It’s Safe to Get Rid of Old Trophies


Photo by Joelk75

“I was wondering if you had any advice on how to simplify or recycle award ribbons, athletic trophies, and plaques. I was big in athletics from childhood through high school, and have acquired quite a lot of things over the years. All they do now is take up space and collect dust. I feel bad throwing them away, but don’t want them hanging around in boxes forever.” -Carlie

It is okay if you decide you don’t want to keep your old trophies and awards. I threw away mine a few years ago. I had trophies from dance and piano, and my mom stored them for me. It surprised her when I went through and tossed out the old stuff, but I said, “Look, they’re just made of plastic.”

The biggest accomplishments of my life will not be represented by gold-painted plastic trophies.

The experience you gained is valuable, not the trophy. The trophy was a token for the moment.

It’s also okay to throw away ribbons and recycle certificates. I had a certificate from high school that told me I was “worthy of joining the Learning & Liberty Wall of Fame.” What does that even mean?

Here is how you can judge whether you can get rid of something that could be sentimental: If as the years go by, you care about something less and less, then let it go. You won’t regret it.

With a quick Google search you might find a local organization that wants to reuse your trophies, but if not, put them on the curb. If saving one makes you happy, choose something small such as a ribbon that can be tucked away in an album.


Photo by SDASM Archives

If you have a silver trophy cup, that I would keep so I could put flowers in it.

What do you think? Do you have old trophies and awards?

Read the comments for ways to reuse them and organizations that might want them. Thanks for sharing ideas!

clear the clutter

About Rachel

I write about practical tips that will help you simplify at home. Connect with me on Pinterest and Twitter.

Comments

  1. Take photos of them! Include yourself in the picture(s). With a photo you can re-visit the memory any time you like, dust-and space-free if they’re digital.

    • Yes–I took pictures of mine and then let them go. Felt great. :)

      • I did this too!!! Took photos with my different sport uniforms and it was soo much fun!

    • Yes! I was just going to say that. Gotta have photos because sure as shootin’ my kid will not believe that I indeed won first place in that piano competition in 1975 unless I show her PROOF. She’s gonna be a lawyer some day.

      Don’t throw them in the trash, give them to a teacher who takes off the names, and then repurposes them in his/her classroom.
      (Sometimes, I just like to award my students for silly things. Many of them have never gotten a trophy before.)

  2. My trophies are long gone, but my husband is unwilling to part with his – particularly the math ones. (He does have a PhD in math, if that explains anything.) Three years ago my son played one season of baseball, deciding after about 2 practices that he didn’t like it. He did finish out the season and get his hideous trophy, however. Last month I’d been waiting for the right time to sneak it into the trash when, out of nowhere he says he might like to play baseball again next year. Why? Because he wants another trophy! Not a chance, little hoarder in training, not a chance.

  3. I still have a few small pins from a piano competition. A few old certificates. Nothing that takes up much space.

    I think this is a cool idea for using old trophies:
    http://www.designsponge.com/2011/05/diy-project-vintage-trophy-coat-rack.html

    Not being the athletic type, I have no trophies to use. ;)

  4. Wow, this is timely. My mother-in-law just delivered us a box of my husband’s old childhood trophies that she’d found hidden away in her basement. (He’s 34!) I just wanted to toss them, but the kids ooohed and aaahhed enough to make me feel guilty for even thinking about it!

    Thanks for this. They’re going in the trash. (With my husband’s full support, of course!)
    Anne @ Modern Mrs Darcy´s last post…“Your Kids Need to Hear Joy in the Lifestyle You’ve Chosen.”

  5. My girls are grown now, but I took a photograph of all of their awards and all the projects they made in school – like dioramas, etc. No clutter to take care of and all the memories still intact in an album for each of them.

    My best- Diane

  6. We got rid of most of our old trophies a few years ago. I kept a plaque that meant a lot to me and I think my husband kept a certificate or two. But for the most part, trophies are rather forgettable now.

