How to Organize Memorabilia, Ephemera, and Junque

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Scrapbook.com Founder
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As the founder of Scrapbook.com, Jill Davis has been crafting and organizing her craft space for many years, providing her with expert advice to pass along. Learn from her experiences, along with skilled organizer Stacy Boatman's experience, so that you can produce the studio of your dreams! Explore and shop the Scrapbook.com store for all of your ephemera and craft storage and organization needs!

Materials Needed for Organizing Memorabilia, Ephemera, and Junque

      • Containers
      • File Folders (optional)
      • Zip-Style Bags (optional)
      • Label Maker

The Challenge of Organizing Memorabilia, Ephemera, and Junque

You'll be faced with locating any memorabilia from trips or events that you want to include on layouts and getting this memorabilia into a system that will keep it preserved until you use it. This system will require you to find storage and organizational solutions that will safely hold your trinkets, ephemera, and junque.

"It will take time to get items into your system if you have a lot of artistic treasures, but it’s so worth the effort. "

We all collect memorabilia on our trips. We stash these items away only to never see them again. I’m not going to tell you to clear out your clutter and toss the paper coasters from that motel you stayed in abroad. However, we are going to get things organized so in the event you really DO scrap that coaster, you’ll be able to find it!

When we take photos of events, we sometimes pick up items that we may or may not use on a layout or a project: a feather, pressed flowers, keys, a button, leaves, etc. This is memorabilia. We also might have family heirlooms that have been passed on to us that need to be accounted for. Fun junque items from our childhood like toys, game pieces, clothing, or jewelry are either flat or bulky, and we need to have storage containers to accommodate both. The best way I’ve found to handle both is to have a container that holds the flat items, and then a note card with the flat item (from one event) that tells where bulky items (from the same event) are located. This way, you can keep all items accounted for and organized. However, the small things, like ticket stubs or important papers, won’t get damaged by being stored with large, bulky items.

Vintage Index Card Holder

Ephemera can be postcards, advertisements, gum wrappers, receipts, cards, letters, stamps, book pages, maps, other bits of paper that depict an era, and more. Ephemera can be a reproduction (acid-free), or an original. I have vintage ephemera bins in my bookcases, and also include a stack of my favorite reproduction pieces in my vintage strawberry carrier in strawberry baskets. This strawberry carrier sits in a primary space in my studio. I also have zip-style bags in a suitcase for general modern day ephemera (e.g. receipts, stamps, bags, labels, packaging, etc.). I’ve saved some for years so it’s fun to see the changes in company logos. I have lots of historical layouts I want to make and this material will come in handy.

"Remember, de-junking can greatly simplify your life!"

Canvas Bins

If you’re up for some purging, you may find that the photographs you have of an event may be all you need for your layouts to be meaningful. They may or may not be all that’s needed to capture a favorite memory. You may not need place mats, maps, sugar packets, bags with logos, etc. to tell your stories, or you may. Remember, de-junking can greatly simplify your life!

The most logical way to organize precious mementos is by theme or event. If you keep items from events that are ongoing, or repeated every year, like family gatherings or trips, then it might be best to organize by theme. If an event happens once, like the birth of a child, or a wedding, then organizing by event is the way to go.

So, grab your bags and boxes of “stuff” and find a big clean floor space and dump them out (keep those sugar packets away from kids and pets). Dig in and start sorting! In the end, you should have several piles of things. Next, be honest and realistic--do you really need five brochures from the same boat tour? You DO have the photos!

Now that you know how to sort your memories, let’s look at ways to contain them. For bulky items, I suggest finding a nice box that’s large enough to handle your “stuff” (and growth) and will fit in with your décor. For your flat items, possibilities may include:

Memorabilia, ephemera, and junque can be tricky if you’re taking an acid-free approach to scrapbooking. Many items can contain acids. Make sure to keep newspapers in a plastic page protector or bag away from your other items. Use acid-neutralizing spray on acidic items if you intend on using them in your scrapbooks. For important documents, make copies and file your originals in your household filing system. It's very important to keep preservation in mind, as these precious albums and projects will be passed down throughout time. 

Stacy has two systems to house her memorabilia. The first is a 3-ring binder with page protectors to store flat things. Each protector holds one event. She has each event labeled at the top of the page protector, so when she goes to scrap the pictures from her Cancun trip, she just flips to the “Cancun” page protector and takes all contents out--everything she might want to use is there! For bulkier items, she found a lovely box that matches her room décor. 

Jean from Mother Thyme has another tip that has proven to be quite useful. She suggests giving yourself time to reminisce while you organize your memorabilia so that you are in the proper mindset in her article called Organize Now! Week 8: Organize Your Memorabilia.

Further Insight on Organizing Memorabilia, Ephemera, and Junque

Several years ago, my mother decided to sort and divide up her family heirlooms, giving them to her children. I was delighted when she delivered a box of treasures to my home. She had included information and stories with each item. What a gift! I scanned or photographed each item, created layouts, and put them in a family heirloom album. The actual treasures are in a fire-proof filing cabinet in our home. One day, those items and their corresponding layouts will be passed on to our children, and the legacy and stories will be preserved.

Flat memorabilia from trips and events is located in file folders in a filing cabinet and categorized by theme. Items that have bulkier counterparts have a card clipped to them that tells me that the bulkier items are in one of the suitcases on top of my bookcases. If I only have a bulky item from an event, a note is attached to the photographs waiting to be scrapbooked and the item placed in a suitcase with a note about the photographs and where they are stored.

Vintage Suitcase

Vintage Suitcases Junque in my studio includes two types of items:

  1.  Personal items from my life, or from the lives of family members.
  2.  Non-family vintage items purchased to use on altered album covers, room décor, projects, layouts or cards.

Personal family junque items include baby items, blankie pieces, toys, cards from grandparents, old razors, watches, jewelry, etc. Anything that is flat goes into the owners file folder in the file cabinet with a note that there are bulky items in a suitcase. My non-personal vintage junque (pieces, clothes, jewelry, etc.) are stored in clear jars and are part of my studio décor. Other bulkier objects to use on altered projects are in vintage bins in my bookcases.

Final Thoughts and Reflection

There’s nothing quite like the relief and peace that comes to your mind and studio when you get trinkets, memorabilia, and junque sorted, organized and contained. It will take time to get items into your system if you have a lot of artistic treasures, but it’s so worth the effort. 

Your sugar packets will no longer be in a box somewhere attracting ants! How cool is that?  

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This article was written thanks to our amazing free class, Get Organized! If you're looking to turn your craft space into the studio of your dreams, then look no further and trust our organizational experts. Discover the organizational guru inside of you by signing up for Get Organized today!