Letting Go of Sentimental Stuff

Sometimes letting go of sentimental stuff is hard. In this post I’m going to share with you why it’s hard to let go and what you can do about it. Keep reading!

Letting go of sentimental stuff

When I was in fifth grade, my teacher gave me an ivory-colored stuffed teddy bear. It was wearing a green dress with white lace around the bottom.

The thought of getting rid of that bear when I got older made me feel so guilty. This teacher took the time to go out and purchase a teddy bear just for me. She spent her time and money on me.

And it was more than just the time and money; it was the fact that she thought and cared enough about me to do something so special.

I could never let go of that teddy bear, even though it just sat on my bed and later stored in my closet. When I moved out the bear came with me and now my daughter has the bear sitting on her shelf.

Why do we have the hardest time letting go of sentimental stuff?

Why letting go of sentimental stuff is hard to do

  • Emotionally attached:
    Sometimes your emotions take over and you start feeling attached to your stuff. When you think of the items you have that you have an emotional attachment to, they often represent an important relationship, accomplishment, or experience. However, holding on to the stuff might actually be keeping you from having new relationships, accomplishments, and experiences.
  • Guilt:
    Oftentimes, guilt gets in the way of letting go of sentimental stuff (as in the case with my teddy bear). Perhaps someone has given you a family heirloom and you feel obligated to keep it. Maybe you were given a gift from a friend that you feel guilty for getting rid of. You may also feel guilty about getting rid of something because of how much money you spent on it or because the item is still in perfectly good useable condition.
  • Representing the past:
    It is so easy to hold on to stuff from your past life. For example, I have a lot of craft items stored away that haven’t been touched in years. Maybe you used to have a hobby that you loved in the past but haven’t enjoyed it for years. Chances are you’re not going to pick it up again.
  • Waiting for “someday”
    More than likely “someday” has been dragging on for years and it’s not ever going to come. Don’t hold on to things just because you think you’ll pick it up again one day.
Letting go of sentimental stuff

How to let it go

  • Acknowledge what’s worth holding on to
    While going through your items, ask yourself what exactly it is that you’re sentimental about. More than likely it’s not the object itself, but the person, time, or place it’s associated with. The memory will still be there even without the object, but if you just cannot part with the object, then there’s nothing wrong with keeping it.
  • Save an item virtually
    Documents and photos can be scanned and backed up as long as you don’t need the originals. Toys do not need to be saved, either as long as you have photos of your kids playing with them. Or consider making a photo book to keep memories in.
  • Donate notable items
    Do your research before you get rid of documents or photos that you received after the death of a loved one. Depending on who they were and where they live, the documents valuable to a local history museum.
  • Pass it on
    Consider handing over unwanted family heirlooms to another relative because they might be happy to keep it in the family. Also, it might just be something they’ve always wanted.
  • Put it in a box
    After the death of a loved one, put their things in boxes marked with question marks and save them to sort through after grieving. Give yourself at least 6 months or longer before sorting through the box.
  • Tell its story
    Grab a friend to help with sorting through things. Sometimes it helps just to tell someone the story behind the item and it may also help let it go.

Keep in mind that all the stuff doesn’t define who you are. Pass things along that you no longer need and hold onto the memories. It’s time to start a new chapter.

And remember: you can’t take it with you when you die.

What’s something you’re holding onto that your’re finding hard to let go of?

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96 thoughts on “Letting Go of Sentimental Stuff”

  1. I’m sentimental. Sometimes I like what I made too much to let it go!
    Sometimes what holds me back is the time or two I gave something away and wish now that I had kept it. Sigh. I don’t want to wish I had kept something, or have to repurchase it later!

    But I do agree and know we can’t take it with us and I am very much in favor of others using something rather than it never being of any use and sitting around forever.

    1. I completely understand! I still have all the letters my husband wrote to me when we were just dating! I’ve finally narrowed all my childhood stuff down to one box. I’m just not going to say how big that box is. 😀

      1. The Eclectic Contrarian

        Lol!!! I don’t judge you!

        Between my wife and I, we only have a few things. But, all the stuffed animals we’ve got our son has got a bit much lol.

    1. I understand. I’ve done the same thing! And I think that’s why I started keeping so much stuff. I just eventually ran out of room. 😀

    1. It really isn’t easy at all to let go of some things! I think that sometimes it’s hard to let go of a loved one’s things because you feel like you are letting go of them, too.

    1. I used to do that, too! I eventually started throwing some away or repurposing them. I have kept the ones that have a special message inside, though. Thank you!!

  2. I don’t always tend to keep everything but some things are hard to give away. I just wait till I reach a place when I am ready to sort it into either giving it away or storing it properly for keeps.

  3. Several year ago I asked my kids to stop buying me knick-knack type gifts and instead buy me more practical, useful things – something I can plant, something I can wear or perhaps even kitchen gadgets are better than something that sits on a shelf or needs to be stored and the gift still reminds me of the giver.

