619 – Decluttering Sentimental Items: Transforming Loved Items into Meaningful Displays

Welcome back, our sentimental decluttering friends!

In part 2 of the Clutter Free Academy series on decluttering sentimental items, Kathi Lipp and Tonya Kubo explore the art of curating and displaying emotional items in a meaningful way. Throughout the episode, they emphasize the importance of being intentional and selective in your curation process, ensuring that each displayed item truly reflects your heart and brings joy to your space. Listen in as they share insights and inspiration about sentimental items, such as:

  • How to transform your emotional clutter into beautiful, intentional keepsakes
  • How gallery walls, shadowboxes, and themed displays can be used to honor your loved one
  • How sharing the narratives behind sentimental items can enhance their value and significance.

With their insights and inspiration, you’ll be well-equipped to transform your sentimental clutter into beautiful, purposeful keepsakes. So, grab a tissue (just in case) and join us for this heartfelt conversation!

Did you miss Part 1 of this series? Here it is for you. #618 Decluttering Sentimental Items: A Step-by-Step Guide

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The Accidental Homesteader: What I’ve Learned About Chickens, Compost, and Creating Home

Homesteading [hohm-sted-ing]
1. an act or instance of establishing a homestead.
2. the act of loving where you live so much that you actively ignore the fact that your house is trying to kill you on a regular basis.

For Kathi Lipp and her husband, Roger, buying a house in one of the most remote parts of Northern California was never part of the plan; many of life’s biggest, most rewarding adventures rarely are.

Kathi shares the hard-won wisdom she’s gained on her homestead journey to help you accomplish more at home, gain fresh perspective, and give yourself grace in the process. Here’s a handful of the lessons Kathi shares:

  • Prepare before the need arises
  • Everything is always in process, including us
  • Your best household solution is time and patience
  • You don’t have to do everything the hard way
  • Be open to new and better ways of doing things
  • A lot of small changes make a huge difference.
    Highly practical, humorous, and inspirational, The Accidental Homesteader will encourage you to live with more peace, joy, and contentment.

Order your copy of The Accidental Homesteader: What I’ve Learned About Chickens, Compost, and Creating Home here.

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Meet Our Guest 


Tonya Kubo

Tonya Kubo is the illustrious and fearless leader of Kathi Lipp’s Clutter Free Academy Facebook group and the Clutter Free for Life membership program. A speaker and writer, Tonya makes her home in the heart of California with her husband, Brian, their two spirited daughters, and one very tolerant cat. Visit her at www.tonyakubo.com.


Tonya Kubo Picture

Kathi Lipp [00:00:08]:
Well, hey, friends, welcome to Clutter Free Academy, where our goal is to help you take small, doable steps to live every day with less clutter and more life. And we are back for part two of. Yeah, I think that we are going to be referencing this podcast over and over and over again in our free group, in our paid group. And just as people are struggling to, they don’t know what to do with their sentimental items, whether they were passed on from a loved one or something from your childhood that you are just having a hard time. Like, do I keep it? The song should I stay or should I go? Keeps going through my brain. And we’ve got somebody here who’s going to help us decide. It’s Tonya Kubo. Hey, Tonya.

Tonya Kubo [00:00:54]:
Hey, Kathi.

Kathi Lipp [00:00:55]:
Well, I just want to dive back into this conversation that we are having about getting rid of sentimental items. So you also think that we need to talk about the space and lifestyle considerations.

Tonya Kubo [00:01:11]:
There are some things that are absolutely ginormous, and there are some things that aren’t ginormous, but they’re bigger than the space you have. And so I think you have to think about, you know, does this item align with my current lifestyle and my current space? And, you know, if the answer to that is yes, then by all means, find a suitable place for it or repurpose it. So I think of, I didn’t do this. I got rid of it. But remember, when I bought this house, it came with everything in it, which sounded like a deal, until I realized that really, it was just a bunch of stuff that I had to take to the dump.

Kathi Lipp [00:01:51]:
But one of the things, including the stove. Right, right.

Tonya Kubo [00:01:54]:
I’m gonna talk about the stove.

Kathi Lipp [00:01:56]:
You know, I’m gonna talk about the stove. The stove is what I can’t forget.

