Downsizing the Sentimentals – The Memories Remain

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Downsizing the sentimental items collected in a lifetime is one of the hardest things a person can do. These “things” have a physical hold on our space and emotional hold on our hearts.

Tackling the categories such as collections/memorabilia and photographs is always tough, as there are memories attached to them. We naturally lose memories as we age – if that isn’t scary enough, we certainly don’t want to lose fond memories of people we love as we downsize and let things go.

That is the sentiment I hear repeatedly as I work with the aging population.

Keepsakes come in many forms. To some, they are meaningless, but to most they are treasured as a memory.

From ticket stubs to baby clothes, greeting cards to trophies (and everything in between), they hold memories of our childhood, friendships, careers, and even of the people in our lives who have passed away.

We feel the emotion as we touch and revisit the memories of these items, and we can’t bring ourselves to let them go for the bigger purpose of meeting our organizing or downsizing goals.






As you go through the process of downsizing memorabilia and sentimental items, you may find it overwhelming as you walk down memory lane. It is important to hold onto some of these meaningful things but to focus on your goals of maintaining an organized home. You must decide which items deserve the valuable space your home allows you. The role each item plays in your life needs to be evaluated and deemed important enough to not only be kept but to be displayed…

Because what keepsake should be shoved into a box and stored in the attic?



Ask yourself questions that will help you determine if an item is memorable or important enough to keep:

    • What will you gain by keeping this? What will you lose by keeping this?
    • What will you gain by letting it go? What will you lose by letting it go?
    • Are the memories and the keepsakes even yours, or are they the memories of someone else that have been gifted to you? Is the item important to you or is that person important?
    • Does the item make you feel bad or sad about yourself or someone else? Is holding onto this item that causes negative feelings really a good thing for you and your home?
    • Are you keeping it because someone else expects you to? Is the primary emotion attached to this thing obligation or guilt?
    • Do you know why it is so important to you? Is there a deep meaning behind your attachment to this that you are not facing?
    • How much valuable space is this item that doesn’t have a function or serve a real purpose allowed to take up in my home?
    • Do you have more than one item that reminds you of that person, place, or moment? Would it be okay if you kept only one or a small set of those items?
    • Do you need to keep an item as it is, or can it be photographed and saved in a physical or electronic album, scrapbook, or shadow box?
    • Has your collection of keepsakes taken over space that would be more valuable if used differently?


Walking through this process will get easier over time as you find clarity in what is important for your future. You will begin to feel the difference between what you can let go of and what you don’t. You must continue to focus on your goals of having an organized home with less clutter and less stress.

Here are some ways to turn your keepsakes into lifetime memories:

    • Reminisce about the item once, write the story down, and take a photograph. This will not only help you capture the memory, but it will help you share the story with others. Think about how this might help pass on stories after you’re no longer able to tell people about what is important to you and why.
    • Honor what you are keeping. If your keepsakes are in a box or a closet and you never look at them, what value are they really bringing to your life and home? If items are important to you, make them more prominent in your life by pulling them out of a box and featuring them somewhere visible in your home. Otherwise, why hold onto them?

Remember that our things are really just things. They themselves are not our memories. They are not the people who we love. Our memories are in our minds and our hearts.


What are some challenges you are currently facing or have faced in the past as you decide what is memorable and what is important?


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Happy downsizing!



By: Nicole Ramer, SMM~C

(Professional Organizer & Certified Senior Move Manager®)

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