Reader question… “I read in a book about decluttering and purging that a photograph of an item is a good substitute for actually having the item in your possession. Would you share your thoughts about purging sentimental items and what you think about the idea of keeping only the photograph and not the item.” –Susannah H.

I keep coming across this idea too… and also the assurance that it really works, even for people who are “keepers, savers, or sentimental types.” I think it depends completely on the item and how YOU feel about it, because a photograph might be a viable solution for one person and a terrible mistake for another. The important thing, I think, is to not let yourself be persuaded to purge items you value unless you are POSITIVE you will have no regrets about what you have done.

example of an item I won't be replacing with a photograph... antique cut glass bowl
An example of an item I won’t be replacing with a photograph…
this almost 200-year-old cut glass bowl…
originally a wedding gift in the mid-1800’s and eventually
given to me by an aunt when she was 101 years old

I can’t stress enough how important it is to know what YOUR feelings are. If an item means something special to you, you should never feel that you have to purge it to follow someone else’s idea of simplicity. And especially if you are in the middle of an emotional crisis because of some life change, this is not the time to do something you may regret later on.

I would suggest a trial run. If you’re not sure, take the photograph and pack the item away out of sight. You can always purge the item at a later time… without regrets.

It’s important to remember that simplicity does not mean a mandatory purging of items that add meaning to your life. If something is truly important to you, it deserves a place in your home.

Add Your Comment

All comments are moderated... your email address will not be published.

Talk to me! :o)



You are a wise lady. This is excellent advice.


I agree with this completely. When I lost my husband last year my relatives and friends urged me to sell or give away everything that had belonged to him. I went along with what they said and we took photographs of some of the more sentimental items. I can’t begin to tell you how bitterly I regret having only the photographs. This may work for some people and for some sentimental things but it does not work for me and I wish I had waited awhile before I made such permanent decisions.


I think something else to consider is if the object has meaning when you hold it rather than see it. I have a baby blanket that belonged to my daughter that was so soft and holding it brings back memories of her soft skin. I also have a handkerchief of my grandmother’s that still smells of her perfume which brings back vivid memories of her. Having only photos of these items would never be the same. Now all that art that the kids do when they are little? That is something that photos are great for helping preserve – especially when the paint begins to peel or the clay creature’s legs start to fall off.


This sort of thinking helped me to consider what objects to keep of my grandmother’s when she moved in with my sister and what to give away. Things that I couldn’t hold onto I took photos of, the rest I made special places for. It’s all about balancing what’s best for the individual.

Thank you for the advice!


I couldn’t very well keep a house that didn’t belong to me, so I took lots of pictures before it was sold. It was an old farmhouse that had been in the family since 1925. I cherish the memories.