My 4-Month Purge - How To Deal With Sentimental Items | Woman in Real Life:The Art of the Everyday

Friday, May 29, 2015

My 4-Month Purge - How To Deal With Sentimental Items


Recently I told you that I launched a 4-month purge of all things excess in my home - and there are a lot of those things. If emotions hinder you when you attempt to declutter you are certainly not alone. I think most people have some difficulty letting go of at least one category of things - maybe it's books (hello!) or clothing or just about everything (me again!).

I am not the type of person who can just toss things without a thought - I know those people exist because my brother-in-law is one of them. My sister-in-law has to be careful what she leaves lying around because, if the urge strikes him, out it will go. It's probably good to have one person like that in the house...or maybe sort of like that. We don't have anybody like that in my house.

Even Our Dog Has Trouble Purging Stuff

Even Jolene the beagle mix prevents me from tossing stuff. She has but one type of favourite toy - those long, skinny furry things with no stuffing - you know the kind - they look like long squirrels or some such animal. One time when her favourite toy was down to just the head, I tossed it in the garbage can under the kitchen sink. Next time I opened the cupboard door, I kid you not, she swept in there and grabbed it out of the garbage. And how can you toss it then?

Baby clothing has been the hardest category for me - and the one that irritates my husband the most, because it takes up a lot of room in our basement storage space - otherwise known as his future "jam space." You see, I wanted to have a third child - boy or girl, who could know? So I kept all of the clothing from both kids' first few years. The third child never came and the clothing never left.

How To Deal With Sentimental Items - Find Somebody To Give It To

Once I realized we weren't having another child, it was easy enough to pass along my son's outgrown clothing to my twin nephews who are two years younger than my boy. My daughter's clothes weren't so easy - they started to pile up. I thought I might sell them one day. I finally tried selling a box of clothing to a secondhand kids' store. In my opinion, the effort involved wasn't worth the amount of money I was given. That belief freed me up to start donating the clothes to local thrift stores.

But that still left the issue of the baby and toddler clothing piled up in boxes in the basement. For me, the secret was to find somebody who can truly use it. If I know that it's going to good use, I can more easily part with it. Of course, you have to make sure it goes to somebody who can truly use it - you don't want to ease your burden by creating a clutter scenario for somebody else. In the case of our baby girl clothing, my daughter's friend's parents just had a baby girl, so I packed up all of the decent onesies, dresses and pajamas and sent them off. The boy's items, which I have less of, will go to a thrift store.

How To Deal With Sentimental Items - Leave Them Until Last

Although I dealt with a lot of the baby clothing at the beginning of my 4-month purge (in these last few weeks), that was because the friend's new baby was born, forcing me to work faster. But often sentimental items will slow the process of de-cluttering down. In that case, Japanese organizer Marie Kondo says leave those categories until last.

In The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, she says that starting with mementos makes for certain failure. "The degree of difficulty involved in selecting what to keep and what to discard differs greatly depending on the category. People who get stuck halfway usually do so because they start with the things that are hardest to make decisions about." So, build some momentum by starting with the simpler categories such as clothing you've grown tired of and papers that need shredding.

Keep Just A Few Sentimental Items

In the case of the baby clothing, once I actually went through piece by piece, I discovered that many of the items, although still useful, definitely weren't worth forming an attachment to. The vast majority of them were simply onesies and pajamas - very useful at the time, but not exactly worthy of sentimentality. I picked out just a few of the cuter pieces of clothing - the ones that I could recall the kids wearing - and put those in the trunk that we have designated for sentimental pieces.

What Do You Truly Cherish?

I believe the change for me occurred when I gave some real thought to what I truly value. Think - what do you truly cherish? Is it all kinds of "stuff" or is it time spent with family and friends - moments shared with your children, your parents, your siblings and other loved ones? It's a no-brainer right?

I believe that you will have more time to play board games, watch movies and enjoy life with family when your house is clutter-free. Of course the household work will never go away entirely, but I'm certain it's a lot easier and more efficient to run a household without all the extra STUFF.

And I know I'm going to get there this time. Kondo's book helped me less with practical information (although it has that too) and more with the philosophy of purging. The critical thing that I learned is that the items we have stored in boxes, closets and cupboards throughout our home have served their purpose - they have been useful to us and now they can move on. Even a greeting card, she points out, served its purpose by giving you joy the very moment you read it. If you toss it now, does it mean that you don't value the message or the sender? Of course not. I am starting to pass items on now, thanking them as I do so for all the joy and/or usefulness they brought us.

I'll be back with an update about what all I purged in the first month of my 4-month purge soon.

What is the hardest category for you to purge?


  1. Oh Jo that's a lot of baby clothes too bad our cousin who is due her baby in a few weeks didn't live closer you could have given her some. My purging is going really well too.

    1. I know, I thought the same thing! I am glad you are doing well with your purge too!

  2. I tend to be a VERY sentimental person as far as objects go.. I definitely have a hard time letting go of things! Ive tried telling myself that the memories are more important that that item & like yourself kept one or two items verses an entire box! It's not easy though

    1. I totally get is very hard! I am just focusing on how nice it will be to feel like I can float freely throughout my house without all this stuff getting in the way (literally and figuratively!).

  3. I find it hard to get rid of some of the items that belonged to my grandparents (a few simple dresses that I don't wear mostly). I gave away all the baby clothes when we realised that two kids was our limit, but right now I'm in the middle of sorting out wooden train sets to sell and it does tug at the heart strings a bit when I remember how much my son adored playing with them! I've been trying to follow the "one new thing in, one old thing out" principle. I completely agree with you about having more time to play games, enjoy life etc when you're clutter-free. We have a massive bookcase full of games that we rarely play... because the surfaces we would play them on (big tables) are full of clutter! I get very easily stressed in a cluttered environment, which isn't helped when three other family members keep dumping their stuff in my spaces :) For e.g. here on my desk I have two balloon animals, kids books, googly eyes for crafts, some Easter activity book, the head of a My Little Pony, my daughter's purse... none of those were put here by me! :)

    1. Yes, grandparent stuff is difficult to discard! Generally I think the longer it has been around, the harder it is. We have lots of toys to go through and it definitely tugs at the heart strings! I am hoping to go through our games closet for summer and weed out some games...and then hopefully play some games! I am the same as you - clutter stresses me out and I also have three other people who borrow my spaces. I laughed at your description of the stuff on your desk. Oh how the kiddies love to take over...