When I work with clients, one of the common things people have trouble with is sentimental items they received or inherited. Some of us feel that to donate or otherwise get rid of these items that have been passed down isn’t right, that we must keep the item to honor that person’s memory. But how are you honoring a person’s memory if all that stuff is just sitting in your basement gathering dust and mold?
Just because you’re getting rid of a sentimental item doesn’t mean that you’re throwing out the person or his or her memory. There are many ways to remember these items and the memories they represent. Here are three ideas:
1. Take Digital Photos. We are so lucky to live in the digital age where we can create ways to remember our physical items in a digital format, which of course frees up our physical space. When my mom finally made me take ownership of all the dolls she had saved for me from childhood, I knew I didn’t want to keep most of them, but I did want to remember the dolls. So I spent some time taking some great photos of them to help me remember. It made it much easier to donate them after taking the photos. I've found that with sentimental items, people are often afraid that if they get rid of the item they will lose the memory. For me, taking a digital photo is a great way to keep the memory without keeping the stuff.
2. Keep ONE, Not All. Many people will shutter to think of breaking up an old dish set, but if the dishes are just sitting in a box in your basement, what good are they really serving? Consider keeping one place setting of the dishes or another piece you really like, and finding a place in your home to display it. Donate or consign the rest of the set. The same goes for other collections that you may have inherited - pick one (or a few) that you really like and that you're willing to display in your home, and get rid of the rest.
3. Repurpose Old Items into Display Art. I encourage you to think outside the box. For example, those quilts that you inherited – perhaps they are ripped in a few places and stained in others, but your grandma made the quilts so you really want to keep them. How about cutting out some of your favorite parts of the quilts and transforming them into a wall hanging for display? Another fun idea - I met a woman who takes antique-looking dishes and makes them into yard sculptures (most of which have little solar lights built into them for night lighting). If you're not the arts and crafts type, talk to some of your friends who have these talents and see if they might be willing to help you repurpose your items.
If you have sentimental items in your home that you’ve had packed up for some time, look very carefully at them; do you really want to keep them? If you do, find a way to incorporate them into your home and DISPLAY them, they aren't serving any purpose to be packed away for years on end. Stuff was meant to be used and enjoyed, not collecting dust in moldy corners of your basement!
Have you used any of these or other methods with your own sentimental items? I'd love to hear about them in the comments below!
Tracy K. Pierce is a Clutter Coach, Holistic Organizer, and the creator of the Reclaim Your Space, Reclaim Your Life Bootcamp program. She is the owner and founder of Synergy Organizing and Synergy Wellness. Her mission is to propel her clients towards the realization of their ideal lives. Tracy assists holistically-minded and motivated people who are sick and tired of their clutter reclaim space for what matters most.