How to Release Sentimental Items

How to Release Sentimental Objects

Here's the abbreviated version of an engaging talk I gave as a member of a Penn's Village panel.

As a life coach and personal organizer, I help people downsize, organize, and get through rough spots in life. When it comes to downsizing, one of the rough spots is in dealing with sentimental items. I’m eager to find ways to help us release ourselves from the burdens, obligations and pain that often get connected with sentimental objects.

Why is it so hard to let go of sentimental belongings? A few reasons…

  • We connect memories, emotions and stories to these objects.
  • We hold on to them because they give us a sense of comfort or familiarity. My sister Ellen had bookcases full of books she clearly would never read. I think they reminded her - as they did me - of the bookcases that lined the walls of our family home.
  • Sentimental things feel like they’re part of us. And giving them up can feel like we're getting rid of a part of ourselves -- or that we're discarding the loved one it belonged to. Although my Dad died in 2007, I still have his number in my phone.
  • And then there’s guilt -- about getting rid of a gift or a family heirloom we feel obligated to keep.
  • Sometimes we hold on to something just because it’s from the past or because we think we’re supposed to keep it. As if there were a rule that declared: You must keep your yearbooks and your baby teeth!

So how do we approach even thinking about sorting sentimental belongings? I want you to know that even though deciding what to keep and what to let go may seem daunting, it IS possible. I am going to show you two ways to approach it.

Let’s do a little experiment. Imagine an item you’ve been holding on to for a long time. Take your time. I’ll wait.

Got it?

Focus on the object itself. From a sensory perspective, what about the object evokes memories? The way it looks? Sounds? Smells? Feels? A combination?

In your imagination, pick up the object. Hold it, look at it, listen, feel it, smell it. What do you feel specifically? What memories does it evoke?

Ok, now for the chemistry part of the experiment! If the item you're imagining were to blow up right now, what do you feel -- pain -- or relief? If you feel pain, don’t worry, your precious treasure is still intact! We only do positive magic here.

If you feel relief, ask yourself, are you

  • holding onto the object because you think you should?
  • holding on to it out of obligation or guilt because someone gave it to you?
  • holding on to it just because it’s from the past, even though it’s a part of the past that is a burden to you?

If you answer “yes” to any of these, it’s probably best to let it go and by doing so, let go of the emotional burden you’ve been carrying.

Now let’s ask a question about the items we’re keeping. Do we need to keep the physical object in order to evoke the memories?

We have many options for keeping memories while letting the objects go. We can record them by:

  • Taking a picture of the item or of ourselves with the item
  • We can share stories and memories with loved ones.
  • We can record songs and stories
  • We can record the images and stories together in an multimedia app

Remember: you have the capacity to recall the look, feel, sound, smell, and even the taste without the object itself.

You did it! You just experienced two approaches to sorting sentimental keepers from the let-em-gos:

  • the spontaneous combustion experiment and
  • the option to capture sentimental objects digitally.

Even though it seems daunting to downsize, You can do this! You can create that space in your mind and in your heart to release and bless things and find closure. My aim is to inspire you to let go of stuff and make space for YOU!

You may not need me right now, but keep Space For You in your downsizing tool kit! And if you sign up for my newsletter, I’ll send you more tips!