Organizing Sentimental Items

Organizing Sentimental Items

Retro chair in white room

Organizing Sentimental Items

As a Professional Organizer I know that organizing sentimental items is challenging for many of you. This is especially true during the purging stage when you are deciding what to keep and what to let go of. Remember that the benefits of organizing anything, including sentimental items, is that you are able to revisit fond memories. The question is why do we let sentimental items become clutter? The reasons are usually emotional:

  1. Fear
  2. Guilt
  3. Attachment
  4. Perceived emotional value
  5. Perceived financial value


When organizing, some people fear that letting go of a sentimental item is a sign of disrespect, or that they will forget the person or event the item reminds them of. Organizing Tip: If you really don’t want or need the item take a photo of it and add the photo to your other photos of that person or the event. Then donate the item. If you aren’t ready to let it go, display the item next to a framed photo.


Items that are passed down through families aren’t always valued by later generations. Even though, some of us feel guilty letting go of family heirlooms. As a Professional Organizer I don’t think that it is fair or reasonable to tell someone not to feel guilty. It is something that the person will have to decide. Organizing Tip: If you really do not want the item try packing it away and letting a friend or relative hold on to it. Set a time frame for when you will be ready to let it go. If feelings of guilt arise during that time frame retrieve the item and find a way to use it or display it.


If sentimental items bring you pleasure that is sufficient reason to keep them. Organizing Tip: You don’t have to keep all of them to experience that pleasurable feeling. If you cherish these items and keep them in good condition that is a sign that you are honoring them. Unless the quantity of these items is the problem continue to enjoy them. If sentimental items create negative memories and feelings this might be the time to let the items and those feelings go. Organizing Tip: Donating these items to others who are not attached will help you to let go. There is always someone who will be able to use these things and that will create a feeling of generosity and abundance for you.

Perceived Emotional Value

“I’m saving it for the kids (or grandchildren).” Does this sound familiar? Items that are meaningful to you may in fact not be so to your family members. Unfortunately some of us never got to know or live near our grandparents. My advice as your San Diego Professional Organizer is to ask you children and grandchildren if they are old enough. Be prepared to hear that they don’t want it; it’s okay. Organizing Tip: If the item is old and/or valuable research specialized museums or galleries that may appreciate the donation. You can also consider consigning or selling the item(s) online.

Perceived Financial Value

When you know how much money you spent to purchase an item it is important to research what the resale value is. Sentimental items don’t necessarily appreciate in value. Organizing Tip: Check online sources or consult with an appraisal expert to determine the current day value of your sentimental items. It can be disappointing to find out that the item isn’t worth much in a financial sense. In that case, it can help you to decide to keep and honor that item by using or displaying it, or to let it go.