When it’s Time to Declutter Sentimental Items


If you sort sentimental items first, you will be so emotionally exhausted after an hour of looking at items, smelling them and remembering things.
At that point, you may not even have the energy to let anything go, and you really won’t have the energy to do any simplifying in the easy areas of your home.
Decluttering sentimental items is a huge task.

Save the sentimental items as the very last things to declutter.

As you work through your home, simplifying each area, set the sentimental items aside.
When we are looking around our home, we tend to see the biggest baddest, most dreaded task we have… and when we think of embracing minimalism, well, that is what we think of having to sort and declutter. Well, if you look at it that way, of course, it seems overwhelming!!

Don’t take on the worst problem first.

Take on the easiest. Sort the coffee cups, the plastic measuring cups and all the mugs in the kitchen. Do the things that don’t give you a heavy ache in the pit of your stomach.
Do the simple things first. The utilitarian items that have little to no emotions tied to them.
Decluttering the easy things first gives you small wins, little victories, and builds your confidence as you sort and make decisions. This way you can have all the confidence you need when you are actually ready to start sorting the sentimental things.

Have a space designated as the “sentimental area.”

This can be a closet, or a box, whatever you want, even if it’s just a corner of the spare room or basement, but put all the sentimental items there as you work through all the main living areas of your home.
When you go through the papers in the kitchen and you find all the drawings from your children and they are so cute it seems wrong to get rid of them, well, put them in your sentimental item area.
When you go through your living room and you have the decor that your grandmother had in her home and you think of her, but it doesn’t fit your decor, put it in your sentimental item area.
When you are in your dining room and you have all the fine china you got from your wedding 20 years ago that you 1. Don’t have a full set of or 2. You’ve only used twice… Put it in the sentimental item area.
When you are cleaning out the kids’ room and have all the baby toys that you feel sad about parting with but know they aren’t doing anyone any good stuffed into the toy box, (and randomly thrown across the room) well, put them in your sentimental items area.

When you’re ready, you can face those sentimental items with confidence and surety.

After you’ve sorted all the main living areas of your home, you will be able to face those items with confidence. You will know that you are capable of making a good decision, you will have a firmer grasp on what you want your home’s atmosphere to be like.
And your decision-making muscles will be much stronger after you’ve exercised them so much.
Then, and only then, should you begin to sort out the sentimental items.
Here are several posts that are helpful and go more in-depth on how the process of simplifying those items should look:


About Rachel Jones

Hi there! I’m Rachel Jones, and I founded Nourishing Minimalism in 2012 at the beginning of my minimalist journey. If you're looking for encouragement in your journey, I created a FREE Facebook Group - feel free to join me there: Nourishing Minimalism Facebook Group and I share videos each week on YouTube


  1. Bethany from CuteCapsuleLife on 09/26/2017 at 1:44 pm

    I so completely agree with this – sentimental is the hardest and tackling that first is so discouraging I’ve wanted to quit altogether. Great advice.

  2. Lisa on 01/03/2018 at 10:22 pm

    I appreciate this post as this is something I have such a hard time with! I wanted to make a comment on sentimental items of people that have passed away. I have a lot of things that were my daughter’s, who only lived 17 months. She died 6 years ago. I’ve noticed that every couple years, I have been able to let go of a little more. I think when the sentimental items are wrapped up in our grieving process, we should be gentle with ourselves, and take our time. Let go when we are ready. Just wanted to share that in case it helps anyone reading this!

    • Rachel Jones on 01/04/2018 at 7:51 pm

      Thank you so much for sharing Lisa. ❤️

  3. Marge on 01/23/2019 at 12:54 pm

    In this electronic age, I have found that taking a photo of a sentimental item can substitute for actually keeping it. It works with things like dishes, and tschotchkes of the sentimental kind. I have put a folder on the desktop of my computer and I move all those photos to the folder. Periodically I can take a look at them and remember them fondly but the connection has been loosened and I am not sad they are gone. It is the memories that are important.

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