We all have those special containers in our home that we only bother to look inside once every eight years but can’t bear to dispose of the contents. Inside are piles of memorabilia – photos or trinkets or little slips of paper that take you back to a special time in your life that you want to stay in touch with.

There’s nothing wrong with holding on to things. They can be an emotional balm during difficult times, motivate us for the future, or connect us with our roots. But the trouble with memorabilia is that it can take any form: a ticket stub, a certificate, a medal. With every piece that goes into the box, you pile on more clutter and the number of boxes grows.

Some people think that the only way to be organized is to purge your life of all items you don’t use. But we’re going to counter that opinion. It’s possible to keep the things that are important to you and stay organized. If you’re feeling overwhelmed with the amount of memorabilia in your life and want to create more structure in this area, here are some steps you can take to tame all of those miscellaneous items.

Step One: Take inventory.

This is the scary part. It’s time to spill everything onto the floor and figure out what you’re working with. It’s also a time to make decisions on what you actually want to keep and what’s taking up space. 

Do you need to keep every card you’ve ever received in your life, or do you just want to keep the thoughtful ones? Is that lucky penny someone gave you long ago ready to be spent? There is no right or wrong answer. It’s up to you to determine everything’s value. 

Step Two: Create Categories.

This is another task whose outcome will look vastly different for every person. It’s time to sort all of those items you plan to keep. You may want to separate by type (cards, notes, photos). You may want to create boxes for different years. Maybe you want a box for all of your Backstreet Boy memorabilia. 

The purpose is to create an organizational system that makes it not only easy to store everything but also easy to find items in the future. Take stock of everything you have and let that dictate the different boxes you want to keep.

Step Three: Find Storage.

Here is where you can be creative. Now that you know how you will be sorting your various items, it’s time to find containers. The location you plan to keep the items in will have a big influence on what kind of containers you want. 

If it’s somewhere visible, find containers that will be pleasing to look at and match your decor. If it’s not visible, clear containers are a great option as you can easily see what’s in the box ahead of time. For those who only have a few items in each category, consider a filing system to keep everything in one box instead of piling up several containers.

Organizing all of those scraps and tokens might seem intimidating. Depending on how much you have, it might even take a while to get everything settled. The benefit of taking this project on is how much easier it will be to store future items. As long as you maintain the system, you won’t need to do such an overhaul twice. And the best part is that you can finally enjoy these cherished items whenever you want.