get organized: sentimental

(This is day 13 of the Get Organized Series)

Everything we’ve been working on for the past 12 days has led us to this moment. Every item you touched and every decision you made has prepared you for what we are going to do today, sentimental items. This is the hardest category you will sort through in your journey which is why we left it for last.

While you were sorting through all the previous categories, I asked you to set aside any items that might have sentimental value to you. What qualifies as a sentimental item will vary from person to person. Common items include: photos, children’s artwork, clothing, letters, gifts and awards.

This category is hard, so it’s okay if you are not ready to deal with it right after you finish miscellaneous. I don’t recommend taking more than a couple of weeks in between categories, because you do not want to lose momentum and go back to square one. When you are ready, gather all the sentimental items you have and create a pile. Divide them 

in subcategories that make sense to you and start the process of joy checking. For this category you want to keep a few extra things in mind…


The purpose of a gift is to be given. If you were given something that you don’t like or don’t use, don’t keep it out of guilt. I guarantee that if you ask the person that gifted you, they would much rather you give the item away than keep it in your home even though it doesn’t bring you joy. To avoid this from happening again in the future, tell people you feel comfortable with that you don’t need any more items in your home. Explain the process you went through and that you already have everything you need. If they insist on a gift, ask that they give you an experience instead.

Memory x object

We have the tendency to keep things out of the fear that we can’t replace them, but in all honesty few things are truly irreplaceable. You might be holding on to something because it reminds you of a moment or a special someone. The truth is, your memory will always be there. It’s not the item that brings back those memories, the items merely remind you of that special something. If you are worried you might miss it, I suggest taking a photo of the item.

Past and future

The two main reasons people tend to hold onto things are either an attachment to the past or a fear of the future. Try to be mindful about this and focus on the present. The stories you tell and the people you love are more than enough to keep those memories alive, and keeping things just in case will only fuel your fear.

If you are not sure an item “sparks joy,” ask yourself the following questions:

  • How does this item make me feel?

  • Am I keeping this out of guilt?

  • Can I still use or wear it?

  • Do I need to keep this or is the memory enough?

This was the category I struggled with the most. I had a lot of items I deemed sentimental and it took me a while to see them in a different light. I love traveling, and whenever I went someplace new I bought a lot of souvenirs and saved every piece of paper from the trip. Plane tickets, receipts, maps, brochures… you name it. I used to keep everything.

What’s the point?

When I decided to organize, I found out that I had collected bags and bags filled with the things I kept from my travels. Going through those bags was super fun, remembering all the places I had visited and all the things I had done. But then something clicked. I had been keeping things for so long that they had faded beyond recognition. There were so many blank pieces of paper it was ridiculous. That’s when I realized that keeping all of those things was pointless. While the things we keep might fade away, their memory will remain.

Put it on display

In that moment I decided I would only keep the things that truly brought me joy. I also decided that I was going to give myself a limited space to keep them in, so as not to accumulate items again. I bought a small shadow box and filled it only with the very special items. Once that box fills up, I will have to go through them again and decide what stays and what goes. I love this idea because now I have a decorative frame on my bookshelf with all my favorite travel items that I get to look at all the time.

Note: Use the items you chose to keep as decoration around the house. There is no point in going through all of this only to keep a box full of stuff hidden under your bed. The items you choose make you happy and have great memories behind them, so displaying them around the house will only make your environment spark even more!

Embrace it

Take time going through each item and allow yourself to feel any emotion that comes up. You might cry, laugh, get mad or excited about an item. Embrace it! This is your chance to connect with your sentimental belongings and figure out how you want to honor them. It’s very important that you pay attention to how an item makes you feel. If you are keeping something because it belonged to someone that passed away and every time you see that item you feel extremely sad, it might be a good idea to let it go. Only keep what makes you happy and brings good memories.

Set aside what no longer sparks joy and express gratitude to each item before letting go. For the items that you are letting go of, you can try to sell them yourself or pick a charity for donation. Whatever you decide, make sure the landfill is your last resort.

Now take a deep breath and relax. Enjoy your new surroundings and give yourself a big high five! You finished all categories, went through all the items you own and created your ideal life! Even though we are done with all the categories, we still have two more days on this journey. Tomorrow we will do a final walk through of your house, and after that we will have a day to be grateful and set some intentions for your new life. See you tomorrow.