When I work with clients downsizing to a smaller home, one of the most challenging chores they face is letting go of sentimental belongings they no longer have room for. Souvenirs collected during travels, family heirlooms, and your children's keepsakes can be pretty stressful to part with. It doesn't matter whether the items have monetary value or not. Often the most difficult things to let go of are worthless in terms of money but priceless in sentimental value.
Here are some tips to help you part with belongings you are attached to but no longer want to keep.
1. Remember that our memories reside within us, not within our possessions.
When we keep things, the items occupy both physical and mental space in our lives. Psychologists say that letting go of sentimental items can be highly therapeutic. It's healthier to focus on your memories and not the things that represent your memories. If you are concerned that the memories will fade after letting the item go, take a photograph to add to a "memory book" and write down a description of the memory the object represents. You can do this with children's artwork, nick-nacks from vacations, or treasures you have collected over the years that may not fit into your new home.
2. Focus on the present.
Letting go also helps to bring your focus to the present. Sometimes things are continual reminders of the past and hold us back from living in the present. Dwelling in the past can make one more prone to depression and can affect our ability to deal with stressful situations in our lives. Realize that while we can always cherish our memories, we don't need the past to be happy in the present.
3. Let go of guilt.
Learn to let go of the guilt of getting rid of gifts you can't use. People often hold onto an item they don't want or need because someone special gave it to them or represents a particular person. Appreciate the thoughtfulness of the giver or the special memory it represents but passes the item on to someone else who can use it or donate it to charity. If the thing was a gift from a family member or a friend, you can also ask them if they would like the item. Explain that you do not have room in your new home, but you wanted them to know how unique the gift was in the first place. If that person does not like the item back, you can donate it "guilt-free."
4. You may not need to save it for your grown children.
Times have changed, and today more young adults can buy their furnishings. And they aren't as sentimental about family heirlooms as prior generations were. Talk to your kids now and find out if they want the china set, crystal glassware, and silver tea service. If not, it will be a treasure for another family.
5. Compromise with your spouse.
It's not uncommon for one spouse to resent the others' favorite belongings while holding onto their particular stuff. It's essential to recognize that, while you may not understand your husband's need to keep a ball cap for every baseball team he's seen play, he may feel the same way about keeping every book you have read. Decide together on a reasonable number to keep.
6. Start with the easy stuff.
If you have a lot of belongings to sort through, start with the easier decisions and work from there. If you are overwhelmed, professional help is available, such as The Betty Brigade. These companies can help you organize, prioritize, and connect you with organizations that pick up donations and perform estate sales. Often, people find that it feels good to let go once they get some momentum going.
7. Write a family memoir.
Hold onto your memories with words instead of things by writing your memoir or your family's story. Writing your story can be very therapeutic and help you release your hold on tangible items. If you need help, try a service like Storyworth.com.
Downsizing to your forever home does not have to be stressful if you look at it as a new chapter in life, with a fresh, clean start. Ask for help from your family, friends, and moving professional. Also, I am happy to sit down to discuss how to begin your home search and formulate a plan on the quickest and easiest way to move forward.