Organizing Information

Memorabilia -- Use It or Lose It!

What do you do with those special items that have been passed down to you? Put them in the hall closet and hope the door will shut? Probably not a good choice for several reasons. First, you are unnecessarily creating clutter; second, if the item is very old and unstable, you will further the aging process; finally, and most importantly, what's the point of keeping these special items if the only time you enjoy them is when you move or get the bug to clean out a closet!

This summer my grandmother passed away and I was the recipient of many beautiful things, especially table linens. My grandmother enjoyed entertaining and her tables were always draped in an impeccable manner. As I started to sort through everything to see what I actually had, I found napkin-sized linens on which my grandmother had painted picnic scenes. They are so neat and I could not just stick them back in a closet for another 50 years.

But the dilemma was, what should I do with them? They were too precious to actually use as table linens, so I decided to have them framed to display in my daughter's room. I visited a local frame shop only to discover a vast range of options for preserving any and all types of mementos. For my project, the shop owner recommended conservation framing. The linens were very old and starting to discolor. The conservation frame process includes hand-stitching the fabric to a suede board, use of acid free mattes (very important because acid from papers and plastics can migrate onto your memento), and image perfect UV-filtering glass. The painted napkins turned out wonderfully and look great in my daughter's room. Now, every time I am in there making the bed or putting away laundry, I am reminded of my grandmother's big heart and gentle smile.

My Aunt Marcia has a particular knack for finding creative solutions for our family heirlooms. When my grandfather's health was failing, he always had a hand-stitched quilt over his shoulders for warmth. Family members had a very strong association between that quilt and my grandfather. After his death my aunt had the quilt taken apart and the pieces of fabric made into teddy bears for grandchildren and doilies for his daughters and daughters-in-law. In addition, a frame was presented to my dad containing his father's Bronze Star, the Executive Order, and the article from the newspaper, all arranged under glass using conservation techniques.

Many mementos are suitable for display, given the appropriate treatment. Things that may be considered include, but are not limited to: garments worn for a special occasion, a lone piece of china or silver, and special awards or medals. There are many conservation or preservation solutions available. Costs will vary depending on the size and detail of the project, but consider it a worthwhile investment in the preservation of a small piece of your family history. So run, don't walk, to your attic, closet or wherever you have hidden away a precious memento and find a way to put it on display now!

Copyright 2003 Bridget Messino

About the author: Bridget Messino is a Professional Organizer and co-owner of Clutter Free Living, Inc. Her work frequently appears on many Internet sites and on her own organizing site Clutter Free Living as well as in her monthly Home Organizing Newsletter How to Be Clutter Free. Subscribe to the FREE monthly e-newsletter by sending a blank e-mail to

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