What Your Kids Want You to Do With Sentimental Items


As a millennial, I understand how our desire for simplified homes can come across as not valuing family mementos. However, I think part of the problem is that these sentimental items are often passed on in ways that make them seem more like a burden than a gift. If you would like to pass down sentimental items in a way that will be appreciated, then read on!

What Your Kids Want You to Do With Sentimental Items

Label or otherwise distinguish special items.

I was visiting my grandmother and helping her sort through some items in her china cabinet. She would occasionally pull out an item and tell me it was a cheap thrift store find. Then she would hold up something that to my untrained eye looked extremely similar and tell me how expensive it was. The point is, no one knows what items you have of value better than you. Either ditch the items that aren’t the most special or consider labeling the special ones in some way. I think it would be helpful to have an estimate of what they are worth, a description of why they have sentimental value, or even what the item was used for if it’s no longer commonplace. 

Condense family photos and videos in a way that’s easy to access.

My childhood family videos are all stored on VHS. My fear is that these memories will be lost since they are stored in a way that is obsolete. If you have family videos, try to stay abreast of changing technology to preserve those memories. If you have boxes of photographs, label and sort them into one album that can be easily viewed. While no one wants to discard a vintage photograph, no one wants a photo of someone they don’t know. Consider including a family tree in the album so that your children will know how everyone is related. If you have been procrastinating on this task because of how overwhelming it seems, then consider how daunting it will be for your children who are another generation removed.

Create new memories with sentimental items.

Sentimental items are special because of the memories attached to them. If it doesn’t trigger a happy memory, then it’s just stuff. Perhaps you have your grandmother’s fine china and it’s special to you because it brings back memories of having tea with your grandmother. If you store it away, it will lose sentimental value for your children. However, you could create a new memory by pulling it out to use every Sunday for dinner. What do you think your children are more likely to want to keep: dishes they were never allowed to use or dishes they ate with each Sunday.

Get your sentimental items out of long-term storage.

We have three categories for sentimental items: ones we use, ones we display, and ones stored accessibly. First, we try to use as many sentimental items as possible. Our son even has my stethoscope and my husband’s boy scout vest in his dress up supplies. What we can’t use, we try to display so that they remind us of happy memories. For example, my husband made a quilt rack to display the quilt guests signed at our wedding. Lastly, we thoughtfully store items that we want to look back on. Each of our children will have one memory box for storing keepsakes. The box serves as a limit because you can only keep the items that fit inside. I have found this to be easier than you might think. Over time, things that were important loose significance as life goes on and priorities change. 

Free your children of guilt about sentimental items.

The number one thing you can do for your children is to give sentimental items with no strings attached. They should be able to decide what to keep without the fear that you will be mad or disappointed. Tell your children it’s okay if they don’t want a sentimental item. Here’s something you may need to hear: it’s okay for something to have sentimental value to you and no one else. Once the memory fades, the value of a sentimental item fades too. When I’m old, my sentimental items will have served the purpose they were intended for: reminding me of special people and times in my life. My children and grandchildren will have their own lives and memories to look back on, and I’m okay if most of my mementos aren’t a part of that.

Where to Start 

Before you start working through this checklist, I would like to note that decluttering experts recommend saving sentimental items for after you have decluttered the rest of your home. Going through sentimental items is a marathon, and you will only be successful if you’ve strengthened your decluttering muscles with easier tasks first.

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Courtney moved to Birmingham seven years ago with the dream of becoming a nurse. She left behind her five wild brothers but brought along her high school sweetheart, David. David and Courtney got married after their freshman year at UAB at the ripe age of nineteen. They thrived on cans of soup while pursuing their education and working odd jobs. Courtney graduated and landed her dream job in the Neonatal ICU. One year later, her husband also graduated and began working as an Engineer. They now live in Trussville with their two-year-old son, Noah and are expecting baby number two. Courtney’s hobbies include eating, being outdoors, traveling with her family, and making wooden toys which she shares about on instagram (amindfulmom). She is passionate about mission work and has been privileged to serve on trips to Tanzania, Costa Rica and Ecuador.