How Do You Edit Keepsakes with Confidence?

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The design world is at odds. As homeowners and apartment dwellers, we're told that we're supposed to get rid of falsely sentimental clutter to maintain a sane and happy home. But at the same time, it's clear that the most treasured objects in many homes are the things that have been passed down through generations with tight ties to family. Keepsakes can be beautiful and meaningful, but how do you know what to keep?

Pictured above: Tasha's Colorful and Comfy Austin Home

It's clear that for most people, the line between hoarder and sentimentalist lies somewhere in between the two schools of design advice. Keep the most important things, and get rid of the rest.

"Important," when it comes to mementos especially, is a fluid idea that by definition is tied to always-changing emotions. It's easy to know that you should hang on to your great uncle's vintage camera or grandmother's perfectly-patina'd mirror. But what about kids' artwork? Concert tickets? How do you decide what keepsakes are worth keeping, both for yourself and for future generations?

The answer is going to be different for everyone, so we want to hear your strategies in the comments. But here are some thought starters that help me find the path to keepsake nirvana:

  • Is it small and easy to store? A concert ticket seems like an easy target to toss, but if it brings you a happy memory every time you spot it, realize that torn stub holds more value than you think. The trick with small mementos is to not let them take over the junk drawer or anywhere else.
  • Can you keep one thing from a collection? Save and frame the best of your kids' elementary art collection. Keep one plate from Grandmother's china and pass the rest along to somebody who will use it.
  • Can you transform it? A keepsake that just seems to take up space can potentially be made into something more useful for your home. It can be as simple as framing a growing baby's tiny clothes to display on the wall, or turning old college t-shirts into a keepsake quilt.
  • Does it hold any monetary value? Something with both sentimental and real-world value is worth hanging on to. Always.
  • Does it fit your taste? A family heirloom painting is no good if it's collecting dust in the basement. Pass it on to another family member who will display it dearly.
  • Is it important to you? Don't feel compelled to hang on to a favor from an old friend's wedding if you otherwise would have tossed it. That's their treasure, not yours.
  • Does it bring back a happy memory or a negative one? It can be therapeutic to keep objects from not-so-happy times. But when you're deciding whether you want to chuck or save something, it can help to classify the memory.

How do you edit what's important to you?

(Image credits: Adrienne Breaux; Pablo Enriquez)