  7. This made me laugh- I was just telling my husband the other day that I was so sad I couldn’t find any old trophies at the thrift store/garage sales. Mine are long gone, and I need some for craft projects. He looked at me like I was crazy and said “of course not, no one gets rid of trophies!”

    :)

  8. We had a lot of trophies at my office that we had to get rid of recently. We wanted to preserve and display the information about them, however. Most of them had some type of plate om them that identified the date, reason for award and recipients. We stripped all the plates off the trophies and mounted them neatly on a finished cherry wooden panel, which we then could hang. The trophies were able to hit the trash with memories intact.

  9. This is an area I really struggle with. Not trophies so much–don’t have any and think they would be more problematic than paper memorabilia–but with this whole genre of “stuff.” I have some things from my grandparents and parents, and even though they spend most of their time in boxes and albums, I’m glad to have them. (Found my grandmother’s confirmation certificate not long ago, and realized that my first name is her confirmation name. I never knew that–and love that I now do.) I wonder about the historical value of some things, and what my own children might one day want to have. While I like the idea of making such things digital, I worry about them being lost when technology changes. Paper is a pretty stable technology, old school as it is! :-)
    Rita@thissortaoldlife.com´s last post…Cooking without a netOr, a funny thing happened on the way to quinoa

    • This is exactly what I mean – why are we so keen to throw out our history?
      How sad our museums would be if everyone had always trashed everything. We wouldn’t know about our homes or families, why a name has run through generations, where our talents come from – so much is culturally important.
      I’m not saying keep plastic trash trophies, but remember how precious memories are, not just for you, but for the future!

  10. I really appreciate this post! I’ve been struggling with tossing my deceased mother’s trophies for the longest time. Once I convinced myself I wasn’t throwing her life away, I started struggling with how to recycle them. Onward to the trash this week.

    Now if only I could convince myself to throw out a box of her memories and letters. I opened it up once for a quick look before tossing it and found a love letter from my father then felt like I couldn’t toss it. Inherited items are really hard. I hope not to leave anyone with these issues when I’m gone.

    • I bet your mother kept that box of memories because they meant something to HER, and she wanted them to reflect upon. If they do not hold the same personal value to you, you should forgive yourself for wanting to get rid of them. Just remember that once they are gone, they’re gone, so don’t purge anything you might regret. I hope you make peace with it.

  11. I think this article by Erin Doland suggest a very interesting solution for prizes that represent something valuable, but you don’t want to keep them anymore: http://simplystated.realsimple.com/2010/10/19/what-to-do-with-old-medals/

    By the way, my husband just got a box of medals from his grandpa (they’re really like the previous reader’s baseball trophies), and I told him clearly I think most of them are worth nothing. But I guess that in our current situation, a small flat box with some medals inside tucked up in the cupboard don’t hurt anybody.

    • Medals are certainly easier than trophies. I ran one marathon years ago (probably my first AND last) and really debated tossing the medal in one of many ruthless purges. I kept it for those same reasons- it doesn’t take up much space, and because I’m darn proud of what I did- and now my kids have it in their dress up box. I like seeing them wear it as a necklace:)
      Katherine@YeOldCollegeTry´s last post…Overheard

  12. Yup! But mine are super nerdy. (Spelling bee and geography bee trophies, Valedictorian plaque). I wouldn’t keep ‘em myself, but my mom has a trophy shelf in her house, jammed with the various accomplishments of all 5 of us.

    It’s fun to look at them when we’re there, but I don’t like them enough to ever have them in my house. If my mom ever gets tired of them, they’ll be goners.

  13. I went through this dilemma last year. We had a load of trophies and medals from my husband, myself, and my two grown children. None of us were that accomplished; the trophies were primarily from intra-mural and elementary school leagues where almost everyone gets a medal or trophy. I took pictures of them, took off all of the engraved plaques and donated them to Goodwill. The manager said he could sell them.

  14. The one thing I’ve kept from my youth is one box with awards, ribbons, medals, journals, and photo albums. It’s my “emily” box. I have no trophies, just some medals and one plaque, so maybe I’d feel differently if I had bulky trophies taking up space, but I like having those few reminders of how cool I used to be :)

  15. I have two ribbons from elementary school that I’ve kept all these years. They crack me up and they’re both in a scrapbook I made when I was very young, along with photos of the events.

