These 7 Stylish Decorative Pieces Save Your Keepsakes and Collectibles Without the Clutter

published Mar 16, 2021
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Anyone that’s ever moved as an adult can tell you: You truly have no idea how much stuff you have until you have to put it all in boxes and schlep it to another location. From old holiday cards (totally guilty of being a chronic card keeper over here) to ratty college t-shirts and tokens of relationships past, there’s often no limit to just how many sentimental but ultimately (unfortunately) useless items a home can really hold. 

I learned this lesson first-hand as we were packing up our Queens apartment this fall to make a move to the suburbs. Given that I’d spent the past 10 years living in apartments under 600-square-feet, you’d think that I’d have a good grasp on the regular purging needed to keep a space that small even remotely tidy. There I was though, knee-deep in excess, surrounded by old anniversary cards from my husband, concert ticket stubs dating back 10 years, and (somehow) a stack of my high school yearbooks that mysteriously migrated from my parents’ house to our apartment unbeknownst to me. SOS! 

All this is to say that organizing solutions for my

Elevate your clutter to fine art

This artsy solution to collectible clutter is by far my favorite. Artist and photographer Shana Novak, known colloquially as The Heirloomist, captures beautiful, high-impact images of people’s sentimental items, creating pieces that are both conversation starters and modern meta-heirlooms. Here’s how it works: You send your item to Novak’s studio, where she’ll light and style it up all beautifully, giving it the center stage moment it deserves and delivering you a decorative (and sometimes larger-than-life) nod to your memories (along with the real thing back, of course). 

With prices starting at $650, this definitely isn’t the option for every item in your “Keep” cardboard box. For a very special thing though — like the well-worn hiking boots that took you up Machu Picchu, the varsity jacket your grandfather always used to wear, or the sweet note your now-spouse wrote you on your first date — this artful piece could be the solution that allows you to part with the real thing and still see it hanging on your wall every single day.

Buy: The Heirloomist Artwork, Starting at $650.00

Frame a few key items of an overflowing collection

If you’re a frequent visitor to Apartment Therapy, then this is probably not the first time you’ve heard of Framebridge. Did you know they frame things other than artwork though? It’s true: Whether you want to display your collection of matchbooks from your favorite restaurants or organize your concert tickets by year, Framebridge can help you handle any objects with depth, including jerseys and textiles.

I especially love this idea for a pair of vintage handkerchiefs I inherited from my great-grandmother. She was far more stylish than I’ll ever be, so I don’t see myself wearing them out in the wild anytime soon. Still, their earthy color palette perfectly coordinates with our new home’s vibe, and I think they’d look amazing out of storage and framed in our dining room.

Buy: Framed artwork or mementoes, Starting at $65.00 from Framebridge

Make a mini “vault” for all of your special smalls

If you’ve never heard of Savor, you’re in for a treat. This company makes sleek, linen-covered “vaults” meant to seamlessly stash a variety of things, from photographs and notes to important paperwork and travel souvenirs. The vaults come generic or themed to particular life occasions (your wedding, graduation, or the birth of a child), so you can easily collect a bunch of them to house all of your life’s big milestones in a relatively small footprint.

Buy: The Vault Keepsake Box, Starting at $49.95 from Savor

Design your own shadow box display

I am of the opinion that a collection of similar items, grouped in a beautiful way, will always look chic. Take, for example, these West Elm brass and glass shadow boxes. They’re lined with linen that makes a quiet statement and are the perfect way to put more delicate collectibles on display without risking them encountering layers of dust while exposed on a shelf. I tend to like to pick up a small handmade ceramic vessel every time I travel, but there are only so many places for a trinket dish in my house. I’ve been struggling to find a way to display them simply yet attractively. Sign me up for one of these boxes. Okay, two… or three. I’ll take three. I like to collect, ok?

For a similar display with a slightly more rustic vibe, you could place things like crystals, rocks, or even other small, natural curio in a vintage printer tray then hang that piece on the wall. In case you’re wondering, West Elm also sells wall-mountable shadow boxes that look like the above style as well.

Buy: Glass Shadow Boxes, Starting at $30.00 from West Elm

Create a cozy t-shirt quilt

Have a surplus of t-shirts from when you were younger and can’t bear to part with them? Turn them into a nostalgic cozy quilt, which you’ve probably seen before but maybe never truly considered. Trust me: They can be styled to look modern and cool.

You could go the DIY route, but several companies offer services for turning your t-shirts’ logos into funky, fun patchwork designs. Memory Stitch, for example, starts their pricing at about $75 for a quilt, and they even offer t-shirt pillows and pillowcases for less than that, too, should you be able to narrow down your favorites to just a few. Theme your piece out — if you were a big runner or dancer back in the day, or stick to more of a cohesive color story if you want your piece to work better in your place. It’s totally up to you.

Buy: T-Shirt Quilt, Starting at $73.99 from Memory Stitch

Box up your best greeting cards

If it’s hard for you to part with greeting cards, you could scan the bulk of them and keep them in a folder on your computer and/or in the cloud for reference. It doesn’t have to be a high-quality scanner that you use either; even taking a picture of the fronts and messages of each card with your phone should do, and then you can recycle the hard copies.

For the most meaningful ones though, why not try a decorative card box for safe-keeping and easy reference? Instead of using it to stash cards you will send someday (though some card boxes come with these, which you can totally use first), try one for cards you want to keep. Just make sure you find one that’s big enough for your largest card.

Buy: Mixed Florals Essentials Card Box, $30.00 from Rifle Paper

Turn a family recipe into a serving piece

Sure, you could fill a binder with a cookbook’s worth of family recipes, and to be honest, that’s actually not a bad idea, since it’ll only take up but so much space. If there’s one or two meaningful go-tos though — or you share a collection with siblings or other family members — why not have one commemorated on a cutting board, pie dish, or even in a foil art print? That way, you’ll have it handy anytime you need it or want to see it, and someone else can deal with the real thing.

Buy: Personalized Artisan Recipe Board, $169.00 from Frontgate