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The idea of the Sentimental Box came about when I was working with a client (let’s call her Sarah) whose main decluttering hurdle was emotional attachment to her possessions. Emotional attachment is a very common reason people struggle to let go of their belongings. It’s the idea that you can’t let go of physical items because they remind you of memories from your past.

In Sarah’s case, she really wanted to declutter, but as we went through each item together, I found that
her #1 roadblock to letting go was her emotional attachment. The items she struggled to let go of didn’t have significant monetary value, but each one was associated to a particular positive memory or event from her childhood. 

Throughout Sarah’s closets and bookshelves we found a baby dress, yearbooks, handwritten address books (which she certainly wasn’t using anymore), and hundreds of CDs and cassette tapes. I worked with Sarah over the course of a few sessions to decide what items held the most value to her and for what reason. For many items, I suggested that she take a photo instead of hold onto the physical item (for example: an old birthday card). For those things that she really, really wanted to keep, we created a Sentimental Box.

The box was about twice the size of a large shoebox, which I think is ideal – not too small and not too big. I urged Sarah to keep only the items she felt the strongest connection to, and let go of the others. The reality is, Sarah didn’t look at these items every day, nor was she going to in the future, but the idea that she still had them in her possession was important to her. Now, both Sarah and her husband have their own sentimental boxes labeled and stored in a closet for safe keeping. If they feel the urge to look at one of these items, they know exactly where it is.

I was so proud of Sarah’s progress and ability to let go over the other items that didn’t fit in the box. It was a struggle for her, but now, as a result of our work together, she feels lighter and relieved. She wanted to declutter for years, and she finally accomplished her goal.

Does Sarah’s story resonate with you? Are you someone who holds onto every birthday card, vacation memento and special outfit? If so, then you could benefit from a sentimental box. I urge you to gather these sentimental items from around your home and go through them one by one. Decide what you truly need to hold onto, and try taking photos of some things instead. Anything that must be kept can be placed in a small Sentimental Box, and tucked away in your closet for safe keeping.

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