    My advice for parents is to capture in a photo the trophy moment at the time it’s earned, so you can dump the trophy at some later time. These days kids get trophies just for participating, so the trophy shelf gets cluttered quickly. Keeping only the most meaningful ones teaches kids about value vs. volume.

  16. With three kids who participated in sports, dance, and everything in between it’s nice to read this. I ran out of room a long time ago and the youngest is still bringing them home! Thanks for permission to get rid of some of them.

  17. I took pictures of the trophies and ribbons, too. I’m telling my kids now to capture the moment when it happens, too, and ALSO take a close up of the engraving.

    I asked the leadership of one club my kids were in if they would consider “recycling” trophies to younger clubbers, and they actually ran with the idea! This saves the club money, and spares families the burden of keeping these trinkets forever.

    The remaining memorabilia I took to a trophy shop and asked if they could recycle…then didn’t wait for an answer! I just left them there…to meet whatever fate befell them!

  18. I laughed when I read the title — terrific!

    I think your rule of thumb is right on — reduced importance is telling.
    Lori @ In My Kitchen, In My Life´s last post…Unsolicited Advice: "What’s for Dinner?"

  19. Ha! I have a friend who, with her two sisters, competed in many teams while growing up. Each New Years, their mom would “clear the deck” for the coming year by throwing out all the past year’s trophies, saying it was time to begin anew. This set a great precedent of not resting on any laurels.

  20. My hubby and I both have trophies/plaques/certificates at our parents’ homes. We need to go through and purge that stuff…I know it will be a walk down memory lane since I don’t even know what’s in the boxes but that also means most of it can go!!

  21. My daughter made a wreath out of her horse back riding ribbons. It looks really great and it keeps them out of the attic.

  22. My son had lots of trophies because he was active in sports since age four. When he was a teen, we decided to cull through his trophies. He kept a few very special ones, and I took photos of him holding the rest before we donated them.

    My favorite trophy is a heavy silverplate casserole I found in a junk shop. On its lid that is engraved “Pecos Valley Kennel Club Best in Show 1948.” Makes me smile every time I look at it!

  23. For once, I may have to disagree with viewpoint here. My hubby used to win numerous trophies for various football tournaments, almost weekly. They were displayed in cupboards and shelves everywhere in the flat. It was something inherited when we got married. When we made our first move, it was an easy decision to toss. Now with two boys, both aspiring footballers, it’s kinda sad that I kept nothing to show them what they too can aim for such victories. Maybe not the whole lot but each of the different medal and trophy would have been very meaningful.

  24. Both my husband and I have TOO MANY trophies. We move every 2-3 years for the military and we STILL haul those unpacked boxes of trophies from state to state. I am sure we will eventually lose the sentiments they bring us but even now, although at times I have been tempted – they shall remain in our possession tucked up in the attic or in a closet somewhere.
    Debra Bell´s last post…Beyond sex and devotions to Intimacy

  25. I have 4 daughters who played 3 sports from K-12; you can imagine how many trophies & ribbons we’ve accumulated! My brother’s car club has recycled ALL of them by reusing the marble bases, replacing the plastic person with a car and the plaque with their own. Apparently they could re-do each one for under $1 since it was the stone that was costly. Whatever they could not use they donated to a local rehab facility for their yearly house picnic and the kids were thrilled to have trophies just like the other neighborhood kids!

  26. Yes! Take them to Goodwill, donate them to a sports organization, or give them to a trophy shop.
    My dragon boat team bought a used bowling trophy at a trophy shop & we had it engraved to say “I Should Have Gone Bowling”. When a team member does something memorable, with their permission, it gets passed down to them from the next person.
    Some examples: falling off a stationary bike & requiring stitches; talking to a prospective member & accidentally turning the beach shower on herself (and forgetting she had no front teeth as she was in the process of implants); developing amnesia after a practice & ending up in the hospital; tripping while jogging to the bathroom at a mall…going into a perfect tuck & roll while stunned shoppers grabbed their children out of her path. Such fun memories!

