Downsizing with Heart: Keep the Memories, Not the Clutter

Father and son looking and old pictures in a scrapbook together on the couch

If you’re downsizing to a residence that fits your lifestyle better, you’ve probably realized you can’t keep everything. While there are some items that are easy to part with, there may be other possessions that hold a lot of memories and have sentimental value that you’re not ready to let go of yet. If you have cherished keepsakes that bring you joy, don’t get rid of them – upcycle them instead to make them a part of your new adventure.

What to Do with Sentimental Items

If you currently have heirlooms, keepsakes and other sentimental items packed away in boxes that you seldom look at, these suggestions on how to display and preserve them while downsizing your belongings:

  • Home movies: It’s not unusual to have a lot of VHS tapes of recitals, sporting events, birthdays, plays, dances, holidays and family gatherings. Luckily, there are companies who can digitize your tapes and put them on a hard drive or DVDs for easier sharing and viewing.
  • Photos and photo albums: Who doesn’t have a box of loose photos or photo albums? Scanning your photos and converting them to digital files can preserve them, make them easy to share with family and friends and allow you to make them into photo books. You can then either pass the photos on or dispose of them.
  • Letters, cards and notes: If you like to keep cards and notes as keepsakes, frame some of your favorites to put on display or preserve them in a scrapbook. You can also have them scanned to save space.
  • Jewelry: If you have jewelry you no longer wear because the setting is out of style, it’s broken or you lost one earring, contact a local jeweler to see if they can repurpose it or update it. They may be able to turn a single earring into a necklace or an old brooch into a bracelet. You can also use old costume jewelry to create art pieces.
  • Dishware and pots: If you have chipped, cracked or broken dishware and china, consider using them to create a mosaic. You can also repurpose tea pots, cups and bowls as containers for succulents or other small plants.
  • Clothing and other fabric items: Clothes are one of the things we all seem to hold on to. Children’s clothes, a wedding dress, aprons, ties, t-shirts from specific events or sports teams, cherished outfits and more. You can upcycle them by turning them into memory quilts, throw pillows and tote bags. If you have something that’s particularly sentimental like the outfits your children came home from the hospital in, you can also consider having them framed so it’s easier to display.
  • Unique décor: Using items in nontraditional and unexpected ways can help create a unique look. Use a silver tray, cream pitcher or sugar bowl to hold cosmetics or toiletries in the bathroom or as a place to put your keys by the entryway. A special bowl could also be used as a fruit bowl or as part of a table centerpiece.
  • Kid artwork: If you have a collection of your children’s drawings and artwork, consider having it scanned and made into a book. If there are some particularly treasured works, consider having them framed.
  • One-of-a-kind items: If you have a treasured item that can’t be easily scanned or framed, shadow boxes come in a variety of sizes and depths making them ideal for creating unique display pieces.

What If You Can’t Keep Everything?

No matter how much you repurpose, scan and frame there will probably be some things you can’t keep. If that happens, here are some suggestions.

  • Collections: Instead of keeping an entire collection of items, take pictures of everything to make into a book and then pick your favorites to keep. You can also pass on items from your collection for other family members to enjoy.
  • Family heirlooms: Give every family member their own special keepsake box so they can put the sentimental items they want in it.

When downsizing, remember:

  • Don’t feel like you have to keep something just because it was a gift, specially if it’s something you won’t use.
  • Don’t feel guilty. This is your home, and you should make room for what matters most to you.
  • Donate things that are still in good condition. They can go to a new home where they’ll be used and appreciated.

Room for Everything You Treasure

Before downsizing, it’s important to know what you’ll have room for in your new place. At Friendship Village Tempe, we think you’ll be surprised at how much space our wide variety of floor plans offer. You can also explore the floor plans in our brand new building here. See something you like? Contact us to come see it in person.