Letting Go of Sentimental Items & a Fun Walk Down Memory Lane

Hi there friends, today I want to talk about letting go of sentimental items. You see I’ve had a huge project on my to-do list for quite some time. This project involved a memory tote I had from my school years and a hope chest filled to the brim of other memories from the years since I was out of school. I hadn’t been through either storage box in years and I really wanted to consolidate it down to one space. To do that though I knew I would need to say goodbye to some things. So not easy to do! It was quite the walk down memory lane that had me laughing and crying all at the same time. Here’s the process I took for getting it done and letting go.

Letting Go of Sentimental Items & a Fun Walk Down Memory Lane at I'm an Organizing Junkie blog

Letting go of Sentimental Items

Okay so here’s what I started with. An old tote that I kept tucked away under my stairs and a hope chest that was a wedding gift from my Granny. The hope chest lives in my bedroom.

Letting Go of Sentimental Items & a Fun Walk Down Memory Lane

Letting Go of Sentimental Items & a Fun Walk Down Memory Lane

I was afraid of this project because of all the decisions I would have to make. I really hate making decisions and this project would require a lot of them. Ugg. But one day, while most likely procrastinating from cleaning toilets, I decided to just get it done already.

Here’s what my hope chest looked like before. Stacked to the brim. The goal was to have this be my one spot for storing sentimental items with extra space for future treasures.

Letting Go of Sentimental Items & a Fun Walk Down Memory Lane

Put a boundary in place:

And this is tip number one for you. Have a boundary. When you have a definitive space for something it makes the decision making process easier. You can only keep what fits inside. As I always say, you purge until it fits!

To determine the size of tote you should use, you must first know where you’ll store it. Do you have space in a closet? Or underneath the bed? Once that is determined you’ll know how much space you can designate for memory storage.

If you already have a space that’s full, start by emptying it. The entire thing. And remember it’s going to look worse before it gets better.

Letting Go of Sentimental Items & a Fun Walk Down Memory Lane

Letting Go of Sentimental Items & a Fun Walk Down Memory Lane

Empty and sort:

Then it’s sorting time. Like with like. All photos together, all graduation and wedding items together, all VHS tapes and 45 records together (haha!). Get it all sorted out so you know exactly what you are dealing with.

Quick purge first:

Once everything is sorted, I recommend doing a quick purge first. Some things you’ll wonder why you ever kept at all and those will be easy to toss or donate. Set aside all the things you are unsure about for now. Move through your items quickly touching everything once and deciding if it should be kept or tossed. This is your first pass.

And this is where it started to get fun. I uncovered so many treasures! Including my sticker book from elementary school!

Scratch and sniff stickers that still smelled!

sticker book

Puffy stickers

puffy stickers

Wow so many memories. But then the big question. To keep or not to keep.

sticker book vintage

Honestly it’s so hard to let go of things from our past. These items are the trigger to memories tucked away that without them we worry we may forget the story they tell.

Ask questions:

Once the quick purge is done, we can go back to the keep pile of sentimental items and do a second pass. This is where I found myself stuck about my sticker book. When I asked myself some questions I realized that I had only been keeping it because I’d never made a decision about it before. It had been tucked away for so long I’d completely forgotten about it.

-why am I hanging onto it?
-do I love it or use it?
-will a picture suffice?
-who am I afraid of hurting if I part with it?
-am I holding onto this because I want to or because I have to?
-how much space is this item(s) taking up?
-could I be using this space for things I love and value more?
-what’s the worst that could happen if I get rid of it?
-could I easily replace this item?
-will someone else want this after I’m gone?

But when I considered my limited space, I realized that there were other things that were more of a priority for me to keep. When I compare my sticker book to something else, like say all my wedding momentos, I realized that I didn’t treasure it as much. I could let it go to make room for those special things that mean even more to me.

Now my 45 records were even harder to part with. These are classics that would be hard to buy today. But I realized it wasn’t really the 45’s themselves that I was attached to but the songs. I mean Tiffany’s Could’ve Been held me together during some really tough breakups. Can anyone else relate? These lyrics are so sad!

The flowers you gave me
Are just about to die
When I think about
What could’ve been
It makes me want to cry
The sweet words you whispered
Didn’t mean a thing
I guess our song is over
As we begin to sing
Could’ve been so beautiful
It could’ve been so right
Could’ve been my lover
Every day of my life
Could’ve been so beautiful
Could’ve been so right
I’ll never hold what could’ve been
On a cold and lonely night
The mem’ries of our lovin’
Still linger in the air
Like the faded scent of your roses
They stay

Luckily now I can listen to these songs digitally anytime I want. It was time to let them go. Bye, bye, bye!