    1. That’s a great idea! Useful gifts still have the same meaning and you don’t have to feel guilty about keeping it stored away and forgotten about. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Sounds like you had a wonderful teacher, Michelle.
    I am a minimalist, and like a streamlined environment, but my husband is very sentimental about keeping items.
    I respect this difference, and so we have created a room in our house where he can display his treasures.
    It is important for us to respect individual differences, and I know that he appreciates the fact that I understand the importance of his treasures. ??

    1. That’s a great idea to have a treasure room for your husband! I agree that we need to respect individual differences. Sometimes that can be hard, but in the end, it usually ends up working out great. 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

  5. The things I find the hardest to get rid of are the things that belonged to my mom and dad. Not because it is important to me, but because of how important it was to them. With that being said, my sister and I have a few boxes sitting in our garage marked “mom and dad.” I guess we will leave them for our children to dispose of! 🙂

    1. I can understand that. I have a lot of things from my grandparents that I can’t seem to part with. To me, it feels like if I let go of their stuff I’m letting go of them. That’s a good idea to save it and let the children take care of it! 🙂

  6. I am caught in the middle on this one. Let me explain. My mother is very sentiment and keeps everything. I really mean EVERYTHING! My father does not like clutter and will easily get rid of things. I am more like my father but also have a lot of my mother. It can be difficult. I like the idea of taking a picture. Thanks for sharing!

    1. I completely understand!! My parents are the same way. When they moved into their new house I helped her go through her things to pack. I was so surprised at the amount of stuff she got rid of! We made so many trips to Goodwill and the trash with truckloads of stuff! I keep things to a point, but I also get rid of some things, so I understand how difficult it is. Thank you for sharing! 🙂

  7. I love this post! I have a huge bin of old pictures that I keep procrastinating about sorting through. Thanks for the nudge to just do it already !! 🙂

  8. Oh wow, plenty! I only just managed to sell an old laptop that’s in good working order and I know now is getting good use. I gave it a hug and thanked it for the use it gave me. Still wanted to cry though ?

    1. I understand how hard it is! It’s good that it’s got a new home to someone else who needed it, but it’s hard to let go of something you’ve had for so long.

  9. As I’ve gotten older, and now we have our own home, and having to store it here instead of at parents houses, I have learn to cut down, but also organise a bit better so I can actually see what I have. I am a bit of a hoarder at times as well, but thank you for the post, I’ll have to come back to this next time I’m having a clear out 🙂 xxx

  10. I totally agree but you do have to be careful. I got rid of a lot and in doing so have regrets. I am not and have never been a hoarder but sometimes we need too think carefully.

  11. Great advise here, I used to hold on to things more than I do now, I think it was sentimental out of guilt, but over the years I’ve decluttered and every time I give away something it just helps me to give away something more. Thanks Michelle great read.

    1. Thank you! I think I was holding on to a lot because of guilt, too, which can make it even harder to get rid of something. Once you start giving stuff away it becomes easier over time. 🙂 I hope you have a wonderful day!

  12. Love, love, love this!!! I used to be horrible about keeping everything!!! But in the past 6 years or so I’ve done some serious purging!! A lot of the times with the kids artwork I’ll have them stand holding the paper and then I take a picture and then we toss the artwork, the kids are fine with it..same with a few of my own larger sentimental items…Right now I have a coffee table that I really want to get rid of because it’s not my style, it was my grandmas, then my moms and now mine and I just haven’t made the leap yet?

    1. That’s a great idea to take a picture of the kids holding their artwork and then not keeping the actual work itself! I completely understand about the coffee table. I have a rocking chair that my mom rocked my brother in when he was a baby. It has a crazy story behind it and I just can’t bear to part with it! One day when I have extra time I plan to fix it up and paint it and hopefully it’ll get many more years out of it. 🙂

  13. This is a tough one… I’m glad I have held onto some things. But narrowing down a few pieces of my kids art work to just a few drawings out of hundreds… was a smart move on my part! They are in their 30’s now and I have more treasures from them!

    1. I agree! Holding on to some things is a must for me, too. And it can be hard to let go of certain things, especially when it comes to the stuff our kids made. 🙂

  14. You are so inspiring. I’ve straightened up my closet and organized it. I had things stored under the bed, but realized I don’t need them anymore and at some point I’ve got to go through the family pictures. I already gave some photos to my youngest daughter to take home. That will be the hardest. I still have a few items my kids made me for Mother’s Day a hundred years ago. Can’t part with that. It’s not much anyway. I still have ornaments they made over the years stored in the attic with my 27 year old Christmas tree. It gets put up every year. Sentimental or mental. You call it. ?

    1. It is very hard to let go of some things, and I think it’s fine to hold onto those. I can’t bear to part with things my kids made or some things that belonged to my grandparents. I have some things put away and others are sitting around the house. I can’t call it mental because I do the same things! 😀

      1. Same here. I have things from my mom, grandmother, aunt and others that I keep. Most of them are out as tiny reminders as they are all in Heaven now. You have inspired me to part with things that fall under “just stuff”. It will take me years to get rid of years of crap. ?

