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So… you’ve been inspired to declutter your house. Easier said than done right? Decluttering may start out as a simple enough process. It’s easy to throw out old papers, recycle those magazines you flipped through once, donate those pants and shirts that have gone completely out of style. But things may get a little more complicated when the time comes to sort through all those pieces of memorabilia you hold so near and dear to your heart. Be strong, we’re here to help.

Here are some important tips to keep in mind while you’re getting through the clutter, and the meaningful items too.

Prioritize Sentimentality

Begin by doing a simple walk through of your home, mentally inventorying things that may need to go. As you notice items that may give you heartburn in parting with, like that old Victorian lamp your Aunt Myrtle gave you that’s sitting in the closet, write them down on a list in order of least to most sentimental. Once you’re done, start with the room that has the greatest number of sentimental items with the most value to you.

Obligation or Honest Affection?

As you’re going through those items think about what makes them important to you. Do you feel a responsibility to hold on to these items because someone would feel bad if you didn’t? Or do they legitimately bring back a pleasant memory that’s truly near and dear to your heart? If you wouldn’t hold onto the item if it had not been purchased, made, or owned by someone close to you, seriously consider parting with the item by throwing it away or gifting it to someone else.

Relive the Glory

Personal items that you adore may just end up weighing you down. Give that bowling ball bookshelf you made in 7th grade shop class one last spot in the living room for a couple days, then throw it out. The memories you treasure, or don’t depending on your middle school experience, won’t be diminished or boosted by it’s presence or lack thereof.

What’s Truly Special

So much of what we hold onto brings back memories, sure. But is it truly special? A big difference lies between something like an old collection of dolls that none of your children, nieces, or nephews would care to have, and something you and your mother worked on together, some beautifully handmade treasure that may be cherished by generations to come.

Design a test for yourself to determine what is truly important and what is just “stuff.” If you have boxes upon boxes of what you consider to be treasures, ones which you never ever crack open the boxes to see, no one else is going to want to see it either. Let it go, and make room in your home and your life for new memories.

Electronic Preservation

One of the smartest things you can do is take old pictures, drawings, artwork, projects, letters, documents, and the like and scan them for digital storage. Take a weekend to digitize only the memorabilia that is truly meaningful to you, then store it on a few thumb drives for safe keeping. You can even keep one thumb drive at your home, one at a family member’s home, or one in a safety deposit box.

Bins, Bins, and More Bins

If you have an especially hard time separating the truly sentimental from the clutter, try limiting yourself to certain size bins. Pick a period in your life you want to remember. Collect all of the things you’ve collected along the way during that time frame, then limit what you’ll keep to whatever will fit in that bin.

Be reasonable with the bin size. The smaller the better. A five gallon tote will get you nowhere. But a container slightly larger than a shoebox will enable you to keep the items of most importance. So, when you’re wanting to relive some wonderful childhood memories on a lazy afternoon, you can focus on the memories and memorabilia that really matter.

Limit Decorative Items

Sure, we all want our homes to look nice. But we can do this without making our homes an obstacle course full of tripping hazards caused by keepsakes and trinkets everywhere. Take a good look at each room in your house, and pair down the number of items that don’t serve a practical purpose.

Keep only those ornamental items your eyes gaze upon with regularity when you spend time in that given room. Perhaps there is a vase you love to adore while sitting on the sofa, or there are photo frames holding your most favored memories. Save those. Get rid of the porcelain bunny on the end table collecting dust, or the coasters no one ever uses or needs.

At the end of the day the ultimate test to use in determining whether an item is truly worth keeping is the emotional reaction it brings out. Just because you may experience an “oooh” or “awww” moment when going through old things, doesn’t mean those old things are worth keeping.

You must set priorities and then keep the strength to hold fast to those set rules. If you feel a strong emotional connection to an item, not just an “oh isn’t that cute” feeling, then keep it. If it is something your children or other family members will certainly want to have in the future, consider giving it to them now if they’re ready for it. Or, if it can be repurposed or memorialized in some way instead of just sitting in a box, then keep it.

Getting rid of unnecessary junk and items does not erase the memories associated with them. Those memories will be with you as long as you want them to. Remember, you can always retell your memories in a journal so that you’ll always have them with you. Think about whether or not a photo or a written recount of that special day would serve the same purpose as looking at that item itself. And remember, when you clear out space in your home and your life, you can look a the world around you with more clarity, with room to make new memories.