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Spring Cleaning: How to Manage Keepsake Clutter

I like to consider myself a minimalist. We don’t have a lot of clutter in our house that does not have a purpose. Perhaps that’s due to the fact that we have a habit of moving every six months. But, if there is one area in which I’m inclined to hoard, it’s with keepsakes or memorabilia. Christmas or birthday cards, wedding invitations, special outfits, travel knickknacks — you name it, I have a hard time letting go. So, over the years I’ve developed a few techniques to reign in my stash. Also, it occurred to me that if something is in a box, how often am I actually enjoying it? Maybe once a year for a stroll down memory lane? I’ve found a few ways to incorporate special items from the past into my current life without acquiring too much stuff along the way!

Purchase a hope chest

One of the first boundaries I set for myself was to limit the amount of space I had to keep items. I have a beautiful hope chest that my aunt and uncle made for me as a gift when I was 16 (if you’re looking, there are some beautiful chests on the usedeverywhere sites). Mine is filled with old journals, letters and a few special pieces of jewelry and clothes from when I was younger. I’ve expanded to an additional storage bin, but that’s my cap. If it doesn’t fit in either of those, I reassess and try to downsize somewhere else if it’s something that’s really important.

Chest on

Take a picture

Travel memorabilia started to consume my life (money from abroad, postcards, little keepsakes). So, instead of bringing items home, I started to take pictures of them. It’s an easy way to capture a memory without taking up too much space. Now, I snap a photo of the local currency and license plates and I don’t collect post cards. And if we see an item we’re on the fence about buying, we skip it but take a photo, so that we have the memory. (You know how things look fun or pretty on vacation and then you get them home into your “real” life and they look tacky? Problem avoided!) This tactic also helps you save money!

Take a photo, it’s lighter than a licence plate!

Mark would have regretted buying this leather cowboy hat. 

Create a binder

My biggest downfall has to be stationary or paper products. I have a soft spot for anything on pretty paper. My solution has been to create a binder full of the special invitations, birth announcements or greeting cards I’ve received over the years. Not only is it a way to cut down on clutter, but also it’s a nice way to display them and I can flip through easily. If you want to get fancy, you could create a scrapbook. But, I tried to do that once in 2001 and it took me 3 years to complete (no joke!) Scrapbooks are a great way to compile all of those special items into one place as well.

Make a Blanket

Over the years, I’ve been a bridesmaid in a number of weddings. I’ve kept all of the dresses with the intention of creating a blanket if I have a daughter someday. I thought it would be a nice way to share a keepsake from the past in a useful way. You can do this with a number of items from baby clothes to special items from departed family members. It’s the ultimate in upcycling and it brings those memories into present day! And if you don’t sew or make quilts, you can have it made for you.

Photo Courtesy of

Go Digital

A few years ago, I went through my keepsake box and I scanned all of the stray photos that were dispersed throughout and I tossed the originals. Bold, I know. I’m aware that technology will improve and that I might not have the highest resolution possible of a particular photo, but the alternative was that it would sit in a box and degrade over time anyway. Also, I know that there is concern of losing the electronic file, but my husband has developed a extraordinary back up system (including keeping a copy of our important files in a 3rd party location in case of fire or theft) so I feel pretty comfortable with it. You can also scan kids drawings, love letters, magazine articles etc.

Photo Scanner on

These are just a few ideas for cutting back on keepsake clutter that have worked for me. Keepsakes are great, but you don’t want them taking over your house or all your storage space. So, if you’re in the mood to do some spring cleaning, give some of these a try!  I’d love to hear if you have any strategies that work for you and your family when dealing with special keepsakes.

Freelance Social Media Consultant/Producer/Production Manager and lover of media, entertainment and "the Internet". Mother to 1 human toddler and 3 guinea pigs, I live in Halifax, NS and I adore it. Follow me on Twitter: @erinberube

2 Responses to “Spring Cleaning: How to Manage Keepsake Clutter”

Bonnie Stewart

i am now on the lookout for a hope chest – or three – on Used PEI. 😉


Amber R Bosma

Chests all the way!!!!! I have two and after another recent clean up, one became my gift wrap box – it makes me feel crafty even though I’m not!


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