How to Keep Memorabilia

Memorabilia Box

Most clients I work with have items which they choose to keep for sentimental reasons. Memorabilia is an important part of our lives, and everyone in the family should feel justified in keeping it. The key is figuring out what to keep, and then how to store it.


Deciding what to keep and what to pass along can be tough. Memorabilia is loaded with emotion, so we aren’t always rational in our decision-making. My rule of thumb is to keep items that bring you joy when you look at them For example, objects that remind you of a favorite time in your life, an accomplishment that you are proud of, or a person you love.

On the other hand, I suggest getting rid of anything that you are tempted to keep out of guilt (“If Aunt Mary comes and doesn’t see this she will flip out”) or obligation (“This was great grandfather’s so I can’t get rid of it”.) Holding onto possessions which stir undesirable feelings usher negativity into our lives and don’t honor anyone.

In addition, do not store items for which you have only a remote, possible future need (“But what if I need this someday?”) This definition is too broad, and often leads us to hoard items for which someone else may have a critical, pressing need. Donating such items frees space and helps others.


Here are some thoughts on how to best store common memorabilia:

Photos: This is a category unto itself (read more here), but generally photos need to be kept in a climate controlled setting, inside either an acid free photo album or photo box. If most of your photos are digital, you can organize them on your computer and order photo books for your favorites. Remember to regularly back-up digitized photos (a simple solution to try is “Picture Keeper”.)

Clothing: Like any belonging, clothes can carry emotional value. However, that is different from the purpose of covering our bodies. If you have some favorite clothing items (e.g. varsity letter jacket, dress you were when you got engaged, etc.), keep them, but not in your closet. Move them to a designated memorabilia box (plastic bin, labeled by name) or a garment box/bag in a spare closet or attic.

Storing Sentimental Clothing in a Wardrobe Box

Artwork: Most parents are emotionally attached to a child’s artwork. When it first comes home, hang it up. But continue to rotate the new stuff in and the old stuff out. If the art is made of food items (e.g. pasta, beans., etc.), don’t save it! Bugs will find it and make a mess. Also, don’t bother holding onto art that is primarily coloring or assembling pre-cut items. Instead, save the items which show your child’s heart and mind at this age. You can collect items in a water-tight plastic artwork bin, or photograph the pieces and save the images. An app called “Artkive” helps you keep track of artwork by child and age/grade, and offers the option for you to email (share) with relatives, and upload to make photo books.

Trophies/Medals/Awards: Any award which represents a great accomplishment is worth keeping. Trophies for “showing up” probably aren’t. As with artwork, a visual celebration of current achievements should be displayed on a shelf, wall or hook. At the end of the year, select a couple to save and put them in a memorabilia box.

Souvenirs: The purchase of souvenirs can be a prime source of clutter. What seems wonderful in the moment may seem less appealing when we get home. Take the time to intentionally assess whether you actually like your souvenirs. For those you want to keep, consider rotating them as décor in your home. Not every piece needs to be out at all times. For future trips, consider purchasing artwork for the wall, holiday decorations, or clothing instead of knick-knacks.

Paperwork (Tickets, playbills, sports programs): Many life events come with paperwork. Whether you keep it or not is up to you. If you decide you wish to keep it, collect it during each year in a file (always add to the back of the file to keep it chronological.) At the end of the year (or school year), empty the file. If you are crafty, consider making scrapbooks. If you aren’t, put the paperwork in a decorative box, labeled by year.

Collections: Collections often begin as souvenirs or gifts, and then take on a life of their own. Read here for more details on collections. The basic idea is to display and enjoy true collections. If you want to collect, you need to decide where the collection will live, planning for how you will protect the pieces from wear and tear.

Postcard albums to store postcard collection.

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Preserving memories is a worthwhile endeavor, but mindlessly accumulating causes clutter and stress. Memorabilia should be poignant, accessible and protected, so that it can continue to bring joy for years to come.

Where do you keep your memorabilia?