How Do You Know If You’re Too Sentimental? (Or… The Art of Letting Go)

We all have them; people in our lives who, when you confess your inner struggle about holding onto something that really needs to go, coldly state, “Just throw it out. Nobody is going to want that!” Those people are not reading this blog due to obvious reasons (the title).  The rest of you dear ones, welcome! And let’s discuss…

While I’m not a psychologist, I spend a good deal of time helping clients let go of items to which they have an emotional attachment. Items typically fall into the following categories:

Memories – Let’s face it, anything can fall into this category, photos, a piece of clothing, books, furniture. We hold onto items that trigger a happy or satisfying memory. A T-shirt of a particular place, club, or activity. A favorite book, a piece of heirloom furniture, or a tchotchke from a trip.

Guilt – Then there are items we’re not necessarily emotionally connected to.  You may not even like them (such as gifts) but the thought of letting the item go gives you so much guilt they reside for years as unwanted guests in your home. And how about expensive purchases? Maybe it was an impulse buy or merely something that is now dated but cost so much, you just can’t bring yourself to let it go.

Obligation – You may not be attached to items in this category, but you’re holding on to them out of a sense of obligation or guilt (again!) This can include every piece of artwork your child has drawn and decorative items to pass down to other family members.

This is not supposed to be an exhaustive list of reasons why folks hold onto items. Entire books have been written on the subject. But let’s return to the title of this article.  What should be the standard to measure whether someone is too sentimental? I believe everyone has the right to hold onto whatever they choose unless it affects relationships with other family members or interferes with the amount of space needed to live safely and comfortably in their home. These are usually the reasons clients reach out to us for help and here are three helpful mantras we use:

“If I keep everything then nothing is special.” Realistically, how often are you (or your kids) going to open all those memory tubs in your attic? Choose a few select items from departed family members, take photos of clothes you are holding onto for just their memory value, digitize your print photos and home videos. Accept that the photos of your trip are all the memories you need and it’s okay to let go of all the other souvenirs.

“If I don’t love it, need it, or use it, it doesn’t deserve a place in my home.” Sentimental types often avoid taking stock of what they have. Decluttering means having to deal with uncomfortable emotions. Using this mantra gives a set of guidelines and makes the process a little easier.

“I will declutter without guilt.” This mantra is really an addendum to the previous one. Regardless of who gifted the item or how expensive it was, your home should be filled with items loved, needed, and used by the people living in your home. The occasional unwanted gift displayed or used to please a visiting friend or family member is fine. Cluttering your home with heaps of unwanted items is not.

If you feel you would benefit from the emotional support we provide through our decluttering services, please reach out to us. We are here to help!

Happy Decluttering!