When Harry Met Grandma Sally’s Keepsakes: How To Repurpose Items After A Move

When you’ve lived a full, comfortable life surrounded by decades of accumulated belongings, deciding what to take to a smaller assisted living space is anything but simple. After the big move, what becomes of what’s been left behind? The receipts, the clothing, the stacks upon stacks of letters … aren’t you glad we just e-mail everything now?!

Instead of throwing all of Grandma’s old records out, there are plenty of ways you can not only repurpose them, but preserve these keepsakes for years of admiration to come. To get ourselves in the sentimental mood, let’s just think of this upcycling mission in terms of quotes from popular romantic comedies, shall we?

“To me, you are (a) perfect (postcard.)” — Love Actually

Back in the day, people sent each other greeting cards. All. The. Time. While snail mail has arguably lost its everyday appeal, special occasions still call for a postcard once in a while.Grandma's Keepsakes

Luckily for you, the vintage artwork of old greeting cards will never go out of style.

Simply cut off the decorative front of an old greeting card, and voila! A brand new (to you) postcard. Sign, seal and deliver it to your oldest and farthest friend.

“I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody(‘s sweater), you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.” — When Harry Met Sally

With sweater weather fast approaching, you’ve got to look good. A simple tailoring of the sleeves, taking in the sides and scooping out the neck can make any “grandpa sweater” fit like a glove.

“Nobody puts baby (blankets) in a corner.” — Dirty Dancing

So what about other clothing items that are not suitable for public wearing, yet you can’t quite bring yourself to donate or throw them out? Well, the sky is the limit when it comes to creating something out of pieces of fabric.

A great way to connect an older relative to a very young one is through material belongings. Making a teddy bear out of an old curtain, or a baby blanket out of several old pieces of clothing, can bond a child to their older relative in a really touching way—either now or years down the road, depending on their level of cognition.

“I’ll never let go, (love letter from) Jack.” — Titanic

Honestly, is there anything more romantic than old-fashioned love letters? Short of framing and displaying them all on the living room wall, perhaps try something a little more discreet with just as much pizzazz, such as jewelry. Cut an especially touching section out of a letter, laminate it, and put it into a locket. You can go above and beyond by decoupaging the letters onto just about anything—jewelry, picture frames, wine bottles, etc. Just like your grandparents’ love, their words will never fade. (Awww.)

“You gotta hear this one (melted) song. It’ll change your life. I swear.” — Garden State

First, be sure the old records aren’t worth something—there’s a big hipster market out there for vinyl. If not, here’s how to make some cool pinched bowls:

  1. Heat oven to 300-400°.
  2. Set the record on the mouth of a glass bowl—this will be its mold.
  3. Heat in the oven for a few minutes, just until the record is hot enough to bend.
  4. Press down into the bowl, allowing the sides to crinkle.
  5. Let cool and solidify.
  6. It’s a decorative bowl! Be careful while doing this and don’t forget to turn the oven off.

“I am just a girl standing in front of a boy asking him to love (scrapbooking with) her.” — Notting Hill

Scrapbooking … the old standby! There’s really no better way to condense a lot of photos, letters and postcards than into one (or several) handy scrapbooks. Here are some tips to help get your creative juices flowing:

  • Only use materials that are acid-free. This is critical to preserving the papers and photos.
  • Create a focal point on each page, then build around it with snippets and photos.
  • Tear some edges instead of cutting all of them. It gives a cool, textured look.
  • Use paper clips to adhere letters. It looks more authentic.
  • Use fabric instead of paper. Bonus points if you can put a piece of your grandmother’s old scarf underneath a photo of her wearing it!
  • A fine-tipped pen looks classic and elegant; a bolder pen looks more casual.


When sifting through the sea of mementos and personal items often left behind when an elderly loved one moves into a smaller living space, it can be difficult to make sense of the boxes of keepsakes left behind. Whatever you do, don’t let these precious family heirlooms spend another 50 years in an attic! By repurposing with tender loving care, these family memories can be passed on for generations to come.

Shayne Fitz-Coy is the Co-CEO and President of Alert-1, an aging-in-place technology company headquartered in Williamsport, Pennsylvania with offices nationwide. Shayne has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Harvard College and a Masters in Business Administration from the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Shayne hails from Maryland, and now calls the Bay Area home.

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