While this is a great start, it becomes burdensome as the children grow older. More items need to be stored so more totes are purchased. The amount of storage space required grows like a never ending vine.
Worse, when the kids are ready to move out of the house, you’re both stuck with a disorganized, tangled mess of childhood papers, projects, and random stuff that your children now consider junk.
What in the world?! The intention was great, but it lacked one thing: forethought. Let me explain.
When city planners gather to discuss where the new road should go, they consider many things: frequency of use, amount of cars that will travel on it, potential problems, and ease of maintenance. They think decades ahead so that their work will not be in vain.
Your memory boxes deserve the same attention.
Step 1: Select the Appropriate Container
I suggest using a large letter file box. This size box is big enough to hold a childhood full of memories, but small enough to carry, stack, and store. As you shop, you’ll also want to choose a container that is relatively safe from the elements. Although plastic gives off a funky scent after so many years, it is bug and water proof. Finally, your box needs to be easy to open. While I love a good cedar chest with a beautiful brass lock, I’ve found that the keys go missing, the chest gets piled high with other things, and they’re difficult to re-home as children grow. Instead, opt for a solution that is portable and easy to use.
Step 2: Create Divisions
Just like lanes on a highway, creating divisions within your memory box will give you the direction you (and your child) need to organize their belongings as time goes on. Hanging file folders are a favorite of mine because they take up little space and can hold papers and trinkets. They also allow for maximum accessibility to each division. When I create memory boxes, I use the following divisions for hanging files:
- 1st Grade
- 2nd Grade
- 3rd Grade
- 4th Grade
- 5th Grade
- 6th Grade
- 7th Grade
- 8th Grade
- 9th Grade
- 10th Grade
- 11th Grade
- 12th Grade
I prefer to divide by grades because most children organize their memories around the school calendar. They remember going to Niagara Falls after 4th grade or winning that soccer championship in 10th grade. The school calendar typically has more firm start/stop points than a child’s own birthday. However, if your child prefers to organize by given age, that’s fine too. I’ve also seen families set up boxes by category rather than grade level (i.e., school papers, sports, crafts, etc.). The only downside to organizing by categories is that it will be difficult to keep organized as the years go by and you’ll have a greater tendency to stop organizing and start piling the keepsakes.
This is where the rubber meets the road; where you realize whether the system you created for your toddler actually works when he’s a teenager. If you use a file box with the hanging file divisions I shared above, I promise you, the system WILL work. The trick here is to sort and file the keepsakes along the way. You may notice that a file will get particularly hefty…and may begin to crowd out others. If this happens, pull the file out and review it with your child. Are the pieces they’ve chosen to keep really their treasures from that year? Give your kids the gift of wisdom by teaching them to compare and evaluate. Children who learn to determine the value of their own belongings are better prepared to make wise investment choices as adults. Learning to live within the boundaries, within their means, will enable them to comparison shop for clothes, food, colleges, cars, and homes.
Never underestimate the power of a box.