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Are You A Sentimental Hoarder? 7 Tips You Need To Know

sentimental clutter

For the most part, clutter isn’t a big problem for me. I’m pretty good at recognizing when clutter is starting to become a problem, and I can usually get rid of whatever we don’t need without experiencing any significant distress.

However, I’m perfectly willing to admit there are limits to my ability to declutter. Because when it comes to stuff that has a special meaning (also known as “sentimental clutter”), I’m much more likely to let it pile up!

But I know I’m not the only one who struggles to part with items that have sentimental value. So today I’ll be sharing a list of practical ways to cut down on sentimental clutter and get more organized (without sacrificing the important stuff!) :-)

Related:  9 Things You Need To Get Rid Of In Your Closet

7 Practical Ways To Cut Down On Sentimental Clutter

sentimental clutter

1. Save Virtual Memories

Documents, photos, art projects, and other paper items can contribute to clutter in a big way. But these items are often laden with sentimental value, so it can be hard to let go of them!

But there’s an easy way to hang on to those memories while clearing out the clutter. Scan all your meaningful paper items and save the images as “virtual memories!”

You can get rid of the clutter and still be able to peruse those old artworks, handwritten notes, and other memories anytime you want. (Just be sure to back those files up somewhere safe!)

sentimental clutter

2. Let Go Of Gift Guilt

Many people find it hard to get rid of gifts, even ones they don’t really want, out of worry that it might hurt the gift giver’s feelings. If left unchecked, this “gift guilt” can leave you buried under gifted items that you feel compelled to keep!

While certain individuals might expect you to cherish each and every gift they give you, most people aren’t so unreasonable. A gift is a gift after all, meaning it is yours to do with as you please!

Letting go of “gift guilt” can be an important step towards reducing sentimental clutter in your home.

sentimental clutter

3. Pass It On

When it comes to family heirlooms, different items may hold meaning or value to different people. If you’ve inherited something that you’ll likely keep in storage, why not ask around and find out whether another family member might like to display it?

There’s no shame in passing a family heirloom on to another family member, especially if it is particularly meaningful to them!

sentimental clutter

4. Get Creative

Sentimental clutter often takes the form of something you don’t actually use, but can’t bear to part with. One way to overcome this hurdle is to find a creative way to transform that unused item into something usable!

For instance, you could have a stone from an outdated ring set into a new band that fits your style. Or you could use the wood from an antique hutch to build a new set of floating shelves!

Transforming those sentimental items into something functional can help you cut down on unused clutter, while retaining their special sentimental value.

sentimental clutter

5. Revisit Home Videos

While the home videos they contain are priceless, stacks of old video tapes aren’t exactly a space saver. Getting those old tapes digitized will not only allow you to get rid of those tapes, but it will also make it much easier to watch those treasured home videos!

I had our home video tapes digitized using a service called Legacybox, and wrote this post about the experience. It couldn’t have been easier to do, and I would certainly recommend it to anyone looking to digitize their old video tapes, photographs, negatives, film reels, etc.!

Once you have digital copies of your home videos, there’s no shortage of things you can do with them! For instance, you can use the Magisto app to turn snippets of your home movies into a shareable video montage!

sentimental clutter

6. Box It Up

Getting rid of sentimental clutter isn’t always something you choose to do willingly. It’s often part of the aftermath of losing someone close to you, like a family member, a friend, or even a pet.

This process can be brutal, and you may not be ready to tackle it just yet. In this case, just box the items up for now and set them aside. Give yourself about six months or so before returning to your decluttering efforts.

sentimental clutter

7. Save The Best

What about collections of items with sentimental value, like your grandmother’s antique teapots or your dad’s coins? The best solution in these cases is to “save the best, and toss the rest!”

Pick a favorite piece to represent the collection and find a nice place to display it, then find a new home for the rest of the collection.

How do you keep sentimental clutter under control in your home?

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Jill Nystul (aka Jillee)

Jill Nystul is an accomplished writer and author who founded the blog One Good Thing by Jillee in 2011. With over 30 years of experience in homemaking, she has become a trusted resource for contemporary homemakers by offering practical solutions to everyday household challenges.I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

About Jillee

Jill Nystul

Jill’s 30 years of homemaking experience, make her the trusted source for practical household solutions.

About Jillee


Bright Ideas

  • I work on an charity auction every year. I ask my friends to visit there re-gift closet and donate new items to the silent auction. We also sell grab bags and many small items can go in those. Win win for all!!

  • I had 2 shoe boxes of rocks and shells etc from all the beaches I went to with my spouses and family and friends over 40 years. After being widowed and losing others, I used an old Ikea mirror to mount them all on with Goop. Now I have a ‘Memory mirror ‘ that helps me to remember them fondly, instead of their passing. It is a real help as grief has been my source of pain due to alot of untimely deaths.

  • I stopped at the dog/cat placement/thrift shop and noticed some of the plates I donated for sale. I almost bought them back. It’s like saying goodbye to a best friend.

  • Good post, but just reading it made me anxious, which is the way I feel every time I think about clearing all my sentimental clutter. Stuff from our kids’ childhoods, my and my husband’s childhoods, and both our parents’ houses when they died. There’s very little room to do any sorting. We are overwhelmed. We rarely buy new stuff, and don’t hoard anything that newly comes into the house, just the old stuff that’s already here. I’m trying to use your words to calm me and deal with just one box. I think one box at a time is how I should proceed. Thanks for your help!

  • Only if it was that easy for my husband. I am not real sentimental. I will keep a few items for a while then I get tired of them and donate them. My husband on the other hand thinks we should keep everything from his parents who passed away. I love them, but not all their stuff. This was a great read. hank you.

