5 Tips for Dealing With Military Memorabilia


I’ll admit it: we’re in possession of three trench knives. There’s a sword, a tomahawk, a very-important non-trench knife knife, and a bunch of other weapons I’d be hard pressed to name and am even harder pressed to find a home for, too. Our house is overrun with military memorabilia. And there is never a natural place for them to live.

(Someone else’s home?)

If your house is anything like mine, you know the drill. There’s the rug brought home from Afghanistan you can’t possibly fathom why he decided to buy, all that stuff they get in training school or when they leave a unit or for some reason for celebration that still, after years in the military, remains somewhat lost on you. And all of it comes home to you. And all of it needs a home.

We’ve compiled five simple tricks to help corral the “war prizes” in your home and display military memorabilia, in case figuring out how to explain to your husband that he might want to avoid home decorating decisions made overseas is evading you, too.


SpouseBUZZ | Making Room for Military Memorabilia

1. Make a Man Cave

I can’t recommend this one enough. And I don’t mean a fancy t.v. with a gaming system and those sofas that fold down to reveal a cup-holder and beer rest. I mean a place where they can hide all their stuff so you can close the door on it. Until the addition of our newest family member, my husband was enjoying what is now the nursery as his beloved “War Room.” It’s where all the gear lived, it served as staging area for any military-related packing, it’s where boots and cammies went, and it’s where all those trench knives went. And all that other gruesome-looking paraphernalia and some of the more curious acquisitions that happen in military life. (We needed another knife in a fancy sheath? really? I thought we needed new tires.)

But if you don’t have a whole room to devote to this, find a closet. My husband’s military life has actually been relegated to the shed (along with my art supplies, because I’m trying to be fair). But he needs a staging area for all these things, and I need a baby-proofed home that doesn’t include trench knives within reach of fat little fingers when I’m not looking.

Apartment Therapy may have found the ultimate man-cave (it even has a movie theater!) but if all you have the guest room closet up for grabs, consider investing in some serious storage facilities to maximize the space. I love Ikea’s shoe storage units – they fit easily in closets, and what you don’t put inside the drawers and cubbies, you can easily mount or hang out of reach of the kids. Memorabilia is safe; your house doesn’t look like the armor room at the art museum. Win-win.


SpouseBUZZ | Making Room for Military Memorabilia

2. Hallowed Hallway Space

Two birds with one stone: not only will sharing your hallway space with hubby’s military memories make him happy, it’ll also add some pizzazz to the walls you still haven’t really done anything with even though you’re going to PCS soon. Make the hallway a place to celebrate everyone’s achievements! Intersperse kiddo’s t-ball photos and painted macaroni masterpieces with photos from a deployment and all the according stuff. These shelves from Pottery Barn look great on every wall, as do these from Ikea. Lowe’s also has some good options, and of course, you can use your military discount there.

And remember, the minute you hang a rug on the wall, it becomes a fashionable tapestry! Take that, strange rug.


SpouseBUZZ | Make a Home for your Military Memorabilia

3. Make an “Heirloom Memorial Footlocker.”

You can buy one for a thousand dollars. Or you can recreate one for under $100, like the creative, resourceful, brilliant genius you are. Goodwill usually has a ton of old (vintage!) trunks, and even if they don’t, you can find a bunch online. Stencil your spouse’s name, branch, and rank on it, and in it goes everything that’s been lovingly collected during service. Or, you know, all that stuff you couldn’t find a home for finally gets a good storage container. Where it goes once it’s in the trunk is your guess, but I find that steamer trunks are great on the floor of a coat closet (boots on top!). Or you could turn it into a stylish occasional table in the living room, where of course it can be opened for “show and tell” whenever the opportunity arises.

4. Integrate What You Can

My grandfather brought home TONS from overseas, but he also had a great eye for design. My grandmother found a way to integrate what she could into her house, and a lot of this has been passed down to me. I cherish every little bit of it, so I can get behind the idea of creating family keepsakes here. And when it comes to things other than trench knives, I feel pretty much the same way she did (as long as it isn’t weaponry) – if it means enough to bring it home, I can find a place for it. Even when it means finding a slipcover for the pale green sofa since the evergreen and red rug doesn’t exactly blend with the beachy pastels of our den.

 5. Set Limits

But if you’re going to try to find room for what comes up, there needs to be some limits on just what can come home. Just like you don’t buy every pair of darling shoes in sight, there’s no need for every possible bit of military whatnot to take up residence in your home. For example: three trench knives, like we have, are two trench knives too many. When Bill gets home from deployment, he can choose the one we keep. But the other two are going to have to find new homes. Since the trench knife acquisition, we’ve done a better job of only bringing home the necessities. I don’t buy ten different cartons of pastels every time we’re at an art supply store, and Bill doesn’t bring home more military stuff than we have room to safely keep. It’s a good balance, although it doesn’t always work.

And for that, there’s always grandma and grandpa’s. Some things are just meant to live … at someone else’s house.


