How to Declutter When you are Sentimental

When we have a lot of ‘stuff’ it can be hard not to be sentimental, that is, have an emotional attachment to it. We don’t want to let go of things that hold memories and nostalgia – for example, pictures our children have drawn for us, gifts or greeting cards from beloved family members – whatever it is, these things can hold strong value for us but at the same time, can cause a lot of clutter – sentimental clutter, which can be challenging to let go of it!

That is why in this blog, I will give you 5 tips on how to declutter when you are sentimental.

These are simple and efficient things you can do / ask yourself when sorting through memorable clutter. Before beginning, it is a good idea to set a timer so that you don’t get stuck walking down the memory lane or get overwhelmed by it all!

Okay, let’s dive in!


1. Decide what stays and what goes.

Here at Ducks in a Row, we use the D.R.E.S.S formula to help declutter.

The first step is to ‘Decide’.

You need to decide what area of your home you are going to tackle first! Each area will have different items with different sentimental value. You may decide to tackle areas with less items first or the other way around by tackling a larger area to begin with!

Deciding which area to do first will help you to prepare yourself and be focused.

The next step is to ‘Remove’ all the sentimental items in that space and lay it all out on the floor or a table so you can see everything you have got.

2. Why Am I Sentimental?

When looking at things from the past that you find it difficult to let go of, it can be super helpful to ask yourself “what is it about this item that I am sentimental about?”

This might help you understand what it is about each item you find difficult to let go of.

When holding and looking at the item, what feelings do you feel?

What thoughts do you have?

This might also help you understand why you find it challenging to declutter certain objects. The chances are high that it isn’t the actual item itself at all but rather the person that is attached to it.

Remember, you can always hold onto memories of people without having to hold onto certain objects that are associated with them.

3. Time to Evaluate

Now it is time to ‘Evaluate’, the next and very crucial step in line with our Organising D.R.E.S.S Code formula. It is time to think if you are ready to move on and let go of sentimental items.

Since you had put all the sentimental items on the floor or the table, you will have a clear visual representation of everything you have got, making it easier for you to go through them and evaluate.

You may realise you have duplicates of things!

Ask yourself if you are ready to let go of some items and move on?

Are there any items you would like to donate? If you have items related to a particular person, would you like to keep some of the items and donate the rest.

When coming across beautiful artworks or greeting cards from your loved ones, consider scanning it to hold onto it digitally forever?

All the photos from when you grew up or when your parents grew up. All those things can be scanned and stored on a cloud storage! There are so many apps these days you can get for free on your phone that allows you to scan content and then upload it to a cloud storage (i.e Google Drive, DropBox or OneDrive).

Another option is to scrapbook items. This is a great option if you have a lot of artwork, cards or photos from people you hold dear but just are not the biggest fan of keeping it digitally, why not keep them all together in a scrapbook?

This way, instead of having lots of individual keepsakes, you will be able to turn them into a fun book to read with those around you.

4. Planning which items to go where and styling your space

With what remains, it’s time to plan out if there are certain items you want to display in a cabinet or on walls and identify the ones you are happy to store away as you don’t necessarily need to look at them every day but you just want to know you have got them. So, when you want to go down the memory lane, you can always pull those items out.

You might need to measure all existing storage, drawers etc. and research any storage solutions you may need to keep all the sentimental items in an organised way.

The final step is to put everything back into the space, and style/ label where possible.

5. Some more tips on decluttering when sentimental

When going through sentimental items, it can be challenging to watch the discard pile grow. But remember, discarding it isn’t the only option!

  • You could always donate it (especially if it is a useable object) or pass it onto a family member.
  • Another tip to make it a bit easier is to take photos of the items you have chosen to get rid of, then you can look back on it whenever you would like.
  • If what you have chosen to get rid of is clothes or some sort of material, take it a step further and repurpose them into something useful like a quilt or cushion cover.

Final thoughts

  • When going through sentimental clutter, remember to feel your feelings. You’re not giving away the person or the love you have for that person, or even that person’s love for you. That will never go away.
  • Give yourself enough time. If the timer that you set at the beginning goes off – that is okay! Don’t rush through it. Just pause, take a break, and come back to it.
  • Lastly, remember it is totally okay to keep things! Just because you are going through your sentimental clutter does not mean you should be getting rid of it all! We are human after all and having sentimental items is normal.
  • There is no rule about how many sentimental items you should have or shouldn’t have. It all depends on how it feels for you and, how important is it for you to have those memories.

super simple questions to ask yourself when decluttering and will guide you in making the decision of what stays and what goes (because we all know how challenging that can sometimes be!)

Or alternatively, if the thought of decluttering still overwhelms the heck out of you, fill out our Enquiry Form so we can help guide you through decluttering whatever space you are needing help with.

At Ducks in a Row, we believe in explaining to our clients how decluttering works before starting the process. It is important for us to reinforce that our role as their organiser is not to tell them what to keep and what to throw away, but instead to assist and guide them by asking questions to help them make informed decisions for themselves.

Are you ready to get your ducks in a row?


Follow me on Instagram for more home organisation tips, advice, and inspiration!

We'd love you to join the ducks in a row community

Every now and then our community members discover decluttering & organising gems in their inboxes, packed with game-changing info, stories and tips plus much more! To become part of it all, drop your details below.
About Ducks in a Row