Marie Kondo's Tips For Dealing With Sentimental Items When You're Decluttering

If you've been inspired by Marie Kondo's KonMari method, you know that decluttering your home can be a transformative experience. But if you're like most people, there are probably some items in your home that are more than just clutter — they have sentimental value. When it comes to these important items, it can be hard to know what to do, and making a decision about their fate can become an emotional process. The KonMari method recommends tackling sentimental items last, after you've become accustomed to decluttering. Kondo tells The Guardian, "Your tidying should be in this order: clothing, books, papers, komono (miscellany) and then — and only then — will you be ready for your sentimental items."

One of the renowned organizer's primary tips is to focus on the present and the future, rather than the past. She suggests, "It is not our memories but the person we have become because of those past experiences that we should treasure. This is the lesson these keepsakes teach us when we sort them. The space in which we live should be for the person we are becoming now, not for the person we were in the past." (via Book Riot) On her website, Kondo explores the idea further noting that though the sentimental items may be wonderful, it's more important to move away from the past and focus instead on the joys available to us in the present moment. As such, she advises honoring the past without clinging to excessive mementos.

Ask yourself if it sparks joy

When it comes to deciding whether an item should stay or go, Marie Kondo recommends examining each one individually and asking yourself her signature question of whether or not it sparks joy. This means that if looking at the item brings up positive emotions and makes you feel happy and energized, then it should stay. However, if holding the item makes you feel anything less than joyful, then it's time to let it go. This test applies to items with sentimental value as well. Just because something holds special meaning doesn't mean it still serves a purpose in your life. It may be time to pass on the item so someone else can experience its joy-sparking power rather than holding onto it.

In her book, "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing," Kondo says, "When you come across something that you cannot part with, think carefully about its true purpose in your life. You'll be surprised at how many of the things you possess have already fulfilled their role. By acknowledging their contribution and letting them go with gratitude, you will be able to truly put the things you own, and your life, in order" (via Parade). Not every item needs to be kept, and if an individual feels uncomfortable holding onto certain sentimental items, then it may be best to let them go either by giving them away or discarding them with thoughtful consideration.

Give the item thanks

When it comes to dealing with sentimental items, Marie Kondo's KonMari method encourages us to show respect for them and offer grattitude for the role they have played in our lives. To do this, one must take time to reflect on each item and express gratitude for its existence. In The Guardian, Kondo says, "Giving sincere thanks to an item will significantly reduce or even eliminate any guilt you may feel when you decide that you will no longer have it in your home," adding, "I understand that for some people it may seem strange to thank items, but if you try it you'll be surprised by its effectiveness. Keeping an item beyond the time it sparks joy for you will only diminish the care and appreciation you have for the other items in your life."

For the objects that no longer spark joy yet continue to hold special memories for you, simply take a minute to appreciate those memories one last time before making a decision about what happens next. Look at photos of yourself wearing the dress or holding the stuffed animal from childhood, and remember how much love was associated with those moments in time. Then give yourself permission to let go of the physical object knowing that those memories will always remain in your heart even if they don't remain on your shelves.

Keep a digital memento

Decluttering your home according to the KonMari method doesn't have to mean saying goodbye forever to all of your cherished memories and souvenirs from important life events. With thoughtfulness and strategic organization, it's possible to keep some of those treasured possessions while still making progress on clutter elimination projects around the house. If you do choose to keep a sentimental item, there are ways to make it serve as more than just a reminder of the past. These could include refurbishing or restoring old furniture, or creating a photo album to feature special items as a way of preserving memories without having to manage an unnecessary cluttered mess.

Marie Kondo says, "By handling each sentimental item and deciding what to discard, you process your past. If you just stow these things away in a drawer or cardboard box, before you realize it, your past will become a weight that holds you back and keeps you from living in the here and now. To put your things in order means to put your past in order, too. It's like resetting your life and settling your accounts so that you can take the next step forward" (via Book Riot). By using these strategies for dealing with sentimental items through focused gratitude or taking photos before throwing anything away, we can truly honor our past without cluttering our present.