Letting go of sentimental clutter can be hard.

We all have items that we can’t bear to part with, even though we know we’ll never use them. Maybe it’s a piece of clothing that was given to us by a loved one, or a trinket that holds happy memories.

These things represent special moments in our lives, and getting rid of them can feel like we’re saying goodbye to those memories. However, holding onto clutter can also be a way of avoiding letting go of the past.

In this video I share some strategies and thoughts to get you started. (If you would prefer to read it, there is a transcript below the video).

Letting Go Of Sentimental Clutter – Video Transcript

Decluttering is something that I enjoy doing, well mostly, until I have difficulty in letting something go, particularly if it is of sentimental value to me.

Clearly, at that point,  I am emotionally involved and find it difficult to ask myself the right questions to make it easy for me to let go.

So, I say, ‘self, take a deep breath, and follow your own advice, and sit with the uncomfortable emotions, there is a message in all of this’.   Generally I think the message is that it makes space in my life, a space to breathe, and to feel lighter.

My favourite questions are:

  • Is it beautiful?
  • Do I love it?
  • Do I need it?
  • Is it useful?
  • When did I last wear or use it?

All of these questions can be challenging when the sentimental aspect pokes its head up. But, physical clutter can be overwhelming, so it does take some calm, consideration and self kindness to answer these questions, and then to take some action.

So why on earth do we find it difficult letting go of sentimental clutter?

Is it because we think we need it, or maybe the ‘thing’ could be part of a life we long for, but is not part of our reality, or maybe it’s about using shopping as a way to make ourselves feel better, or is the overriding factor sentimental attachment. And also what about duplicates, when I see something that I really like, I think I need two, because I might not be able to find it when this one runs out.  I am guilty of this, and the annoying thing is that sometimes I find by the time I have used the first one, whatever it is, that I am tired of it and would prefer a change instead.

Soooo many reasons we have to hanging on to stuff….so let’s take a closer peek at them.

Duplicates

When I have bought duplicates, used or worn out the first one, and then find that I don’t want the second ‘thing’ anymore, then I think about the waste of money… ggggrrrr.  I refer to this as ‘school fees’ – in other words, what it cost me to learn not to buy 2 of something. This can hold me back from letting go of stuff, for a while anyway.  So ‘self’ I say ‘in future don’t buy 2 of anything that I think I can’t do without’

The next thing I think of, which is part of the school fees aspect, will I need it or wear it some day?

I like to think that I don’t dwell on this aspect for too long. It is all about trusting that I will have whatever I need, when I need it – quite challenging, but character building, as I don’t want to remind myself of the purchasing mistake that I made, so for me it’s about ‘learn the lesson and let go’.

Guilt

And following on from that is the guilt about the money spent, or even the guilt of letting go of something that someone gave you.  Mmmmm, that then raises obligation, obligation to keep something that you don’t really want to keep….. yet another layer to deal with.

I always think that I would not want someone else to hold onto something that I have given them, that turned out to be clutter or unwanted.  I would rather that ‘thing’ go on to be appreciated elsewhere.

And what about letting go of sentimental clutter?…  this can be a bit of a bug bear for me.

overwhelm and guilt

I have to own up to having brought 2 pieces of furniture to the UK from South Africa (a cabinet and a very useful side table),  that my grandfather made which I just can’t think of parting with, fortunately they are both lovely, useful and clearly sentimental.  For other sentimental stuff, I have used the rationale of choosing what is most meaningful and useful, and let the rest go – it works for me.

Overwhelm

Probably one of the biggest stumbling blocks connected with decluttering, sentimental or otherwise, is being overwhelmed with everything that needs to be sorted, and how to go about it.

I find it manageable and therapeutic to sort through ‘stuff’ a little at a time, like a drawer at a time, or one compartment of a wardrobe. Then I feel very pleased with myself at the end of each and every little ‘sort out’.

Indecision

And then there is indecision and the time you think you have to make these ‘indecisions’.

I resonate with this, it’s very real, but I also think of it as a bit of resistance to letting go of stuff.

We have to take responsibility for our decisions and this can be challenging, so often it is easier to put it off, and then we go round and round in circles of indecision. So it’s about facing each decision, in the time you need to take, and taking that decision to let go or to keep it. Whichever way your decision goes, you have made the decision, that’s what’s important.

As with anything decision-making gets easier the more you practice, maybe try setting aside half an hour a day. And if you don’t do as much as you want to, don’t be hard on yourself, tomorrow is another day.

Learn to prioritise, this makes self management easier.  When something is really important to you, you figure out a way to make time for it.

There is no right or wrong way to declutter.

Getting to grips with the emotions involved, and bringing understanding to why you’ve been holding onto things, is the first step in being able to finally let go.

So happy space clearing and letting go!

Feeling Overwhelmed? Constantly Putting Off “Stuff” Until Tomorrow?

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