Minimalism often starts by letting go of some things. Maybe a lot of things. But what happens when we hit that layer of sentimental things? Things that have become heavy and aren’t serving who we are becoming today.
Undoubtedly, this letting-go-of-sentimental-things can be one of the hardest parts of our journey to live simply. The clutter we cling to, the overwhelmed schedules we allow, they’re often a broken bridge holding us back from stepping on freedom ground.
I’ve come to understand that letting go is not a process in and of itself but is the result of earlier actions. You don’t just will yourself to let go because you know you need to. You have to process through things for the letting go to follow.
Letting go comes from awareness, acknowledgment, and acceptance. I must ask myself questions and allow space for vulnerability to see the truth. After all, I can’t let go of what I’m not aware of, what I can’t acknowledge and what I won’t accept.
There are different ways I’ve embraced letting go of items that no longer serve my family, but as I approach each item, I always start with the same approach. I start by asking myself questions.
Questions to help you let go of sentimental heavy things.
The process of letting go can be different for each of us but these are questions I’ve found helpful — maybe they would be helpful to you too.
1.Why am I keeping it?
When we can answer the why of keeping question and accept the truth, we can often see what our heart needs to process. Many times it is fear that keeps us holding on. Fear that we may need it, that we won’t be the same without it, or that we’ll loose the memory of our loved one.
When my stuff has weighed me down, even the sentimental, I remind myself that it has a cost. Many times, I’ve chosen the pain in letting go over the burden of holding on to heavy things. I have kept some sentimental things, but none of them weigh me down. Everything in our homes either helps or hinders the life we want to live, so be sure you’re not making excuses for holding on to excess that is actually hindering your life.
2. How do I want to live my life?
I used to ask myself what I wanted to keep until I made the deeper connection that what I own actually determines how I live. Now I think more about how I want to live.
Own too much and you’ll live a life owned by your stuff. Keep more than you need and you’ll give less to those in need. Say yes when you should say no and you’ll live a life organized by others.
Although I want to keep a few sentimental items, I don’t want my home-life to be dictated by my possessions.
3. What is my most cherished sentimental item?
When we’ve acquired too many (you decide what too many is) sentimental items they begin to weigh on us.
When I found myself holding on to a plethora of my grandparent’s things (because they remind me of them) I’d ask, “Which ones were my most cherished items.” What would I keep if my grandparents were here and asked me to choose three things?
Along the way, I found that keeping just a few of my favorites was indeed enough.
4. Would I leave this as someone else’s’ responsibility?
As time went on I started asking myself, “What truly adds value to my life in your home—with the forethought that someone I love will be left to take care of it.” As a mother to four, I never want them to feel the burden of my excess.
Consider the fact that leaving them in your home won’t change the fate of your stuff. It will all have to go somewhere, someday.
5. Would a photo be enough?
Taking a photo of a sentimental item can be a way to remember the memory but let the item go.
I had acquired many items that I grew up seeing my grandparents use. Looking at these items brings to mind fond childhood memories that I never want to forget. (And I do forget things). Taking a photo allowed me to let go of the sentimental item that wasn’t serving me anymore — but able to recall and reflect in gratitude for these precious memories.
Most often, I found that a photo was enough.
6. Is it keeping me from my WHY?
Knowing and remembering your why is essential to getting over the hurdles allowing you to let go of your excess stuff. It’s essential to know and remember your why. Our why is the reason we’re purging all the excess from our home (and life!). Maybe your why is to travel, downsize, have less to clean, or spend more time with your family.
When we ask questions with a willingness to see the truth, we can get to the heart of the issue. Give yourself permission, free of guilt and free of shame. Because growth can never come from a place shame.
7. What do I need in this season of my life?
No matter where we’ve been or where we’re going, when we fixate on the past and the future, It’s at the expense of the present. Ask yourself what you really need in this season of your life because where you’re at now is what matters.
My minimalist journey may have started with my things, but I discovered along the way, it isn’t about just making space in your home — it’s about making space in your heart.