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Letting Go of Sentimental Clutter

Sentimental Clutter

My sons have a great art teacher and both came home the other day with a self portrait inspired by the creations of Tim Burton. Amazing!!  I love their work and will keep these forever. Over the years I’ve kept lots of their things that bring back good memories, including their first pair of shoes, and Mother’s Day letters they wrote to me when they were little.

Do you hold on to things because of the memories they bring back to you? It can be a beautiful thing, if when you look at those things you are able to enjoy them and reminisce a bit. But in some cases, that’s not exactly what happens. You can end up with sentimental clutter you aren’t able to part with.

Happy memories or sentimental clutter?

Sometimes we feel compelled to hold on to something. When we look at it, we feel anxiety, self judgement or guilt instead of joy. We know we don’t need it. We want to get rid of it. But, we feel bad doing so because of the meaning we’ve attached to that item. For example, my mother held on to all of the trophies my brother and I got as kids. We didn’t care about them and didn’t want them.  But for years after we were grown and gone, she kept them. Deep down, she wanted to clear them out but felt like she couldn’t because they were a part of our childhood. When she looked at those trophies, she felt a bit melancholy instead of joyful.

Holding on for the right reasons

Do you have items you’re holding onto for the same reasons? I coach women physicians on clutter, and this topic comes up so often. When it comes to sentimental objects, I always ask, “Do you want to keep this? Why?”  And then I ask, “Do you like your reason for wanting to keep this?”  If they say yes, then it’s not a problem!  They can drop the self judgment and move on. But if they say no, feel melancholy or get anxious, we dive deeper. If you feel these emotions when you think about that shirt you bought on that special family vacation (that you never wear but feel bad about giving up), or about the Christmas ornament you child brought home that he/she clearly didn’t make), stop and evaluate.  Let these emotions be a signal to you that it might be time to let go. Often we think we will feel guilty if we get rid of these things. So we keep them.  Meanwhile we still feel anxiety and guilt when we look at them and then judge ourselves for even wanting to get rid of them!!  So, we end up creating the negative emotions that we are desperately trying to avoid!

Questions to ask about your sentimental clutter

There’s nothing wrong with keeping things out of sentiment. There’s also nothing wrong with deciding you want to get rid of some of them. So the next time you find yourself in this predicament, use these questions to help you make the decision that’s right for you:

  • Why do I want to keep this?
  • Do I like that reason?
  • How do I feel every time I see this object?
  • If I’m keeping this for the memories it brings, am I even looking at it?  Or, is it stored away and I haven’t seen it for years?  Does this make sense?
  • How might I feel if I give this up? Am I keeping it in an effort to avoid that emotion?
  • Might it be time to say goodbye?

If you struggle with letting go of things like this, as a certified life coach and interior designer, I can help you. Click here to schedule a discovery call with me. You don’t have to try to sort through your sentimental clutter alone.

Kricia Palmer, MD, ASID | Doctor, life coach & interior designer

I’m Kricia Palmer, and I help women physicians let go of clutter and create beautiful, clutter-resistant homes so they can feel more peace, get more rest and be more focused.

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