Crafts, Simplify

I Can’t Get Rid of That! | Sentimental Stuff that Threatens Simplicity and What to Do With It

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As you declutter your house, you are going to run into items that hold sentimental value. And items with sentimental value are hard to get rid of.

“I cant get rid of that!”

You might find yourself thinking this when faced with sentimental keepsakes.

If you really look close, some stuff that you initially felt sentimental toward isn’t really worth keeping after all. But in some cases, sentimental possessions absolutely can and should be kept.

Maybe you have a shirt that used to be your deceased grandfather’s, and there’s no way on earth you could ever get rid of it. Good!

But what good is that shirt doing if it’s stuffed at the back of your closet or shoved into the bottom of a box and stored away on a shelf?

Today, we are sharing some great ideas for repurposing, remembering and honoring sentimental items of ours that are often not done justice when we shove them into the bottom of a box.

How can you give this very special item new life? How can you incorporate it into your daily life so that you can see and enjoy it often?

We’ve got ideas for you!

The Sentimental Stuff that Threatens Simplicity

  1. Memorable clothes. Either from your childhood, worn by a loved one, or a favorite of your kids.
  2. Photos of any and all kinds. Framed photos that you no longer want to display but feel bad getting rid of. Duplicates from when everyone used to buy doubles back in the film days. Photos given to you of family or of prior generations.
  3. Toys (or other items) saved from your childhood. In my case, I (Laura) saved a ton of stuff from my childhood. Dolls, Barbies, books, keepsakes… I’ve pared it down greatly over recent years but I still have tubs full.

All of these items are good, sentimental things, but it’s easy to accumulate too many of them. And because of the sentimental value, they become almost impossible to get rid of.

So what can you do?

Next, we’re going to work through some possible solutions in reverse order.

Play With Toys from Your Childhood

If you have saved toys from your childhood in the hopes that someday, your future children might play with them, then take them out and let your kids play with them!

If something is fragile and you don’t want it potentially broken, put it on display or keep it stored for when your kids are older and better able to take care of it. I have a tub labeled “older kid toys” that has stuff inside that is geared toward a child older than the toddler years. I’ll hang on to the tub until my son is older, and once he’s at the right age, the stuff inside is fair game for playtime!

The bottom line is get your stuff out in the open! Whether on display so you can see and appreciate it, or to be played with and used. That’s why you saved it in the first place, isn’t it?

Repurpose & Remember Old Clothes (Particularly Outgrown Baby Clothes)

Clothes trigger our memories, and are often very sentimental and hard-to-part-with items.

That is especially true of clothing our kids outgrow and clothing that comes to us after a loved one passes away. There’s no way we would ever get rid of a special article of clothing like that.

But there’s gotta be a better way of enjoying the cherished clothing than just having it sit in a box in the basement, right?

Thanks to Pinterest, there are literally thousands of ways to repurpose old clothing and turn it into something new that allows you to remember and enjoy the memories.

Here are a few of our favorites:

  1. Quilt – You can make a t-shirt quilt out of shirts you’ve saved throughout your child’s growing-up years (or your own childhood like I did)! You can make a quilt using fabric from cherished baby clothes, or from shirts from a special family member. Anything fabric can be made into a quilt, which makes it a great way to repurpose and cherish old clothing.
  2. Pillow – If you only have a shirt or two that you want to create a keepsake with, a small pillow is a better option. You can make slipcovers for existing throw pillows you own, or you can buy cheap pillow forms on Amazon or at craft stores.
  3. Stuffed Animal – This is such a cute idea; I’ve got it on my list of projects to try this year. It’s surprisingly easy to make a basic stuffed animal; all it takes are the necessary supplies (fabric, stuffing, and a way to sew it, either with a sewing machine or by hand) and some patience. Again, Pinterest has thousands of ideas, but a simple bunny, bear or something extra fun like an elephant would be a great way to remember and enjoy a special piece of clothing.
  4. Frame a piece of the clothing as wall art – One last way of repurposing and remembering a sentimental piece of clothing is to turn it into home decor. It could be as simple as cutting a square of the fabric and framing it, to wrapping it around a canvas or piece of wood and stapling it around the back to create a statement piece for your home.

The important thing here, no matter what you choose to do with your old clothing, is that you are getting new life from the old clothes, and you will be able to enjoy and remember why it’s significant to you every time you see it.

That sure beats a special shirt being tucked away at the bottom of a box and forgotten about.