  27. I agree with those who say to take pictures of them! I do that for items I lug around from house to house, but never look at until the next move…it makes separating with them less emotional and I have the documentation of the photograph to always remember.

  28. DON’T THROW THEM OUT!! Give them to the local kinder or nursery. They would have a ball decorating and painting them! Reuse, recycle relove!!

  29. All mine went in the trash last year and it felt great! They were in my parents’ attic and then basement, but no more. I did keep one from college, an award plaque from my student teaching semester, and I hang it on the wall next to my shelving where I keep our kids’ homeschooling materials–reminds me that I’m a good teacher in moments when I feel frustrated.

  30. I photographed trophies by categories ( sports, car shows, etc). I use solid backdrop and group 4 or 5 trophies per pic. Then I pull off the label on the really important ones. Toss out all the trophies, with or without labels. Then I scrap booked a few pages of pics with a few labels

  31. After you take a picture of yourself with the trophy re-cycling the parts that are any type of metal is great for keeping more trash from going into the landfill.

  32. I was a drama/ASB person so the only trophy I have is a little one from reaching the finals in debate in college…so I’ve held onto that one. It’ll be interesting to see how to handle my kids’ trophies, though. Hopefully they won’t be packrats, lol!
    Kait Palmer´s last post…A House Redeeemed

  33. Where would we be without history?!

    Although I don’t condone keeping or hoarding everything, I think personal history is important. It’s important for our children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren… how grateful am I that my 96 grandmother (a great-great grandmother to our grandchildren!) has kept some things and especially, photographs. We have a direct connection to relatives 120 or 150 years ago…

    Another element we mustn’t forget is the rise of dementia in our society. Alzheimer’s and other degenerative diseases mean that we may very well, in the future, become isolated in our own lives and this kind of visual and tactile information can be helpful in maintaining a contact with our lives, even if our memories fail us. Sad, but true.

    I think it’s short-sighted to be too radical in this respect.

  34. I was a high level athlete and two years ago I tossed MOST of my trophies and awards.

    The things I let go of:

    - ribbons from high school events
    - medals from international and college events that weren’t the brass ring

    Things I kept:

    - World Championship and World Cup medals (just had two of them)
    - NCAA Champion watch and plaque(x2)
    - NCAA All American Award
    - medal and case from winning the historic British Henley regatta
    - my Canadian National Team racing suit (spandex, folds up small)

    It’s funny, I had thought of making a display box with these items but have never got around to it. I’ve been retired for 8 years and sport isn’t a big part of my life anymore. It would feel strange to have them out in my living room. What I do have is a beautiful photo of me and some teammates. It makes me smile, it looks nice and it’s a fun conversation piece.

    I’ll keep those items, for now, mostly for the thought of showing my son when he is older.

    Like you said Rachel, the experience and skills are the memories – not the ribbons.
    Rachel´s last post…Spend Less Than You Make

  35. As a kid, I competed in equestrian events and amassed way too many trophies. I was a pack rat and wanted to keep them all, but luckily my mother had the forethought to have me sort through my trophies when I was about 15 or 16 years old. I kept a couple “special ones”–now somewhere in a box in my parents’ basement. Haha! I’ll have to get on that one day. The rest got donated to my 4-H club so that they could give out trophies at their horse shows. It was pretty much beyond their budget beforehand. They were really, really happy to have them.

    Any organization that works with kids would probably be very grateful for the trophies. Try 4-H, FFA, scouts, youth sports teams, teachers, schools, after-school programs, especially the programs with small budgets or those working with kids who have never gotten trophies. Even the ribbons if all they say are first place, second, etc. can be reused. Otherwise a kindergarten might like the ribbons for craft materials?

    I also second the idea of taking pictures with yourself in it–maybe of the sorting process?