About the Author

Raleigh Duttweiler
Raleigh Duttweiler is a writer and social media expert living just outside the gates of MacDill in sunny Saint Petersburg, Florida. A Marine Corps wife, she has navigated the stress of Active Duty moves, trainings, and deployments, and now that her family has transitioned to the Reserves, she's experiencing the "weekend warrior" side of military life. (NB: It's not quite as part-time as advertised.) When not writing about benefits and military families, Raleigh posts here about truly life-altering, important issues like What Not to Wear to a Military Ball (visible thongs), Military Halloween Costumes We Love to Hate (ones that generally resemble both military uniforms AND thongs), and how to pack awesome care packages. She is passionate about spouse employment, higher education, and helping families navigate the often-bumpy transition back into civilian life. Raleigh also manages the SpouseBUZZ and Military.com Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest pages, so be sure to say hi!

11 Comments on "5 Tips for Dealing With Military Memorabilia"

  1. Love these ideas!! Right now my husband has an "I love me" wall, right next to his computer desk for stuff to be hung, but I need to get more creative with other stuff. And all the knives drive me nuts, though he uses them more often than scissors (really, is that even necessary?).

    • Joh Paul Jones | February 1, 2013 at 12:25 am |

      This is not a display; this is a house scene supervise by a controlling wife. This guy needs a serious man cave and a man-hobby. Signed: A Special Forces Colonel

      • Stephanie Aubrey | February 3, 2013 at 9:13 pm |

        I too have a Special forces Colonel husband…John Paul Jones and he started out have a very tiny closet for the Gimlet Stick and some awards. Moving every two years racking up five different African tours a tour in Japan and Italy and several stateside didn't really leave places for a man cave. Our kids needed rooms. But now after Brigade Command is over and uniform has been retired to the rear of the closet. We are looking at how to respectfully display our adventures. NOT a controlling wife, just one kick butt SpecialForces spouse who knows how turn all our junk into a home museum.

  2. Thankfully my husband doesn't want decor that is even remotely "military", in our home anymore then I do! lol It's his job, not his life. So, he doesn't really collect "weapons" much, and those he has are in our closet. His other things go to his office at work. As they should. As for old uniforms and such, they are in duffel bags in our attic right now, but they will at some point be put in proper storage, such as a trunk.

  3. There will also be things that either your spouse wants to hand down, or that the children/grand children will want (and sharing really does not work).
    My father's memorabilia, along with my grandfather's and uncles', were thrown out by my sister. Those items ranged from the American Civil War up through Vietnam. My father served on the USS Shangri La at Operation Crossroads, the atom bomb testing at Bikini (some information still "redacted"), Grandfather was a Sgt in an IL Army Reserve Unit as a trainer, and I was to get several things from back into 1850. And my Uncles are all now deceased, and their widow disposed of everything that we had wanted.
    A simple footlocker that is to be labled for who get's what would have helped. We now know that my sister did things to deliberatly hurt both my brother and I, and if I had known could have taken my father's footlocker with me. As it was, all I have are some of the VA records that I helped collect for his pension when he became disabled.
    All of my family that have served were proud of their service, except my sister. And we all want just a few things to share with family, even if it is not displayed.
    Great article.

  4. I'd hardly call your "giving up" of your art supplies equivlent to making him take a great part of his life that was essential to his survival "trying to be fair!"

  5. Will Sarrell | January 31, 2013 at 3:22 am |

    The entire tone of this article is disparaging to military in general and disrespectful to the author’s spouse in particular. Meaningless trinkets purchased in the foyer of the PX or BX notwithstanding, items acquired during a military career – no matter how short or long, stateside or deployed – are pieces of the servicemember’s LIFE. Instead of demanding a choice of which piece to keep and which to discard, why not spend some time asking about the memorabilia. Women always say they want to know their man more intimately. For men at least, their time in the military can hold THE most significant friendships outside of their marriage. So take the time to look past that Afghan rug that “you can’t possibly fathom why he decided to buy” and find out the story behind the purchase. You may just discover something about your husband that you didn’t know before, grow closer to him, and maybe even welcome that “sfuff that needs a home” into yours – and his.

  6. jimmy mccombs | January 31, 2013 at 7:03 am |

    My wife loves the fact that the only thing I had left from a military career is my medals and skill badges. We have those and a few photos hanging in the hallway.

  7. Interesting read here. I have accumulated some things which are very important to my former career. Things which others never did and things which I did with others. Some from friendly countries and some from not so friendly but we swapped as a show of chivalry and mutual respect among serving members of the 'knighthood' regardless of the politics. My children asked my friends about some of these and as a result know much more about my service than the spouse. The spouse has no place for my 'stuff' but has plenty for spouse stuff and more importantly for spouse's brothers and sisters pictures articles etc. Being a believer in vows and oaths I have learned to live with this situation. However a word to the wise: I consider this house a residence not a home. Chew on that for a few minutes. Then decide where to put the family honors.

  8. I have a double problem- both my husband and I were in the military. To solve this problem my husband suggested we put both of our important military stuff on a hallway. Still have things that we haven't put up. I still have all my uniforms from the 70's in a suitcase.

  9. Will Sarrell | January 31, 2013 at 2:56 pm |

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