I have a hard time letting go of things. The physicality of an item holds a lot of meaning for me — it carries all the senses associated with that memory. However, between moving three times in one year in my early days of Boston living and combining my “stuff” with my husband’s “stuff” when we moved in together, I have had to take a new approach to the sentimental items in my life.

Looking to turn your treasured items into something that is both practical and meaningful? Check out how I’ve repurposed my sentimental items!

Cozy up with your T-shirts — as a blanket!

Between my 10-year gymnastics career and four years in a sorority, I walked into the real world with a LOT of T-shirts — most of which made no sense beyond the four walls of my former life. When I attempted to reduce my giant pile of shirts, I burst into tears. Each shirt held a memory for me, and while I knew stuffing those memories into the back of a drawer and never wearing them again didn’t make sense, I couldn’t part with them.

Enter Project Repat — a company out of Fall River — that will accept your unique T-shirts and repurpose them into a PolarTec fleece-backed blanket! The process is incredibly easy, and you receive a socially conscious-made quilt while reducing your clothing clutter, ! The memories I hold dear can now stay close to me — and I have room in my drawers for my clothes.

Turn treasured textiles into a pillow

Similar to my T-shirts, I had been holding on to a giant piece of fabric I bought in India while traveling abroad. I had worn it as a saree to go to a wedding with my homestay family — a memory I really treasured. That saree got packed and unpacked more times than I can count, but I never knew what to do with it.

I finally pulled my saree fabric off my closet shelf, and after asking my local mom group for seamstress recommendations, I found Julie Vician, owner of Fairbanks Fancy Goods in Natick. I brought my enormous piece of fabric to her, and after talking about options we finally landed on a pillow. Julie did a beautiful job honoring the fabric, making sure to spotlight the beautiful details in the material and reinforcing the pillow to ensure it will last a lifetime. I nearly cried when I picked up the finished product. The pillow now lives on our bed and reminds me daily of my amazing travels.

Make childhood art into books or framed memories

My mom maintained an enormous memory box for me, but it primarily lived in the attic of my childhood home. Now, as a toddler mom, I am the recipient of many scribbled pieces of paper. Rather than having those sentimental scribbles pile up, I’ve begun turning them into books or artwork to save space. It doesn’t have to be limited to your kid’s art either!

Artkive is an easy way to turn children’s artwork into a beautiful book or a framed mosaic. A box is sent to your home, you fill it up with your favorite pieces, and you get a beautiful book in return. If you have a scanner, you could also do it yourself and use a company like Shutterfly to print your final product — whether that be memory books or canvas prints.

Shadow box those one-of-a-kind items

Shadow boxes are incredibly versatile, both for protecting and creating unique pieces of artwork to display or hang. When my grandparents passed away I kept a flower from each of their funerals. I dried them and put both in a deep-set shadow box with a picture of them. Had I not, I’m certain those flowers would have long since disintegrated!

Similarly, my husband was gifted a pocket-sized copy of the Bible that his grandfather carried with him during World War II. A shadow box was the perfect way to put this precious item on display.

Companies like Framebridge will even take your physical items and custom-frame those items for you!

Redesign your heirloom jewelry

Whether you are the recipient of vintage or generational jewelry or your tastes have simply changed over the years, chances are you have at least a few pieces of jewelry stored away in the back of a drawer or closet. Rather than leaving those heirlooms in the dark, redesign them with a trusted, local jeweler who can create something you will want to wear over and over again. Even better, when it comes time to pass those items down, the piece has not one story, but two (or more!) — truly leaving a legacy to carry with it into future generations.

Sarah Aspinwall
Sarah grew up in Connecticut, but Massachusetts has always felt like a second home with extended family across the state. With a master's in public health and a lifelong passion for healthcare, Sarah moved to Boston after graduation. She is a fierce advocate for better access and reducing the complexities of the healthcare system. Sarah met her husband covered in sweat and lifting weights at a local CrossFit gym (talk about first impressions!). They adopted a rescue pup from Mississippi and welcomed their daughter in 2021. After nearly a decade of city living, Sarah and her family headed to the Metro West area to start a new adventure in the suburbs. Sarah has volunteered for Community Consulting Teams of Boston (CCT), offering pro bono management consulting to Boston-area nonprofits, and she served a three-year term on the board. She is an alumna member of the Kappa Delta sorority and has served as an advisor to the Northeastern chapter since 2014.