This blog post is written by Shelley, a House Hacks Tips writer, self-proclaimed packrat, and professional organizer (we know, who would’ve thought?!).
The other day, while enjoying the first of many cups of my morning brew, I stopped by the fridge to gaze at a photo my daughter drew of our yard. I studied the sky she shaded, the sun and its long, spiky rays; the meticulously drawn, even blades of grass.
This drawing took her hours to finish. She started it outside in the morning, but then it started pouring rain. I remember because half of the drawing’s paper is still wrinkled and stained from the first few drops that fell from the sky. I can still hear my daughter’s shriek; one of half laughter, half horror from being soaked by the rain before I sheltered her (and the drawing she so tightly grasped on to) under my coat and hurried us inside.
Looking back on this photo evokes happy memories for me, and takes me right back to that day (even if it was over twenty years ago). For those reasons, I keep the drawing in sight, hung on the side of my refrigerator to spark joy whenever I happen to be passing by.
What doesn’t spark joy, however, is the cheezy magnet holding it up. It was gifted to us by my late father after he won it at a local town fair. We didn’t go to that fair together, so why was this an item I just couldn’t bear to part with?
In short, this magnet is what we in the organizing biz call “sentimental clutter.” And, although tough at first, there are guilt-free ways to part with these items, and I’m going to show you how in this post. Keep reading.
What is Sentimental Clutter?
Sentimental items are objects that we attach emotion and meaning to. These objects aren’t the same for everyone, and can vary from an old piece of artwork on the fridge like my daughter’s, to belongings of deceased loved ones. Regardless of what the items are, they mean something to you. It’s when you have a lot of those items, however, that they can end up looking more like a meaningful mess.
How to keep sentimental clutter from crowding your space
First things first – don’t try to tackle everything at once, especially if you have a lot of items to sort through. That can not only be a tedious task, but also an emotionally tolling one. Spare your feelings and frustrations by dedicating an hour or two a week to decluttering. Set a timer, sort through what you can, and then give yourself a break.
Now the tough part. As you sort through items, start by asking yourself some questions one-by-one:
- If I didn’t have this item, would I purchase it myself?
- If someone I don’t like gave me this item, would I still keep it?
- Does this item spark happy memories?
If you answered no to any of these questions (as I did to all three with my refrigerator magnet), then the item really doesn’t serve any purpose to you. And that’s the guilt-free way to think of it!
What to do with that sentimental clutter…
Once you validate that an item doesn’t serve any value to you, it’s time to part ways. If it can be donated, drop your item(s) off at a local shelter or donation center to serve someone else who will really appreciate it. That’s a much better purpose for any item over sitting in a closet or old bin in the garage!
You can also post items to Facebook marketplace to make a bit of cash on the side, donate or sell them to a local antique or flea market, or recycle them to be repurposed into something new!
Afterall, it’s not the love or connection to a person that you’re giving away – it’s just a physical representation of some form of that. So, as I toss my magnet into the recycling bin, I still know I get to keep the memories I have of my father. And that will last long after me and the magnet part ways.