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. 

Cluttered stacks of kids art work
Christopher Baker
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Step 4: Take a Picture (It Lasts Longer)

Admittedly, a digital image is not the thing itself. There's no tactile joy to it. But storing something on a computer doesn't just save space; it also minimizes risk from a preservationist standpoint. "Even with archival paper and plastic sleeves, physical objects can fade or get lost," says Madere. You can ship off old snapshots and have them converted to digital form by services like gophoto.com. You might also want to photograph meaningful items before letting them go. And if you're clearing a whole house after, for example, the loss of a loved one, Madere suggests taking pictures of the rooms first, or asking a friend to, if the task is too emotional. "You can make lovely books at blurb.com to preserve the memories in a form you can hold," says Madere.

Which brings us nicely to every parent's bugaboo: children's artwork. The art writer Casey Ellis (brilliantly) suggested that I tell my kids I was creating a catalogue raisonné of their work. This is a fancy term for a complete list of an artist’s output. It sounds impressive, and it means that the original pieces, after being scanned or photographed, can be farmed out to collectors (a.k.a. Grandma) or recycled. Their memories live on in my Flickr pages, to be admired at the kids' leisure. (So far, that means never.)

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