The Best Items for Displaying and Preserving Your Sentimental Stuff

The Best Items for Displaying and Preserving Your Sentimental Stuff

In so many decluttering tutorials, we go over how to figure out what you can and should part with—and what earns the right to stay. Saying goodbye to sentimental items is really hard, and even if you’re hellbent on decluttering and organizing, there may be a few things you opt to keep.

While I’m a major proponent of untethering yourself from nostalgic items in favor of pushing forward into a brighter, tidier future, I totally get it; there are some things you just need to hold onto. If they’re that special, they should be displayed in a way that keeps them safe and out of the way. Here are some ideas for displaying those meaningful things you just can’t get rid of.

Try a high shelf

I’m not a particularly emotional person, so I don’t have too many mushy, sentimental, or nostalgic things lying around. The ones I do have, however, are far out of reach to prevent any accidental damage. If you have photos, tchotchkes, or, in my case, a pet’s ashes and a rare bobblehead, consider a corner shelf they can rest on.

I am five feet tall, so I stood on a step stool to affix my corner shelf about six feet up, so I’ll never, ever bump it or disturb it in any way, but I also took the precaution of putting it in a corner that is inaccessible and removed from daily activities. It’s simple, like this:

In my opinion, anything delicate or important should be separated from other decorations, not on a larger shelf or mingling with other things. Show your sentimental pieces the respect they deserve by setting them apart.

Safe storage and display for sentimental items

If you have some photos you can’t part with, I do recommend digitizing them as the safest way to keep them forever. Still, displaying physical ones in your home can be a meaningful way to connect with fond memories, so obviously, you need picture frames. Instead of the delicate glass kind, opt for a sturdier acrylic frame with UV protection. This will prevent shards of glass from damaging the photo if it falls, and the UV protection will help prevent the image from fading or yellowing.

For anything paper, like a child’s old artwork, a certificate, or something similar, you want something that’s easy to use, so you don’t damage the paper while you’re putting it in. A secure frame that opens on hinges and doesn’t rely on you to thread the paper through an unforgiving slit is the move.

I recommend a shadow box only if you plan to store it somewhere it won’t get touched, as they can be pretty delicate. Still, they’re good for mementos from travels, medals, and smaller trinkets, plus they look really sharp. If you have space, though, the better alternative is a protective hutch. Yes, it’s big, so there’s a risk of bumping it, but it’s so big that you’ll hopefully be aware of it and move around it carefully. For collections, expensive items, or anything delicate, this is the way to go.

In the event you still want to display some of your meaningful or delicate possessions among your regular decor, at least consider sealing them off from everything else. Display domes come in glass or plastic, so whether you want something that looks classy or can withstand a bumping, you have options. There are even lighted versions, like this one, to keep the item safe and illuminated:

General rules for sentimental items

Always store your things in a place that is dry and has no extreme temperature fluctuations or direct sunlight, even if they’re on display inside of some kind of vessel. Slip a silica gel packet inside the enclosure to absorb excess moisture, just to be safe. Laminate special papers, too; it won’t be that visible inside whatever frame you choose for them, but they’ll be a lot safer that way.

When I’m cleaning and it’s time to dust and wash the shelf holding my special items, I remove them and put them in a box with a t-shirt or two, so they’re on something soft and out of the way. It might seem like overkill, but I would be heartbroken if I accidentally damaged them.

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