How many of you have bins of unsorted photos packed in storage spaces? How about outdated artwork, inherited items, dusty scrapbooks, and clothing from decades past? If you have sentimental clutter, you’re definitely not alone. You may have plenty of possessions that you have emotional attachments to, but paring down these items can give you a tremendous sense of freedom.
To de-clutter your keepsake collections, start by making the emotional component of the process work for you rather than against you. Here are 6 steps to organize and slim down your sentimental memorabilia.
Step 1: Work for short periods
Sorting through items that have an emotional charge can feel draining. Some people make the mistake of trying to purge keepsakes in one full-day power session. To avoid becoming overwhelmed and burning out, schedule several sessions that are 2 hours each. When you’re at your highest energy level, you can make faster and more reliable decisions. As you organize your stuff, ask yourself: “If I got this item today, would I still keep it?” Keep the things you answer ‘yes’ to and donate or sell the rest.
Step 2: Contain the keepsakes you save
One of the biggest challenges I have addressed as a professional organizer is helping people salvaging items damaged by water (leaks, floods, etc). Ideally, you don’t want the effects of natural elements to determine what memorabilia you’re able to save. Switch out any cardboard boxes you currently use with plastic containers. Separate obvious garbage and things you no longer have emotional attachment to from the things you still want to keep, and store those items in clear bins if possible (so you can easily see what you have).
Step 3: Take digital photos
Storing digital images may not be the same as actually having tangible keepsake items, but the process of taking photos is a big physical space saver. Photos and paper memorabilia can be damaged over time, even if they are stored in archival sleeves and boxes. You may be able to let more of your keepsakes go if you take pictures of them to keep the memories alive. This is especially effective with old schoolwork, report cards, diplomas and awards, and personal artwork. By giving yourself permission to let go of some sentimental items, you will reward yourself with a sense of accomplishment.
Step 4: Find out what’s really being passed on
Most people believe their sentimental things will be passed on to the next generation or to surviving family and friends. The best way to find out if people really want the things you plan to leave them is to confirm they actually want them. If you’re holding onto sentimental clutter simply to pass it on, but it’s not really wanted by the intended recipients, part with it.
Step 5: Transform keepsakes into functional items
Did you know there are companies that specialize in repurposing your old clothing and accessories into one-of-a-kind keepsakes? My favorite company that offers this service is Once Upon A Time Creation.They make functional items like quilts/blankets, pillows, ornaments, teddy bears, or totes out of clothing that’s stored away in your home. If you are saving keepsakes that have no current functional use, consider converting them into treasures you can use on a daily basis.
Step 6: Seek help if you need it
A great way to sort through your keepsakes is to enlist the help of family, friends, or a professional. Figure out if you mostly need company, a cheerleader, or someone with an expertise in de-cluttering. Based on your needs, ask for help from someone you know or hire a professional. The benefit of working with others who are encouraging is that they will collaborate with you during the process, and share in your excitement after you see the results of your hard work.