Fabric Bunny DIY | Up North Parent The Simplicity Project

Inspiration from Craftiness Is Not Optional

Honor & Remember Old Photos or Artwork

  1. Photo Book – Many online companies provide this service, but my current favorite is Shutterfly. It’s easy and affordable (they often have sales!) to make gorgeous hardcover coffee table photo books. I made one for Raleigh’s first year, and I’m working on his 2nd book.
  2. Private Instagram Account and Chatbooks Chatbooks is an app that allows you to create keepsake books of photos, with the option of setting it up to auto print/ship the books to you. Many people use this as a way to capture and remember their kid’s artwork. They snap a photo of each piece of memorable artwork, and then upload the photos into an Instagram account they use just for this purpose. They hook the Chatbooks app up to it and once they have 60 images, a book automatically gets printed and ships to you. So easy, so convenient and affordable too! (I have my Instagram feed printed using Chatbooks; yet another awesome way to use this app.)
  3. Memory or Special Book – Using a 3 ring binder and clear sheet protectors, you can create a memory or special book that allows you to easily file memorable artwork or other documents. The best part is it makes it easy to look through, which is so fun for kids to do as they get older!
    I Can’t Get Rid of That! | Sentimental Stuff that Threatens Simplicity and What to Do With It
  4. Special Box – I kept a “Special Box” (a large plastic tote with a lid) all through my childhood years, and I still have one going right now. I didn’t get started with a Memory Book when I was little (see #3), instead, all of my artwork, photos and papers went into my special box. If I had to do it all over again, I would make sure the paper documents and artwork that can go into the Memory Book do, and then any other items that don’t fit or are more bulky would go into my special box. (My son Raleigh has a Memory Book going as well as a Special Box which is holding his baptismal candle and some cherished baby clothes at this point.)
  5. Frame the photo or artwork, and display it as home decor.
  6. Print it on fabric and put it on a t-shirt, pillow or quilt. You can print photos out onto transfer paper that will let you iron an image onto fabric. You can do this for artwork by taking a photo of the artwork first and printing that.

These methods allow you to take photos that are causing you clutter (or photos that are causing you stress because they’re living digitally in the cloud and not in real life), and create a keepsake out of them.

Once you either organize the photos or special artwork into a memory book or special box, or create a photo book or Chatbook of the photos, you can delete or throw away the photos, clearing space as you do.

– – – – –

The possessions we have that also have sentimental value are the ones that are the hardest to get rid of.

And often, you don’t need to get rid of them!

Sure, you don’t want to have an entire basement full of memorabilia and sentimental items that you never look at, but it is absolutely fine to save items that are very memorable to you.

The key is you want to be able to honor, remember and enjoy those sentimental items in your daily life!

With these ideas, you can turn old clothing into fun new items that will flood you with good memories when you see them, as well as conquer the often overwhelming photo issue.

You want your possessions to serve you, not make you a slave to them.

Our goal here is to help you get the most out of what you own, and help you eliminate the excess, clutter and stress in the process.

P.S. Follow along with us on social media with the hashtag #UpNoPaSimplify!

P.P.S If you need inspiration and help in your decluttering and simplifying journey, we highly recommend Emily Ley’s book A Simplified Life, and Marie Kondo’s book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

I Can’t Get Rid of That! | Sentimental Stuff that Threatens Simplicity and What to Do With It


Laura Radniecki | Up North Parent | Parenting Website in Minnesota

Laura is a motherhood blogger and photographer from the Brainerd Lakes Area in Minnesota. Her mission is to seek joy in the midst of motherhood, and encourage other mamas to do the same. She is married to her high school sweetheart, Matt, a mama to their firstborn son, Raleigh, and a dog-mama to their feisty 6lb toy poodle, Remy. She spends her days chasing after them, while daydreaming about naps, crafts, and donuts with sprinkles. She writes at www.lauraradniecki.com.

3 thoughts on “I Can’t Get Rid of That! | Sentimental Stuff that Threatens Simplicity and What to Do With It

  1. My children are 25 and 26 I have an attic full of their toys that I just can’t part with. My kids think I’m crazy! I just can’t part with the best part of my life. I have tried to down size the stuff and just can’t seem to do it. My house is extremely, organized and clean yet my attic is full of my most precious me memories. Please help! I just can’t do it. I also have every picture they ever made in kindergarten. It sounds crazy even as I’m writing this.

    1. Funny you should mention having “every picture since kindergarten”…US TOO! As far as the attic full of toys, think of it this way; stuff is just stuff. Memories are priceless. You can take a photograph of each toy and spend time remembering and reminiscing about those fun days of childhood and that will relieve you of some of the clutter in the attic. Ultimately, these toys could bring joy and many years of new memories to a new family so donating them after taking pictures is a win/win for everyone. Good luck!

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