One of the toughest aspects of sorting through our possessions is deciding which of our most sentimental items to keep. Clothing of a loved one, photographs of a special memory, knick-knacks from a favorite vacation… these items are especially difficult to part with because of the stories that accompany them. Nonetheless, each item we own requires cleaning, storage, maintenance and/or insurance. Therefore, sorting and culling our sentimental belongings is worthy of the emotional roller coaster it entails. Here are a few questions you can ask yourself to help you decide what is worth keeping and what isn’t.
Am I keeping this because I think I should…because I think someone else would be upset if I let it go?
If the primary reason you are keeping an item is guilt, then it is time to let it go. The giver of the item most likely intended it to bring joy, so if it isn’t bringing joy, consider giving it away.
Do I have a place to display and enjoy this?
We collect items because we like them (beautiful dishes, coins, linens, etc.), but then often put them in a box for safekeeping and never look at them. If you have a collection, honor it by finding a way to display it. If you have no place to display or use it, ask yourself if you will in the future. If not, then consider passing it on.
Is this item so out of date that my children or grandchildren won’t want it?
Often we hold onto objects with good intentions of passing them on to the next generation, but end up keeping things that family members don’t want. Storing, moving, and carting objects which won’t be appreciated is a waste of effort, especially since there may be someone else who has great need of the object today.
Is this damaged or in a state of disrepair? Do I have the ability, money, and determination to pursue getting it fixed?
Some belongings are worth keeping, even if they are not in mint condition. In fact, when it comes to antiques, a patina can actually add value. However, most objects lose value and utility as they age. Items that are fragile require extra care and maintenance as well. Keeping an item that can’t be used for its intended purpose is only rarely a good idea. If you don’t want to spend time and effort protecting a delicate piece or getting a broken item fixed, consider letting it go.
Can I capture the memory of this item in an alternate way that better fits my lifestyle?
With high quality photography and scanning widely available, many items may be better preserved through a medium other than a box. Consider photographing the items (e.g. children’s artwork, favorite vintage clothing items, etc.) and making a photo book at a site such as Shutterfly.
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Ultimately, sentimental items are only worth keeping if they regularly and consistently add value to our present lives. Letting go of an item doesn’t mean you no longer love the person it came from or fondly remember the experience that it represents; it simply means that the object’s physical presence is no longer beneficial.
Do you struggle to let go of belongings with sentimental value? What object(s) are you holding onto that you know you should pass along?