  • “For the most part, clutter isn’t a big problem for me.”

    How I envy you! At this point in our lives the sentimental things aren’t so much a problem, but no matter how hard I try to minimize the junk that comes into the house I always find myself working around those things I can’t seem to find a place for or that there isn’t a place for. Things that can’t be recycled locally pile up while I research what to do with them. Catalogs I didn’t ask for arrive in our mailbox and form a stack next to the computer so I can go online and unsubscribe from them. Papers that I need to keep but there are no file folders for. Old clothes that I want to use as scrap fabric for pillows and other things rather than throw them away. Items I ordered that I need to box up and take to the post office to return. And again, some things just don’t have a “place” – my husband’s insulated lunch bag, various sewing projects, the cake I made that takes up counter space no matter where I put it (and my fridge is too small for it).

    As I type this I realize that two main problems are a) time to tackle all of these, and b) being in a temporary house that is simply too small for our lifestyles. The first problem likely won’t be solved until my dog’s health improves as tending to her takes up a lot of my time every day. The second won’t be solved until our new home is complete and we actually have places to put everything away – which won’t happen until it stops raining long enough. We jettisoned a lot of junk before we moved, and everything else we brought with us for a reason. But in the meantime clutter has become a vicious cycle, as it distracts from getting basic tasks done, which leaves me with even less time to de-clutter, which leaves me with even more clutter. I do take one day per week to work on special projects, so maybe instead of making curtains my next project needs to be tackling the clutter! Now to clean up the kitchen, vacuum and fold laundry so I can actually get around to it…

  • Anything I am on the fence about gets put in a box in the attic. If I don’t think about it for a year or so, then these things go to charity. My mother, however, feels that she is the caretaker of everything given to her over her 95 years. She lives with us now and so much of it is boxed up in the attic. Sad. But A LOT of it is in her bedroom, sitting room, and the dining room. She told me I am to take care of it all when she passes. So I have already made a list of the few things I will keep, offer the rest to family, then sell or donate what’s left. I just can’t keep it all – it’s too much! I guess Mom doesn’t get Swedish death cleaning! Haha!

  • I have things like a ceramic dog that my greatgrandmother brought to the States when she came from England in 1784 and the coffee set my beloved grandmother brought from Sweeden. I have fine china to pass down to my granddaughters. Right now, they live in small apartments. I just can’t part with these treasures.

    • USE and enjoy anything you have now that means something to you. Don’t store it away. Better ask those grandchildren IF they are even interested in the fine china. It came as a rude awakening after my stroke to find out my children want very little of what I thought that I would pass along to them. Today’s kids have other priorities. If you want grandkids to “want'” something, tell them the story behind it repeatedly. Once is not enough. If you really value something, write down the story behind it & be sure your descendants know the written story exists & goes WITH the keepsake.

  • My mom has the same China pattern. My friend drilled a hole in the cup and saucer and attached a rod and handle for a jewelry holder. I gave one to all my sisters.

  • Children’s books! I have stacks of books from 60+ years ago that are barely held together now. They contain my scribbles, my brothers’ early attempts at spelling their names – books I’ve read to my kids hundreds of times. Any suggestions on how to let these go?

  • I have enough clutter to build a she-shed out of it. I started memory boxes and those are working well. But I love the idea of digitizing things! My husband recently passed, and I have TWO drawers full of cards. The notes are more important than the artwork, but all are lovely. I had thought to paper the wall in my sewing room with these things, but that idea fell off the map. I wonder if digitization would work for these things?

  • One of the hardest things for me to toss is cards! I keep every card I get, birthday, Mother’s Day, Valentines Day and Christmas! I mean, I do look at them occasionally but not sure why I feel the need to do this and have not found any way to reinvent them? Should I toss them? I guess my connection with them is the hand writing inside. Some of family members who are no longer with us, including my mother. Any ideas?

    • I used to have this problem too. Get a file or a pretty box and keep the years cards in it. When you get new cards, (on your birthday for instance) throw the old ones away. Retain any from loved ones who have passed during the year.

    • There are a multitude of artisans on Etsy who will copy the actual handwriting of your loved ones onto almost anything imaginable — bracelets, necklaces, fobs, pieces of wood, even mugs! Such a beautiful way to preserve special memories. Just search “handwriting engraving” on the Etsy site. You might be able to let go of many of your cards if you have a single, permanent memento to wear or use on a daily basis. Hope that helps.

    • I’ve had the same problem as I tend to keep birthday and anniversary cards from people who are important to me. I’ve seen craft ideas that use just the artwork on the cover (or the message inside if it’s especially meaningful or hand-written) to fill a scrapbook, create a collage, a bookmark or framed art. The less sentimenal ones can be cut up to use as gift tags or make gift boxes, or turned into postcards. I haven’t gotten around to using any of these ideas (largely because my other clutter keeps me busy) but I’d like to try some of them.

  • Thanks for the Legacy box idea. We were going to do something like that a year ago for Christmas. Putting an old family video on DVD for my siblings. We wound up not doing it because they weren’t going to arrive in time. I would be interested too in knowing if anyone has used this and details like how long it takes. Ours was going to take a few weeks.

  • Thank you for sharing Legacy Box! My Mama has an audio tape and we have not been able to digitize it…and since we work in the computer industry that is saying a LOT! If she decides to trust it to the mail, I’ll let you know how it went! You gave her a great birthday gift!

    • I sent a very precious audio tape to Legacy Box. They did an excellent job of digitizing it. They also kept me up to date on what was happening for the whole process. I would recommend them to anyone and everyone.

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