Reader Shannon submitted the following to Ask Unclutterer:
Hello! Thanks to your great blog I have been working hard at decluttering my house. In sorting old memorabilia, I have found my large collection of award ribbons from the many fairs and shows that I competed in as a youth. There are some that I plan to keep that really meant a lot to me. But I literally have a large Sterilite container full of these. Do you have any suggestions on a nice way for me to store these or some sort of way to use them? I hate to just throw them out.
Start by going through all of your awards and setting aside the ones that don’t matter much to you — participation awards, awards you won for knowing the name of the person who won, 12th place. If you have a twinge of sentimentality about these lesser accolades, snap a photograph of them before getting them out of your home.
If you live near a medal and trophy shop, give the shop a call and find out if they recycle these items. Some stores will melt down the metal, affix a new nameplate and a different bowler to the top of a trophy, and repurpose old ribbons (fingernail polish remover takes off old text). I also know that the shop in my hometown donates refurbished medals and such to non-profit organizations for fundraising events — the shop sands off “3rd Place Best of Show” and replaces it with “1st Place 5K Walk/Run.”
If you don’t live near a medal and trophy shop, give a call to some of your favorite charities and teachers to see if they could use them. When I was a teacher, I gave away funny awards to my students on paper plates. Actual ribbons and medals would have been a lot of fun to distribute instead. (“I know it says ‘2nd Place Rabbit’ on it, but that is teacher code for ‘Perfect Attendance.'”)
After sorting, you have numerous options for what to do with the ones you have chosen to keep. If most of them are ribbons and lightweight, you could put them in a scrapbook. A couple readers suggested in the comments to “Ask Unclutterer: What to do with diplomas” about creating fun fame walls. Hang up the diplomas alongside the 4-H awards and other blasts from the past. If you have children, frame up their school awards, too. A shadow box could work well if you want to keep all of your awards together.
Or, you could do what I did, and lump them all into a zip-top bag and toss them into a memorabilia box. As long as you limit yourself to one, relatively small box of trinkets, I think it’s fine to store such happy, nostalgic things. I think of this box as a scrapbook for someone who doesn’t scrapbook. Edit wisely before putting something into this box, though. It should only be for the best of the best. Being uncluttered doesn’t mean you have no objects of your past, but it should mean you only have the really great stuff with you in the present.
Thank you, Shannon, for submitting your question for our Ask Unclutterer column. Check out the comments for even more award storage suggestions.
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