7 Steps to Dealing With Sentimental Clutter

It's hard enough to purge junk, let alone boxes loaded with memories. Here, seven steps to understanding what—and how—to let go. 

Stacks of framed art cluttering up room
Christopher Baker
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Step 7 : Know Your ABC's (Always Be Clearing)

Your relationship to sentimental items will probably change over time. "Give yourself permission to get rid of things you once cherished," says Madere. Every year or so, take a hard look at what you've kept in the name of love, and toss or donate anything that's become more of a burden than a sweet-memory trigger. "Distance gives you fresh perspective," says Madere.

So what happens to sentimental items that make the cut? Madere advocates bringing them into your day-to-day life. "If it's a stack of dishes that mean a lot to you, give them space in your kitchen and box up your own for donation," she says. For less practical treasures, like mementos of a loved one, find a small cabinet and tuck them inside. Unlike a box in the attic, this setup invites spontaneous reminiscing.

And back to my dad, the frogs, and me. We donated the plush amphibians to a children's hospital and almost everything else to the Salvation Army. I kept a dozen tiny ceramic frogs and one little brass rocking chair, because, you know, there's just something about a frog in a rocking chair. For a while, I kept them in a little box on my bookshelf, but recently I've been letting my girls play with them. They know the frogs belonged to their Zayde, a man one child barely remembers and the other never knew. When I watch them acting out little anuran scenes of courtship and school days, I'm glad those frogs got a whole other life. Sure, they're getting a little chipped, but they're being loved by a new generation.

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