If you have kids then you definitely have memorabilia! My kids bring home sooo much paper. They have art work, stories, and AWANA vests full of patches. There’s baby blankets and the outfit they wore home from the hospital, certificates and pins, birthday cards, report cards and on and on. What do you do with it all?!!!

I share the process I use to deal with all the memorabilia from my kids. Because if you have kids, you have memorabilia!

With anything, the first step is to think through your goals.

Ask yourself…

  • What do you want to have for them when they turn 18?
  • Do you want every paper in sheet protectors in three ring binders?
  • Do you want only five papers or every single paper from each year?
  • How much room do you have to store it all?
  • Will you make scrapbooks or are you the digital type that will make digital photo books?
  • What did your parents save for you? Are you glad with that amount or do you wish you had more stuff to look back at and store?

Once you have thought through your goals, then, make a system that supports what you decide to do.

Think through each step.

When the memorabilia comes into the house where will it go?

Will you put it into the permanent location immediately or does it need a temporary place to go?

My answers to the questions.

  • My goal was to have their memorabilia contained so that eventually I can hand it over to them.
  • I wanted the process and storage to be simple and EASY.
  • My kids needed to be able to maintain it and ENJOY it over the years.
  • I didn’t want to burden them with lots of stuff.

My system.

The system that I found that works best for me and our home is to keep a clear plastic tub per child with legal size manila pocket folders per year.

We stand up the pocket folders in the tub which leaves plenty of room for specialty items like the AWANA vest and the clay snail they made in art plus their baby blanket and home-from-the-hospital outfit.

Steps I use to maintain this system.

Remember this would not work for everyone so develop steps that work for you.

Memorabilia comes in.

We enjoy it. Awwww, it is so special. My kids are amazing and I LOVE to see what they have created and written and how they progress and grow. I enjoy it for a couple minutes. We talk about it. We go over things they might have missed on a paper or test.

Recycle what you do not keep.

I immediately put whatever I am not going to keep into the recycle bin. Or, I ask them to. If I am undecided I ask them, “Do you want to keep this in your bin or recycle it?” They understand that they have one manila folder in their bin so they need to be selective about what they are keeping.

Temporarily store what you keep.

I put whatever I am keeping into a 12×12 covered box in my office (which is right next to the kitchen where I stand). This is the temporary storage location for all memorabilia and keepsakes since I do not want to run down and file it in each of their tubs immediately.

I put all the things we keep – memorabilia, keepsakes, and photos – in this 12×12 box because I store all this in the basement.

File/put away later.

Later – usually when I am in the mood to “nest”or clean or when we are all home or when the box is full and it has to be done – I tell all the kids to come with me. We go downstairs, get all the memory tubs down and sit on the floor.

I sort the stuff in the 12×12 box into piles according to child. Then, the kids put their stuff into their memory tub in the appropriate folder.

We have fun.

What usually happens is they get out their other folders and go back and enjoy the papers they kept from their earlier years. We laugh and ooh and aaah. We remember when they did those projects or wrote that story.

My only instruction to them is to take out one folder at a time to keep the papers in the right folders.

After a little while, they put it all away and I put their tubs back on our shelves and off we go.

It’s funny, what starts happening is as they look through their things they ask me, “Why did we keep this?!” I say, “I don’t know. You must have thought it was really special.” They laugh and ask if they can recycle it. I say. “Of course!”


How many bins should you keep?

What I have found with my own kids and with some of my clients that use this system is that one bin will work for about 10 years of a child’s life, depending on how much stuff you keep. I have two bins per child.

Update: As my kids got older I had them go back through their bins and get rid of the stuff they didn’t want. My boys were chucking things left and right. To be honest, I picked through and kept a few of the things they were going to throw. Now we can fit everything into ONE bin. I’ll only have ONE memory bin to hand them when they are out on their own!

What should I keep?

In order to decide what to keep (especially for the sentimental type) ask yourself questions like this:

  • Is this unique to your child? Or did everyone make/do the exact same thing?
  • Is it just coloring or circling the right answer or is it creative?
  • Will they want to look at this when they are thirty? (Maybe one color page. NOT 50.)
  • Does this show a significant stage in the growth process (like a head with legs coming out of it!).
  • Does my child think it is special enough to keep?

Set limits.

The pocket folder sets a limit on how much you keep for the year so you can only keep what fits. Teach your child this and let THEM decide what they want to keep. Let THEM fit it into the folder explaining that you can only keep what fits into the folder.

If they can’t fit it in the folder, lay all the papers out and have them pick their favorites. Put the favorites into the folder. If there is still room you can pick a few more you like.

Here is a picture of my oldest son’s tub.

Here is my second son’s tub.

I’ve found these “file jackets” work the best. They have sides to hold the papers in the folder. I use the one inch size. If you keep a lot you might want to do the two inch size.

As you can see the tubs are not super neat. They are not perfect. But, I know where to find things if I need something.

It makes sense to us. My kids can enjoy it without me being scared they will mess something up. Those were my goals!

Remember your system does not need to look like this. I recently helped a client and she had already purchased art storage boxes (15×12) so we used a box for each grade and then she can stack them or store them in a tub.

What do you do with your memorabilia? If you have a system, what works for you and your family?

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Tracy Hoth