In honor of earth day I decided to share how to upcycle your special mementos into beautiful, display-worthy art.
Marie Kondo, be damned, but she got it right in reserving sentimental items for last in her KonMari method. You need to feel successful before tackling the difficult stuff like special mementos. I have purged and purged and purged AGAIN but still find myself looking at THAT closet. You know the one. The one with photos and letters and all matters of sentimentality.
I am moving soon, so the process is becoming easier as I decide that moving this stuff is not worth it. And I don’t want my kids to be saddled with all this after…you know. I just spent two weeks at my elderly father’s home, going through reams of paper we didn’t deal with after mom died. Read here for my room-by-room earth-friendly decluttering ideas.
So after bidding goodbye to general clutter and garbage, what to do with those nagging mementos that whine, “I spark joy, don’t I?”
Getting them out of the closet is the first step before determining where they will ultimately live. Certain things belong on a bookshelf or consider gifting to another family member, if you no longer feel the love. Donating or recycling are always good options. The most special mementos deserve to be displayed with honor in your home.
stole took, unbeknownst to my mother, some items from her home on a couple of milestone occasions.
The first event, their 50th anniversary in August 1995, also coincided with their downsizing to a new condo. I helped pack them up and discovered a stash of old fabrics in the attic. Each signified different time periods in my mom’s decorating. Such a fun discovery and I thought about what I could do with these textile treasures. The pink at the top was from my mother’s trousseau of bath towels and the various other fabrics range from the 1950s onward….
I met an artist at a spring festival who was the perfect person to commemorate our old home. I gave her the hodgepodge of fabric which she blended seamlessly with a painting of our home in the center of the quilt. Here’s some close-up details (thanks to my sister who is currently staying with my dad)…
If you look closely, the artist embroidered the kids’ names (there are 7 of us!!). I told her who likely slept in rooms with these fabrics and she matched them up….
And my name on the sunny, yellow butterfly sheets which, btw, made an appearance in Mad Men. My bedroom was completed in 1976, so the set decorator got the period slightly wrong. But I digress….
When my mother turned 80, another sneaky “swiping” effort resulted in this special memento for her….
Another fabulous artist, also sourced at an art festival, wrote a book about creating personal shrines. An “interview” about my mom, her interests, and other information, along with special bits and bobs I contributed, led to this very personal piece of art. Mom (“Kit”) and dad pictured on their first date along with broken bits of her wedding china….
A rhinestone drop, a rosary for mom’s strong Catholic faith, and a teapot to represent her collection.
More rhinestones, foreign currency to represent travel and mom’s shoe clip….
I’ve also taken my own “raw materials” or mementos and transformed them into art.
I’ve compiled kid art into photo books, framed old black and white photos for a family gallery wall, and created a shadow box of my grandma’s purses. And awhile back I took my kids’ baby and early childhood clothes to a quilt artist who created memory quilts for them.
I kept the remaining clothing scraps to make a quilt for me of all these sweet memories. And there they sat in a closet for 12 years until I realized how well they pair with the decorating scheme of my new condo. (There WILL be a blog soon about this BIGGER-than-I-thought pandemic project and nightmare/dream-come-true) I’m incorporating a lot of cobalt blue and fuschia which pairs nicely with my kids’ clothing. Here’s the scraps…
And, while at my dad’s, imagine my surprise when I discovered sheet-sized fabric with hand embroidery by my grandma….
…which also looks beautiful alongside the kids’ clothes….
I want to turn these special mementos into a Suzani-inspired quilt and am sourcing a quilt artist to accomplish this….
So that’s my springtime clean-up and mementos project for this year! I love nothing more than taking something and making it into a cherished family heirloom. What do you have laying around that you could transform? When you rid yourself of the clutter and only display the best then your home can really tell your story. We love helping clients sort through their existing decor to find new ways to display and honor their most cherished items. That’s part of what we do and it’s my favorite part:)
Leslie Carothers says
Wow, Carole. I absolutely love what you did for your Mom -especially the embroidery on the quilt with each of your names + the personal shrine idea for your Mom.
What an amazing group of ideas to help genuinely tell the stories of our lives…via repurposing what others want to throw away.
I can understand why clients love working with you.
Thanks so much, Lesie. There’s so much more I realized I could have included in this post and I may have to amend it. My sister has been a wonderful keeper of the memories as well – scanning 100s of love letters from my dad to my mom in WWII and having them made into bound books. And the portrait of my children that an artist painted in a layered/multi-media fashion, using bits of their clothes, etc etc. We are a sentimental bunch, my family!
Carla Aston says
How nice! What a great way to keep those precious memories and preserve them. I love the embroidery on the quilt. So special!
Thanks, Carla – a tribute to my mom who had the energy to raise 7 kids!
Samantha Regan says
Love the embroidered names! Such beautiful and special pieces
Thanks Samantha – my mom enjoyed it a lot!
Linda Merrill says
Beautiful memorial art – especially the quilt!
Thanks so much, Linda – appreciate your reading!
Amy Wax says
What a pleasure reading about your artistic process and seeing what you accomplished with your family memories! What a fun read, well done!
Thanks so much, Amy – my sister and I are the keepers and it’s fun to now see our family’s grandchildren appreciate it (19 of them!).
Anne DeCocco says
What a wonderful post to read. You are one sweet potato my friend (you’re also creative, sentimental and have fabulous taste). I can’t wait to read more about the new condo!
Aw – thank you, friend. I am indeed a big potato lump of sentimentality:)
Debi Newell says
Fabrics do hold the stories of our lives❤️
Indeed – I think back to what fabrics and colors I was working with 37 years ago when I got married!
These are such wonderful ideas- I love the quilt!!!
Thanks for reading, Christie!
Janet R Lorusso says
These are such fabulously creative ways to preserve family history, Carole! I love that personalized quilt – what a family treasure that will be for generations to come!
Thank you, Janet – my sister has done a lot as well like scanning all my dad’s love letters to my mom during the war and turning them into bound books. The family really does appreciate it:)
Mary Ann Benoit says
Love all these ideas!! Beautiful, unique, sustainable, and inspired.
Thanks, Mary Ann – it definitely plays to both my sentimental and environmental side:)
Lisa A Peck says
You’ve taken these bits of life that many might get rid of and turned them into sentimental moments of beauty and joy that will always be treasured.
Thank you, Lisa – I have a sister who also has done a wonderful job of cataloguing these family momentos. Our family does appreciate it!
Sheri Bruneau says
This is a great way to keep the memories!
Thanks so much, Sheri!
Love, love, love. I seem to be the keeper of family momentos & photos. I hate to discard so appreciate these great ideas.
Kerry, I love that you are the keeper of family momentos – it is so important to honor the family history!
Sterling Wheless says
So love hearing all of this~magical family preservation ideas! Missing your shop at 5 points already, but wishing you luck on your new adventures! ???
Thanks Sterling – missing all my customers as well! I appreciate your business over the years:)