Saving Memories Without Being a Pack Rat

Three ways to preserve memories with creative organizing projects.

I am my family's sole memory keeper. I am the one who remembers the camera at family events. I record events, milestones,  the children's height and teeth lost, and save everything. If I don't, no one will, and our memories will be lost. It's a lot of pressure.

I have drawers packed with old birthday cards, letters to Santa, ticket stubs, children's artwork, and the list goes on. I admit it's a problem and I'm a pack rat. I have the best of intentions to do something with what I see as precious mementos of our life, but time keeps passing me by, and someday I'll get a visit either from the "Hoarding: Buried Alive" camera crew or the Fire Marshal if I don't do something about it soon.

In effort to contain some of our family's memories, and clean out some of my "memorabilia" from our house, I've found several projects to tackle this summer.  Hopefully, these will give me peace of mind that I'm preserving valuable memories without sacrificing the storage space in my house.

Card Keepsake Book: I save cards, particularly ones with messages written in them. In the day of emails and text, handwritten notes are so rare and special, and I love having a loved one's words on paper, especially after that person has passed away.

This is one of my latest projects I found on Pinterest, and I couldn't be happier because it cleared out two desk drawers that I had stuffed with greeting cards from the last seven years of birthdays, christenings, anniversaries, and holidays. I found a package of book rings at my local office supply store, and with a hole punch and an afternoon, I created three books, one for each child that included greetings cards from their birth, christenings, and birthdays, as well as one for my husband and myself to preserve birthday, anniversary, and Mother's and Father's Day cards (they have the best little notes from the kids). Desk drawers empty, and now all the cards I save (because I'm a sentimental fool) have a home.

School Paperwork Box: During the school year, the influx of math worksheets, drawings, school artwork, projects, and spelling tests is overwhelming. I try purge the backpacks everyday and only keep the work that shows off their handwriting, or storytelling, personal artwork, or a particular accomplishment. However, by the end of the school year, the kids' school binders are still overflowing. Over at one of my favorite blogs, I Heart Organizing, I found a post for a school paperwork box so cute and clever I had to make one this summer.

You take a file storage box, and  divide it by academic year: preschool through 12th grade. In each section, you can save your child's best school work, report cards, class photo, cards from their teacher or classmates, and extra school photos from that year. After holding onto my kids' school paperwork in their binder for a whole school year, I'm much less sentimental going through it again, so the items I save dwindle greatly the second time I sort through them. Having one file box per child lets you save some things, but not everything and sets a nice limit for those of us who need help in that area.

Smash Journaling: At a young age, I started keeping a diary, filling the pages with my thoughts, teenage angst, postcards and concert tickets, and doodles. Once I started scrapbooking as a an adult, I still wanted to get my memories in my scrapbook, but doing a scrapbook page was so labor-intensive, that I rarely find the time.

I stumbled upon a line of SMASH journaling products during a recent visit to Michaels, and I'm thinking I might give it a try, because essentially I was doing smash journaling before life got busy and it fell to the wayside.

What I like about the Smash journal products is that the pages are filled with fun graphics and images. There's no blank pages filled with empty lines awaiting your thoughts. You can paste mementos, magazine clippings, postcards, photos, whatever, and embellish them with your own words, captions, stickers, anything you'd like. It's messy and random, and simple, and will help me clean out my junk drawers of all that little stuff I can't bear to throw away.

With these three projects in place, now when I find a clipping, quote, child's drawing, photo, or fortune cookie fortune that I'm way too emotionally attached to, I have a place to put them, where they're preserved, but out of the way of our household routine. With a little more method to my memory keeping madness, my family and I can better appreciate the memories I've collected.


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