Decluttering sentimental items

March 9, 2020

Once you get into a routine, decluttering some things is easy.

Junk drawer? Easy.

Kitchen? No sweat.

Clothing? Check.

But once you get past the easy stuff to the sentimental items, you may find yourself stuck.

Different people will get stuck on different things.

For instance, I have no problem recycling 98% of the endless stream of school papers that come home. But I have friends who have kept every single paper their children ever brought home.

For me, the hardest things to declutter have been:

  • homeschooling materials and books

  • handmade baby blankets and other baby things

  • books in general

  • building toys (K'nex and such)

These things are still in my possession even though I know most of them could (and should) go.

Why do I hang on? Emotions.

Here's the thought process I went through for each category.

Decluttering homeschool books

We homeschooled for 9 years. It was a huge part of our identities. I spent hours and hours selecting and using curriculum. Although all 4 of my kids are now in school, I still had a stack of my favorite homeschooling books.

I know I didn't need those Math-u-See books or that phonics manual, but I really loved them. And so they were still on my shelf.

Does part of me think that someday I might homeschool again? Maybe. But after some consideration, I've decided to part with all of these books. You can hold me to it!

If I ever do find myself a homeschooler once again, I can always buy new books. By holding on to these books, in a way, I'm still holding myself in the past. It's time to let go and bless someone else.

Decluttering baby items

Handmade baby things as well as other baby items are particularly hard to part with.

First, there's the legacy factor. Shouldn't I save these for my eventual grandchildren? Yes, I should – I've picked out 2 blankets that are my favorites to put aside for future generations.

But the other ones? Some of these things won't age too well. They need to be enjoyed right now! They're going to the local crisis pregnancy center. I imagine some new mother will be thrilled to have something special for her baby. Ditto for that pack and play that's gathering dust in the basement.

Finding a good home for things makes it much easier to let go.

Decluttering books

Do you have any books on your shelves that you don't even like? I sure did. Little by little, I've been going through our bookshelves. I kept old favorites but books that we didn't love are going in a box to donate to the library book sale.

When you really think about it, it doesn't make sense to keep books that you don't love even if they cost good money or are in great condition. That's one of those mistakes that are easy to make when you declutter.

Decluttering building toys

We have quite a collection of building block type toys (Legos and K'nex mostly). I know that most kids adore this kind of thing, but my kids never got into them. (Oh, the frustration over unused Christmas presents!)

I'm going to offer them up to my Facebook friends. I'll bet someone's child will be excited to have a great big box of K'nex to play with!

Here are some tips for decluttering sentimental items

  1. Is there someone else who wants it?Someone else in the family may adore that painting that you just want to hide in the basement. Ask around and see if anyone else wants to take that special item off your hands.
  2. Remember that tossing (or keeping) something doesn't change how you remember a person.
  3. Keep only the treasures. Instead of keeping every spelling test from 3rd grade, why not pick 3 or 4 of your favorite papers from each grade and recycle the rest. You could even scan them and create a beautiful photo book of the results (or just keep them in a special box and enjoy looking through them with the grandchildren from time to time). If you treat these things like treasures, you'll enjoy them a lot more and they'll take up less room. Find a special way to really enjoy the important things you decide to keep.
  4. Repurpose. Make a piece of your wedding dress into a pillow; turn old baby clothes into a handmade teddy bear. Scan kids artwork and have it reprinted in miniature to hang on the wall or turn into a photo book. Check Pinterest for ideas to give new life to older things. This might make it easier to get rid of the rest of those things.
  5. Make a transitional move. If you think you may part with something but it's just too hard to make a complete break, consider moving it to the basement or garage and see how you do for a few weeks. (But don't forget about it or allow this to become a new permanent home.) You might find it easier to take the next step if you have a step in between.
  6. Do you have the space? If you're downsizing or your home is just bursting at the seams, you might find it easier to make some of these tough choices.

Facebook is one of my favorite ways to pass on items I'm decluttering.

I posted 2 things on my personal Facebook feed this week and had takers for both of them in under 10 minutes! It was really fun to see how God's timing worked out. Both of the people who asked for my items mentioned that they had just been looking for exactly what I offered.

So don't underestimate what a blessing you can be to someone else just by passing on something you don't need.

Have done any difficult decluttering lately? How did you handle it?

About the author 

Sarah Mueller

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