For the past few months, I have been working through Marie Kondo’s amazing KonMari Method, the most effective way that I’ve found to get rid of excess stuff. Kondo outlines her method in her best-selling book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, in which she recommends that you first discard (by category, not by room) anything that doesn’t spark joy in your life, then organize completely. I worked my way through every category (clothes, books, etc) and found a couple new categories before I picked up a single sentimental item. Sentimental items are the last category because they can easily derail an efficient discard session. Most people need the practice that you get from categories such as clothes and books before they can efficiently tackle sentimental items. This includes old letters, awards, pictures, and anything that brings back sweet memories.
How To Discard Sentimental Items
While many resources suggest that you take a picture of sentimental items (the item jogs your memory, but you don’t need the item itself), Kondo recommends thinking hard about whether each item really sparks joy, then simply discarding those that don’t.
Discarding Sentimental Items Is Easier Than You Think
I was pleasantly surprised by how truly easy it was to sort through my sentimental items. I had a box in the basement that was filled with my old sports, DECA, and orchestra ribbons, medals, and trophies. I was so proud of these that I kept a display of them in my room throughout high school and I called it the shrine to myself; proof that I was awesome in my own little way. There were hundreds of awards inside this little box and when I thought about discarding sentimental items, I always wondered how on earth I could part with them.
This weekend I pulled out that box for the first time in at least 10 years. To my great surprise, I realized that I no longer remembered what I did to earn most of the awards. They were all generic and while most of the ribbons had my age, event, and swimming time on the back, there were hundreds of ribbons and I realized that there was only ONE that I remembered and ONE that I really cared about. I searched and searched until I found it: an 11th place ribbon in the long-course 50 freestyle event at State when I was 12.
That was the first time I’d ever placed in an individual event at State and every time I think of that day – how shockingly fast I’d gone, how proud I was, and the look on my mom’s face that seemed to say, “Wow, maybe this girl will actually be pretty good at this” – I get really happy. I kept that ribbon and got rid of the rest. There were a few other awards that I remember earning and that sparked immense joy. Those are all safe in my basement. The rest of them were ceremoniously placed in the trash bin outside.
Tips for Discarding Sentimental Items
- Wait until you’ve gone through every other category. Practice makes perfect and you’ll get better and better at figuring out what sparks joy as you go through each discard category.
- Work from a central location. Put everything from the sentimental category in one place so you can see how close to the “discarding finish line” you really are. This is the very last category before you get to start organizing, so knowing how much you have left is highly motivational.
- From photo albums, choose the best 1-2 pictures from each event that remind you of that day. Throw the rest away. The older the event, the easier this is to do.
- Tackle a little bit at a time. Break up your sentimental items into chunks that you can do in one hour or less. Know that this category can be a tough one, so allow yourself plenty of time with lots of breaks to finish it.
- Enjoy the process! Even though I got rid of about 80% of my sentimental items, I kept the best ones and rediscovered myself at the same time.
No wonder I love writing this blog every week. When I was in elementary and middle school, I spent loads of time writing stories, poems, and song parodies. Finding those sparked a lot of joy and they are among the few items I kept. They say that you should be doing as an adult what you enjoyed as a child and clearly I need to start writing more often.