By Rita Wilkins
The Downsizing Designer

If you are trying to downsize and declutter, are you challenged by having to let go of sentimental things?

If you are, you’re definitely not alone. By far, getting rid of things that are near and dear to our hearts can be one of the most difficult parts of your downsizing and decluttering journey.

I say “can be” because it doesn’t have to be as difficult as we tend to make it.

It’s actually possible to learn how to let go of sentimental clutter… the items themselves. Without losing the special memories we associate with them.

Does the thought of letting go of some of these things seem impossible?

They are different for each of us, but those sentimental items trigger our emotions… both good and bad.

You might have already tried to let go of some of these things, but you felt overwhelmed sad or upset so you just stopped, saying “I just can’t!”

Or maybe…

You’ve chosen to ignore them all together because you aren’t ready yet to deal with them.

But if you are like many who have lost parents or loved ones and inherited a house full of stuff that is now sitting in your garage, basement or storage unit that you were paying for…

The question becomes:

If not now, when will you start the process of letting it go?

Wouldn’t it be great if…

You could feel empowered to deal with those sentimental things rather than feeling weighed down emotionally, letting them hinder your downsizing and decluttering process and prevent you from putting the past in the past so you can move on, free of clutter and relieved from the guilt?

Here’s what you can expect to learn when you follow this practical 5-step guide:

  • Discover specific types of clutter that hold you back

  • Determine what you’ve made that sentimental clutter mean so you can understand why you are so attached to them

  • Learn how to painlessly let go of sentimental items you’ve previously been unable to deal with

  • Develop practical habits for downsizing and decluttering those items so you can do it easier and faster, making consistent progress

Download your FREE printable guide now!

Click Here!

5 Step Guide: Clear The Clutter but Not the Memories

Step 1: Identify the type of clutter that stops you

The 5 types of clutter:

1. Inherited Clutter:

Other people’s stuff that you are tasked to get rid of.

(i.e., China, Furniture, family photos)

2. Aspirational Clutter:

Your stuff that you have earned, collected or purchased that you continue to hold onto and perhaps still aspire to.

(i.e., trophies, awards, expensive clothing, cars, or furniture)

3. Attachment Clutter:

Stuff you have received or have been given that means a lot to you (or not) that reminds you of a person, special time or place in your life

(i.e., love letters, wedding albums, photos, souvenirs, keepsakes)

4. Bargain Clutter:

Your stuff you’ve purchased on sale because it was a good bargain

(i.e., hobby items, shoes, decorative accessories)

5. Abundance Clutter:

Your stuff that you bought in bulk, stockpiling it “just in case” you might need it in the future

(i.e., toilet paper, pantry items)

Which type of clutter is most difficult for you to let go of and why?

How is it impacting your life right now?


Step 2: Pick 1 item that you are most challenged by right now. Hold it in your hand.


Why is it so important to you?

Why do you value it so much?

Why do you think it’s so hard to let go of?

Step 3: How does that item make you feel as you are holding it?

The memories and feelings can be positive or negative.

Acknowledge what you were feeling

i.e., loved, angry, resentful, or connected to your loved one

What do you think you have made that item mean?

i.e., if I let it go, I’ll lose the connection to my loved one

Read my recent article: Cure Your Love-Hate Relationship with Clutter This Spring

Step 4: What would it feel like if you were no longer attached to that item?

What difference would it make in your life? 

i.e., freedom from guilt, resentment, or anger

How will it impact your future?

i.e., I can finally let it go, give it to someone who needs it or wants it, bring joy to someone else

Step 5: Learn how to let go

  • Take a photo of that item.

  • Tell a story about why it means so much to you. Put it in a Shutterfly album.

  • Choose 2 or 3 items from a collection, and donate the rest.

  • Remind yourself that it’s just a thing, and understand you gave meaning to it. If you don’t want it, need it, use it, then let it go.

  • Remind yourself that your loved one is no longer with you and that their memory lives in your mind and in your heart, not in that object.

Item by item, follow my 5-Step Guide.

Need more resources? Here are Rita’s Top Decluttering Book Recommendations.

Just know that this process does take time and is emotional, but it does get easier over time to make a decision to let it go.

Best wishes on your journey to let go of your sentimental items but not the memories.

You can schedule a free 30-minute phone consultation with me if you have any questions regarding right-sizing, downsizing, and decluttering.

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Rita Wilkins bio