  15. You can’t take it with you – ain’t that the truth! I was just saying that the other day to a family member about money. It’s hard letting go of emotional items but your tips are wonderful and make so much sense.

    1. Thank you! It is really hard to let go of some things, especially when it comes to family stuff. My family needs to hear those same words when it comes to money. It has divided my aunt and uncles and it’s so sad!

  16. Last year I went to two estate sales and I was bowled over with the realization that your family has plenty of stuff by the time you pass away and they don’t have room and/or need or want your stuff. Only keep something if it makes YOU happy.

    1. I think estate sales make you realize exactly how much stuff people keep and that it’s just being spread out and given to others after you’re gone. I agree with you about only keeping things that make you happy! Great point!

  17. This is an excellent article Michelle! I’m extremely sentimental. I have stuff from school days like report cards. It’s strange because some of the stuff I haven’t seen in years, but it’s still here lol.

    1. Thank you! I am, too. It’s hard to get rid of some things! My mom recently gave me a box of stuff she saved from when I was in kindergarten. It was fun looking through it, though! 🙂

  18. I was in my storage unit last week reminiscing…downsizing 4 times to my RV was not easy. It’s been 4 years now with RV life. I tried a “stick and bricks” again in the winter and I was overwhelmed by STUFF. My life isn’t for everyone but I have kept just a small storage to hold on to the things I can pass down to the kids and grandkids (and made a video for them standing in the storage lol). I’m sentimental. “Stuff” without meaning no longer appeals to me. By letting go, I grew and gained way more~peace and simplicity.

    1. With that said, I have strange collections~all their pics I scanned ~yet I have all the letters, drawings, etc..and 4 boxes full of my 23 years in education, and tons of books to donate. The heart items stay with me. ???

    2. I love that – “by letting go I grew and gained way more.” Sometimes that’s a hard lesson to learn. I’m sentimental and feel guilty about letting go of some stuff. I’ve kept a few things and narrowed it down to one box. I can just pass it along to my daughter later on.

    1. This last year I’ve had the sad task of going through my parents’ stuff since they can no longer live at home. Most of the stuff none of us want. A number of things are really not even in good enough condition to donate. The experience has totally changed the way I look at keeping things. I don’t want to leave such a task to my kids. For me it is better to ask the kids and grandchildren or other family members while I am alive and well if they would like to have whatever stuff I’m considering getting rid of or don’t need, and get rid of things no one wants so it does not become a burden for someone else to clean up later down the line.

      1. I had to go through this, too and it’s hard. It really does make you realize how much stuff we accumulate over the years. I don’t want my kids to have that burden and stress, either. Thank you for sharing!

  19. Sentimental stuff! This is exactly why, despite my best intentions, my kids will someday have to clean out a confusing mess. I’ll try your tips meantime.

    1. I know what you mean! When my grandma passed away and we had to clean everything out I realized how hard that was going to be on my kids when I go. Then my mom bought a new house and she had even more stuff than my grandma! I went home and started going through all my stuff. But of course, there’s still a lot I have to hold on to. 🙂

      1. Smiles. This is me. ?Sometimes I have to close my eyes and dumb it in – either for donation or to trash it.
        But it’s better to let it go so that we can have room for the new. ?
        Thanks for sharing these tips. ❤

  20. I’m not one for holding on to many things for the sake of sentiment, but the rest of my family does. I’ve been accused of ‘binge purging’ whereas I get so fed up with clutter I begin to toss. Not that I’m a heartless monsster who throws away that cherished teddy bear, but I once spent 4 hours with my daughter trying to declutter her room. Clutter is a pet peeve of mine. Thank you so much for these tips, Michelle, i will try them in the future.

    1. I completely agree with you on the clutter. If things are cluttered I get so overwhelmed and stressed out. It’s okay to keep some things as long as they are organized and put away. My daughter doesn’t understand that concept and she wants to keep every single thing anyone has ever bought her. Even if she never plays with it. So frustrating! haha!

  21. I’m awful at this! I am not a hoarder, but when it comes to sentimental objects it is super hard for me to let go. I just store everything in boxes or drawers where they don’t take much space. Thank you for this!!


  22. Michelle, this post was perfect for me. We are thinking of selling our home in a few years and we realize it’s time to start getting rid of stuff. I love the idea of taking a photo and then letting it go.. thanks

  23. This post is a good one for me! I do have trouble parting with sentimental objects. I find it interesting how you said that hanging onto them may prevent us from being open to new experiences. I never thought of it that way but I can see how that could be true! I also agree that, if the memory is important enough, you will keep the memory even when you let go of things.

    I still keep a lot of sentimental items but try to limit myself so it doesn’t get out of control. For example, I keep one small box of baby items per child. And one folder of school work per child, per grade.

    1. Thank you! I’m glad you found it helpful. I have a few things, too and limit them. I was cleaning one day and came across a box of stuff that I had saved. Some things I had no idea why I saved them! There was no memory attached to it so I figured there was no reason to hang on to it. But some things are just too hard to let go of. 🙂

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