Expert tips for clearing out sentimental clutter

In the process of moving homes, living with new people and the general chaos of life, we often lose track of belongings and become swamped in clutter. Seventy per cent of Brits have admitted to keeping hold of belongings they no longer need. Some of the top items Brits hold onto include family photos, books and clothes.

Explaining why we keep items, resilience coach and author, Natalie Reed, comments: “The attachment can be as a result of habit- doing what you’ve always done and not questioning whether or not this serves you financially, emotionally or energetically.

“You may even be unaware that you are doing it in the same way that you become used to a dog smell around the house or become familiar with your untidiness.”

However, the clear-out is usually more challenging than anticipated, especially when those belongings have sentimental values behind them. To help organise your clutter, we’ve put together our top tips for taking the stress out of the clear out.

Divide into three main piles

Before you start clearing anything out, place three boxes or bin bags (whatever takes your fancy) labelled ‘keep’, ‘throw’ and ‘donate’ in a central location. These three dividers will be key to making your de-cluttering process as easy as possible.

Having a donate pile, for a lot of people, will make the idea of throwing an item out less daunting, as it will be going to a good home instead of the rubbish bin. It’s great for items such as clothes or homeware which aren’t past their best but no longer serve a purpose in your home. Not only will it make a new owner happy, but it’s more environmentally friendly.

Does it have a home or a purpose?

When deciding if you should keep an item or not, ask yourself two key questions. Does it have a purpose? It seems self-explanatory, but a lot of the time we keep items that we’re just not using anymore. If you get a lot of use out of it, keep it. If you haven’t used it in the past six months and it’s going to sit collecting dust, get rid.

Does it have a home? Especially when looking at more decorative belongings, unless you have somewhere permanent to keep it, it’s probably one for the recycling. There’s nothing worse than constantly tripping up over household items.

Read says: “Ask yourself, how does holding onto this object serve you? What does letting go of it bring up for you? What benefits would you have from reducing your clutter? If you made a decision, what would that be helping you to overcome? This will help you to be clearer about what you want from your life and take steps to move towards it.”

Leave the sentimental items until last

Start with the items that you know what to do with, or that you’re less attached to. Items such as clothes, old technology or kids’ toys are going to be easier to part with because it’s about how much use you get out of them.

When it comes to photos, books and jewellery it gets a bit trickier. These belongings tend to have more sentimental value behind them. Leave them until last so you can see how much you’ve already got rid of and compare it to how much space is left. Typically, this part will take longer as well, so it will feel less overwhelming being the only job left.

Create an organised storage system

Now you’ve got a pile of things to keep, it all needs putting away. To make the most of the space you have and ensure you don’t begin to gather clutter all over again, keep everything well organised.

Labelled boxes are always a foolproof method of storage, dividing them into item categories such as ‘children’, ‘holiday’ or ‘technology’. Then they can be stored under beds, in wardrobes, attics or garages, depending on how easily they need to be accessed.

For photos, keep them neatly stored in labelled photo albums so they are easy to find and reminisce upon.

If you find yourself struggling for space at home, we have a range of home storage options available.