Some people are more sentimental, some are more utilitarian. Both can have their pitfalls, but the important thing to remember is that both are ultimately human.
Minimalism, in my mind, isn't about removing your humanity, it's about honing your senses into the objects you value most and enjoying those objects to their fullest.
The Sentimentalist - Past Oriented
"X gave this to me."
"This was my first ___."
"I got this during [time period]."
The Utilitarian - Future Oriented
"I can definitely find a use for this."
"I might need this at some point."
Which kind of owner are you?
What reasons do you lean on most when considering your belongings?
Uses and Memories
When looking over a room to clean, start by taking a few items down and considering these two questions and their adjacent follow-ups.
After working through an entire container or room, you will have a better sense of the value you use most when deciding what to keep. This thought process certainly runs adjacent to Marie Kondo's genius question about an object sparking joy. An object can spark joy in both its utility and its emotional value, making it a very handy singular question for searching through your stuff.
As I've continued to tidy and organize, I began to form a mental graph for how I evaluate my belongings. It functions on two axes: Functional Value and Emotional Value. Here's an example, filled in with the help of some coworkers and critical thinking. I'm sure the placement of different items is different for every person, so pay attention as your mind automatically corrects or fills in the gaps.
Sentimental Pitfall: Time
If you're a more sentimental owner, an item can accumulate value simply by being in your life for a long time. It makes sense — there's a reason antiques are valuable, there's a reason those one pair of boots that you've had since high school feel worth keeping around. There are items that have stuck it out for you, and have seen you through a lot of your life. However, I think time itself shouldn't be the sole reason or measure by which you hold onto something.
If the main reason you find to keep something is "I've had it for a long time," examine adjacent reasons like the object's function and how often you view it in order to better decide its value. Inversely, the value of your belongings can decrease as you get older. If something doesn't bring you as much joy as it used to, or doesn't feel as important to keep, that's okay. For the time in your life that you wanted it, you had it, and that's what is most important.
Utilitarian Pitfall: Price
A common guilt point for looking at an item you haven't used is thinking, "Man, I spent X amt of dollars on this." A bike you never rode. An expensive DVD collection you haven't cracked open. That exercise machine that was going to kickstart you into fitness. Fumio Sasaki talks about a similar concept in Goodbye Things: Banish the concept of "Getting Your Money's Worth". The guilt of not getting your money's worth in the past gangs up on your practical response of using it in the future and makes it infinitely harder to discard. In my opinion, it is not worth keeping something just because it was expensive. No amount of price matters if the item isn't useful to you or it doesn't make you happy.
How have I changed?
As I've gotten older, I've noticed how my current nature as an owner has shifted. When I was around the end of high school, I used nostalgia to help cushion my transition into college by returning to my childhood roots: Disney movies, YA fiction, anything that brought me a sense of peace from an earlier time. Now that I'm living in LA and working and I'm no longer functioning as a student in a "temporary" home, I feel like I can finally break free from nostalgia as a cushion and start building new memories while keeping the things from my past that I treasure where they belong: in the past. I'm certainly not saying I'm no longer sentimental -- that is far from the truth. But my priorities have changed, and I'm enjoying documenting this transition into a new state of mind.