Whether there’s a family significance or historical value, people have stacks of items to sort. But dividing memories to keep and toss can be a difficult decision, according to Gina Heitman, a professional organizer.
“I’ve had clients in tears about throwing away clothing, jewelry and even photos,” she said.
But not all memories are destined for the trash. Heitman suggests starting by separating items into categories such as photos, clothing, schoolwork, military and work, for example.
Memories can live in a photograph, an old T-shirt or even a concert ticket. If an item is a true treasure, keep it. Heitman said there is no obligation to throw everything away.
“I think people miss the point of this exercise,” she said. “The point is to stay organized and show respect to memorabilia. Keeping it piled in boxes, collecting dust in the attic isn’t doing it justice. There’s a way to keep everything, just in a better way.”
After sorting items into piles, Heitman said to be realistic with the space you’re willing to dedicate to memories.
“Since the items are now out of storage and into livable space, you have to determine how much space memories get to take up,” she said. “How much room do you allow on a bookshelf for memory boxes and albums? How many cute, decorative bins are allowed on the coffee table or stored in the ottoman? Shifting these items to clutter or on a shelf in the closet isn’t the end game.”
When it comes to setting boundaries, Heitman also suggests not keeping items out of guilt.
Once you know what you’re keeping, Heitman offers tips for storing and displaying your treasures.
Old paper documents must be kept in a cool, dry area and in acid-free, alkaline materials like boxes or folders. If framing, Heitman suggests using UV protection glass as well as acid-free framing materials. A great option with framed papers and photographs is to do a collage wall.
“Using eclectic frames just adds more character to the pieces, too,” Heitman said. “Birth certificates, old recipes, old immigration documents, school registries and stuff like this make wonderful artwork.”
Before starting any project with old or new photos, Heitman said to make digital copies first. She said it’s better to be safe than sorry.
“Old photos should be treated the same as old paperwork,” she said. “These should be stored correctly and, if you’re putting them in a frame, use the same techniques.”
Another creative way to display old photos is to put them in an old bottle, cleaned, of course.
When it comes to bulky items like old jerseys, flags, medals, badges or grandma’s favorite cardigan, Heitman uses shadow boxes. Not only does it protect the item, but it also puts the prized piece on display.
“There is an abundance of shadow boxes,” Heitman said. “From simple ones to hold a few medals to boxes shaped like a large jacket to accommodate bulky clothing. They are perfect and easy to use.”