45 records

This letting go part of the process is so very personal. What one person values and decides to keep may be different from another. That’s okay. Having a boundary in place will be the force that keeps you from valuing everything equally. Otherwise it would so easy to want to keep it all. You don’t want your storage for your past to be more than your storage for the present.

Take a picture:

My sticker book was fun and it fondly reminds me of a simpler time but a picture would do the same thing. So I snapped some pictures and tossed my sticker book out. This was after my kids all took a turn making fun of me first of course, ha! Sometimes all we want is a trigger to spark the memory for us. Let a picture do the talking.

Other things I knew without a doubt that I wanted to keep forever. Like this note I found that my younger sister wrote to me. She is 6 years younger and wrote this when she was seven. Apparently she was very upset with me this particular day. My favorite part is the “bye ugly”. So funny! We couldn’t stop laughing about it.

Letting Go of Sentimental Items & a Fun Walk Down Memory Lane

Put it Away:

Once I thought I had my memories down to a reasonable amount that would fit into my hope chest, I started to pile it all back in. When I realized I was close to capacity, I did a third purge pass. This was especially important because I knew I wanted to leave space for future things. So at this point I decided to let a few more things go. Here’s how it looked when I was done. Not a lot of free space but as I add more later, I’ll re-evaluate as I go. I will not add another bin. That only means more work eventually for someone else down the line to go through. What’s left are not only the memories I value but the memories I think other’s will get a kick out of in the future when I’m gone.

Letting Go of Sentimental Items & a Fun Walk Down Memory Lane

Toss and Donate:

Whew what a job. I’ll be honest and tell you that it took me many hours to get through everything. But I am so glad it’s done, yay! Here’s the pile of trash I got rid of. Old cards, pictures, notes. I tried to be pretty selective on what I kept.

Letting Go of Sentimental Items - my toss pile

Next I filled my memory tote back up with things that I could donate to our local thrift store. I donated the tote and all.

Letting Go of Sentimental Items - my purge pile

Another summer project ticked off the list. Is letting go of sentimental items something you need to do as well? Get your boundary in place and get to work.

And PS, try not to think about what could’ve been as you take a stroll down memory lane 🙂

You may also like:

The Easiest Way to Store and Organize all Those School Papers

Filed under: Containerizing, Keepsakes, Motivation-Encouragement, Purging


14 Responses to Letting Go of Sentimental Items & a Fun Walk Down Memory Lane

  1. 1
    MelanieL says

    I love this post so much! Your items triggered some happy memories for me too as I enjoyed the same stickers and music! I laughed so hard when you posted the letter from your sister on IG stories…too funny! You always do a wonderful job of encouraging us and walking us through the process. Have a wonderful weekend!

  2. 2
    Crystal Lopez says

    The sticker book!!! I remember so many of those!!!

    And Tiffany…. I loved her!

  3. 3
    Ann says

    Sticker books! Forgot how popular that was when I was little. A treat for us was a trip to a sticker & stationary store to add to our collections. Thanks for the memory! And the letter from an angry sister is the best…thanks for the laugh! Very impressed you were able to purge so much—great job!

  4. 4
    Jeanie Puckett says

    L. O. V. E. this. Seriously, perfect timing for me too. Thanks!

    Is there a way to print this article?

    • 4.1
      Laura Wittmann says

      Hi Jeanie, if you scroll to the bottom of my post you’ll see grey boxes that say Facebook, Twitter, etc. Click on the more box and there is a print option there. So glad you liked this post, thank you!!

      • Jeanie Puckett says

        Thanks so much . . . but that print function yields a 24 page document with all the ads and pictures, etc. Is there a printer friendly version?

        • Laura Wittmann says

          Gosh sorry about that. You could always copy and paste it into a Word document. That should do the trick.

          • Jeanie Puckett says

            Hey Laura – thanks so much for your response. Not to complain (because it was such a good article that it was worth it to me) but just to let you know. Cut and paste certainly works but it yields a Word document that needs to be re-edited because of so many “embedded” editing points in your original text. It certainly works but is a bit cumbersome. Thanks for such a great article! Can’t wait for more of your wisdom !!

  5. 5
    Jen Wilson says

    I needed this exactly right now. We’re moving! Perfect time to purge!

    • 5.1
      Laura Wittmann says

      Good luck with your move! Are you moving provinces?

      • Jen Wilson says

        No, thankfully! Just a neighbourhood over. Closer to the kids’ school. 🙂

  6. 6
    Marcia (OrganisingQueen) says

    Loved this post and perhaps (!) I should add my memories to my Spring into Organising for September. My problem is diaries and cards, not so much other stuff, but I like that it is all contained in one space. I have my ballet stuff in a separate location to the cards and diaries…..


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