What To Do With All That Stuff


If you’re like me, you have accumulated a good deal memento-type stuff which you are not quite ready to part with. Aside from the practical difficulties of carting around ticket stubs, coins, and cards from students, the main problem is how to display these goodies. As appealing the idea of framing my old bus pass is — and as much as I like the picture on it, really — I also like to come up with more creative ways to present my various mementos.

For a time, I used the strategy of throwing all my small paper-based mementos in a pretty box. This method has several advantages: it keeps them out of the way and conveniently all in one place. It can also be fun to rifle through the memento box from time to time and see what you do in fact remember. Finally, it can come in handy in the case that you are a US citizen engaged to a foreigner, and need documentation of trips taken and movies seen together to get a green card (not my situation, I’m just saying)!

Scrapbooking is a big trend nowadays, and if you visit a bookstore you can page through any number of large books on scrapbooking some to get cute and creative ideas. I will concede that scrapbooking is not for everyone, including me, but if you’ve got some stuff and anticipate a month off upon your return, why not.

Other ideas:

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  • Glue tickets, leftover bills, postcards and train schedules on poster board and have it laminated as placemats. This makes it easy to whip it out and show people, and also just to have lying around for them to ask about, but you can also slide it away neatly
  • Buy a decorative box or small chest of some kind and glue your mementos on (coins in the corners or along the edge of the cover?)
  • Seal ticket stubs, metro passes and phone cards on the cover of a photo album or journal
  • Arrange the mementos collage-style under a glass tabletop
  • An especially artistic friend had the idea of making a set of playing cards using appropriately shaped phone cards, transit cards and so on. Shuffling could get tricky, and if you use different mementos, you might even facilitate card-counting – this won’t fly in Vegas!
  • Buy a lampshade with flat sides and attach your stuff to it. Or, if you have a living space you can take risks with, I’ve also seen money from different countries displayed on the inside of a door or cabinet. If you rent, however, remember that as much fun as it may be to put it up, you will eventually have to take it down.

You might use some mementos in class — train schedules or menus in English, for example. Either get them laminated or glue them onto a firmer background to extend their life. I’ve made copies of postcards from different locations to use in lower-level classes, where writing a postcard is an inevitable task. Black and white is not really the same, but it’s still nice to have pictures of different locations for variety.

I have moved around enough that I am well aware of the hassle it is to carry papers saved for their sentimental value. As a result I have become less attached to stuff. But I will admit I saved the feedback forms I asked my favorite debate group to write out (“My favorite part of class is when we correct sentences with tic-tac-toe at the end”; “I’d like to discuss abject poverty in Africa”; “Katie does not interrupt us, even when we talk off the topic and I love that.” I also have written down a couple of quotes I liked from student papers.

Do you collect any particular kinds of mementos? Or have interesting ways of saving or presenting them?

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