How to Deal with Sentimental Items

As you go through this journey, you'll  find that making a decision about some of your items will bring out a number of deeper thoughts, memories, emotions and feelings that can be quite difficult to deal with.


The items that bring these feeling up aren't just random items. These ones go a bit deeper.  They're the ones that catch your heart when you pick them up.  The ones that take you to a different place, give you fond memories, make you proud, get you a little choked up, perhaps even teary.  


And they're not so easy to deal with.


You may think that this process is about going through your belongings.  But when you are faced with what to do with these items, essentially, you’re facing your past and deciding on your future.


So how do you deal with these items?


It is tempting to side step them for a bit, or not deal with them at all.  But it’s important to know, that if there’s a lot of emotion involved, you really need to face it.  When you do, the end reward is that you'll make huge progress in becoming and being that person you are longing to become. 


This is where the real soul work is done.


And that's why it's often hard, emotional and sometimes overwhelming! (The soul doesn't grow unless tested...)  Think of it this way...




This post is pretty long. Not gonna lie.

But hang in there... because, to me, this is one of the most important aspects of this process. (And the content in this post is worth staying the course.. believe me!)

We're all different people here, so there will be some variation in this process. There are some people who are just more matter-of-fact and practical in dealing with these kinds of items. That certainly doesn’t mean that they care any less.  In fact, as you'll discover, improving your approach to these items, can be a case of quite the opposite.

I’d highly recommend you leave these types of items until the very end of your decluttering journey. Sentimental items are certainly not the place you should begin with.  What you'll find happening as you go through your items, is that you'll begin to fine tune your radar for what you want in your life, and your intuition will be strongest at the end. If you haven't begun your journey yet, many of the problems you think you're going to have with these items will have been solved with this new ability to make decisions a lot quicker with what it is that's actually going to serve you in your new life. 

But let’s say you’ve done everything… and have arrived here and are still struggling.


It's time to explore why you are holding onto these items.  If it's out of obligation or guilt then it's probably time to rethink your life. It's quite possible that you also spend your time doing things for others and spending your time this way too. This is such a draining way to live life.. responding to other peoples demands.

I’d suggest you begin by remembering why you began this process. After all, this is your life and your home you’re living in, so really only you should decide what you allow to stay in it.

Only keep things that add value to your life or are important to you  not anyone else. Don’t let feelings of guilt or obligation force you to keep your home cluttered. It might take being a little honest with people if they ask what happened to an item you gave them. You could offer to give it back to them.

Gifts are given to show love.

When you are given a gift, you should appreciate the gift and the intention behind it and express your gratitude to the giver. If someone gave you a gift, it’s because they wish for you it to bring you joy, they certainly wouldn’t want you to hang onto it out of obligation or guilt! That would go against the reason for giving the gift in the first place! If the gift is something you aren’t using or loving, get rid of it. Remember the gift has already served it’s purpose for you and it is time to move it on.

So many of us hang onto family heirlooms out of obligation. I’m not saying we should get rid of them all.

If the item is a family heirloom, it can make it even more difficult to part with.  But let me ask you this, if your family heirlooms spend their days stuffed in a box on top of the shed, would you say then in total honesty that they’re really being appreciated the way they should be?

If you want to keep them, then display them, and actually enjoy them. 

But don't keep things out of ‘having to’ for the sake of the family.  Especially if you don't actually want it in your life. 

It might be that you need to discuss this with other family members.  So make sure you do!  And if your family feel that it is important that the item is kept, well then, perhaps that family member becomes the new owner of the item!

 And remember, if they don’t want it in their home, they can’t expect you to keep it in yours.

Let’s remember here that even though something is incredibly important, precious or sentimental to you.  At the end of the day...

Things are just things. 


It’s not actually the physical item we have trouble getting rid of, it’s what we associate to that thing that causes the difficult emotions.

Our sentimental items TRIGGER our memories, and that's where the real struggle is.

It's essential to realise that you can still hold onto the valuable memories even though you don't have the physical item in your life.

You really are allowed to do this. Your memories won’t be any less heartfelt or wonderful without having the physical item there anymore.

The valued memories will stay in your heart, even if the item is no longer in your environment.

It might be time that you gave yourself the permission to release it. To move on.  To let go. 

You really can. 

I’m not suggesting you must get rid of it all.  But certainly, the ones that are holding you back. The ones you are holding onto out of obligation, guilt or for any other negative emotion, they need to go.

The most powerful question you can ask yourself in this process is this one.. 

‘Why am I having a hard time letting this go?’


It might be that the item was helpful in getting you through a really difficult phase in your life. Perhaps it belonged to a person who is no longer in your life. It might be one of your own children’s items that remind you of when they were little, their innocence. Maybe it was a gift from your first boyfriend. Or maybe it helped you through a difficult divorce.

It’s important not to suppress the emotion or battle with your memories, thoughts and feelings. This is so very important. Let it all come up and feel it fully.  It’s time to face the past. And it's only when you allow the emotion to come up that you can finally face it, and deal with it, and then move on with your life.

This is soul work in the truest sense.  It's where decluttering becomes a Cathartic experience.

Accept how you feel and how you once felt about the item. Appreciate that it was once very useful to you, or that you once really loved it. “I remember when I bought this, it was such a great weekend/holiday/trip.” Or “This was so useful for me all those years ago when I was struggling with my parents divorce...etc.”

Get as specific as you can. When you do it becomes a lot easier to determine whether or not it still has value in your life. Is it something you still love?  Or has it’s time with you passed?  If it’s the latter, it's time to put it in the past if you are to move forward with your life

Be sure to remind yourself that just because you are getting rid of the physical item, it doesn’t actually mean that you are taking the memory away. The feelings that you have for the item are still inside you, they will never leave.

Here are some more questions that will help you to separate the emotion from the decision making process. 

What will keeping this item do for me?

Do I love this item?

Does it add value to my life?

Will this item help me to achieve the dream lifestyle I am trying to create?

Will this item move me forward or pull me into the past?

Could this item to be given to someone else now so they can feel that positive emotion I got from it?

These items you are considering have been an important part of your past.  But for many of them, not your future.  And if you limit your future based on what’s happened to you in the past, you’re not going to go anywhere.

Essentially what you are doing here is strengthening your intuition, that part of you that really knows what you want and where you want to go.

This is where the magic begins


And trying to tap into that part and deciding whether the item will be required on that path.

Dealing with these emotional items are so very important in allowing you to deal with your past so that you can finally move forward with your life.

For more on how to strengthen the intuitive process - Click this link to read my post on Women Who Run With the Wolves.

Click here to read more on The Mindfulness of Minimalism 



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