This is often the sticking point when it comes to de-cluttering. You can part (finally) with the 20-year collection of National Geographics, but your grandmother’s hand-embroidered, well-loved, tear-stained hankie (fill in your own sentimental attachment) is a problem. Besides, her favorite perfume still lingers. What to do?

I always ask people if that’s the only remaining item them have of that person. What about Gramma’s cut glass lamp in your dining room that you actually use? Sometimes that makes it easier. Keep what is useful. Life is for the living. No one can blame you for wanting a few sentimental geegaws, but if it takes up space, and has no practical use (including aesthetic), try taking a picture of it. (Ask yourself if you’d really want an image of it for your screensaver.) Then let it go to someone who might find a REAL use for it.

The important thing is to not give an object more power than its worth. Recently, a client faced the dilemma of what to do with a pair of beautiful twin beds her grandfather had carved. “I can use one, but not both,” she said, “and I can’t break up the set.”

“Why not?” I asked, clearly seeing that she really loved them. She thought about it and asked if committing that kind of “sacrilege” was an okay thing to do.

“Absolutely!” I said, to her relief. Why not keep and love one and let the other go–after all, it’s not exactly Sophie’s Choice. If one of a pair is useful, and the other isn’t–well, there’s the answer. Give yourself the power to upset dead relatives!!! You’d probably be surprised to find that even if they knew, they’d probably be happy that you were taking charge of your life and your family treasures.

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