Guide: 5 Steps to declutter gifts, sentimental items, heirlooms & vintage items

If you’re reading this, you are already living a minimal life with less clutter than before but you are stuck with sentimental items, heirlooms, gifts and vintage hand-me-downs that you don’t know what to do with. Letting go of sentimental items can be excruciating. This article guide will help you make sense of all the sentimental clutter and help you navigate the decisions in decluttering heirlooms, sentimental items & gifts.


If a thing holds so much space in your heart, it deserves a space in your home. - mnmlgrl

If you’re reading this, you are already living a minimal life with less clutter than before, but you are stuck with sentimental items, heirlooms, gifts and vintage hand-me-downs that you don’t know what to do with. Letting go of sentimental items can be excruciating. This article guide will help you make sense of all the sentimental clutter and help you navigate the decisions in decluttering heirlooms, sentimental items & gifts.


1. Gather everything.

Every gift. Every heirloom. Every sentimental item. From every room. Or you can go room by room – especially if you’re a beginner at decluttering and minimalism.


2. Acknowledge the feelings associated with the gift, heirloom or sentimental item:

Let’s face it, we’re living, breathing, feeling beings with emotions that often get associated with inanimate objects. Some inanimate objects evoke emotions better than some people haha! Seriously, lets look at a few examples:

Your favorite painting can make you feel happy,

Your favorite book can magically transport you to a different world,

Your favorite perfume can make you nostalgic for the time you last wore it,

Your handmade quilt brings you comfort especially since its made by your grandma,

Your Dad’s T-shirt hanging in the closet still smells like him,

Your inherited vintage tchotchkes make you feel at home.

Sometimes, even when we’re surrounded by people we like, being around some of our things can make us feel more at ease and make the space feel comforting. This is especially true if you are a homebody or an introvert. Home can be a nourishing space that resets your body and mind. That’s because things evoke emotions, they can bring out qualities that we sometimes repress around people. Surrounding yourself with things that bring comfort and joy is good for your emotional well-being. So, feeling like you want to hold on to something you’ve had around forever is valid. We’ll get to what to do about it in the next section.


3. Sort each gift and heirloom by hand.

Recognize what it brings to your life. Is it necessary? For example, it’s a vintage baking dish and you bake a lot. Does it serve a purpose? For example, it’s a paperweight gifted by your Dad and you need it to organize your papers. Does it bring joy? For example, it is a beautiful piece of furniture that reminds you of your grandfather who made it. Is it comforting? For example, the letters your partner wrote to you which you enjoy reading occasionally. Recognize the purpose of each of the items which you inherited or were gifted.

Minimalists assess & reassess the value of each item. - mnmlgrl

4. Involve the gifter or whom you inherited it from if you can.

This is a wonderful way to have a dialogue, learn more about the gifter and continue building memories around the gift (or heirloom) in question. If the person you inherited from or received the gift from is no longer around, it’s a wonderful way to reconnect to people associated to them and talk about them. You may learn something new and interesting about your loved one. The conversation is critical if you no longer want to keep the item and you risk alienating the person you received it from.

Start with these questions and go on from there: Why did they think to gift you this item? How did you come to inherit the heirloom? What are their thoughts on upcycling and regifting?


5. Create 3 piles:

I created and follow the 30:30:40 rule where I keep only 30%, recycle 30% and donate, give away or sell 40%. On good days, I follow the 20:20:60 rule! 😊

You must try to create a large pile to donate, give away and sell, a medium-sized pile to recycle and upcycle and the smallest pile for things you want to keep. This can be challenging, you might hold on to a lot more than you intend to…that is okay. It is hard letting go of years of conditioning, you don’t want to hurt people’s feelings or simply can’t decide. That’s okay! Take you time. You don’t have to decide now.


Bonus Tip: Trial declutter

Pack what you are unsure of and observe how often you needed or thought of the thing. Unpack and revisit the thing in 6 months. You may realize you no longer need it and that thinking of the gifter was more meaningful than holding on to the gift. You may realize you cannot bear to live without it and want to bring it front & centre in your life. Be open to whatever your heart desires.


If it takes so much space in your heart, it deserves a space in your home. – mnmlgrl

It is always better to hold on to the item that the guilt of letting it go. Minimalism should serve you and your life as it is right now…not your ideal life of the future. So if you’re not ready to get rid of something right now, that’s fine. Revisit it in 6 months. Decide then. But you have to decide. You are not allowed to be in limbo forever haha! Do not feel obligated to hold on to something if you’re not into it a 100%. It is after all your home and you should choose what brings you joy.


Bonus Tip: Upcycle ideas

Create a collage from all the pictures/tickets/paper memorabilia. Create something new from old pieces of jewellery. Freshen up old furniture with a new coat of polish. Turn old T-shirts into a quilt. Create a scrapbook or shadow box from old bits & bobs, keys and thimbles etc. Get talking to your creative friends, browse Pinterest – it’s a treasure trove of upcycle & recycle projects!



Other declutter articles:

Click here for a guide on how to ethically declutter your closet, your clothes & other items.

Click here for guide to declutter your closet


Other Guides:

Guide: Gifting for minimalists

Guide: Ethically declutter and deown your closet

Guide: Declutter your closet



-mnmlgrl


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