Finally discarding the pile of catalogs piling up in your entryway is a great beginning on the road to decluttering; however, getting rid of old photographs, sentimental clothing, or souvenirs from days gone by is an entirely different matter and will require a more concerted effort.
Begin in your bathroom.
You are less likely to have an emotional attachment to the things crowding your bath (old towels, for example), which makes it a great place to start. Decluttering your bathroom can help you gain a feeling of how good it feels to free up space, emboldening you for the more difficult decisions to come.
Celebrate an item before letting it go.
Take a picture in an old prom dress and post it on social media. Bake one more Mickey Mouse cake in Mom’s cake mold and share it with friends. Or take a selfie with Aunt Susan’s rooster toaster oven cover. And release them, having made one last celebratory memory with them.
Recognize that letting go of an object does not mean that you’re disrespecting or forgetting a loved one.
If you don’t use or need an item given you by a friend or family member, you need to remind yourself that there are other ways to remember and honor them (such as displaying pictures or participating in a hobby or charity they loved) and that releasing the item doesn’t mean releasing the person.
Keep only the best of a collection.
Instead of hoarding items in storage, display a few pieces from an extensive collection and let go of the rest. For example, make art out of a coin or button collection or a quilt from sentimental clothing.
Let go of things that only bring you sadness.
If an item, such as a journal or pictures that remind you of a previous relationship, only serves to invoke negative memories, it needs to go. Even objects that evoke happy memories need to be culled down. The ones that merely bring you sadness don’t also deserve a second thought.
Discern between what has meaning and what is merely stuff.
Store-bought gifts often carry less sentimental value than hand-made items. Blurry photos don’t truly represent our loved ones. Toys were precious when they were in use, but they may have no meaning to the next generation (and actually may be hazardous).
Digitize what you can to preserve memories without taking up space.
A print copy of your doctoral thesis may not be necessary to keep when you could scan and preserve it digitally. The same applies to many keepsakes, such as concert or theater tickets and even old love letters. These can then be shared with family far and wide via file-sharing services such as Dropbox or Google Drive.
Recognize what you now how room for.
Make new memories in your new-found space: have company over in your now-decluttered guest room, host a dinner party at your newly-uncovered dining table, or convert recently-emptied attic space into a loft bedroom for the grandkids.