October 18, 2017

Clutter Countdown: Parting with Sentimental Objects


It's always a struggle to part with sentimental object but often they take up so much room. Tips for decluttering sentimental objects

Howdy, howdy! My name is Katie Clemons; I’m the storycatcher and journal crafter behind the much beloved-writing prompt journals at Gadanke.com. I’m going to be joining you and Jen here twice a month to talk about intentional living and crafting a life of stories. Can I just tell you that I’m soooo excited?!

I just became a mom this past year, so Jen and I are really looking forward to tag-teaming a bit, sharing our perspectives during our different phases of motherhood and life. Jen and I originally met online when I was living abroad in Berlin, Germany, and Jen was writing a few posts that really changed my life (like this). My German home was 720 square feet; the kitchen was only 36 square feet. I unintentionally became a master at living with less and really being deliberate about the stuff I kept in my home. I had to be.

You know what the best trick I learned for downsizing or decluttering? It came as I was packing my suitcase, deciding which things to take overseas: 

I learned to separate physical objects from the emotional stories behind them.

I couldn’t do that with every object I loved, of course. Story is my passion and my business at Gadanke, after all! I still don’t think I’ll be able to part with that first little outfit my baby boy wore. But there were a lot of objects that I hung onto because of the memories I had making them, receiving them, or having them during different phases of my life. A lot of these things weren’t beautiful or useful. They were the kinds of things I could put in a box and look at every couple of years.

how to declutter sentimental objects

I made that ceramic squirrel above from a mold when I taught pottery at Girl Scout camp – what a great time in my life! But I really didn’t need that squirrel.

So I thought: if I’m hanging onto these objects just to reminisce, do I really need the actual object?

I pulled out my camera and started taking pictures – medals I’d won, pottery pieces I’d made, a jewelry box that I kept just because I’d had it for years, silly little pebbles, a clock I’d made in high school wood shop… The list went on. As it did, I realized that I just wanted a record of my life. I wanted to hang onto memories, but not necessarily stuff.

Taking photographs of my precious memories freed me. All those nostalgic pieces could be stored on my hard drive instead of in my house. 

Today, my family does this with anything we’re wavering on. It’s almost too easy.

Try pulling out your camera as you look at nostalgic things. You might be amazed by what you can part with.

31 Days Clutter Countdown

Are you following along with our Clutter Countdown Series?

Take just 15 Minutes a day and we will make a huge change in our home.

Katie Clemons is a storycatcher and journal crafter. She helps people celebrate their stories with her award-winning writing prompt journals and free workshop at Gadanke. She also blogs at Making This Home about simple, handmade living from a vintage airplane hangar in Montana, USA.


  1. Such a great idea! My husband and I both have a hard time letting go of items from the past because of what they represent – great memories. But we don’t need these items hanging around to remember the great times. 🙂


    Jen Reply:

    Trust me, I am with you, but this is such a wonderful way of doing it. I had started it with our kids’ artwork but hadn’t made it past that.


  2. Here’s what I’ve done. Empty the house on tarps in the back yard. Furniture i kept I placed in zone a
    The rest either yard sale or donated to habitat for humanity
    Kitchen stuff. What I actually use zone a the rest donated
    Towels and linens same.
    Tools and sundries. Same
    Clothes. Now this is easy for me as I do a clean out yearly. What doesn’t fit OR I just do not wear. Gone donated.
    Now put back in house the absolute can’t live without and easy to transport
    The rest sell donate or destroy


    Jen Reply:

    Such great ideas. Did you do this room by room or did attack the house at once?


  3. You’re right! So simple but such a brilliant way to hold onto the memories without holding onto the actual things. Thanks for sharing this strategy, Katie…and Jen!


  4. Great tip! I’m one of those sentimental people too! 🙂


  5. Great idea…I am thinking about not only taking the pictures, but making a Shutterfly book of my treasured objects! I am sharing this over on FB and Twitter.


  6. Such a great article! Thanks for sharing it. I gave a shout out and a link back to it in my Saturday Morning Coffee Cafe post this week.


  7. This is the most effective piece of advice that I have read in a VERY long time. I am guilty of holding on to things because of the memory attached to them. I am going to implement this idea immediately. Thank you so much!


  8. C. J. Hendrix says:

    I’ve heard for a while now about taking pictures of things and it never made any sense to me–until now—he part about hanging onto the memories of your childhood. I can take pictures of things and write down why they are sentimental–the story that goes along with the item. I have a lot of things from childhood and my parents and in-laws homes. If I keep the objects my family may not understand *why*, but if I take a picture and write the story it will be preserved for future generations. (I’m also a family historian/genealogist). Thank you so much! I’m going to try it.


    Jen Reply:

    YAY!! So glad this was helpful!! 🙂


  9. Just be sure to back up your hard drive 😊



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