When I open up my second-lowest dresser drawer, I remember being unbelievably nervous as I was handed a T-shirt during my summer orientation. I remember tying up the back of my elementary school band T-shirt with a hair tie because I was so tiny that even a size small cascaded down to my upper thighs. Laughing with my AP Literature class over the chosen T-shirt design, our teacher drawn as Pikachu. Smiling when I discovered a wild T-shirt that says “The Green Machine” for free on the streets of Brooklyn.
And I’m also reminded that these memories take up a lot of space.
Somehow over the years, I’ve accumulated five shirts from college, three from high school marching band, and over a dozen others from all sorts of moments scattered throughout the timeline of my life. Though there are only so many T-shirts a person needs to effectively lounge around the apartment pantsless all day, I haven’t been able to bring myself to get rid of them, and they’ve traveled with me to college and back, as well as to each of the four apartments I’ve lived in since.
If you’ve spent your life participating in organizations, working in your community, going to school, or I don’t know, breathing, you probably have dozens of your own memory T-shirts hogging up your dresser space. It can be hard to get rid them, especially when the voice of your mom is whispering in your head, Don’t you want to give a few of these to your kids one day?
However, there are other ways to preserve those T-shirt memories without taking up entire drawers, if you’re willing to put in a little time and energy for some light DIY.
Revamp them into totally new shirts
When Christy Myers, a 38-year-old certified reflexologist based in Annville, Pennsylvania, got a free T-shirt that said “Hit Me With Your Best Guac,” she couldn’t just get rid of it — that would be an insult to guac. But as a self-described “tank gal,” she decided to try making it into something completely new.
“I’ve always wanted to try T-shirt cutting, so I figured, why not,” she said. “I don’t have any specific method I used; I had some ideas in my head of what I wanted and just Googled and cut.”
Christy found a quick YouTube tutorial for making bows in the back of the shirt, and she combined it with some other ideas she found for the shoulders, sleeves, and neckline to create a funky, guac-loving shirt she’d actually wear. “I may even raid my man’s closet for some larger dress-style cutting ideas,” she said.
If you’re not a huge fan of the bow style, there are literally dozens of different tutorials on Pinterest that will let you transform your favorite college shirts or concert tees into funky new statement pieces.
Update a plain denim jacket
Do you love the design on a particularly cool T-shirt of yours, but never seem to wear it? You can cut it out and put it on the back of a denim jacket to make it look like your alma mater’s mascot is bursting through the back.
Don’t have a plain jacket to spruce up? There are also ways to make your T-shirt into a jacket itself.
Make a grab-and-go tote bag
Whether you use them to hold groceries or as an everyday catch-all purse, tote bags have a seemingly infinite number of purposes. So why not make some tote bags that have a few nice memories attached? Bonus points if someone asks you where you got that super cute bag. There are even no-sew tutorials!
Sew a quilt
This one may take even the most experienced DIYers a few rainy days, but the payoff is huge — and it’s a great way to utilize quite a few T-shirts if you’re eyeballs-deep in them.
If you love the idea of a memory quilt and you have plenty of money in place of time and/or skills, you can purchase a customized memory quilt by finding an artist online. Head to Etsy and find a vendor like this one who will accept your shirts in the mail and make you your perfect blanket — but keep in mind that they can be pretty pricey (from $100 to over $500, depending on the desired size).
Give your cat a tent (yes, a cat tent)
If you have a feline companion, s/he can benefit from your T-shirts (besides just laying on top of them and getting hair all over them). Nurse and mother Rebecca Phillips says that she created a cat tent out of only two of her old T-shirts using cardboard, hot glue, and two wire hangers. She used one of the shirts as the tent and one for the bottom as a “kind of pad,” adding that her cats “legit loved it.”
“Totally found the idea on Pinterest, though,” she said.
And so can you. There are various designs that you can try with that weird AP Literature shirt you got from high school.
But if you don’t end up doing any of these, we don’t judge. It’s totally okay to just say, “Screw it, I don’t have time for this,” and donate ‘em all. Hey, you could even turn them into dishrags — sentimentality can only go so far.