Make Your Memories Count by Creating a Personalized Shadow Box

As someone who moves around a lot, I never hold onto much stuff. Typically, most of my belongings fit into 3 suitcases. Needless to say, I get rid of stuff easily. But since having a child, I want to hold onto everything. Artwork, medical records, pictures, clothing. But then I’m left with a bunch of stuff, no real use for any of it, and nowhere to put it all. So in comes the shadow box.

A shadow box is a way to store or display important mementos and keepsakes. As long as they are no longer needed, but still holds meaning and value. Things you love, and probably always will. This could be a collection of stuff from your wedding, college days, your child, school, or anything, really. The shadow box allows your treasures to be stored, displayed or hung on the wall in a beautiful manner. You will make use of the things you love by putting them on display, while also containing your collections into more manageable sizes.

Below are the ONLY steps I took to make my own shadow box. It took less than one afternoon to complete. Now it may not turn out like a Pinterest poster, but it will be yours. And I promise you’ll love it.


STEP 1: Decide what you want to make a shadow box for (wedding, baby, school, travel, home decor). Then collect all the items related to that memory that you may want to put in the box (pictures, receipts, cards, accessories, keepsakes).

STEP 2: Choose what style and size of shadow box would be most appropriate. Shadow boxes come in a variety of shapes, sizes, colors and materials. This is the one I selected, its basic and black so will match with everything. It was also the biggest size I could find at a decent price. Since I live in Japan I had to order, I couldn’t go to Michaels or other craft stores that carry shadow boxes. But if those stores are nearby, you may have more options.

STEP 3: Gather all the materials you might want or need in the creation of your shadow box. Honestly, I only used what I had on hand. There’s no need to spend money on stuff that may not work, or you may not even use. Here is all I used: scissors, scotch tape, tacks and paper clips.

STEP 4: Get to work. Start arranging your keepsakes on the provided paper inside the box. Keep working until you find a layout that works for your style, and your stuff. This is a lot of trial and error. Depending on how many pieces you have, and the size of your items. You may end up moving things over, and over, and over again. Also, feel free to cut, trim, or remove any bits that aren’t necessary, or are wasting valuable space. But remember once you cut, it’s gone. After you have a solid layout that you like, you can start taping. I used glue at first, but it didn’t work as well. Scotch tape held strong, but also allowed me to move pieces around if I didn’t like where I originally put them.

Be patient, as you may need to get innovative with how you display your items. 3-D pieces may require tacks, safety pins or hot glue if you want them held up. Or else you may just rest them at the bottom of the box. Be creative and make whatever you have work for you. Have fun with this step, this is your own creation.

STEP 5: See how it looks all put together. If you have determined your layout, you can now put the box back together. Once it has the frame around it, things may look different. You may choose to alter, change or remove some items, which is okay. I changed my pieces endlessly until I found what I wanted. Which is exactly why I only used scotch tape. Also, if you see your final design and decide its missing something that you don’t have. Great. Whenever you can, buy the missing piece, and add it in later.

STEP 6: Adore your creation, and be proud of all the work you put into it. It’s your own masterpiece, and now you get to decide where you will keep it. On a wall, in a closet, on a shelf. Find your shadow box a home, where it will bring you and others joy.

STEP 7: Clean. I want to say this is the worst part, but really it isn’t. If you kept things simple, there shouldn’t be much to clean up. I did mine on my bed, and cleaning took maybe one minute. As for the leftover pieces that you collected but didn’t use, you have several options. First of all, you could just throw them out. Since you don’t need them anymore, and have already selected which items to display within your shadow box. The leftover pieces are almost irrelevant as they didn’t make the cut. But if some keepsakes still hold deep meaning, you can keep them in a box for storage, as shown below. That way, you will know where they are, and they’ll still be contained. But won’t be out on display.

Additional Insights

Here’s the struggles I ran into with my shadow box. Maybe they can help you with yours.

  • I left the keepsakes out on my desk before I actually started the project and my daughter drew all over them. It adds character right?
  • I didn’t use a background paper so I had to make sure every-single-inch of the box was covered with something. But I did get to use my daughter’s drawings and other items as backdrops, making it all very personal.
  • Items shifted when I put the frame on, so it took me many tries before I got it how I wanted. Once the frame was one, things stayed put. You just need to move your layout from outside of the shadow box, into it.
  • I didn’t have a huge variety of glues, tapes, or craft accessories. But this meant I really had to invent ways to make things stay where I wanted. So you don’t need everything. Make what you have work.
  • My pregnancy stick got wedged sideways and wouldn’t move. It was literally stuck in the most awkward position. I had to shake the box vigorously until it got dislodged. After which I played labyrinth with the stick until the placement was right.

Be okay with the process, it will all work out wonderfully. After all the setbacks, mine turned out way better than I expected:



10 thoughts on “Make Your Memories Count by Creating a Personalized Shadow Box

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  1. Thank you so much for sharing this! It seems like it will be a lot easier and less daunting than I have been thinking. My daughter was born April 2015 and I have been meaning to get around to looking up just how to make a shadow box for her birth stuff. I am a pretty crafty person, but something about the task just seemed so daunting and expensive. The steps you outlines here seem easier than anything else I have read and I believe I will be tackling the project in the near future! Thank you!

    1. Thank you! Yes I was the same as you, feeling overwhelmed and not wanting to start. Then one day I just did it. I only used whatever I had at home, and it still worked great. Besides when you start looking at all the ideas and information out there it gets confusing and overwhelming. Good luck!

  2. I made on of these as a save for travel. It works so great. I cut of pic from a mag and couple of personal item and it came out great. Thanks for other inspiration for what I can do with my next box.

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