“Every year is a souvenir…that slowly fades away” - Billy Joel
As a follow-up to our Organizing Tour of Italy, we thought we’d chat a little about… the souvenir. Professional Organizers loathe nothing more than souvenirs (except maybe party favors!). Why? Well, if we’re agreeing that we should love, use, or need everything in our home then we should agree that a mass manufactured memory of somebody else’s trip might not make the cut. How do organizers jump to this conclusion? We find these memories in the back of junk drawers, in boxes under the bed, and on the bottom of the stack of never worn t-shirts (is that a tag??). Here’s the kicker, sometimes when we find them, they’re broken! This memory of someone else’s trip somehow represents so much more than that to us. Why can’t we throw away the “Hollywood” fridge magnet after it falls and breaks? Maybe it represents a place we want to go, a place that we’ve been before and long to return, a once upon a dream we can’t release or maybe the memory of the person who gave it to us has been transferred to the object. So “Hollywo…” gets thrown in a drawer. Here it is: I’m giving you permission to let go of all of the souvenirs. Let ‘em go!
Having said all that…I get it! You’re on a trip, you’re thinking about your loved ones back at home and you want to share the experience with them and let them know they were on your mind so far away. Look, there was no way Aunt Tootsie was going to Italy without bringing a little something back for everybody. I was conflicted; I even winced a few times looking through the same items over and over again. Full disclosure: Yes, I bought souvenirs.
But I did have a strategy. I was buying for young adults and children. I wanted to get something useful and I had full knowledge that things would be discarded and/or forgotten relatively quickly.
As I shopped, I completely understood that these souvenirs would never (could never!) hold a flame to the souvenirs that we got as kids. The utter joy of a giant pencil or a doll dressed in traditional garb or little boxes with the hope of treasures inside, the t-shirts, the peephole key chains with photos and the leather bracelets!! When I was a kid it was exciting when someone returned from travels, we’d sit at the kitchen table for hours listening to stories, looking at pictures and admiring our new treasures from far away lands. I think it’s a generational thing (hold on, there’s some kids on my lawn), we didn’t get stuff all the time and we didn’t see pictures of the trip as it was happening. So I kept in mind as I chose each item that the excitement wouldn’t even make it to school the next day.
I was okay with that and it helped to keep me within a budget. My souvenir budget was very small because my sole reason for purchasing was to see the smile on their face when I returned home. I saw it, I enjoyed it and I watched the value of the souvenir plummet. And I was okay with that, too, because I didn’t spend a lot! I did, also, try to buy things they would use - if even for a little while.
Here’s what I came up with:
My Goddaughter is married with a house so I did splurge a little more for: a Venetian glass bottle opener that matched her kitchen.
The college aged kids: shot glasses (parents read: bookmarks)
The boys: baseball hats
The 16 yo: an adorable Vespa keychain (she just got her permit)
The dog lover: a tiny glass German shepherd
The ‘tween: a bracelet
The younger girls: change purses
The babies: t-shirts
I think I did okay and I’m pretty sure that at least one of the shot glasses is already broken. Totally cool - the smile was worth it!
My rules for personal souvenirs are a little different. I say, pass on the t-shirts, the posters, even the logo wine glasses and spend a little more for an actual, real present for your self. Get something you LOVE, something that will last and bring those vacation memories flooding back at a glance. Leather, artwork, jewelry, décor are all great conversation starters and worth the splurge - as long as you love them! I found a piece or two that instantly made my heart sing. I chose items that will last and that allowed me to be a little adventurous, too!
This rule goes for those with larger souvenir budgets, as well. If you’re getting something for your parents or for your best friend - get something that they’ll use or love. If there’s room in your suitcase, it’s also a great time to do holiday or
Many years ago, my mom came up with a great idea. She told everybody if they were going to bring her a souvenir, she’d like a Christmas ornament. Every year, as we decorated the tree we saw the memories of our travels. I started doing this as well and it is really fun to be reminded once a year of a really special time. The genius of it is that it all gets packed away until the next year! Another great idea - beach towels!
Our friends and family mean well and really just want to share the adventure with us. I promise you that they never intended for you to keep clutter. I don’t think they’ll be searching for that statue of David on your coffee table. If you don’t love it, let it go! It’s the thought that counts - on both sides!
I know what you’re thinking. “My mother-in-law asks about that statue every single time she comes to my house.” Or “My best friend always brings some tchotchke back and I can’t get rid of it”.
Here’s how to handle the influx of souvenirs:
“I can’t wait to see your pictures and hear about your travels. Let’s swap stories when you’re back.” If you feel pretty certain a souvenir is on your horizon, help them out “Bring me back a postcard!”
Then call us and we’ll talk about the postcards…
What’s your cure all for the souvenir clutter?
How many souvenir magnets are on your fridge? Do you use them?
Do you have a favorite souvenir ideas?