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.