How to Finally Say Goodbye to Sentimental Clutter

Today would have been my parents’ 60th wedding anniversary. Well, I guess it still is even though my father is celebrating on the other side. It’s quite a milestone!

Ever since my dad passed away almost two years ago, I’ve thought about how great it would be if he could come back to human form a few days a year for special occasions, such as this one. You’d think with all the brilliant science minds out there, someone could make this happen! Until it does, I’ll keep relying on my memories of him.

I talk to a lot of people who share how difficult it is for them to let go of sentimental items, particularly those given to them by a loved one who has since passed or something that belonged to a deceased loved one. When considering letting go of these types of items, there are a couple important things to remember:

  1. The memory you have of that person lives in your heart, not in the item.
  2. If you no longer love the item, it’s more honoring to let it go and keep the relationship you have/had with your loved one clean and uncluttered without any shred of resentment or the weight of obligation. The love-filled place where they now reside has no use for these lower-consciousness emotions. They want nothing but joy and peace for you.

My father once bought me a beautiful music box in the shape of a phonograph. I remember the day he gave it to me like it was yesterday.

He and my mother had come to visit my sister and me, and we were all poking around some gift shops, which I’m sure was not how my dad wanted to spend the day.

After finishing at a store, we got back in the car, and he handed me a bag.

“I thought you might like this, kid,” my dad said.

I can still see the joy on his face as I pulled the music box out of the bag. I turned it upside down and wound it up. A most beautiful song emitted that instantly made me smile.

“Thanks, dad, I love it,” I said. And I really did. I loved it. What I loved even more was his thoughtfulness and joy in presenting it to me.

That music box sat proudly on a shelf above my desk until one day when it fell and broke beyond repair.

Because of who gave it to me and the memory of that day, I kept it, in pieces, on my desk for weeks. That was, until, I realized looking at it made me sad. It no longer gave me the heartwarming memory of our day together. All I thought about was how disappointed I was that it broke.

It was time to get rid of it, but I was hesitant. I felt as if I was being disrespectful and ungrateful. And then I got myself in check and realized that was a story I was telling myself or hints of an old belief waving its finger at me.

Then I remember what I tell my clients and students.

“Whoever gave you that item never intended to wrap up guilt and obligation with it. If you are no longer enjoying it, for whatever reason, the respectful thing to do for your relationship with that person or the memory of that person is to let it go.”

So I threw out the pieces of the music box. And while I miss it, I get to enjoy the memory of that day again by no longer having the obliterated remnants staring me in the face.

Even now, in this moment, I think about that gift and our day together with love, even without the box being on my desk.

The box broke, but my memory didn’t.

I can hear your resistance from here:

“Yeah, but my item isn’t broken. I just don’t want it anymore. It feels wrong to get rid of it just because I don’t like it any more.”

Well, you could always break it. Kidding!

Sure, it may have been easier for me to get rid of my sentimental item because of its condition, however, sometimes things are “broken” on the inside.

For instance, I have a beautiful blouse that I bought a couple years ago. The practical part of me says to keep it because it’s in perfect condition, it’s a flattering color on me, and it’s a good fit. The problem? I bought it to wear to my father’s wake.

I wear it every now and then, but every time I pull it from the closet, I’m reminded of that day. And strangely enough, something about adorning it feels respectful of my father.

Even though it makes me sad to see it in my closet, would I be dishonoring him by getting rid of it?

Logical Kerri says, “Of course not.”

Emotional Kerri says, “Yeah, you kinda would be.”

The mental gymnastics are real, my friend!

However, just last night, I decided to let it go and I added it to the donations box. It’s time to let someone else wear it with joy. The sadness attached to it for me beats out the B.S. story I tell myself about it being disrespectful to get rid of it. Although the blouse is in perfect condition, what it represents feels the same as the broken music box.

Are you wrestling with sentimental items? If so, consider this:

  • Think about where these items are kept. If they’ve been sitting in a box in your basement for the last five years, they might not mean as much to you as you say.
  • If you don’t love these items enough to use them or display them, they’re clutter. If you do really love them, honor them. Display them. Use them. This way you can be benefit daily from the joy they bring you.

Whenever you struggle with what to keep and what to clear, remember this mantra:

In fact, here’s a graphic you can put on your phone’s screen or your computer desktop background (click image to be taken to a page where you can download a large size):

clutter screen

Clutter clogs the channels of opportunity and abundance, and I’m sure, like me, you have big plans for your life. You don’t need things holding you back. As Elizabeth Gilbert once said, “Don’t let your house become a museum of grief.”

So what might you be ready to let go of today? Which ones are you having a difficult time with? Let’s chat in the comments below.

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