Decluttering your sentimental stuff- treasure hunting

Sentimental image of vintage postbox


Why do we have sentimental things at all?

Most people are attached to things– it’s not just you. Ownership of objects begins even before we start talking, with a favourite teddy; and continues into our old age, with sentimental photographs and memorabilia. We use our belongings to create continuity, meaning, beauty, status, identity or even to show our taste.

Our attachment to things can range from the ruthless friend who is always having a clear-out, to the person struggling to let go of things considered rubbish by most people. (At this end of the spectrum, help from a psychologist/ psychiatrist specialising in Hoarding Disorder is advised). Most of us lie somewhere in between, myself included. And that’s ok…

But too much stuff might stop you from using your spare room, the loft could become unnavigable, or hidden spaces could get infested with moths or damp, causing permanent damage. Or maybe you simply feel overwhelmed by the amount of unfinished business. We dread sorting through piles of inherited cutlery or old schoolbooks. It can feel impossible to know where to start.

Firstly, how about a re-brand? How about calling it treasure instead of sentimental stuff? Imagine you’re doing a treasure hunt- and decide to let anything else go. All of us ‘bury’ our treasure, but now it’s time to bring it out into the open and take a good honest look at it all.

So what next?

Keep an open mind

Allow your ‘rules’ to change. Your feelings about your belongings won’t stay the same- so be honest with yourself and recognise when you’re ready to let go of what was once precious. And if you’re not sure you’re ready to say goodbye, err on the side of caution and revisit again in 6-12 months.

Would a picture do?

Ask yourself if you could let it go once you’ve photographed it. For example, a wedding dress often looks best on the bride- if you have the pictures perhaps you don’t actually need the dress.

Does it deserve more attention?

Would someone else value or enjoy it more than you? You could pass it on to a friend, charity or even a museum.

Start enjoying it

Why not start using that set of neglected cutlery? Could you frame those medals? Recently a client’s gold pleather jewellery trunk (given by a beloved grandfather) became a versatile plaything for his great-grandson!

Tell the story

If the sentimental object or photo has a story attached, tell someone, or make a note on the back. If you can’t remember the backstory, why keep it?

With these thoughts in mind, it’s now time to revisit those memories. Happy treasure hunting!

So what stuff do you find most difficult to tackle? Let me know your comments…