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Keep the mementos, lose the clutter

Try these tips to help you decide what to treasure and what to toss

Keep the mementos
Life comes with a lot of souvenirs—our closets, basements and garages are bursting with stuff that has sentimental value. At some point—probably when the collective heft of your old yearbooks, grandpa’s brass clock and the guitar from your Sonic Youth phase threaten to engulf the house—you have to separate the keepsakes from the clutter.

It’s difficult, but if you start with the mindset that you can’t possibly keep everything, it’s easier to look at your stuff with fresh eyes. “Ask yourself: Do I use it? Do I need it? And do I love it? If the answers are ‘no,’ then why are you keeping it?” says Kim Eagles, chair of the New Brunswick chapter of Professional Organizers in Canada and owner of Kaos Solutions in Moncton, N.B. Keep these tips in mind as you contemplate what to hang on to:

Pregnancy test: This is a personal choice, of course, but Eagles tactfully points out, “Pictures are one of the best ways to keep memories.” When she was expecting, she created a scrapbook of keepsakes, including a photo of her positive test. “I didn’t actually keep the stick!”

Kids’ stuff: Create a keepsake box for each child and store your favourite things (think one or two items per year, not a whole box). “When the container is full, rethink how much you’re saving,” says Eagles. She says that kids should learn that they can’t keep accumulating; occasionally go through their stuff and help them make room for new belongings.

Children’s art: Kids constantly bring home masterpieces. Frame your favourites, and rotate new work on a bulletin board. It’s tough to throw pieces away, but keep in mind that it’s the creative process that’s important, not the results. You may think you’re doing the kids a favour by saving their artwork, but think again, says Eagles. “If your mother dropped off at your door every single thing you made in your entire life, would you want it?” Take pictures of your children with their best pieces of art instead.

Ticket stubs: Corral concert tickets and programs in a photo album or arrange them with photos in a collage or matching frames. You can also tuck tickets inside the front of bands’ CD cases.

Trophies: Trophies, medals and ribbons can really pile up. Keep your kids’ trophies as long as they find the memorabilia valuable. As they grow up (or space runs out), ask them to pick favourites. “Most parents will be surprised at kids’ ability to say which are important and which aren’t,” says Eagles.

Gifts: Having display cases for knick knacks is great, but choose things you love, says Eagles. And don’t give in to guilt: “You don’t have to surround yourself with stuff just because other people gave it to you.”

Collector’s items: If you think an item could be valuable but you don’t use it, need it or love it, then sell it. People are often fixated on how much they paid for something and they feel obligated to keep it. “It’s time to let it go,” says Eagles. “Give it to someone who could appreciate or use it, or sell it on eBay or Kijiji or at a yard sale.”