rid of sentimental items will mean that we somehow cared less. In reality, however, the memory, emotion or feeling will always be with you, in your mind and in your heart, even if the item is not.


We hold on to jewellery, birthday cards, concert/event tickets, old travel documents, baby clothes, toys, children’s schoolwork and artwork, photos, silverware and all other kinds of things more often from obligation and guilt than anything else. But should we?


So when I’m trying to decide whether or not to keep a sentimental item I ask myself a series of questions:


  • Can I use this item in everyday life?


  • Does this item have a purpose or is it just something I’m storing?


  • Do I really need this item in my life or will the memory be enough?


  • Do I like/love this item?


  • Am I keeping this item because I will feel guilty if I get rid of it?


  • Am I keeping this item “just in case”?


  • Can I display this item?


  • Will I care less about this person/memory if I get rid of the item?


And if I answer “no” to most of those questions, then I generally let the item go. Really think about and understand the real reasons that you’re clinging to something and you might find it easier to let it go.


However, as much as I don’t like to hang on to loads of things from the past, I do think it’s important to keep to at least a few treasured items that are very special to you. For me, I still have my original teddy bear. He’s old, threadbare and missing most of his nose but I couldn’t part with him for the world!


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Recently when sorting through Miss 16’s wardrobe, I found her Dora the Explorer Doll from her childhood, tucked away at the back of the top shelf. Dora was Miss 16’s special friend and the two were rarely apart. They shared tea parties, sleepovers, trips to the shops and I’m certain many childhood conversations and secrets. And although Miss 16 is now “all grown up” and has been able to easily throw out most of her childhood toys, she wasn’t quite ready to let go of Dora, her childhood friend, who still holds a very special place in her heart.


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So, if you find yourself with similar items that you’re unsure whether to keep or get rid of, don’t be surprised if making those decisions is very challenging. Making decisions about sentimental items that you are attached to is far more difficult than tidying and decluttering the junk drawer in the kitchen or office. You are making very deliberate, difficult choices so be patient and give yourself time.


Some decisions will be easy while some will be harder but remember, getting rid of “stuff” can also be very liberating … it can feel great! I find that when my home is less cluttered, my heart and head feel the same. I don’t feel burdened by loads of possessions and things. I’m more relaxed, less stressed and less frustrated. I even find that I have more time because there is less to look after, clean, organise and store.


And the biggest benefit of getting rid of stuff is that I feel less inclined to buy more and that ultimately saves me money. It becomes so much easier to look at things more objectively and ask myself a couple of simple questions: Do I really need this? Will it add any value to my life? Will this just become clutter that I will eventually agonise over? Do I really want to spend money on this item?


So, what will you keep and what will you dispose of? Well, that’s really up to you! I have no intention of suggesting someone gets rid of something they cherish. What you hang on to and what you don’t is a very personal decision that everyone needs to make for themselves … I just want to give you something to think about.


And will Dora and Teddy ever be tossed, donated or sold … NO WAY!


So tell me, do you have an item from your childhood that you would find hard to let go of? What other sentimental things have you held onto?


If you want to catch up on other Decluttering blog posts, simply by click on the links below:








  1. I’ve got rid of most of our sentimental clutter. Trophies, old christmas cards, etc all gone. I don’t need the object to remind me of the person. I’ve also taken to taking photos of kids artwork etc rather than keeping it all.

    • It’s very liberating to get rid of most sentimental clutter and taking photos is a great way to keep a reminder of the item … thanks for stopping by!

  2. This is one part I am not so good at – sentimental clutter. I always feel like I am going to wound the memory by throwing away the vessel. Like I will lose the memory if it is not there to remind me. Lol sorry I am no help here am I ? xx

  3. One way to get around this is to photograph the items and then put all of the pictures into an album. The memory that the item holds can then be recaptured but the house does not need to be full of all of the stuff.

    • That’s a great idea, Jen … I find I photograph things like kids artwork which makes a beautiful album for the kids to look at for years without keeping huge items!

  4. Karen Greenhow says:

    Local newspaper cuttings which mention my son and other family members and also tickets to events we have all been to were were piling up in my drawer – I decided to buy a photograph album to place them all in to keep them safe/clean and I nearly have a full drawer back .

    • It’s a great feeling when you find a way to organise something and create more space … an album is a fantastic idea because it will keep all those clippings safe and protected in the same place … thanks for stopping by!

  5. I have been working on this in recent months. So far I have thrown out all my old report cards (from 30 years ago), donated my wedding dress to Angel Gowns for Angel Babies (great Aus charity) and I had the icing decorative topper off my 21st cake (I’m 51) so I took some pics of it and out it went. Still more to go but I’m getting there! Let’s face it….none of it will fit in our caravan!!!!