The Art of Letting Go of Sentimental Items

I am a bad minimalist! I can’t let go of sentimental items.

Three years back, I got a dress for a special occasion, a wedding to be precise. I wore it on that particular day and never again. It has always been in my lowest closet. I kept it in the name of “I will tailor it into something more casual and day to day like.” Three years down the line, I feel like I am just keeping it for sentimental purposes. I don’t really like this dress, I have never imagined myself wearing it but I still keep it. That being said, I think I have some stuff to take out of my closet. Have it in mind that it is not only the dress but there are quite some items that I have held onto for years. All these items have probably been worn once or twice.

Don’t call me out. I’ve done that already. I am a bad minimalist. I’m yet to learn the art of letting go of sentimental items.

Being unable to let go of this items is probably the greatest drawback when one is trying to achieve a minimal lifestyle. It is one of the reasons we spend so much trying to find suitable storage spaces. We spend a lot of time and money creating  room for the things that we clearly don’t require. Sometimes we spend so much energy in trying to make everything fit into one space where in most cases, we don’t need all these things. Our minds are not designed to give up on the things we have, it is trained to keep keep keep until you run out of space. Then create more space and continue keeping.

In today’s world, we have been misled into believing that we are defined by how much we have. If you don’t have a big house with all the things and some couple of extras, then you don’t have it. In my community, If you don’t have cutlery that is enough for the entire extended family or village, then you don’t have enough. See, this kind of mentality is what drains us. We acquire so much stuff for the people who aren’t even there in our daily lives. People spend so much money to please the crowds where the crowds aren’t even cheering because they’re busy doing the same. If this is not crazy, I don’t know what is.

I have learned a lot in the past two years and I am really glad that I came through that first youtube video because right now, I would just be horrible and miserable because I wouldn’t want to be left out fashion-wise and stuff-wise. I am happier than ever before. Despite the fact that I’m still a work in progress, I believe that I’ll soon be there.

Why is it so hard to let go of sentimental things?

Some things are really hard to let go of despite the kind of trickery you might do to your mind. For instance the 90/90 rule. This is where you put something that you haven’t used in the past 90 days in a box and store it. If 90 days pass without having used that thing, then you’ll know that it’s time to let go. But how much often does this work? 80% of the time, what about that 20%? Sometimes those things stay there forever as they wait for the time to come to be used again. Which by the way, that never happens. You’ll only realize this after three years of waiting to wear that cute dress that hasn’t been fitting you.

It is particularly a difficult thing to let go of things if:

  • You bought it at a very high price
  • It was given to you as a gift
  • That thing rekindled a long-lost memory or,
  • It has connections with someone you consider special

Sometimes we keep things in hopes of giving them to someone but that moment never comes until its too late. We keep things as souvenirs to remind us of a particular place until they end up taking all our spaces.

What’s the way out?

I am not my stuff; we are more than our possessions.
Our memories are within us, not within our things.
Holding on to stuff imprisons us; letting go is freeing.
You can take pictures of items you want to remember.
Old photographs can be scanned.
An item that is sentimental for us can be useful for someone else.

Joshua Fields Millburn

Firstly, you need to recognize the presence of those things that you consider sentimental. Get to know the root of the sentimentality. Sometimes you need to reason things out with your head because the heart is on many occasions, misleading. See, whether that thing sparks joy whenever you see it. Ask your self some simple yes/no questions.

  1. Does it make you happy?
  2. Is it worth your space?
  3. Are you using it or are you planning to use it in the foreseeable future?
  4. Is it worth the cost of its maintenance?
  5. Can you see yourself letting go of it when that time comes?

If you find it worth all this, you can keep that item. Remember, you don’t have to deprive yourself of the enjoyments you get from a particular thing. When something makes you happy, keep it and be happy. Minimalism is not about deprivation. It is about being fulfilled by the things that you choose to be in your surrounding.

On the other hand, if you found that keeping the things that are sentimental to you is not worth it, it is probably time you let go. It might sound harsh sometimes but once the thing is gone, you’ll be freer and happier. Realizing that you are capable of letting go of such stuff strengthens your ability to let go of things that are not all that necessary. You will end up creating your own sanctuary. A place where you will get the utmost satisfaction of peace and tranquility. Now, let me go get that dress!


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