Today I wanted to talk about decluttering sentimental items, and in particular holiday decor. Decluttering sentimental items can be such a difficult thing! Holiday decor can have an added layer of difficulty because of the sweet and fond memories wrapped up in the items. I always encourage people to start with an easier category when beginning their decluttering journey because momentum is the key. It’s a whole lot easier to declutter items that don’t have a sentimental attachment. Starting there will give us the confidence in our decision making process as we gain momentum with decluttering. If you are in a place where you are ready to tackle decluttering sentimental items, but you are struggling, I have ten questions you can ask yourself as you make these decisions.
The first question you can ask yourself is: Am I going to use it again? If you didn’t put it out this year, how likely are you to put it out next year? Oftentimes if we do not display something from our Christmas bins one year, we are not very likely to display it the next year. And even less like the next year, or the next. I know it can be difficult to be realistic with ourselves when it comes to sentimental items, but really evaluate if you are going to display items in the future.
If you’re not going to display the items, the second question you can ask is: are these items worth just storing away in a closet, attic, or basement? I am all about displaying or discarding. For me, when things are out of sight, they are out of mind. Be honest with yourself if the items are important enough to just have stored away in a box somewhere.
The third question to ask is: Am I believing in my fantasy self? This term refers to having items in your home that you think you will one day use because of who you wish you would be. You have a desire to follow through on ideas you have, but the reality is you probably won’t. Maybe you’re keeping old Christmas cards to use for a future craft project, or you have some other craft materials to make things that you will actually never make, or maybe you have a lot of holiday decor with the idea that you will put it all out but the reality is you don’t have the time or bandwidth during the holiday season to do so. Again, being realistic with yourself is the key. Ask yourself how much you really need to have on hand. How much will you actually use?
The fourth question you can ask yourself is: is this meaningful to my children or family members? Think about if your children or family members would want these items when you are gone. I know this is a bit morbid to think about, but it is a good way to help make these decisions. If you missed my previous blog post (or YouTube video) regarding Swedish Death Cleaning, you should check it out for a more in depth explanation, but this mindset has helped me when making decisions especially regarding sentimental items. The basic idea of Swedish Death Cleaning is recognizing that one day when you pass away your children or other family members will have the responsibility of deciding what happens with the belongings you left behind. It is already an emotional time dealing with the loss of a loved one, but there is the added burden of going through their stuff. Therefore this question of will your family members find these items meaningful is valuable.
An adjacent question you can ask yourself with regards to your children or other family members is: can I pass anything along to my children or family members now? While you are still living it is a great time to ask your family members what items are important to them. You may find that what is important to you may not be important to them, or vice versa. It may be easier to let go of sentimental items if you know they are going to be cherished by family.
The sixth question you can ask yourself is: will this matter to me one year from now? Five years from now, or ten years from now? Thinking about sentimental items in terms of the future can help you to make those decisions. You may want to hold onto items for now and that’s okay. It can take time to let things go. In a recent video on my YouTube channel where I was going through my Christmas decor to declutter, a friend asked me if I was emotional going through my kids’ childhood items (my three children are now young adults). I honestly was not emotional. It took time, but I am starting to get to a place where I am accepting this life stage. It takes time to transition for sure, but when you’re ready to let go, you’re ready.
The seventh question you can ask yourself is: is this item something I could take a photo of to have the memory? Sometimes it’s enough to have a photo of the special item, and this takes up far less physical space since photos are now digital. This is an especially great technique for larger sentimental items.
Another question you can ask yourself is: how much Christmas clutter am I okay with having displayed in my home? Everyone has a threshold of how much stuff they can have around them. Studies have shown that clutter can contribute to feelings of anxiety and overwhelm. For some people that threshold is higher, but really evaluate your threshold. If you like a lot of holiday decor and you have the time and energy to put it all up, then by all means keep it all! But if the reality is you have way more than you feel comfortable displaying then it’s time to evaluate what you can part with.
The ninth question you can ask yourself is: do I have the space to store what I want to keep? Physical boundaries can be a great way to limit what you keep. It can be helpful to give yourself boundaries by having a certain number of bins for your holiday decor and only keeping what fits in the bins.
The tenth and final question you can ask yourself is: Am I keeping items because of guilt? Sometimes we keep sentimental items or holiday items because they were gifts given to us. It can be very difficult to let go of items given to us, however it doesn’t seem sustainable to keep every gift ever given to you. I am sure the person who gave you the gift would not want you to keep the item simply out of guilt and might rather you pass it along to someone who can use and enjoy it!
Well, I hope these ten questions were helpful to you to process through making decisions when it comes to decluttering sentimental and holiday items. This time of year as we get out our holiday decor and set it up is a great time to think through these questions! Happy decluttering, and happy holidays!