Tips on how to clear sentimental items without guilt

Updated: Dec 11, 2020

Sentimental Items

This was, and still probably is to some extent, the thing I struggle the most with.

It started years ago, when I was 16. My gran died very suddenly in a car accident. She was the first person close to me to pass and I took it quite badly.

After she died, I remember going through all of my photo albums looking for pictures of her, it was very comforting during my grief.

She died not long after Christmas and I had kept the Christmas card she sent me, I treasured that card and never got rid of it.

Fast forward 19 years and I had somehow attributed this ‘keep’ rule to all of my cards and photographs. I had literally kept every Birthday, Easter, Christmas, New Baby, you name it card that had ever been sent to me. I thought I was honouring the memories by keeping hold of these things, but the truth is, they sat unloved, buried in a box somewhere deep in the back of my wardrobe.

I had also started the tradition with my own children, so I was quickly accumulating piles of birthday and Christmas cards of theirs. I tried to keep them organised and they are only 5 and 7, but I was already starting to run out of space!

It is one of the hardest things, to part with items you have a sentimental connection to, but it doesn’t need to be that way. You can still honour the memories without having to keep all the stuff. If I carried on the way I was going, I would have needed a bigger house to store all of the cards that we’d received!

I started small as I knew I would find it hard and I didn’t want it to be overwhelming, so I choose two sentimental items and used the KonMari method, which is saying thank you to the item whilst thinking of the memory it invokes and then saying goodbye to it.

It sounds silly to talk to an item and say thank you, but there is genuinely a sense of release when you do so.

As the days went on, I went through boxes and boxes of cards, photos and memorabilia. For items which had a special meaning to me, I took a photograph of it and uploaded to Google Photos. Once it was uploaded, I changed the date of the photo to a relevant date (in the instance of cards, the date that the card was received) That way, every year on that date, the photo will come up on my ‘Google Memories’ meaning I will have a reminder every year of that special memory and I don’t need to dig through piles of things to find it.

I have kept one box for sentimental items in my wardrobe, there are some things that absolutely have to be kept, but it’s no longer a huge mess and I can access it easily.

It’s a work in progress, I might have cleared the boxes stored at the back of my wardrobe, but I still have some in the loft that need sorting another time. But now I know I can part with these things and I’m not dishonouring the person or the memory. I’m simply clearing some space for the things I love and use now.

Here are a few tips that you can use for clearing sentimental items:

1) Start small - this is likely to be difficult to start with, so perhaps choose a couple of items to begin with, see how you feel afterwards and then once you're feeling at peace with yourself, move on.

2) Arm yourself with a recycling bag, bin bag, camera, donation box and a memory box.

- Go through your items one by one. Some are easier than others to clear.

If you don't want it and it can't be recycled or donated - into the bin.

If it's very important to you and you want to keep hold of it - straight into your memory box.

Work this way until you've cleared all of your items.

3) Use your camera for items that you no longer want to keep but you want to keep the memory. There are many ways to store your images after you've taken the photos. Some people might want to make a photo album, or upload them to something like google photos as I did.

4) For my children's artwork, I always take a photograph of it and upload it to google photos. They have their own albums which is lovely to look back on as I can see how their drawing has improved over the years. I then make a collage in a poster print to hang in the playroom. They love to see their favourite drawings on display and it doesn't take up too much space!

5) There are some super creative people on sites such as Etsy and Not On The Highstreet for keeping baby clothes and blankets. These are generally called 'Memory Bears' or 'Keepsake Quilts' and are a lovely idea for keeping hold of those special clothes that you can't bear to part with (excuse the pun!)

6) This is an update to the original blog, a family member contacted me after seeing my original blog post with the most wonderful idea for keeping your Childs special cards. It was a little time consuming, but I am so impressed with the results and it's something that I'll happily keep on my walls for many years to come. Here are the steps I used to create this little piece of art:

1) Cut a template of a shape that you want to use in your frame. In this case, Butterflies.

2) Using your template, draw it on your card and cut it out. Repeat this for all of the cards you wish to keep (in this example, I used my daughters New Baby cards, Christening & 1st Birthday) I also kept any little diamanté's, flowers, her name, etc.

3) Find a frame deep enough so that you can slightly fold up the butterfly wings. I found this lovely frame in Hobbycraft, it was just big enough but slightly wider would have been even better.

4) Paint the back of your frame as you'll use this as your backdrop.

5) Arrange your shapes on the glass first to test out placement.

6) Using a glue gun, or superglue, fix your shapes onto the back of your frame.

And there you have it, a simple yet really beautiful way of keeping the memories of the cards, without having to actually keep them all bundled somewhere.


I understand the emotions you can feel when decluttering sentimental items, and sometimes you just need a little extra help or someone to walk you through it. If you feel like you would benefit from a confidential, compassionate person to work alongside you, let me know. I would love to help.

Until next time! x

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