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Room-by-Room Organizing

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. 

Box and table full of random glass objects
Christopher Baker
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Learning to Let Go

When my dad died, several years ago, he left behind a legacy of love and a terrifying number of frogs. Part of me wanted to keep every last one—a connection to my dad, a connection to my childhood. But I live in a New York City apartment. Had I kept all those frogs, my life would be an all-amphibian episode of Hoarders. I know I'm not alone in my desire to hang on to objects with emotional value.

Julie Holland, M.D., an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at New York University School of Medicine, assures us that the urge to hold on to meaningful possessions is normal. "Sentimental clutter is the adult equivalent of a teddy bear," she says. Organizing consultant Ellen Madere, says it's about working with the emotional aspects of the process, not against them. Here are her steps for conquering the challenge.

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