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How To Organize Sentimental Items

Written by: Marybeth Welty and Milena Morales

Cleaning and organizing our home is both physical and mental work; it is in some ways, comparable to organizing your whole life. We believe that a life without unnecessary things is simpler and happier, since it allows us to create calm, wellness, and enables us to focus more readily on our goals.

This seems quite simple, especially if we are talking about organizing the closet or the kitchen drawers - but when it comes to letting go of sentimental items, it's a bit more

difficult! What happens when that object has emotional meaning, something that reminds us of someone we love or of a particular moment in our life?

Organizing Sentimental Items Is Generally The Last Stage In The Organizing Process.

When this moment arrives, so does the difficult task of deciding what stays and what has already ended its lifecycle.

How do we decide what remains and what goes? To help you with this process, we give you six keys to make it easier for you to know what to do with these treasured objects:

1. Let them go:

There are indeed some objects that are truly valuable to us, and the decision to let them go is very difficult - it can be quite overwhelming! However, keep in mind that letting go allows you to make room for new things.

When starting this activity, ask yourself how you feel facing each object, and if they bring negative feelings, it is time to let them go. Get rid of nonsense objects and keep only those that are really close to your heart. Keeping items is an option, as long as they bring you good memories and positive feelings.

Letting Go Of Objects Is, In Some Way, Letting Go Of The Past.

2. Conserve only the necessities:

In the process of deciding, we must always balance what to keep and what to throw away. Sometimes we become attached to some useless or unwanted objects just because they were a gift, they once belonged to a loved one, or because they have a certain level of monetary value.

Keeping sentimental items is not a problem as long as each of them refers to good memories and happy moments. Don't feel guilty for keeping those objects that put a smile on your face any time you see them! Just be careful with the number of objects that you decide to save.

Those objects with sentimental value must have a better place in your life where you can appreciate them instead of being forgotten in a box. We suggest you place them in a visible or accessible place, so they will be possible to enjoy anytime you want.

3. Keep calm:

Getting rid of your sentimental items is quite difficult. When faced with these decisions, you are likely to get very emotional or experience stress and anxiety. In this condition, it absolutely is difficult to feel like you’re making the right decisions, so don't feel bad if you can't decide what to do right away.

If it is definitely pushing you to stress, the best thing you can do is move away from them momentarily. Put them in a box so you can review them later when you've calmed down a bit. Give yourself some time, and you will understand that you cannot save everything. Choose a reasonable period of time to reflect; enough to give you time to think about what to do with the items.

4. Check the status of the items:

No matter how much sentimental value some objects have, it does not make much sense to accumulate things that are in bad condition, broken, no longer generate positive feelings, or that no longer fulfill their function. Instead of giving us happiness, we feel stressed to see these items like this!

Select those objects that mean a lot or that are in the best condition, and display them as part of the décor of your home or office, so you can see them whenever you want. If after a while your feelings towards any object have changed, you may be ready to let it go.

5. Everything must have a place:

The basic rule for organizing sentimental items is to stop hoarding. It's completely unhelpful to have piles of items stashed away that you can't even see or use. The best thing about keeping objects with sentimental value is being able to see them daily and enjoy them. For this reason, you must find a place for everything you want to keep.

6. Save the memories in another way:

Sometimes we attach to an object, not because of the object itself, but because of the memories. One way to save those memories without having to keep the object is to take a photo of it. This way you will immortalize the objects without keeping them forever.

Extra Tips For Specific Types Of Sentimental Items:

  • Gifts or souvenirs: Somewhere in your house you may be keeping old gifts, toys from your childhood, objects owned by a loved one that passed away, memories from an unforgettable vacation, and many other other items, that have been kept for their meaning rather than for the objects themselves. Remember: important people, places, and moments in your life are not in an object, but they will always remain in your heart.

  • Photos printed on paper: Before digital cameras, we were accustomed to having our photographs printed on paper. Old photos take up a lot of space, but they are memories we always want to keep. However, if you analyze them, for sure you would find a huge number of photos that you can let go of - either because they are out of focus, damaged, they feature people who are no longer in your life, or they don’t bring you good memories. Just keep the ones that bring back pleasant and joyful memories; choose those where you look very good or those special places where you were. You can also digitize them to preserve them for longer and see them even when you are not at home. If you decide to keep them on paper, sort them and organize them into albums or store them in a nice box! Put them in a visible place so that you can easily find them when you want to remember moments of life.

  • Memories of old relationships: Organizing items with sentimental value means putting our past in order. If we do not let go of the old things we cannot make room for new ones. When we end a relationship, we face a lot of memories and even objects that remind us of the time with our previous significant other. Some people throw everything away, but others decide to keep memories such as photos and gifts. If it’s worth it, keep just the items that make you feel happy. Objects that bring bad memories should be released. And if your intention is to find a new partner, be radical and free yourself from everything that refers to the previous partner. Doing that will make room for new things and people coming to your life!

  • Papers, drawings and letters: Just like the photos, we save tons of papers such as letters, drawings, documents, or notes. They are all going to refer us to some memory or perhaps to an important moment in our life. But when reviewing them in order to make room, you will surely amass a large stack of papers that are totally useless now. Not all of them are needed, not all of them give you happiness! So you know what to do with them. 😉

  • School and work documents: Save just the ones that have significant impact, such as diplomas, photos, letters, certificates, grades, etc. Some of these can be scanned and saved digitally instead of keeping the hard copies.

  • Children's memories: Parents love to save their children's drawings, crafts, toys, and other memories, but it is important to limit the number of them. Try to keep only the significant items that leave you excited. From time to time, review them to see if there are things that can be discarded. You can also scan the

drawings and take photos of some objects to keep the digital evidence. Organize them, store them in a special place, or put them on frames, folders, albums, etc.

This blog is part of our Organizing Blog Collab with Mello Spaces, Organize By Flo, and Sustainable Lifestyle Solutions.
Melanie McConnell is a Professional Organizer and the owner of Mello Spaces. She helps busy professionals and parents get the organized home of their dreams. Check out her website and follow her on Instagram: @mellospaces

Florena Davies is a Professional Organizer and Owner of Organize by Flo. She uses her experience as a wife and mother of 2 to create real life organizational systems and changes for work and home that allow our 2 worlds to co-exist and 'Flo" together. Check out her website at and on instagram @organizebyflo.

Marybeth Welty is a Professional Organizer, Interior Designer, and Mindful Living Coach, and is the owner of Sustainable Lifestyle Solutions. She helps her clients create a calm, organized, and sustainable home and the life of their dreams by utilizing refined design principles, organizing best practices, mental wellness strategies, and a holistic lifestyle approach to sustainability. You can connect with her at and on Instagram at @this_sustainable_lifestyle.

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