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What is sentimental clutter and how do you deal with it?

Updated: Jun 27, 2022

What is sentimental clutter?

Sentimental clutter is a category of clutter which includes those items you are holding onto for fear of upsetting someone, fear of losing a memory, in fact it can cover anything that we are attached to emotionally but has no practical or aesthetic use in our day to day living.

It could be that you’ve saved every piece of art and craft which your children made but it is exploding out of the container you allocated it to years ago, or a figurine which belonged to your grandparents but is not to your taste and doesn’t suit your home.

You hold on to them because it feels like they are linking you to the times in the past where you were happy and by choosing to move these items out of your home you will somehow break the memories and maybe even lose them.

You may even feel you are letting people down by even considering decluttering them.

But you know that you have too much stuff. You have decided that something has got to be done.

How do you overcome these emotional ties which are stopping you from making any decisions?

Read on!

First of all, don't attempt to declutter sentimental items first. Always begin your decluttering process by looking at the obvious clutter to you. Find an easy area and begin here, maybe start by doing a 28 day challenge - there is a checklist in my shop on the website.

It is important that you don’t begin this process when you are going through some sort of emotional trauma - grief or divorce. Or, if you really need to start decluttering, don’t do it alone - get a friend, family member (who isn’t as attached to your belongings) or a professional declutterer and organiser to join you and help and support you.


Take your time.

Work at your own pace. These items have probably been with you for a while, rushing through them will lead to making decisions you regret, so take it easy and take it slowly.

Change your mindset.

Instead of deciding which items you are choosing to declutter, look at items you are choosing to keep. Acknowledge that this will not be a walk in the park, but you are going to have a home which showcases your most precious items rather than hides them away in boxes or on piles where nobody can appreciate their true beauty or learn their story.

Ask yourself these questions - (I am using the example of grandad’s fishing rod collection - insert your own sentimental clutter)

Once you have decided what to do with an item, stick to your decision. Be firm and decisive - when you have asked yourself the questions, you should be clearer on whether the item is going to stay and become a treasured object to be looked at and talked about or whether it is time for somebody else to get pleasure from it.

As you ask yourself these questions you may come to realise that it is not the actual object which is important but it’s connection with a person or place. The object isn’t needed for you to retain that memory. You could write about it, take a photo of the object and keep a record of the associated emotions and memories this way.

If, however, you really do have a strong love for the object - IT ISN’T CLUTTER! - but it does need to be loved and cherished, not hidden away in a box or collecting dust.

When you have been through your sentimental clutter, if your keep pile is still quite large, revisit everything. Usually the decision making process will have become easier and you will find more items to move on or donate.

How to care for the items you have decided to keep.

You have decided to keep these items because you love them. So create space for them, display them or have them in an album or drawer which is easy to get to and you can look at whenever you want to.

In summary:

Ask yourself -

  • Would whoever gave you the item have expected you to keep it forever?

  • Do I need to keep the complete collection?

  • Is there somebody you know who would like to have the item?

  • Are you keeping the item because you think someone will want it in the future?

  • How will these item/s become part of my life, to be enjoyed and treasured?

Remember, why are you decluttering? What is your vision and goal?

Your home is for you, here and now. It is not just a place to be used as a storage unit for your past. Do not feel guilty for passing on gifts or pieces which belonged to loved ones - would they want you to feel like that? Or would they want you to be happy and at peace with your surroundings?

I hope this method helps you begin to see your way past the sentimental items you are holding onto for the wrong reasons. If you love it - show it off!! Treasure it!

If you do need someone to help you negotiate your sentimental clutter contact me via my website, facebook page or instagram and email. All the links are below.


You can comment below ↓↓ or look at the end of the blog for all the ways you can contact me privately. I love hearing from you with all your ideas and photos of the areas you are working on!!

If you want to delve deeper into finding a ‘system’ which will work for you, you can contact me via my email or using the chat bubble on my website, I would love to help you!

I am also on Pinterest and Instagram if you need some inspiration!

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