Tonya Kubo [00:01:59]:
Yes, right. 1949 Wedgewood gas stove. I mean, the thing restored would have been gorgeous. And the family had driven three states over which we live in California. It takes a very long time to get to another state. This isn’t like going from Massachusetts to a neighboring state. So they’d driven to another state. They’d paid several thousand dollars, but they had to rent a vehicle cause it weighed a ton.

Tonya Kubo [00:02:25]:
Four grown men were required in order to lift it out of here. But when they turned this house into a rental, they put it in the garage. Critters had taken up habitants in there, but they were really caught up in, like, no, we pretty much gave you a $4,000 gift here. Like, we covered your closing costs with this stove. And I’m like, yeah, and I’m just, like, looking at it. But eventually we kind of got to the point where, I mean, we knew that we were going to sell it. Once we saw how heavy it was. We’re like, we’re not going to be able to get that into the house.

Tonya Kubo [00:02:57]:
No, we’re gonna sell it. We tried for three years to sell it. Couldn’t find a buyer. Now, if I had deep sentimental attachment and some skill, which I don’t have, by the way, let’s just be clear there. I could have probably turned it into, like, a really cool, succulent planner, right. Because it had, like, all these cool compartment y things, right? I could have done something really cool with that. I could have repurposed it into some kind of storage unit, because, again, it had these neat little compartment y things. I could have made it like a decorative fixture, right? I could have put some kind of, like, plastic acrylic thing across the top and made it almost like a coffee bar.

Tonya Kubo [00:03:41]:
I coulda, woulda, shoulda Kathi done a lot of things with it if it meant that much to me. But just telling you all the things I could have done with it makes this, like, anxiety bubble up in my chest. That makes me so grateful that I posted on Facebook free, but you gotta pick it up.

Kathi Lipp [00:03:59]:
Yes. And which, by the way, yes. We had somebody deliver just our. Our fireplace, and it about killed the two guys who were doing it. And your stove was so much bigger. So, like, I can’t even imagine. Yeah. So it did not align with your lifestyle.

Tonya Kubo [00:04:20]:
It didn’t.

Kathi Lipp [00:04:21]:

Tonya Kubo [00:04:21]:
But if it did, let’s just say I really was attached to it. Right? Like, I was the person who drove three states over to bring that into my house.

Kathi Lipp [00:04:28]:

Tonya Kubo [00:04:29]:
Then you know what I could have done? Like, I could have taken a picture of it, and now with AI, I could have uploaded that and had some warhol style, like, portrait made of it that I could have framed and put in my house.

Kathi Lipp [00:04:43]:

Tonya Kubo [00:04:43]:
There are ways to preserve the memory, the good feelings, without having to keep the thing if the thing is no longer practical for you.

Kathi Lipp [00:04:55]:
Yes. It’s so true. And, you know, I appreciate, like, we had a relative who put together a book of my mom’s family history, and I’m doing some genealogical research right now. And I’m so grateful, one, that I don’t have to keep all those pictures, and two, they’re available on ancestry.com. And, oh, my gosh. I mean, what a gift, right? So what are some other ways to. Okay, so AI could have taken a picture, some other ways that we could preserve things like that. You know, my dad’s paycheck is schlacked to a piece of wood, and it’s cute, and I love it, but I love the idea of taking pictures of things and putting that up in your house.

Kathi Lipp [00:05:46]:
I think that that’s a great way of doing it. I think one thing not to do is to say my kids have to take it. Cause I don’t want it, but my kids have to take it.

Tonya Kubo [00:05:59]:
Well, I think you can’t. Yeah. You can’t make anybody take it is my point. Because we see that with kids. We see that with siblings, right? I see that a lot in clutter free academy. Right? Like, I am the only one of my siblings who has a garage, who lives on property, and therefore, my siblings have all decided, I have to take this. And it’s like, you don’t have to have to do anything, actually.

Kathi Lipp [00:06:23]:
Right, right. No, I mean, we just had a discussion with Roger’s brother, who. He’s the oldest. He lived closest to everybody, and all the photos ended up with him. And he was feeling such tremendous guilt, and he said, I’m sorry, I have to give these to the other brother. We live on the other side of the country, and it’s like, no, there should be no guilt involved in this. You know, it’s. We can only do what we can do.

Kathi Lipp [00:06:51]:
And if it starts to weigh down your life, I’m hoping that your parent, your relative, your grandparent, that’s not the legacy they wanted to leave for you. Okay, so you’ve answered no to all these things. Like, no, it doesn’t fit my lifestyle. No, it’s not super sentimental, but I think my mom would be really upset if she found out I threw away this cookbook or. How do you get past that feeling?

