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Letting Go of Sentimental Items Without Fear

Letting Go of Sentimental Items Without Fear

The vast majority of people I speak with are hesitant to start minimizing because of the emotional value they put into items. Letting go of sentimental items can trigger worry, fear, and sadness. If the item truly was equivalent to a memory those feelings would be warranted.

Items though, they are not memories. Items can jog a memory, but they themselves are not the feeling. Without a doubt your obsession for supposed sentimental items is hindering your ability to live your best life. Reminiscing about the past is a fun activity unless it becomes so common that it prevents you from experiencing the present.

More than likely, your sentimental items cause you to act differently than you would without the items. You don’t entertain as often as you want because preparing the house for guests is too much work. Someone offers you a new bed frame that would go great in your guest room, but you decline because the room is too packed with boxes to have guests anyway. The treadmill you’ve been eyeing forever goes on sale but you opt not to buy it until after the sun room get’s cleared out.

If any of this sounds familiar, you have a stuff problem.

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Emotional Connection to Items

An item is seen to have emotional value because it is present during important moments in your life. It’s as if the object soaked up the important moment and is the gate keeper to accessing that memory. A person believes the object evokes their emotional response.

When an object belonged to a departed loved one we inject our feelings for that person into the item. In reality, that item could have been very inconsequential in their life, but because it belonged to them it gains value once it comes into your possession.

Another way people create emotional connections is through the acquisition process. If the day a person acquired an object is memorable, the item takes on the burden of keeping that recollection alive. Struggles or obstacles that made procuring that object especially tough will make the bond to that item even stronger.

What emotional justifiers fail to realize is that the memory or thought exists in their mind irregardless of the object. Giving the object power to access or be prevented from remembering that memory is flawed.

letting go of sentimental items

Overcoming a fear of letting go of sentimental items can be challenging, but it is possible. Here are some strategies that may be helpful:

Reflect on the Memories

Take some time to reflect on the thoughts you have associated with the item. Write down what you remember about the item, what it means to you, and how it makes you feel. This can help you to process and understand your feelings about the item.

Put the item away, out of sight. At a future time pull out your paper where you wrote about the item. Realize that even when the item is not in your presence you are able to recall that feeling.

Go from Messy to Minimalist

You know you’re ready to minimize. You just need someone to show you the fastest and easiest way to do it.

Create a Memory Box

Instead of holding onto many physical items, consider creating a memory box with only a few select items. Remember, minimalism isn’t about getting rid of everything.

Your memory box should consist of the most irreplaceable items in your collection. Heirloom jewelry, hand written letters, or family artifacts are common items to include in a memory box.

Take a Photo of the Item

If you’re not ready to let go of the item, take a photo of it. You already know that an item doesn’t do a better job conjuring a memory than simply thinking about the item. Think of the photo as your backup system. You may think you can’t become a minimalist, but these small steps will add eventually.

Find a New Purpose for the Item

Many sentimental items are previously useful objects that are now broken. Letting go of sentimental items can look like re-imagining them into something useful. Instead of that item taking up shelf space it can start a new life in an invention, wardrobe item, or piece of art.

Seek Support

Talking to a loved one or a therapist about your feelings and concerns can be helpful. They can provide an outside perspective and offer support as you work through your feelings.

Let it go Gradually

If letting go of the item all at once feels overwhelming, try letting go of it gradually. You can start by packing it away, or putting it in a storage, and then revisiting it in a few months. The more times you can remember the feeling from that object while it is out of your possession, the more confident you will get that the memory exists independent of the item.

Let Your Mind Keep the Memories

The most important thing is to be kind and gentle with yourself, letting go of sentimental items can be hard. Recognize that it is a personal journey and what works for one person may not work for another. It’s important to find a way that feels right for you.

Not every moment in our lives is worthy or even possible to remember. Even if every memory could somehow be recalled in this present moment, that detracts from your experiencing of this moment.


  • Veronica Hanson

    Veronica Hanson blogs from whatever country she happens to be in at the time, currently she's hanging out in Japan. She's been living as a nomad remote entrepreneur with her family since 2020.

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