    I have a great picture of my 13 year old self, my horse and a year’s worth of trophies in our front yard. I don’t miss a single one of those trophies-don’t even remember what most of them were for. But it’s a great picture that people always ask me about and then I reminisce and talk about the time I spent riding horses. Much better than having to dust a bunch of plastic horses. :)

  36. I like the flower vase idea.

  37. Sally Gee says:

    I saw something in the blog world about upcycling the tops of the trophies into wine stoppers. That would be a win/win. lol.

  38. Elizabeth says:

    It took my husband about 20 years to donate his trophies to the local boys and girls club …he kept only one. My daughter went the photo route and did a collage- that is still hanging in ‘her’ room; unfortunately, she is not, so she will soon have to decide whether to keep in her place or discard. My son took all the ribbons off, but kept the medals and the small plates affixed to trpohies…contained in one keepsake box. Me, thank heavens I wasn’t athletic!

  39. I understand that history needs to be preserved, but it seems like my kids get participation trophies for every thing they’re associated with. It gets a bit overwhelming and turns into plastic junk.

    Trophies can be donated to the Special Olympics. They are repurposed and give as awards to the event winners.

    • Special Olympics –
      they DO NOT ACCEPT used trophies.

      “Special Olympics athletes receive new, specially designed medals or ribbons as competition awards.
      We do not accept donated trophies.”

      For add’l info:
      http://www.specialolympics.org/faqs.aspx

      (I thought it was a fantastic idea…so I checked. Sadly, if they ever did, they don’t seem to now. Perhaps local Special Needs groups might if you ask them.)
      Dana @ Cooking at Cafe D´s last post…Yesterday, I Planted Basil With…

      • I was just sure I’ve donated them in the past, so either my memory is failing me or they’ve discontinued accepting them. Either way, thanks for the correction.

  40. My husband had many sports trophies. He had the great idea of peeling the little rectangular name plates of of them and putting them in a single picture frame! I have some spelling be and sports ribbons that I now use as bookmarks.

  41. I’ve seen on Pinterest where someone removed the figurine on the top of each trophy and secured it to a board of some sorts, then hung it on a wall as a towel hooks/ coat hooks. Could be a fun idea for a boys room, bathroom, or playroom.

  42. So, so, so, made me laugh. My brother won “newspaper carrier of the year once, like 1979 and the trophy was like 5 feet tall! And, now, my son is at college and we have two “cow” trophies from 4H in his room in the basement…………the craziness continues!

  43. I recently made a scrapbook for my mother who was an avid bowler and had many tropies. We removed the plate that had the year and the accomplishment engraved on it and I put those on her pages, along with photos and other memorabilia. Takes up a lot less room – no dusting :) and is a great memory.

  44. I got rid of trophies…but plaques are good to repurpose for wall art. You can cover them with fabric or scrapbook paper or make a collage, and they’ve already got the hole in the back for hanging!

  45. Our Cub Scout pack recycles old trophies for our annual Pinewood Derby. We wash and dis-assemble them, then re-assemble the parts into new (mostly) matching trophies with newly-purchased tops and placques from our local engraver. It saves us tons of money and we can give out more than we would be able to if we had to purchase them all new.

  46. My mom hung up my sisters certificate she got one year for never beeing absent or tardy at school in the guest bathroom. She used a pretty frame and it looks very impressive. But: It’s a running joke for the family because my sister is always, really ALWAYS late now. :-)
    Love the idea with the coat rack made from trophys!

  47. Not sure if it was said above (no time to read all the comments) but you can take the name plate off and keep that part, get rid of the rest of the trophy. But first, definitely, take a picture for your scrapbooks! :)
    ter@waaoms´s last post…You Asked (Well, Caitlin Asked) …

  48. Kirsten says:

    I agree, get rid of ‘em! I’m not sure if this was said above, I know someone did mention they wanted some for craft projects, but instead of throwing them away, you should donate them. Many thrift stores will take them. In Portland we have a non-profit called SCRAP that takes donated/used art supplies and sells them. They say that trophies are a hot seller.

  49. Believe it or not, the Salvation Army and Goodwill might take your trophies. I’ve seen them at the thrift stores in Manassas, VA. I’m sure most locations will take them.