Photographs and Sentimental Items: Letting Go with Less Heartache

Some things are easier to let go of than others. The extra measuring cups, worn out sweaters and old sports equipment might not hurt your heart when it goes out the door. But then there are the things that pull on your heart strings. Things like old photographs, the kid’s report cards and items from loved ones.

I’m often asked for strategies to let go of photographs and sentimental items but even with a specific road map, it’s still hard. The question most people are really asking is this: Is it possible to let go of photographs and sentimental stuff with more ease and less heartache?

Most of our photographs and sentimental things aren’t bringing us joy. They aren’t helping us appreciate or honor the memories we want to hold on to. Instead they sit in a trunk, box, garage or other storage areas collecting dust. Maybe we sort through the stuff once in a while and wonder what we should do with it, but otherwise, all it does is take up space.

After both of my grandparents died, I remember sorting through so many pictures of them that I rarely looked at while they were alive. I knew after looking at them, I’d put them back in a box and never appreciate them. And because I had so many, none of them felt that important. I found one picture of my grandmother curled up on a chair with my grandfather. They both looked so happy, content and connected. That’s how I wanted to remember them. I turned the photograph into a bookmark so whenever I read a book, I can think of them, honor their memory and smile. I was able to let go of the other photos with less heartache because this one image was enough to fill my heart over and over again.

With photographs and other sentimental stuff, think about how it’s serving you and how you might enjoy all of it if there were less of it. Less doesn’t mean none, so keep what makes you smile.

If you are holding on to pass the meaningful items onto children or other family, don’t assume they want it. Ask them. If they tell you they don’t want it, believe them.