Creatively Showcase Your Keepsakes (and Identify Your Donates)

grayscale bed of coins with a open-face pocketwatch

As you go about your cleaning this spring, you’ll no doubt be dusting off lots of…well, what? Is that item you’ve been hanging onto a keepsake or is it time to donate it? Let’s first take a look at what makes something you want to hold on to forever a keepsake and what makes an item you want to let go of a “donate.” Then, we’ll reveal exciting ways to give your keepsakes fresh life by putting them on display.

Keepsakes come by many names, including mementos, souvenirs, remembrances, heirlooms, and inheritances. Google tells us they are sometimes even called “bombonieres,” which is probably a word as new to you as it was to us. Whatever their name, they serve the same purpose: to remind us of special people, remarkable places or memorable events. A keepsake is as simple as a handwritten notecard containing grandma’s secret pecan pie recipe, or as intricate as a piece of heirloom jewelry given to you before your wedding. They are the things that hold a special place in our hearts and minds; they give us a bit of a warm tingle each time we look at these treasures. The word “sake” means “for the benefit of someone or something,” and because these souvenirs benefit us, we want to keep our treasured items safe for ourselves and future generations. Ahead, we’ll offer great tips on how to take care of your keepsakes.

But not everything you’re stockpiling truly gives you the joy that should come from a keepsake. If you’re not sure if that vase tucked away in the back of your bookshelf is a keepsake or a “donate,” ask yourself: Does this item provide me joy, does it bring back fond memories, does it hold value for me? If the answer is no, it is time to donate what was once a treasure to someone who will again treasure it as you did. At the end of this blog you’ll find info about an easy way to donate your unwanted items while also supporting the Vietnam Veterans of America, which provides a variety of services designed to help veterans and their families.

Now, what to do with those beautiful keepsakes of yours? You probably have them stashed away in cardboard boxes, stuffed in closets or shelved in garages, but now is the time to put them on display and bring beauty and sentiment to your home or office. Frames, jars, and decorative boxes can be used in creative ways to both store and display keepsakes. Here are some ideas for all three:

Frames, either with glass or without, can be used to showcase anything from event tickets and programs, to wedding or anniversary mementos. Travel documents and postcards or old scout badges –anything that is relatively flat – are perfect for frames. Use a small piece of invisible tape or stickers to affix your mementos to the interior backing of the frame.

Attended a recent wedding or have an upcoming graduation? Why not combine together into a collage the invitations, napkins, menus, photos, and programs from the event and put them on display? For glassless frames, use string, ribbon, or wire to hang or clip items. Hanging pieces of jewelry or medals from ribbons in a beautiful frame will create a piece of art you will treasure forever.

Start by covering the frame’s interior backing with colorful wrapping paper or rustic burlap, then stick some decorative tacks into the frame’s edges, and string fine wire between them to create a grid within the frame. Hang small, decorative clothespins or safety pins from the wire and attach your items for display. Let your creativeness shine! Adding quotes or labels to your framed keepsakes brings a meaningful dimension to your artwork.

painted picture frame holding hanging jewelry

When displaying your frames, choose areas in your home or office that will highlight the newly created showcase. Say for instance you have heirloom recipe cards passed down to you — organize them in a collage inside a glass frame for your kitchen.

Your bonus or family room is a great place to display those favorite things you’ve picked up on your travels. You may not want to display some of your keepsakes in common areas of your home and that’s fine! One place we like to hang items that mean a bit more to us than others is inside our walk-in closet. Your closet is a wonderful place to hang your framed keepsake jewelry or wedding memorabilia – which makes your organized closet a go-to place!

Jars of all shapes and sizes can be used to store and display keepsakes that have similar shapes or purposes. That antique Mason jar you’ve stored away in the back of your pantry can serve as a beautiful display jar for your heirloom jewelry. Arrange the jewelry in the jar with photos, cards and envelopes or other items related to the loved one that gave you the jewelry. You can use the same technique for travel keepsakes.

mason jar filled with ticket stubs on a shelf

Gather together items from trips, including postcards, tickets, sea shells, stickers, hotel soaps…whatever you have held on to. Arrange them in a jar and find a shelf to show them off. Small keepsakes of your baby’s first months can be stored in eye’s view by using jars instead of boxes. Newborn clothes, booties, hats, headbands, bracelet, and toys can be arranged beautifully in a jar, too. Be sure to add in a wonderful photo of that very special birthday.

Decorative boxes are another fun way to organize, store and display your keepsakes. Your local craft stores are loaded with boxes, including deep-framed ones called shadow boxes that you can hang on the wall, set it proudly on a desk, or make it the highlight of a shelf. Instead of storing your photos from your honeymoon in an old shoebox, get creative and arrange them in a shadowbox, adding your airline tickets and even your hotel room keys.

Another popular shadowbox is one that displays a loved one’s military uniform items, commendations, and medals. As for boxes you display on your shelves, counters or tables, you will be able to find themed ones for every event in your life, from weddings to babies to graduations. One of our favorites is a series of three boxes, each one smaller than the other, attached together to make a three-level “wedding cake” of memorabilia.

framed flag and military uniforms

Or maybe you’re looking for a way to make a mancave a bit less messy? Turn granddad’s old toolbox from a donate to a keepsake by cleaning and polishing it, display it on the coffee table in front of the TV and viola! You’ve created a vintage caddy for the remote controls!

Pickup Please can help make your spring-cleaning a little easier by picking up your “donate” items. You can make room to display your keepsakes by passing along those items that you no longer need. Every item you donate helps to support the Vietnam Veterans of America and their many veteran support programs and services.