Marie Kondo: How to tidy sentimental items

Although the basic protocol is to do the joy check by touch, when it comes to sentimental items, it’s okay to take your time evaluating them. Have a thorough dialogue with each one, so as not to have any regrets. Here’s how to tidy sentimental items.

1. Gather 
Gather all your sentimental items from every corner of the house 

Start by gathering all your sentimental items by category, including those you previously set aside while tidying clothing, books, papers or komono (miscellaneous items). Photos tend to pop up in many different places, so we’ll organise them last. For now, keep them together in an empty box. 

2. Keep what sparks joy 
When it comes to sentimental items, it’s okay to take a look inside.

Joy checks won’t go well when you’re caught up in the idea that discarding sentimental items means losing your precious memories along with them. Keep in mind that the memories are already in your heart. As for letters and records of your life, feel free to look inside and take your time making your decision. 

3. Store 
Joy-filled sentimental items help your future shine. 

Keep what you’ve chosen with confidence, and store them in a way that allows you to look at them anytime you like, so that you can stay connected to the joy they bring. Arranging them beautifully in a dedicated drawer or hanging them on the wall are both great ideas. If you’re going to store them in a box, do your best to find one that really sparks joy. 

How to choose which sentimental items to keep 

Trust your own ability to discern joy 

The key here is to trust your own sense of joy. You’ve been doing countless joy checks, and it’s impossible for you to make any big mistakes now. Have confidence in yourself! 

Consider if your future self needs it 

If you’re going to keep something, you’d want to put it to good use. Be present and carefully evaluate if the sentimental item is something you need to make your future self shine. 

It’s okay to read the content of diaries and letters 

Reading the content was taboo when tidying books, however, when it comes to sentimental items, feel free to read them to your heart’s content. That said, don’t push yourself if it’s something that’s emotionally challenging for you to read. Set it aside and come back to it later. 

Tidy all your sentimental items except photos 

You may be reticent to let go of the objects full of memories that once brought you joy. But you’ll never lose truly precious memories even if you discard the object. 

Tidying sentimental items is an act of facing the past and putting it in order. Take each one in your hands and keep only what helps your life shine in the days to come. I recommend you leave the photos for later, as it can be time-consuming, and go through all other sentimental items in one go. Approach it like you’re pushing a reset button on your life – this is the grand finale of your enormous tidying campaign. 

Touch each one and keep only what sparks joy 

We live in the present, not in the past. So what really matters is not the glory of the past that an item represents but whether it brings you happiness now. Take your time and have a dialogue with your own heart. 

How to tidy sentimental items 

Here are some tips for checking, discarding and storing various types of sentimental items. The question to keep in mind throughout is whether it’s something you really need going forward. 

School memories 

Try to save space by keeping only one noteworthy report card, consolidating all diplomas into one scroll holder, displaying only the most meaningful trophies, and so on. If you have trouble parting with an old school uniform, try it on. Indulge yourself in the memories and do your joy check in front of the mirror. My clients often snap to their senses after doing this and end up letting it go without any difficulty. 

Memories of past lovers 

If you want to attract new relationships, I recommend that you get rid of all memories of past lovers. That said, it’s fine to keep using a gifted accessory or bag that has become your go-to, as long as it doesn’t trigger any memories. When discarding, add a pinch of salt for purification and express gratitude. 

Sentimental recordings 

You may have recordings of a trip or wedding saved on CDs, DVDs or Blu-ray discs. If you’re not sure of the content, play just the beginning as needed to determine if it’s worth keeping. If you have cassette tapes or VHS tapes that spark joy but no longer have a player, you might like to use a transfer service. Be sure to place the order immediately instead of putting it off for later. 

Your children’s creations 

If you can’t bring yourself to discard the things that your children made for you, why not think of ways to take good care of them? You can designate a specific corner for displaying them or put them in a special box for you to look through every once in a while. Sometimes the opportunity to let go of something arrives after taking enough time to appreciate it. 

Life records 

One approach to diaries and datebooks is to flip through the pages and choose one from the most joyful year to keep. Feel free to keep maternal and child handbooks if they still spark joy. If you want to keep ticket stubs from a trip, put them in a scrapbook so that you can enjoy them at any time. 


Look over each letter one by one. When discarding, place the letter in an opaque bag before throwing it into the rubbish. If rereading the letter brings you comfort or encouragement and you decide to keep it, put it in a box and save it somewhere away from moisture so that it doesn’t deteriorate. 


This is the time to do your joy check on items you previously set aside while tidying clothes or komono. You may be surprised at how dispassionately and smoothly you can make the decision to let things go now. If you decide something does spark joy after all, make a commitment to use it well and appreciate it. 

Update your growing collection of sentimental items every now and then 

Although you’ll be acquiring more sentimental items in the future, taking the time to fully appreciate them can help you feel good about letting them go. As for purely sentimental items that you can’t use in your everyday life, keep them together in a special box. Look over them every once in a while and keep only what sparks joy in the now moment. 

Extract from The Marie Kondo Tidying Companion by Marie Kondo, published by Bluebird (distributed by Pan Macmillan), RRP: $36.99, available 30 May 2023.

Do you have many sentimental items that you keep? How do you store them? Let us know in the comments section below.

Also read: Minimalist mastermind Marie Kondo shares pro packing tips

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