What Should I Keep? Sorting Through Memorabilia

What Should I Keep - Sorting Through Memorabilia via Clean Mama

This week’s organizing challenge is MEMORABILIA and I’m going to challenge you to make a little progress sorting through memorabilia. There really isn’t a right or wrong way to store memorabilia, because it varies according to the space you have, what you want to keep, and what’s precious enough to save indefinitely.  I have a pretty simple method for keeping special and important items – maybe my method will help you too.  Don’t make it too complicated or involved – simply create a couple specific spots/zones/boxes/bins to save memorabilia and then file it appropriately.

Establish ground rules for what you are keeping and what you are tossing – memorabilia doesn’t fall under the if I haven’t worn it in 6 months, or if it isn’t being used daily get rid of it, it’s different.  Everyone has a different interpretation of what they want to keep – that’s personal.  So, first things first, come up with your own rules and then follow my steps.

  1. Start with the really old stuff – if there are things that you have been holding on to for years and you know there’s no reason to save them anymore, spend a couple minutes this week doing a quick purge of those items.  Label the items that you are keeping by year (1993, 1995-1997) or by era (high school, college, grandma’s items, wedding, etc.)
  2. If you have kids, use a bin or a box to keep special items that can’t be stored flat like a special blanket or a special outfit.  Keep it in their bedroom closet so you can take it down and look through it with them – there’s no sense keeping items in a basement if no one’s ever going to look through them.
  3. Establish a method going forward that works for your family.  I keep the kids’ special papers in a large file drawer that has a file folder for each year and artwork goes in a large folder.  You can also take pictures of artwork and special pieces and save them digitally as well.  You can apply this method to any one in your home – file folders work great for keeping memorabilia.  Scrapbooks, digital or paper, are also a great way to keep the memorabilia out of the closet and in a special place.

That’s it – 3 simple action steps that you can take in a couple minutes this week – don’t get overwhelmed, just move forward and do a little work.  Only you know what is important enough to keep and what you can get rid of.  If this is too hard to determine for yourself, ask a friend or relative for a little help in the decision-making department.

Any tips to share when it comes to sorting through memorabilia?  Share them in the comments.



  1. Michelle Sherrard says:

    I struggle with this constantly! I have paper problems. In and out or filed when I get them. Right now each one of the kiddos has a plastic rubber maid with memorabilia but I have a feeling this mama keeps too much. Thanks for the tips, it will help as I purge paper today 🙂

  2. Confessions of a Paper Hoarder: I have 3 kids and save everything they bring home from school. I saw your September calendar on Friday and decided to get a jump start on this week’s project. I keep my kids papers in large plastic 3 drawer carts, having one for each of them. I sorted and purged all weekend and now have 1 cart (1 drawer for each child) that holds larger artwork. I have large floating frames, and I like to periodically change their art out. I also made up a 3 in. three ring binder for each one that has divider tabs with pockets for each year. Their report cards go in the pockets, and examples of their class work for that year follows. It was a daunting task, considering my oldest is now in the 6th grade! Everything is neat and tidy now, and best of all I got to recycle three 13 gallon trash bags stuffed full of paper (less paper, yay!!), and I have 2 carts to store extra linens in.

  3. Wonderful tips! I have a number of scrapbooks from over the years so what I do is any big projects the kids have had (science projects, posters, etc..) that are meaningful to us I just take pics of them with their work and scrapbook the pics 🙂 Much easier to keep small pics then big projects. The rest of our stuff has a bin. I have one big purple bin with three drawers that I keep in my bedroom closet (very easily accessible). The top bin are my special things and then each of my two children have the other two bins. We go through them quite often because they enjoy looking back and remembering things or learning (again) about the funny stories from when they were babies. Between this big bin and a row of scrapbooks on our bookshelves (that my youngest loves to look through all the time) it’s pretty under control. My husband’s is a big tougher as he is more likely to keep things and I think it’d be disrespectful to tell him what I figure is special or not – it’s up to him; but he does have it down to a shoe box of the super special stuff and one bin of the other (which he hasn’t opened in years lol but hey it’s down to one big bin so I’m not going to complain!). Great tips and strategies as often, I appreciate your blog so much!

  4. I have 2 grown sons and a couple of weeks ago we went through their memorabilia and purged. I decided to purchase two small trunks and redo them according to their style and then I will put all their stuff that means something to them inside with wooden dividers (balsa wood) to included all of their memories good and not so good ex. Speeding ticket etc.☺️ Then they don’t have to stow it away they can display it as a piece of decor.

    • Michelle, I like the idea of combining storage and decor! When was the last time we marveled at how warm and cozy a giant shrine to Rubbermaid makes our home feel, right? I absolutely love the idea of the trunks. Gives me something to be searching for while I’m wandering my favorite antiqueries! Thanks!

  5. I plan to take photos of my son’s artwork and upload the photos to a digital photo frame which will continuously run through all the images. Instant art taking up little space! I will keep the big/important pieces on display for a little while, then put away in a memorabilia box I have for him, which I plan to scrap book (or likely pay someone to scrap book lol) for posterity when he’s an adult. Another idea is to have the photos of artwork printed in a coffee table book. I have a friend who waits for vouchers from printing companies and prints a coffee table book every year of photos of the family. I’m not so organised lol.

  6. Marilyn Crouch says:

    I am an organized hoader (meaning I save everything). I had big boxes of papers for each child from K-college. I took photos of what I wanted and saved some items to scrapbook and have given my son who’s 35 his box. He had fun going through it and reading but I think he threw most of it away. A couple of days ago my daughter who’s 31 went through her papers. She kept a few things and I also will scrapbook a few. My daughter sent me your FB post since she is helping me purge my whole house. Selling stuff locally via Facebook is sure working out.

  7. I find that when I get rid of old stuff that I have held onto for years, a short time later I find a need for it..one case in point, I had a pair of old kerosene lamps that I had kept for years…after deciding I no longer had any use for them I put them in a yard sale….two weeks later we were hit by a hurricane named Fredrick (1979) that left me with electricity for 19 days…

  8. I scan old photos and even the pages of old journals to save space. They are easier to access as digital files and easier to share if they include someone else!

  9. I have 3 generations of stuff in boxes – only child of an only child, and I’m married to another so I got things from everyone on both sides. My kids have no room for them and really don’t want them. What do I do with my great grandmothers mourning veil or my christening outfit, is there somewhere to donate these things?

  10. I have an underbed Rubbermaid for each kid plus one for me. They stack neatly under the bottom shelf in my walkin closet. I have lots of their school stuff, from preschool to high school in there. One day I want to sit with them and show their sons all of their mom and dads school stuff.

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