3 Tips For Decluttering When You Can’t Seem to Let Go

Some items need a little more time and attention

I have been rigorously decluttering my apartment for the last few weeks in an effort to move towards minimalism, and it’s been tough. I’m no stranger to it, either — I’ve regularly purged my belongings throughout the years. In fact, I had to come up with a new method when joy was no longer an accurate gauge for my possessions. If you want to learn more about my new decluttering technique, check out How to Declutter If the KonMari Method Doesn’t Work For You

This year has been different, though. I am closely looking at my relationship with things, reasons I kept buying, and why I couldn’t let go. As a result of this inner tidying and exploration, I have been able to donate or sell many items that have remained in my possession for years, simply because I couldn’t bring myself to let them go.

The last few weeks, most of the items I was decluttering were an easy choice. As I got closer to the bottom of the pile, so to speak, each item needed more consideration than the stuff on the surface; carelessly dumping them in the donation bin wasn’t an acceptable next step for them. Here are 3 ways I handled the items that were sentimental or otherwise difficult to let go.

1. Sold it

I had this set of Lina Inverse and chibi Gourry Gabriev figures from Slayers, a Japanese anime I discovered around 2001, that have been with me for almost 20 years. I paid a premium for the set when I was in college and kept them in the package for at least half that time. 

Eventually the packaging was damaged, so they ended up on display without it, but over the years, my attachment to these figures lessened. During my recent decluttering, I finally felt ready to let them go. But again, I didn’t want to dump them in the donation bin for them to be sold — possibly separately! — for $2, purchased by some rando who didn’t even know the characters’ names or how they helped me through my difficult first year of college. 

Despite the little pang I always get when I let go of something that’s been with me a long time, I knew these items needed a new home. So I bundled Lina and Gourry with the Slayers DVDs and Blurays, which I was also ready to rehome, and listed them for sale on eBay.

Setting up the auction wasn’t about making money, though: The process of taking the photos, writing a description, and shipping them out helped me cope with that pang of releasing them. What especially helped was knowing that they were going to someone who had specifically searched — and outbid others — for them. I was sure that they were going to a home that was better for them than mine had been, and that made me feel good about sending them away. 

2. Gave it to someone who would appreciate it

A few of my friends and family have similar taste, so I was able to give some of my items to someone in my network. 

This is a great option because a friend gets an item for free, and I know that it will be loved in the new home, which is my ultimate goal. An added bonus is that I get to see the item again when I visit my friend’s home or when my friend wears it. I also experience a new kind of joy when seeing someone I care about enjoying a gift from me that I once adored.

3. Rehomed it within my home

If you’re decluttering to move towards a minimalist lifestyle, keeping extraneous items may not be the obvious choice, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that I was able to reinvigorate a few possessions. For example, I had 2 Buddha statues that were given to me as gifts that my friends all declined. They originally lived on my meditation altar, but that has been out of commission for some time, so they seemed a bit homeless.

I didn’t think I wanted to keep them, but when the time came to drop off all the donations, I pulled them out of the box and left them at home because I just didn’t feel right about it. This doesn’t happen often. In more than 10 years of regular decluttering, I can probably count on one hand the number of times I’ve retrieved an item that had been placed in the giveaway box.

Still, I knew I had to do something with these statues, but I didn’t know what. Rather than set them somewhere out of sight for a while as some people recommend, I decided to designate a new space for them within my home. 

The larger Buddha now sits in the window by the front door with my omamori — a precious amulet purchased from a temple in Japan last year — sitting in his lap. Now when I return home, I am welcomed by Buddha and this omamori that guards against evil; seeing these two together upon my homecoming brings me much joy.

The smaller Buddha found a new home on my bathroom counter. I placed a tealight in the holder and look forward to when I can indulge in a bath with my favorite beeswax candles and a good Kindle book. 

Placing my Buddha statues in high-traffic areas has also helped me reconnect with my Buddhist meditation practice, which was exactly my intention when I placed them in these locations. Whenever I see them, they remind me to reconnect with my breath and this moment.

Closing thoughts

I didn’t use these methods with all of my belongings, but I found them very effective for the items that gave me pause. And granted, not all of the items I was holding on to made a profit or found a new home nearby, but taking extra time with the items that were more meaningful helped me declutter without fear of regret.

Teena Merlan