Here are three tips from a professional organizer for beginning to declutter your home when you’re a sentimental person who struggles with letting go.
We all go through phases where we feel the urge to declutter our homes, but for some people, letting go of items is harder than it is for others. As a professional organizer, I have had clients who attach sentimental meaning to almost everything.
A school note requesting snacks for a 100 Day Party becomes a memory of their child spending 100 days in fifth grade. An old dress that hasn’t been worn in five years because it’s not flattering is still special because it reminds them of the anniversary dinner they wore it to. These things seem like easy trash or donations for someone on the outside looking in, but to a sentimental person, they are a part of their lives.
If this sounds like you and you have a pull in your heart to find a way past this feeling to downsize your belongings, I promise there is a way to move forward. Here are my top three tips for taking the very first baby step to declutter your home without touching the things that matter most to you.
Start With Duplicates
The easiest way to see some progress is to start with duplicates. The reason behind this is while you might find a way to attach sentimental meaning to something as simple as a can opener, you likely prefer one over another. You’re never using two can openers, and you know you don’t really need both, so select which one is your favorite and put the other in a donation box so it can be used by someone else.
That’s the thing about sentimental humans, we want items to be used and we feel bad about them living in a drawer untouched. It’s like that scene in Toy Story when we all felt bad for Woody for not being played with. If you aren’t using an item because you already own another one that does the same job better, you can feel good about sending it on its way to a new life.
Look For Trash
If looking through duplicates still feels too overwhelming, here’s a step down to a more approachable level—trash. You’d be surprised how much trash can accumulate in a house. Even a very clean home ends up with trash in random places. Tags from clothes you bought get dropped in your dresser drawer, a wrapper from a new medicine bottle was meant to be temporarily stashed in your nightstand but was forgotten about, or an empty bottle destined for the recycling bin has been in the corner of the shower for a week or so.
By going on a mini treasure hunt to find pieces of trash around your home, you’re actually still decreasing the things in your house by throwing them away. Whether an item is something you love or a simple piece of trash, it takes up space on a surface.
I recommend counting each piece of trash you find, then adding it all up at the end of your decluttering session. If you found ten pieces of trash, you just removed ten things from your house that were hogging up valuable real estate. And that sense of pride that takes over your mind is just enough to motivate you to do it again and eventually work your way up to items that aren’t trash.
Do A Trial Run
This is a method I used to do with my son when he was younger, and it worked so well. When it was time to do a toy purge, I’d have him choose a category like stuffed animals or Hot Wheels cars. First I’d have him pull out his absolute favorites. Then I’d have him find “friends” for his favorites. These serve as the toys he doesn’t love as much but still were ones he liked enough to hold onto. The remaining toys in that category then went into “the library” which was a big tote that was stored in the garage.
For the next three months, if he requested an item from his library by memory alone (I didn’t let him peek inside) he was given the item back and it went back to his room. But at the end of three months, the tote was taken directly to the donation center without removing the lid and looking at what’s left.
You can do this same concept yourself to do a “trial run” to see if you really need those items. Box up things you think you might be able to part with, put it away in an area that’s not easy to get to, and put a reminder in your phone to donate the box after 3 months. In the meantime, if you need something back, you haven’t actually gotten rid of it yet. But I think you’ll find that once three months have passed, most items will still be in the box and you’ve proven to yourself that they weren’t really needed after all.
Need A Kickstart For Decluttering?
If you want a little more guidance along the way, I’ve got you covered with this 28 Day Declutter Challenge. Each day you’ll receive a prompt for a category to go through to find items to purge. We start small with the nightstand and work our way around the whole house to help decrease the items you don’t need so you have more room for the ones you love. You can get started on the 28 Day Declutter Challenge by dropping your email address below.