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Minimizing Sentimental Items

Minimizing Sentimental Items

By far, the most difficult part of becoming a minimalist is minimizing sentimental items. Your spaces are undoubtedly filled with items you won’t get rid of because of a perceived emotional connection.

Your home might even be the place where family heirlooms go to collect dust for the rest of eternity.

Minimizing sentimental items takes a shift in mindset to accomplish. In this article you’ll learn how to re-think your storage of sentimental items.


I help regular people become minimalist so they can use their newly discovered time, money, and energy towards creating the life they didn’t know they wanted.

Every Item Has a Story

The concept of a memory and an emotion get jumbled up and confused when people talk about items.

Every item you have in your home has a story, whether you remember it or not.

You might recall a hilarious story about how you ended up with a tin lunch box that belonged to the neighborhood bully and reminds you of how you two patched things up when you were seven.

The foot massager collecting dust in the corner might have a story about stacking a coupon on top of an open box discount on top of your cousins employee discount.

An ornate oval platter under all the Tupperware in the kitchen might spark the story of how a co-worker brought food over after your dog died but then got fired before you had a chance to give the plate back.

Those are stories about items that are in your home. Every item has a story about how you obtained it and is often the justification for why you are keeping it.

Honestly, I’ve even heard people justify keeping items because they remember the day they bought the thing in question at Target.

minimalism of antiques

Emotional Items Are Off Limits

Saying you don’t want to get rid of something because it’s sentimental is a catch all excuse.

You put a wall around any conversation involving minimizing sentimental items. This a frustrating objection for anyone trying to engage in helping you reduce your items.

It’s as if simply telling people you don’t want to get rid of something because it’s sentimental exempts any further discussion. You cease to critically think about any item you deem sentimental.

Your unwillingness to discuss an item of emotional significance is a defense mechanism. Behind the knee jerk reaction of not minimizing sentimental items is a complicated relationship with physical possessions.

Allowing memories to exist as physical objects is a slippery slope. If everything you or a loved one touches or has a story about becomes sentimental then you’ll end up with a huge problem on your hands in terms of stuff suffocating you.

Remember That Time….

I would like you to reflect back to a memory from your childhood, pick a birthday or Christmas that stands out in your mind. In fact, be sure to make it a happy memory.

I’ll tell you about one of my happy childhood memories. On the day of my 9th birthday party, it snowed. This birthday was particularly special because it was my first boy girl party.

Obviously, the snow made it difficult for some people to come to my party. Some people walked because they lived in the neighborhood. My direct neighbor and best friend at the time had spent the night at her aunts house in a suburb and she couldn’t make it to the party, which was such a bummer. One boy even cross country skied to my house!

One of the boys at the party got me a wide array of pink socks. Another boy go me a teddy bear that I kept until five years ago.

We played sardines, which is kind of like reverse hide and seek. There was a game where we ate saltine crackers and then tried to be the first person to whistle.

Montell Jordan’s ‘This is How We Do It’ was playing in the background on my very first boom box, which was the gift my parents bought me.

After everyone had gone home the snow continued to dump for hours. I went outside so my dad could take a photo of me with the snow up to my thigh, holding up the number 9 with gloves covering my cold hands.

It’s the Feelings That Matter

It was an amazing birthday, that I love thinking about.

I am able to recall the feelings of joy even though I no longer have the socks or bear that the boys bought me. Also, I no longer have that physical Montell Jordan CD or the boom box it played on. Plus, I don’t have the jacket or gloves I wore in the snow. And I don’t even have to have the physical photograph that was taken, it only exists digitally now.

I had all the sentimental feelings of a great memory without a single physical object from that day.

Can you recall sentimental feelings about your happy memory without any physical objects? I bet you can. I’d love for you to tell me about your happy memory in the comment box below.

Where is That Item?

Another way to look at the disconnect between sentimental feelings and physical possessions is to realize how rarely you interact with the items you claim such strong emotions towards.

Think of the sentimental item in your house that you haven’t touched for the longest time. Maybe it’s a box of artwork from kindergarten in the attic. Or perhaps there is a gold plated hairbrush from your great grandmother behind all your purses at the top of your closet. You know those “memories” are there, yet you don’t go interact with that object. You are able to recall that memory even while you sit here and read this blog.

If you were to lose that sentimental item in a fire or because of a robbery, you would still have that feeling. The object is not the memory.

Even when you are on vacation you can reminisce about any happy memory without an object to evoke that emotion. The item is not the memory.

You don’t need to know where that physical item is in order to be sentimental or emotional about anything from your past. Minimizing sentimental items won’t eliminate your memories.

Minimizing Sentimental Items

Things are Not Memories

Often times people struggle to minimize “sentimental” items because of what they have decided that it means something negative if they get rid of it.

If you think getting rid of that item means you don’t respect your family heritage, of course you’re not going to get rid of it. Purging physical items doesn’t mean you’re forgetting about your grandmother or any other loved one.

The minimizing of gifts items does not mean you don’t appreciate the present someone gave you. Getting rid of broken or outdated items doesn’t mean you are spoiled.

Don’t create negative meaning to your reduction of items. There is no ill intent behind your minimizing of sentimental items.

In fact, weighing your life down with physical items masquerading as memories literally prevents you from creating new memories. You stop yourself from living life to the fullest because of those possessions.

Messy to Minimalist

If you need pratical support to pivot from expectations to experiences, I teach a course that can help. Learn the three justifications you’re using to hang on to unnecessary stuff. Get practical room by room advice on eliminating your clutter. And even uncover how to create the life you didn’t realize you wanted.

It’s never too late to stop living a basic life. Stuff stops you fro living your life to the fullest. I’m excited to help you on your journey from stuff overload to living your best life.

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  • 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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