Keeping a decluttered, well-organized home is a goal that most people strive for. Regularly going through your belongings and purging those you’re not using anymore is the best way to keep clutter under control in your home. However, some things are harder to let go than others — particularly those that have a sentimental value for their owners.

From old T-shirts purchased 20 years ago at a concert to children’s art projects, old photos, magazines and books, there’s a long list of items people have a hard time parting ways with. Here are some creative ways to repurpose your sentimental items so you can enjoy them even more while also ensuring your home is neat and tidy:

What to do with old, sentimental T-shirts

Whether they’re meaningful to you because they feature your favorite band or sports team or simply because you wore them during a special moment of your life, there’s so much more you can do with your sentimental T-shirts than keep them in the back of your closet.

  • Frame and display them on your walls — you’ll be able to see and enjoy them every day, while reclaiming your closet space
  • Turn them into pillows for your sofa or your bedroom so you can hug your favorite T-shirts when you feel like it
  • Create a T-shirt quilt — cut out the fronts of the shirts, making sure they’re all the same size, and sew them together to create a colorful, happy quilt
  • Update a plain jacket, backpack or handbag — use the prints and logos from your favorite old T-shirts as decorations for other items you wear/use every day;

Repurpose old trophies, awards and medals

Whether they belong to you or to your children, you might find it difficult to simply throw old trophies and medals in the trash. There are different ways of dealing with those items. Organizations such as Total Awards & Promotions or Sports Medal Recycling accept such items and recycle or reuse them for charity purposes.

However, if you still don’t want to part ways for good with your precious trophies and awards, there are some fun upcycling projects you could try. A larger trophy, for example, can be turned into a spectacular centerpiece for your dinner table. All you need to do is detach the trophy topper from the riser and replace it with your favorite platter, using some strong adhesive to bind the two elements together. You’ll end up with an original and interesting piece that you can use as a centerpiece, cake stand or even a fruit platter. Trophy toppers can also get new life — glue them to mason jar lids, for example, to create funny containers for coffee or sugar, for example.

Use self storage for the stuff that’s truly important

Some sentimental items — family heirlooms, documents, old books, antique furniture, vintage clothing — are important to your family’s history, and you might want to pass them on to future generations. Such objects often have monetary value too, so you must keep them in proper conditions to avoid getting them damaged. A climate-controlled self storage unit is the best option for old, delicate items, as it ensures constant temperature and humidity. A 5×5 storage unit is generally large enough for your valuables, unless you’re planning to store furniture — in that case, you’ll probably have to get a 10X10 unit, or even a 10X20 one.

A 5×5 storage unit in Miami, for example, sets you back about $55 per month, according to Yardi Matrix, but your precious belongings will be well protected from the heat and humidity specific to the area. If you’re living in Chicago, the hot and humid summers promptly followed by frigid winters make it equally difficult to store delicate artwork at home. The monthly rate for a climate-controlled 5×5 storage unit in Chicago hovers around $40, which is definitely worth it for the peace of mind knowing your belongings are being kept safe.

Bring new life to photos, postcards and magazines

If you have a lot of old family photos on paper but they’re mostly gathering dust in boxes in the back of your closet, you should take the time to give them new life. One first step would be to scan the ones that are truly meaningful — paper photos inevitably deteriorate over time and saving them digitally is a good precaution. Then, find new ways of displaying them around the house — photo collages on a large cork board, for example, allow you to enjoy your family photos every day, while also creating a striking focal point for your interior.

Having trouble throwing out the boxes with your children’s artwork and school projects? One good way to keep your precious memories while also avoiding the accumulation of clutter is to take pictures of them. You can even create and print albums of their best “artwork” — they take a lot less space, and you can leaf through them any time you feel nostalgic.

Stacks of magazines and drawers full of postcards are taking precious storage space in your home and make it hard for you to maintain a tidy, neat interior. Hold onto the sentimental value of such items by using them for different projects — the decoupage technique is a great way to bring new life to old papers. Select the best postcards and cut out your favorite pictures and prints from magazines and use them to decorate small pieces of furniture. You could also go big and do an entire wall or the wooden floors in one of your rooms.

Holding onto sentimental items is a natural human instinct — however, it’s healthy to be mindful about it. Preserve the memories but say no to clutter!


Maria Gatea is a real estate and lifestyle editor for Yardi with a background in Journalism and Communication. After covering business and finance-related topics as a freelance writer for 15 years, she is now focusing on researching and writing about the real estate industry. You may contact Maria via email.

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