Growing up, we never had a "themed" Christmas tree. Each year, in the days following Thanksgiving, my dad and brothers would haul down the Christmas boxes and we would assemble and decorate the Christmas tree. Out came boxes and boxes of ornaments - some vintage, some new, most handmade by us kids over the years. I loved that so many ornaments had a story behind them, and that they meant something to our family.

Matt and I have carried the same tradition into our little family as well. I like to call it a "story tree." As we decorate, we reminisce on the stories behind the ornaments and it's such a sweet time of recalling memories that are precious to us.

As we've minimized, I realized we had a bunch of sentimental and keepsake items that didn't exactly make the cut for displaying in our home year-round, but it also seemed like a waste to have them sit in the attic, never to be touched or seen unless we moved or cleaned. So, I set about turning a bunch of this stuff into ornaments to add to our Christmas tree! I love that we'll pull these things out each and every year, and get to remember the joyful memories attached to them. That's what stuff is about after all, right?

With a little bit of ribbon, twine and hot glue, you can easily turn any old thing into a beautiful ornament for your tree. These are perfect for even the least crafty of us - truly a ten-minute DIY!

some of my favorite homemade ornaments:

Tassles from high school and college. My husband and I each put our high school and college graduation tassels inside glass ornaments. I removed the year from the tassel and hot glued it to the outside of the ornament. Or, you could simply hang the tassle on the tree as-is!

Souvenirs from trips. We love to collect little trinkets from our trips to turn into ornaments. It could be as simple as a magnet from the cheap souvenir shop, or something more meaningful, like a shell you found on the beach. Some of my favorites are the slingshot I bought in a market in Haiti, the pair of wooden castanets we found at a street fair on our honeymoon in Spain, and the perfect shell I found on the beach in Hawaii.


Miscellaneous keepsake items. The coin my husband got when he graduated from paramedic class, our high school class rings and the chastity ring I wore, my "something blue" from our wedding with the sixpence I wore in my shoe, and the pennies I attached to my wedding bouquet (one for the years we were born, met, got engaged and got married.) Tokens from Matt's years in boy scouts. The first necklace he ever got me (the owl.) A silly ambulance I made for him in college. All kinds of random little things that have a story attached will now be hung our tree for us to reminisce about!

Race medals. Matt and I have each run a handful of races, and I like keeping the medals as a token of that accomplishment. But, it doesn't fit my decor style to display them, so they were just sitting in our keepsakes box in the attic, until I had the idea to turn them into ornaments! Turns out John & Sherry at Young House Love had the same idea, so basically we're BFFs now because, same brain and all that.

Items from loved ones who have passed away. When my Mimi passed away this summer, I went through her things to claim a few items to hold onto, to remind me of her. I was going through her jewelry box and found, randomly, a regular old plastic red and white bobber. My Mimi loved to fish, and fishing with her is one of my fondest memories. So I took the bobber, glued on some ribbon, and every year when I hang it on my tree, I'll be reminded of her and all the memories we have fishing together. And when my first dog passed away unexpectedly right before Christmas in 2012, I turned her tags into an ornament as well. Or there are the crocheted slippers my great-grandmother made. They've been sitting in my keepsakes box for years, but I was never going to wear them. So, I cut them up and made them into an ornament, that way they actually get remembered and used. There are any number of things that could be turned into an ornament in a similar way. Maybe you have a super ugly tchotchke from a grandparent that doesn't fit your decor, but you can't bear to get rid of. Make it into an ornament!

It's possible to be minimal AND sentimental. Going minimal doesn't mean getting rid of everything that's meaningful to you! It might just mean thinking outside the box, and looking for ways to use those meaningful items in new or unconventional ways.

Any other DIY ornament ideas? I'd love to hear! xo!