Tonya Kubo [00:07:25]:
Well, that’s. I mean, that’s really hard, right?

Kathi Lipp [00:07:29]:

Tonya Kubo [00:07:30]:
Because. Well, you know. Cause first of all, it’s like, okay, so is mom alive or dead? Because people. I mean, and I’ve even been that way. Right? Like, I held onto a lot of stuff after my mom died because my mom would have a fit if I got rid of it. And, you know, there was a point where I was like, okay, how long am I gonna make decisions based on fear of my mother’s ghost haunting me? Right? And, I mean, I can laugh about that now because I’m talking about my relationship with my mom.

Kathi Lipp [00:07:57]:

Tonya Kubo [00:07:57]:
I would never laugh somebody else. But no, you know, if it’s no. All the way down and your concern is what other people will, think what you’re really saying is you’ve got a boundary problem. Right. And we’ve talked frequently in past episodes about how clutter is a boundary issue. But there’s a lot of, you know, boundary issues that we have in our relationships that manifest through stuff. And, like, all I can say is, I can acknowledge that it’s hard. I can also acknowledge that it’s not helpful for me to be like, we’ll just get rid of it.

Tonya Kubo [00:08:34]:
Right? I mean, your emotional connection with somebody is your emotional connection. But I do think there is a way of working through that. And part of that, I think, Kathi, is you have to separate the act of decluttering sometimes from the emotional thought. Work around the decluttering.

Kathi Lipp [00:08:55]:
Hey, Tonya. We’re going to take a quick break. We’re going to talk to our sponsors, and then we will come right back. Okay? We are back continuing our conversation with Tonya Kubo about sentimental and emotional items.

Tonya Kubo [00:09:10]:
When you’re holding the item in your hand, there’s a lot going on.

Kathi Lipp [00:09:15]:
Mm hmm.

Tonya Kubo [00:09:16]:
Right. Internally in your head. It’s exhausting. Sometimes what you have to do is you have to put that item down and come back to it another day. Or rather than coming back to it, just put that item down for now. Set a notification. I’m a big fan of 30 days from now. I’ll make that decision, but then actually schedule some time.

Tonya Kubo [00:09:35]:
Sit down, journal it, think through it, but, like, think through all the questions, and then, like, okay, so, like, if. If my mom were to find out that I got rid of this, and, like, would she actually say something? If we’re talking about my mother? Yes. Yes, my mother would have. Okay, if she said something like, what’s the best case scenario? What’s the worst case scenario? Like, walking through that. Because all those emotions are going to bubble up just as you’re thinking about these eventual cases. But you don’t need to also be holding the item in order to be working through that. That just adds more stress to the whole scenario. So separate yourself from the item.

Tonya Kubo [00:10:15]:
Go through the questions. Really think through, like, what’s the worst case scenarios? How bad can it be? Scale of one to four. How much can I tolerate these potential outcomes? And then once you make that decision, I’m going to give you a very unpopular opinion. Popular opinion would say, once you make the decision, go take care of it right now. I say, once you make the decision, close your notebook, whatever it is, take a deep breath, go reward yourself because you just did some hard, stinking work and come back to handling the item when you already scheduled yourself to handle the item, but you’ve done the hard work of the thinking?

Kathi Lipp [00:10:54]:
Yes. Okay. Yeah, I love that. It’s to process the emotion. And I think the thing I have to remind myself is my loved one is not in this item. I have a couple of things that, when I look at them, they make me happy, and we should only keep things around that make us happy when we look at them. And that another thing that I’ve had to do, a couple of, like, hard things I’ve had to do, is tell my kids, hey, you’ve got stuff here. If it’s sentimental to you, I need you to pick it up by this date.

Kathi Lipp [00:11:44]:
And if you can’t, if you choose not to, I’m okay getting rid of it. And that may seem really, really harsh, but it’s just not. If I can’t, I can’t be a caretaker for somebody else’s memories. Like, these things. These items mean nothing to me. And so we. That, and we had Jeremy at our house at 1145 one night going through stuff, and he picked out what he wanted, and he said, you can get rid of the rest. And that’s.

