Decluttering sentimental items

Jonathan D. Blundell —  August 30, 2010 — 2 Comments
Day 18 - momentos from Jr High, High School and Bachelorhood

Decluttering momentos from Jr High, High School and Bachelorhood | Photo by Jonathan Blundell

In our recent reader’s survey several of you asked about decluttering sentimental items.

I have to admit, sentimental items are one of the hardest things for me to declutter in my home as well.

Whether it’s something from my childhood that I hoping my boys will enjoy someday — or something that’s been handed down from other family members, I’m always slow to remove those items from my home.

However, while I tell myself (and others) how valuable these things are to me — more often than not they’re not displayed in a place of honor — they’re boxed and hidden in a closet or attic.

So what should we do with these treasured items that we’re afraid to get rid of?

Unclutter.com has some great pointers…

As you go through each room, make three stacks (similar to what we’ve mentioned before).

  • Stack 1: Items that can be scanned, photographed or digitized for saving
  • Stack 2: Items you want to display proudly on shelves or other areas in your homes
  • Stack 3: Items you’re not sure about

And don’t forget — while decluttering you may always come across those items you’re ready to simply give away and forget about. No need to stack them into a pile — simply carry them straight to your donation box.

In several rounds of decluttering I’ve come across a number of things I’ve forgotten about, or as Miss Minimalist suggests — I’ve realized the item’s perceived value is no where near the value of the space I’ve used to store it in.

Some of these items include baseball cards from my youth — gave them to my friends’ kids — and old newspapers of big sporting events from my youth — gave them to a sport fan at work.

Once you have your three stacks you can begin digitizing, photographing or scanning the items.

  • For some tips on photographing items visit DPS’ post on How to Shoot Items for eBay.
  • You can scan photographs and other items at home or hire someone else to do it for you. Using a flatbed scanner and Photoshop, I recently scanned and cropped 250 or so photos and posted them to Flickr in roughly 4 hours. Your time will vary depending on how high a resolution you use, so you may want to consider the time and energy involved before you decide on doing it yourself or hiring someone else to do it.
  • Once you’ve photographed or scanned your collection, you can now find unique ways to share and keep your collection. Perhaps storing and sharing on Flickr.com or Picasa, or creating a digital scrapbook that can be viewed on your DVD player.

With the second pile, begin finding places throughout your homes to display your treasures. This might also give you a chance to get rid of a few other things that aren’t as treasured. Or — if your shelf space is limited, you may opt to keep some of your items together and rotate your displayed items with the season. Rather than buying new trinkets and decorations for various times of the year, simply trade out your displayed items with treasures from your past. You’ll feel a greater attachment to the decorations and it will keep your house looking freshly redecorated.

Finally, with the third pile, place the items in a box and mark them the date. In six months, anything you haven’t touched can be photographed and donated to someone in need. If you haven’t used the items in six month, see it as a sign to move your collection elsewhere. A photograph will likely be all you’ll need to keep the memories alive.

What other steps have you taken to help declutter sentimental items in your home?

Jonathan D. Blundell

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I'm Jonathan Blundell. I'm a husband, father of twins, blogger, podcaster, author and media geek who is trying to live a simple life and follow The Way. Circle me on G+

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2 responses to Decluttering sentimental items

  1. This is a good post, Jonathan. I have to admit that some sentimental items are tough to deal with. I’m doing great at decluttering most of my house, even my books, but the photos have defeated me so far. Scanner is ready and waiting. I just have to focus on it and it’s so overwhelming as I have my grandmother’s and mother’s photos as well as my own to deal with. And then there are the letters I wrote my mom when I lived in Indonesia and she saved every one!

    • Thanks Willow!

      Sentimental items are a tough one to deal with. I think what makes it harder sometimes is that others don’t see the value that we see. For instance I have a number of cassette tapes that need to be mixed down from my band in high school. They’re of great value to me – but my wife sees them as a box full of cassette tapes. She has no attachment to them whatsoever. I’m sure there are several things she’s attached to that have no value whatsoever to me as well.

      It’s finding that balance and building spaces of grace when we don’t agree.

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