Do thoughts of decluttering send your mind spiraling toward the sentimental? If you are brand new to the idea of minimalism or decluttering in general, don’t let those thoughts prevent you from getting started. Begin with the easy things, leaving the hard choices for much, much later in the process. However, if you have been at the decluttering game for a while now and are left only with your collections, memorabilia, family heirlooms, photos, and other sentimental treasures, this post is for you.
“If everything is important, then nothing is.” -Patrick Lencioni
Let that quote sink in for a moment. As with anything, prioritization is key. We have all had instances where we have said yes to too many things at once, over scheduling ourselves and feeling the burden of anxiety. Overwhelmed and stretched far too thinly, we are faced with a myriad of negative consequences; both physical and emotional. What if we collectively got better at reserving our yeses for things that were truly important, and using “no” more often? People appreciate honesty, and can tell when you are not wholeheartedly invested in something. Give yourself grace; you don’t have to do or be everything to every person. I assure you, it is ok to say no to the lesser important “opportunities” that frequently bombard you.
It is exactly the same scenario with household items. Committing to owning too many things places an unnecessary burden on you, your time, and your emotional wellbeing. Sentimental or not, to live a life free from clutter, you must prioritize your belongings. Remember, “If everything is important, then nothing is.” Take that quote to heart; understanding that not everything holds the same value. Purge the lesser things from your life, and in doing so, you will truly be able to focus on your favorite treasures. Once you have decided what gets to stay, give those items the honor of being displayed in prominent areas of your home. What good are they doing to anyone packed away in a box, anyway? Make room for the important.
By this point in your decluttering journey, you should be excellent at deciphering what items get to stay; use this knowledge to help you with the sentimental category. A word of encouragement before you begin- Getting rid of an item will never take away the memory it evokes. Do you own things, or do things own you?
Recognize that decluttering is a highly emotional process. This is all the truer when dealing with items of meaning. You didn’t accumulate everything in one day, so don’t expect to minimize everything in one day either. Choose manageable chunks, carve out time, and stick with it. In the end, it will be worth the effort.
People hang on to certain things for a variety of reasons, but I have discovered that the single most frequent reason people hold on to things is out of guilt. Carrying the burden of keeping something because you’re afraid of hurting someone else’s’ feelings. Emotional baggage can weigh a person down, and obsessing over the “what if’s” is never healthy. Too many times I have kept something around because it was special to someone else, or I thought the giver would be upset if they found out I got rid of something. Getting rid of your Grandma’s collection of buttons doesn’t mean you love her (or her memory) any less. Keeping your wedding dress is not a requirement- I, for one, don’t pretend to think that mine will be in style if my daughter decides to get married one day. I also don’t want to place an unnecessary burden on her to feel as if she should wear it. These are just two of countless examples of potential guilt induced hoarding.
People are more than the things they own. If the piece in question has been part of the family, ask other members if they would like it and pass it on to a place where it will be appreciated. If there are no takers, donate or sell guilt free! What about gifts from loved ones? In my experience, handmade gifts are the hardest to let go of. Even if it is deemed ugly or not your style, you can appreciate the time and effort that a loved one put in to making it just for you. In this case, you could simply donate and have the peace of knowing it is bringing someone else joy. Another option would be to contact the person to communicate that while you love the thought behind the gift, it just doesn’t fit with your style. Then ask if they would like it back, or if it would be ok to pass it on someone else, as that gift has served its purpose with you.
As with every other category, my criteria for keeping an item is to simply ask two questions: 1. Is it useful? 2.Do I love it? If it fits one or both criteria, it earns a place in my home. If you are torn with deciding, the answer is to get rid of it. If it were a definite keep, you would know right away.
We all have stumbling blocks when it comes to clearing out things we own. Minimalism is not about throwing everything away, or living without. Instead, it is curating our possessions until everything that remains in our lives, add value in one way or another. Visualize your end goal, and purge accordingly. Let thoughts of a clear, peaceful home provide the encouragement you need to tackle the hard things!