Decluttering Sentimental Items

Let’s jump into a tough topic here. No, no, we’re not discussing how to achieve world peace. We’re talking about something that can evoke some big emotions…decluttering sentimental items!

As a professional organizer, it is NOT my place to determine what people should and should not keep. It IS my place to bring thoughtfulness and respect to the scenario, acknowledging that our items can be deeply personal and can put a smile on our face or spark a great memory from a time in our lives that’s worth preserving. However, let’s explore this a little bit and be open to different perspectives or ways to think about these sentimental items. 

First of all, I would not recommend starting with decluttering anything that is sentimental. Start with easier non-sentimental areas and items first. Then, after you’ve exercised your organizing muscles, you’ll be more equipped to tackle the harder stuff. Often, then, you’ll view the sentimental items differently. You may be ready to move them along or, conversely, you may have created enough available space to keep these priority sentimental items due to the previous decluttering work you accomplished. 

Having some sentimental things does not necessarily mean you have clutter. But when these seem excessive, exceed your space, or conjure up negative feelings, perhaps they’re no longer serving you. The value is not in the item itself. The value is in the memory of it. Let’s explore some ways to preserve the memories while releasing some of the clutter, and the accompanying weight of the clutter. 

decluttering sentimental items

Choose your favorites.

If you have a large collection of the same or similar pieces, consider keeping your favorites and parting with the rest. You may find that you notice and appreciate the items even more when they’re not lost in a sea of others.

Share with others. 

Your grandmother’s china? You could split the set and gift pieces to several family members who would find joy in these heirlooms.

Take pictures. 

Make a fun photo album with captioned photos of the items and the memories they hold. You can then donate or sell the pieces themselves.

Have a sale and do something special with the proceeds. 

If you inherited pieces that have monetary value, hold a sale and use the proceeds to donate to a cause that was near and dear to your loved one’s heart. If he or she was a nature lover, you could plant a tree in their memory and find great joy in watching it blossom year after year. 

decluttering sentimental items


Think of a way to utilize your items in a way that provides purpose and meaning, turning clutter into utility or beauty. My grandmother had a spoon that my mom made into a ring for me. I wear it daily and am reminded of her much more often than had the spoon been tucked away in the back of a drawer. 

Overall, let your intuition guide you in this space. If an item does hold special meaning to you, by all means, keep it. Cherish it. If it does not hold special meaning, you’ll find that releasing that clutter will free you up to make space for what truly matters to you.