Kathi Lipp [00:12:17]:
That’s all we needed. The other thing that I’ve done before is saying, here is this item, extended family. If nobody wants it, I’m going to get rid of it by June 1. And because somehow, sometimes we are held by emotional blackmail by other members of our family, it’s not important enough for me to take, but you should keep it. And that is gaslighting. That is gaslighting in its finest form, to say you’re a bad person if you don’t do what I also refuse to do, and it’s just not true. If you can curate the things that are important to you, and only you can decide what’s important to you, don’t let other people decide what should be important to you, what feelings should be attached to things. It’s emotional blackmail, and we don’t do that around here.

Kathi Lipp [00:13:19]:
If we’re getting rid of clutter, we’re also getting rid of useless feelings.

Tonya Kubo [00:13:23]:

Kathi Lipp [00:13:24]:
And so to put a date on something and say, you know, and this happened with my mother in law’s stuff, my brother in law sent messages to Rogers and his stepfather’s family and said, hey, we’ve got this item. Does anybody want it? He didn’t hear back from anybody. And so three months later, he got rid of it. A year and a half later, somebody said, oh, I’d actually like that. He’s like, it’s gone. It’s gone. And here’s the thing. If it was really important, there’s a phrase going around, at least on TikTok.

Kathi Lipp [00:14:02]:
If he wanted to, he would. And what that means is, if they wanted that item, they would have acted on it. If they were. We can’t be healthy for other people, and so we have to have our own boundaries. And my brother in law felt guilty at first that he got rid of this item. I’m like, you gave them every chance in the world.

Tonya Kubo [00:14:25]:

Kathi Lipp [00:14:25]:
No, no, no. Yeah. We’re done. We live. We are deciding on our own health. Okay, Tonya, anything that you think we have not said that should be said on this subject?

Tonya Kubo [00:14:39]:
Yeah, I think so. I’m just gonna say three more things. Thing one, okay. Is. And this is the hardest part. So what I will say is, give yourself grace. You want to be as honest and objective as possible when you go through the decision tree. Okay.

Tonya Kubo [00:14:57]:
It’s hard. It’s going to feel hard. That’s okay. But, you know, be as honest as you can be. The other thing I will say is take breaks, which I already kind of talked about. Separating yourself from the item sometimes really is beneficial. And then this is the big one that I don’t feel like people like. Hear me when I say, but gosh darn it.

Tonya Kubo [00:15:18]:
Celebrate your successes along the way. Okay. Maybe you have a box of 25 things, and you were only able to part with five of the 25. Can we celebrate that rather than talk about how only five things?

Kathi Lipp [00:15:39]:
Yes, Tonya? I think as we heal, as we do the work, these items come in layers, and sometimes there’s obvious stuff. It’s like, oh, I never have to see this again. It’s fine. And then as we do the work, we become healthier and understand that our relationship is not in these items. We curate the things that were meaningful to us. We are not holding on to things because other people in our life say they should be important to us. And that decluttering that box may come. You may be able to declutter it the first day.

Kathi Lipp [00:16:24]:
It may take you years, and it’s okay. I will tell you this. When I finally take things out of the box and I get rid of six things, and then there’s this one thing. I’m like, you know what? I want that displayed in my house. I don’t want it to be in a box. I I want it to be someplace where I can see it every day and recall the good memories with this person I love. Or, you know, this animal like it. Part of my grieving and healing with Jake was putting that, you know, going and buying the candle.

Kathi Lipp [00:16:58]:
We do not have enough ritual in the United States of America around the death of loved ones. And I think sometimes creating that ritual, you know, finding the candle, and when somebody loses a pet, I send them candles that I think are going to be about the same size as their animal’s neck so that they can put the collar around it. Because there’s a ritual there that says, we honor this life that was so important to us, and that’s part of our grieving and that’s part of our sentimentality. And when I first looked at that after Jake died, I would cry every single time. And now it just brings a smile. And that’s what we want your house to do, is to bring you joy and to bring you peace as you look around. This was a deep conversation, Tonya, but I think it was a really good one. And I’m really grateful for you being here with me.

Tonya Kubo [00:17:55]:
Well, thank you for having me. This was a really. I hope this one is very helpful to our listeners.

Kathi Lipp [00:18:01]:
I hope so, too. And, friends, you have been here, and we’re so grateful that we can speak to you. You’ve been listening to clutter free academy. I’m Kathi Lipp. Now go create the clutter free life you’ve always wanted to live.

Clutter Free Academy Team

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