4 Tips for Keeping the Memory, Not the Clutter

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childrens art drawing house

With spring upon us, it’s time to get real about clutter, especially those drawers and cupboards full of little knickknacks.

Good memories are the biggest reason we keep things, but I’d like to share a few ways to use items you love without suffering clutter.

1. Make a collage

Take photos of all your little keepsakes that aren’t valuable or beautiful, then get rid of the pieces, and print out your photos for cutting and assembling into a giant collage.

You’ll throw out the beach rock, the guitar picks, the crappy/hole-y t-shirt, but you’ll have an awesome photo collection you can stand before and look at everything you used to covet. You’ll highlight these knickknicks and give them a starring role in your home.

Put these works together in a great big frame, or group them into a number of smaller collages with these, and hang them all in spots you and others will see often, where friends can take a good look at it. Imagine the conversations you’ll have about all your beloved pieces, the stories you’ll tell for years to come, memories you’ll relive with people you love, and you’ll do it all without clutter — with awesome free DIY art!

(Speaking of art, some people get really creative taking pictures of beloved childhood photos, and creating stories and just keeping the images might be a wonderful memory to create as you donate your pieces, like this photographer did with  some Lego stormtroopers.)

2. Make a shadowbox

Shadowboxes are a great way to make memory collections while keeping them dust-free and organized. It’s for taking items and turning them into stars.

One of my popular pieces on Build Direct is about shadowboxes, so you might like to read that here for some ideas.

An idea I love for a shadowbox type framed momento piece is submission #12 on this page, the “Hampton Rock” collection. It’s beachy and beautiful, and what a great tribute to a family vacation, without having to blow a wad of cash.

3. Repurpose a glass-topped table

For nearly a decade, one of my favorite furniture pieces was a ‘70s glass-topped wood-frame coffee table I’d designed to be a memory table. I had my father put a drop-bottom in 2” below the glass, where I placed a mirror and then took a bunch of pebbles I saved from the best roadtrip of my life, and I laid them all evenly over the mirror, and then dropped some other pieces in there from other roadtrips.

Over the years, dozens of first-time visitors would set their glass down, look at the table, and a conversation would pick up. Where each of us travelled, the power of keepsakes, the beached whale where I found those pebbles, and so many other topics sprung up over the years, all because a little part of my life was there for everyone to see, under some glass.

4. Deck out some frames

You’ve probably seen a lot of picture and mirror frames transformed with a glue gun and a bunch of shells, or driftwood, or other such things, but you can do the same with those little keepsakes that mean a lot but just get lost in clutter.

But what if you used Matchbox cars instead, like this designer high-end mirror does? Or a rainbow-pattern of Matchbox cars used as framed art, like this brilliant mom did?

With frames and a glue gun and oddball collectible pieces, you can make all kinds of funky framed works. Scour the internet and see what appeals to you.

It’s art now, not clutter

If you turn your clutter into art, it’s not clutter anymore. It’s not a bunch of toys crammed in a box, sitting on top of your financial papers in the closet, or filling up a “junk drawer.”

When you organize it and put it in a sacred place by way of making it a piece of art, it’s now something that beautifies your life and has context. When it’s rattling around in a drawer, it’s just another burden waiting to be dealt with, another piece of your past you’re showing disrespect to by chucking it in a drawer and forgetting about it.

Make value choices

Make value choices about the best things to keep, and get rid of the things you’re not willing to bring out of the dark and put on display in a beautiful, organized way.

You can keep your memories and bring them into your life in a way that’s present and meaningful on a day-to-day basis. Walk past things hung artfully that call to mind all the best times in your life and gives you the motivation to make more memories like those.

Or, you know, keep getting frustrated every time you look in your closet or roll out your junk drawer. Seems like an easy choice now, doesn’t it?

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Steffani Cameron

Steffani Cameron is a Victoria BC-based writer on a variety of topics. Here on the BuildDirect blog, she specializes in writing about smaller, urban spaces. How do you make the most of your smaller space? How do you decorate it to suit you? And how do you wage the war against clutter and win? This is Steff’s specialty.