11 Feb Clearing Out Sentimental Clutter And Unwanted Gifts
We feel as if we’re throwing away memories, experiences, and even people
If guilty feelings sabotage your attempts at decluttering your hoard of unwanted gifts and sentimental items, you’ve felt the effects of ‘stuff guilt’. Many if not most people feel an unnecessary attachment to various items because of their relationship to the giver or because of memories and emotions that those objects stimulate. Those feelings make it difficult to clear out the clutter fully, and they’re a burden you don’t need.
I’ve certainly felt plenty of ‘stuff guilt’, so I know how difficult it can be. That said, I can also share the good news that it’s completely possible to overcome it and finally shed all the stuff you don’t actually need. I’m not saying that you need to get rid of every sentimental thing in your home, because there are things you’ll want to (and should) keep.
Let’s see how to take the smart approach to decluttering when it comes to sentimentality and all those gifts you don’t really like nor want.
Focus On What You’re Keeping
As contradictory as it sounds, focus on what to keep when clearing out unwanted gifts from special people and sentimental items such as heirlooms or mementoes. Most of us would usually focus on what to clear out, but when you’re dealing with stuff that tugs at the heartstrings, we need to take a slightly different approach.
According to decluttering doyenne Marie Kondo, most of us have many sentimental items from the lives of our grandparents, parents, children, and from our own lives. When we focus on what to clear out, the task seems too overwhelming. I think that, for some of us at least, we feel as if we’re throwing away memories, experiences, and even people. When we focus on what to keep, however, we make the task manageable and give ourselves the assurance that there are a few things we’ll hold on to for at least a little longer.
Keep Objects That Evoke Joy
So, how do we decide what to keep, if that’s what we need to focus on? I love Kondo’s advice, which is to hold each sentimental item in your hand, hold it to your heart, and be aware of the emotions that stir inside you. While still holding the item, ask yourself if it ‘sparks joy’.
If the answer is yes, keep that item, because you’ve just proven that it does have a place in your life and your home. If the answer is no, you can let go of the item because what would be the point of keeping it?
Dealing With Childhood Mementos
If you’re a parent, you’ve probably amassed a pile of mementoes from the lives of your children. You know what I mean – first booties and baby clothes, weird ceramics from art class, handmade holiday cards, the guest list or menu from their 10th birthday… and the list goes on.
Initially, deciding what and what not to keep may seem impossible and it may put you off decluttering. But Kondo’s thoughts on the subject make it easy. Consider how you could display or repurpose each item in a way that puts it in view, such as framing artworks, baby clothes, or other suitable pieces.
Ask your children if they would like any of the items you’re discarding before you donate them or throw them out. When you get rid of any of those items, do so with gratitude for the role they played in your children’s growth.
What To Do With Heirlooms
Heirlooms and similar items that usually inspire strong sentimental attachments should also be subject to the test of checking whether they spark joy. If any do not, and there will surely be some, it’s time to say a respectful goodbye to them. Even though they don’t make you feel joyful, those items may have been important to your late parents or grandparents.
When parting with those items, do so with gratitude for what it meant to their previous owners and for the roles they played in the lives of those people. You’ll be surprised at how effective that moment of recognition and thanks is in allaying any guilty feelings for clearing out that clutter.
If no other family members want the heirlooms or nostalgic items that you don’t want, find a respectful way to part with them. If there are items of potential historical interest, donate them to the local museum. If there are antiques among them, offer them for sale to a reputable dealer. You’ll also have no trouble finding buyers for silver plate ware, vintage jewellery, and other items online.
Regifting Unwanted Gifts
Over the years, Christmases, birthdays, and other occasions can bring a slew of unwanted gifts into your life. The problem for many of us is that we feel obligated to keep those gifts because of our relationships with the people who gave them to us, or simply because they were gifts. As children, our parents taught us to always be grateful for what we received.
When tackling all those unwanted gifts, it’s important to separate the sentiment from the item. It’s possible to appreciate that someone thought of you and cared enough to take the time to select a gift, even if they misjudged your taste. Acknowledge the sentiment, and then put those unwanted items in a regifting box or cupboard. Make a note of who gave each item to you on a removable label or in a book stored along with the gifts.
Whenever you need a gift for a particular occasion, look for something suitable in the box – it could save you a trip to the shops, and it’s one less piece of clutter at home. Make sure you read (and remove) labels, or check your notebook to avoid the embarrassment of gifting items back to the original givers. If you’d rather have it all gone in one go, donate those items to charities or charity shops instead.
Personal Sentimental Items
Some of your sentimental clutter, such as movie ticket stubs, photos, and high school love letters, might spark painful memories and strong emotions other than joy. When you come across items that are not wise to keep but are difficult to clear out because of sentimental attachment, dispose of them ceremoniously. One way to do this is to burn those items, releasing their associations as you do it.
Clearing out sentimental clutter and unwanted gifts isn’t the easiest thing to do, but it’s necessary. Use the tips above to help you decide what to keep and what to move on from. You’ll feel better for it!