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How to Declutter Keepsakes & Memories


How to Declutter Keepsakes & Memories | Declutter Emotional Items | Pin now and save for later

We’re talking about the tough stuff today!

We’ve gone through decluttering clothes and decluttering books, but decluttering keepsakes and memories can be really difficult.

You might feel obligated to to keep things.

You might have a hard time letting something go because of the memory associated with it.

You might be keeping something in case your kids might want it someday.

So let’s dig in. Since we moved a month ago and downsized majorly, I just went through all of my keepsakes and was pretty ruthless. These are the methods that helped me.

How to Declutter Keepsakes & Memories

Step 1: Ditch the Guilt

Dealing with keepsakes and memories items can make you feel a lot of guilt. Sometimes you feel obligated to keep something because of the memory associated to it or because it was important to someone else.

You absolutely have to ditch the guilt. Feel free to keep the things that are important to you, not the things that were important to someone else or that someone thought should be important to you.

You’re looking to save your keepsakes and memories, not someone else’s.

Example #1: When my parents moved, my mom decided not to keep their wedding album. It was a super nice professionally done album full of great photos. She gave it to me in case I wanted to keep it. She honestly didn’t even care what I did with it and didn’t give me any guilt about it, but it felt like one of those things that should be kept. But honestly, it’s their keepsake and memory, not mine. I wasn’t born yet so I’m not in the photos and I don’t remember the event. I do have a few photos of their wedding, so it’s not like no more pictures of their wedding exist, but I did ditch the album. It’s not special to me.

Example #2: Austin’s mom gave him a huge tub of things that she saved from his childhood. When he went through the tub, there were many things that he didn’t even remember or that just weren’t important to him. We got rid of those things. I’m sure Austin’s mom remembers those things, but he doesn’t. We wanted to save things that are special to him, not to someone else. If she wanted to save those things, she would have kept them, right?

If you have keepsake items that aren’t important to you but might be to a friend or family member, offer it to them. Don’t let them tell you, “oh, you have to save that”. If they want it, they can keep it. If you don’t want it, don’t feel like you have to preserve someone else’s memories.

Sometimes things get saved from someone who passed away to show grandkids later on.

Honestly, when it comes to relatives that I’m too young to remember, I appreciate seeing pictures of them or pictures of me with them more than I appreciate their stuff.

For relatives who passed away when I was older, I have a kept a few items or theirs that were meaningful to me, like my grandma’s china and jewelry. What I love most, though, are photos of me with her.

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Step 2: Use It or Lose It

One of the best ways to honor someones memory and enjoy keepsake items is to use them!

I’m trying to use my grandma’s china more instead of storing it. I display a few important photos and gifts on our shelves.

I have a tub of things that it doesn’t make sense to display, like a few old journals or home movies, but I try to use as much as possible, otherwise what am I keeping it for?

Step 3: Take a Picture

If you have an item that can’t be used or you’re ready to get rid of but want to make sure to remember, take a photo.

I’ve heard of people taking pictures of their kid’s artwork or a homemade quilt that was no longer usable.

Getting rid of something doesn’t mean that you get rid of the memory associated with it. However, if there is something you think you’d like to look back on, take a photo. It will take up less space and you can enjoy it anytime.

Step 4: Set Space Limits

Austin and I have a space limit for keepsakes and memory items that aren’t being used or displayed.

We each have a storage tub that we keep our things in. Over the last year we were both given more childhood items from our parents. We went through our tubs and got rid of what we needed to so that everything we wanted to keep would still fit in our tubs.

I had kept all of my journals from middle school through college in my tub and there were a lot! I decided to get rid of most of them to make room for other things. I kept one from middle school, one from high school, and one from college in case I want to look back and remember how immature and insecure I was 🙂

Whatever seems reasonable to you, set a limit for how much you will keep. This will force you to pare down to only the most important items. Everything else you can get rid of, use, or take a photo of.

Things that have an emotional connection are always the hardest to get rid of. In my mind, by only keep what truly matters to me and finding a way to use it (if possible), I honor the memories more than if I were to keep huge amounts of stuff boxed up in storage.

⇒ Have you decluttered your keepsake and memory items? What was the hardest part?

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Erin | A Welder's Wife

Monday 21st of November 2016

This is sort of a difficult one for me. I have a small box of pictures and small keepsakes, a marriage chest for bigger keepsakes, and then several quilts my great grandmothers have made. I used to have so much guilt with riding my life of these things. I finally realized it is only a keepsake if I treasure it. Aside from that it is only a space taker. It took a long time to realize that, but I am so thankful that I finally did.


Monday 21st of November 2016

Ooo, I love that: "it is only a keepsake if I treasure it".


Wednesday 2nd of November 2016

I need to apply this to my scrapbook drawer. I've had stuff in that drawer for almost four years now because I keep telling myself I'll get around to putting them into a scrapbook. It's time to get real and declutter (or actually stick to my word!).


Thursday 3rd of November 2016

Great plan! I totally agree that we need to "get real" to declutter. We can keep things for so long thinking we'll use it soon.

Katie @ Talk Less, Say More

Wednesday 2nd of November 2016

These are great ideas! I worked in the music industry for years and got a lot of free promo CDs. I've been moving them from apartment to apartment even though I don't really have a CD player anymore. I'm sick of moving them and since I'm moving next week, I decided to burn all the music into my iTunes library and I'm ONLY saving the physical CDs that fit in 1 small (decorative) box and are either bands that I worked with, are signed, or have a bit of a sentimental meaning. It seems silly because they're CDs, but I realized there was a lot of built up emotion that was living in that whole CD collection.


Wednesday 2nd of November 2016

That's great you're burning them onto your computer so you can keep the music! Really good solution!

Sarah Jean Althouse

Wednesday 2nd of November 2016

oh my gosh keepsakes are SO TOUGH. But unless it's a family heirloom or worth a lot of money, I try to get rid of it with little guilty.


Wednesday 2nd of November 2016

That's great Sarah! It can be so hard!

Ashley Stephenson

Wednesday 2nd of November 2016

I really need to declutter our house! We moved into my dads house when he moved and the attic is full of his stuff...time to go through it and give him it all back!


Wednesday 2nd of November 2016

O that's tough! I hate storing things for other people. You can do it!