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How to Let Go of Sentimental Items While Downsizing

January 24, 2023 | Downsizing, Household Moves

Letting go of sentimental items can be a challenge. Your heartstrings tie themselves to objects and images from special times in your life. It’s important (but not easy) to keep in mind that getting rid of things is not the same as getting rid of the memories associated with them.

When it’s time to move, it may also be time to move on. If you’re ready to downsize, learning how to declutter sentimental items may be trickier than you anticipated. With that in mind, your friendly moving experts at Wheaton created this post to soften the nostalgia blow. Below are our tips for decluttering sentimental items from your move while holding on to the things that matter. 

Will You Really Miss It?

These prompts are designed to shed light on what’s truly important.To help you differentiate between items you want to keep and items you can part with, ask yourself the following questions:

Does it spark joy in my heart?

You’ll inevitably ask yourself if a particular item still brings you happiness but renowned organizational guru Marie Kondo goes one step further.  She recommends that you hold each item and ask if it still sparks joy. If you feel a tingle of excitement, you know that your connection is genuine. If not, you’re ready to pass it on.

Am I holding onto this because of guilt?

Over time, we collect gifts from people and often we hold onto those gifts for fear of offending the giver. If you’ve held onto an item out of sheer guilt, it’s time to let it go.

Is a photo sufficient?

As you downsize, an easy way to retain the memory of objects is to take photos of them. With digital cameras and cloud storage, you can easily preserve your archive for anyone to enjoy. Ask yourself if you need to keep an item or if simply having a photo of it is enough.

Would someone else benefit from having this?

Knowing that someone else might enjoy an item more than you might make parting with it easier. As you take inventory, think about who you know that might like to have certain items. If it’s a close friend or trusted family member, you’ll know the item will be well cared for.

7 Tips for Organizing Sentimental Items

couple moving and smiling

Asking the above questions is a great way to start saying goodbye to those items you’ve held for a long time. Here are seven ideas for how to navigate the process of downsizing those sentimental items.

1. Don’t dive in until you’re sure you’re ready

Downsizing can be exhausting. Don’t go in begrudgingly or half-heartedly. This is important work that takes focus and grace.

  1. Find your downsizing style

Do you need to proceed slow and cautiously or do you like to dive in and get it over with? There’s nothing wrong with spending some time with sentimental items before you say goodbye, if that’s your style. Likewise, if you’re ready to move on mentally and emotionally, start loading the truck and don’t look back.

  1. Start with the easiest items first

Ease into things with items you feel less attachment to and work your way up to the more difficult items. Marie Kondo recommends a very specific order starting with clothes, books, papers and then sentimental items. Newton’s law may work in your favor and your momentum will help ease those difficult judgment calls.

  1. Focus on what to keep

Instead of feeling overwhelmed by what you need to jettison, focus on the core, precious items that you know you want to keep. Once you’ve decided on the keepers, the rest will fall in line.

  1. Say goodbye to items

Sorting important items that have been with you for a long time is more than just tossing them in a discard pile. Take time to say goodbye to those keepsakes that still hold meaning. Wear a favorite outfit one last time, display a prized award, read a program or magazine again. Giving belongings a proper send off can ease the uncertainty around getting rid of them.

  1. Sort by type, not geography

Going room to room may seem like a good plan but when it comes to sentiment, it may be the wrong strategy. Marie Kondo recommends sorting by items – books, ornaments, photos, etc – so that you can weigh the value of similar items. This saves you from overlooking things later on or second guessing your decisions.

  1. Involve your family

Go through things with family members. Sharing sentimental items with family is a good way to gauge their value. It opens up the opportunity to share the stories behind the items and pass the family history on. This is especially true of photos. Family members may want certain items, saving you the trouble of getting rid of them and, whether you like it or not, they may encourage you to get rid of things that they think you clearly no longer need. A little outside pressure may be a blessing.

Letting go of things that hold that past might free up more space to enjoy the present. If you’re moving to a new location, you’ll need that energy and enthusiasm for your next big adventure. Need help getting moving? That’s what Wheaton does. We’re a silver certified moving company that specializes in helping our older clients reduce and relocate. Contact your local Wheaton agent today to get started on your next phase of life.

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