The Organized Sentimentalist: Displaying Your Collections with Style

California Closets media center collectibles storage display

Display your collections with pride, while still looking neat and organized!

Have you identified your organizing style? If you're a sentimentalist, then you're likely very attached to your favorite belongings, mementos or collectibles. Unfortunately, your collections may be leading to unsightly clutter.

There is a way to hold onto the collections you love, without eschewing organization and style.


The first step, of course, is to get everything out of boxes in closets, attics or storage facilities. If you're keeping sentimental items, then they don't belong in hiding. Display them so you and others can enjoy what you love about them.

When displaying your knickknacks and memorabilia, avoid these mistakes:

  • Putting too much of anything in too little of a space. That's not a collection, that's clutter!
  • Being too matchy-matchy. It's not necessary to put things together that match, like a necklace and earrings. Variation adds visual interest.
  • Displaying items in spaces that don't fit. For example, storing small tea cups in a large, tall shelf creates an "off" feeling.
  • Stacking belongings. This can work for books, if done well and in small batches. But, more often than not, it just looks messy.


It's important to think about how your collection is displayed within the rest of your design scheme.

You want to categorize in some way. If it’s a tea cup collection, for example, think about what you’re trying to accomplish visually while displaying. Here you could design the tea cup display by color scheme, by size, or maybe create depth by alternating with small and large cups.

Just think about displaying knickknacks visually, like an artist would look at a painting.


How do you decide what to display and what to keep?

Similar to what you would do in your closet, where you keep things that fit or are your favorite articles of clothing, when it comes to trinkets and memorabilia, keep the things that are the most meaningful.

Display items that have a story or a history - something that connects them to you.  A big decision determinate is to never keep broken items, unless they have some financial value. If it’s not in good condition, get rid of it (donate or sell it). If it’s part of a collection and you really don’t want to throw it away, then store it neatly in a drawer or closet out of site.

Craft room ribbon organization and work area

Your collection of ribbons or craft supplies can be displayed colorfully and neatly!


We love helping our clients display their collections.

One of our clients, who was a seamstress, had tons of different types of fabrics and yarns that were all over the place. We helped her create a craft room closet with baskets from floor to ceiling.

Each basket held a color of fabric and yarn, with a little piece of that color yarn sticking out of each. It was functional, yet visually appealing. She even took the doors off the closet so everyone could see it!

Remember Beanie Babies? We worked with a little girl who had tons of the little stuffed animals. So we created cubbies in her bedroom closet that were the size of Beanie Babies, so it became like a house for each of the different animals.

This gave it more of a visual design, as opposed to just stacking animals on top of one another. It’s really important to design a space specifically for what you’re storing or displaying.


Your collection means something special to you, so take the time to figure out the best way to display it! Whether it's collectibles, awards or trophies, favorite books or pictures - you can hold to the belongings that you care about, without creating unnecessary clutter.

Tags: advice, California Closets, collectibles, collection, craft room, curate, custom closets, design, display, inspiration, media center, mementos, memorabilia, organization, organizing, tips