How to Deal with Sentimental Clutter without Losing the Memories

By Tico+Tina

Last updated September 26, 2022

evergreen, minimalism, practical minimalist living, reader favorites

This entry is part 9 of 31 in the series Exploring Minimalism

It would probably be a surprise to some people, but I'm actually a rather sentimental person. Growing up I hung onto pretty much any and everything until my parents moved away from my childhood home in 2013 and I couldn't keep putting off going through all those memories. I'm glad that our minimalist mindset was already fairly developed at that point, because otherwise a bunch of stuff would have ended up migrating to the non-existent space we have to work with here.

As I sifted through so many things with long-forgotten memories attached, I wasn't a bit sorry I had kept them. No, I hadn't consciously missed them, but there's no doubt in my mind I would never have remembered many of those little parts of my life without that tie. I have a hard enough time remembering most of my life, I can't afford to forget everything!

Like I said in the post about getting rid of kids' things, I do think it's important to remember where and what we've come from. Being taken back to those feelings of being a child is also invaluable to me as I seek to be able to identify well with our kids while we're raising them.

So how can you keep the memories without hanging onto a bunch of sentimental clutter?

dealing with sentimental clutter without losing the memories | 31 Days Exploring Minimalism | simple living | keepsakes | upcycling

Take a picture: This is probably the simplest and most obvious tip, but still easy to overlook.

Ever since the day years ago that I had the "DUH" moment where I thought of doing this, something clicked and I no longer felt caught between a rock and a hard place in relation to being a minimalist. There are many things that aren't really that significant, but hold glimpses of moments that you don't want to lose. Pictures are perfect for these. (I only realized in 2018 why this is particularly important for people who experience life with aphantasia, or mental blindness.)

Upcycle: There are so many ways to get creative with upcycling!

Miss Minimalist suggests "Have a jeweler set the stones of a gaudy old brooch into a pretty necklace, or use the yarn from your grandpa's sweater to knit a nice scarf."

For years I've been planning to make some of our old tshirts into a blanket, and I finally did. Now they're not stuffed in a box doing no one any good, and since the blanket only uses pieces of the tshirts, it takes up less space. I'll admit that I wish it wasn't so drab, but I can't very well go back in time and tell younger us to buy different shirts to look better in a future blanket 🙂

Save one item from a collection: This is another note from Miss Minimalist. Why keep an entire collection that just sits around, when one item holds the memory just as well?

Showcase: This could fall under the upcycling category, but I feel like it deserves its own because there are some items that you're not going to turn into something useful, per se, but that can be displayed as art instead of in storage where no one ever sees them anyway.

Shadow boxes are one easy way of doing this, and I also ran across this cool company who "Turn(s) memories into treasures... Keepsakes into practical art."

I don't know about you, but just thinking about making cool stuff that I like and use now out of old memories makes me excited to finish sorting the last couple boxes I have waiting for me in our shed. This article on Minimalist Keepsakes is also worth reading for motivation.

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Exploring Minimalism

Want to explore more of what it means to be minimalist and the resulting space and freedom it creates in your life? Let’s take simple living from something you wish for to something you actually do!

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We're well-acquainted with being stuck in soul-sucking survival mode, and the intense internal friction of not living in alignment with your potential. We're all about discovering, creating, and sharing adulting cheat codes™ so you can level up faster! -David (Tico) & Chris(tina)


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