Sentimental Clutter

Most of us call them “keepsakes.”  Organizers call them “sentimental clutter.”  Whatever you prefer to call all the items that you have in your home from your children, your parents, your grandparents, even your own accomplishments, chances are that they are overwhelming.

These items are not useful for the most part.  They are just very difficult to part with.  They hold memories that are dear to us.  Memories of when our children were young, such as a poem and hand print for every holiday.  Items we can touch that once belonged to loved ones.  Memories of accomplishments that we are still proud of to this day. Where do we even start to “declutter” these precious items?

The key is to realize that we will always have the memories.  We may keep some of the items and part with others.

Ideas to get started dealing with your sentimental clutter:

-Begin a scrapbook. You may want a separate book for children, parents, etc. This can be digital or on paper. Take a photo of the item that you have treasured.  Write about the item. Tell its story.  This will be more priceless than the actual item someday, when future generations read and learn about it.  Then, say good-bye to the item.  Maybe, it can be donated and bring joy to someone else.

Children’s “art work” can be another difficult category.  One idea is to take photos and make a photo book with a company, such as Shutterfly or Forever.  With the company Artkive, you can send in your child’s art and they create art books or framed mosaics.

-Keep just one. Whether it is a set of grandma’s china, your child’s stuffed animals, or your dad’s tool set, pick just one item from the collection to keep.

I did this last Christmas with my mother’s Fostoria dishes.  I gifted a small plate to her daughters, granddaughters and great-granddaughters with a note about how she cared for her dishes and used them only on special occasions.  I also gave them suggestions on how to use the plate.  (See photo below)

Gift a piece of history

-Remake of re-purpose an item.  If you have a dated ring, remove the stone and create a new piece of jewelry.  A collection of t-shirts can be made into a useful quilt.  The memories will live on and the item will be used and loved again.

-Pass on heirlooms.  If you have an heirloom that you don’t care for or need, consider reaching out to family members to see if they would like it.  This is so easy with cell phone photos and communication.  When clearing out my parents’ home, I came across the silver coffee service set that they received for their 25th wedding anniversary. It was beautiful. But, I had no place for it and I wasn’t excited about polishing it.  I sent out a family text and my then 19 year old niece wanted it.  Wonderful!

However, don’t assume your children will want much or any of your items.  Check out the link below with great suggestions for places to donate items that your children do not want.

Also, certain items may be valuable to a local museum or gallery.

-Pass along to someone who needs the item.  If you have something in your basement or attic that could be useful, pass it along.  It feels good to help someone in need rather than to keep items that collect dust.  Don’t forget to take a photo and description for your scrapbook first!

-Enlist help.  This can be a very emotionally draining process.  It is also a process that is easy to put off indefinitely.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help from a friend, a family member or a professional who can help you get to the task, stay on it, and talk through the emotions.  I have helped clients through this process.  There are tears, laughter and everything in between.  We stay hydrated and nourished, and we take breaks.  These sessions may be shorter, i.e. 2 hours or less.  The relief after accomplishing this long procrastinated task is immense!

-Acquire appraisals when appropriate.  I cannot look at a piece of jewelry and determine whether it is a precious metal or costume.
Going to a trusted jeweler is priceless, literally!  I have included a link to help with appraisals of art and antiques.

-Scan your memories.  Consider scanning documents or photos and saving them digitally.  You can also scan photos of the items you are no longer keeping.  Scanners can be purchased it you want to tackle this yourself.  Or there are many companies that will scan for you.  Think of all the space that you will save in physical photos alone!

Another idea is to scan your favorite recipes to downsize your cookbook collection.  See the following link for more ideas, as you downsize this category.

Honor your past, don’t cling to it

As you consider taking on this type of clutter, be kind to yourself and patient.  The following link talks about honoring your past, rather than clinging to it.  Cheers to that!