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Organizing Kids’ Memories

Organizing Kids’ Memories

All those school projects, papers, and awards are everywhere, and you can’t find it in your heart to let them go. 

Organizing kids’ memories let you declutter your life and enjoy those mementos better. I will show you how. 

First, gather all your children’s projects, artwork, school papers, trophies, awards, and the like. Go through every space, drawer, closet, and room in your home. Leave no space unchecked. Take all this kid-related stuff to a single place in your home to collect them together.

However, stay hyper-focused during this gathering process. Don’t get distracted by other things you might find. Your focus is crucial! Getting distracted is what trips people on this process, and then they get confused and can’t finish half the job. 

Once you have this material in one place, you will have a large group of miscellaneous items. Now subdivide this big pile by the child if you have two or more children. 

After having a separate pile for each of your children, sort each one by year. When you can’t recall the year when the piece was created, and the item does not show, assign some chronological order as best as you can. 

You will have several groups of items per each of your children. Now follow the steps described below for each of those years, per child. You must work on one group (year or stage) for one child at a time.

1. Discard Unimportant Papers

Unimportant papers are notifications from school, lunch menus, and the like. These are things that won’t move our hearts at the end of the day. (You know what I’m talking about). So, recycle or trash all that.

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2. Photograph Non-Scannable Items 

Take good pictures of everything that is not flat paper, like artwork pieces, medals, trophies, etc. As you take each photo, include a post-it note with the child’s name and the item’s date. Place this post note at the bottom of each item so that you can crop it out of the picture later on. Then, when ready to work on a project with these pictures (like a photo book or scrapbook), crop the note out, if you can tag or caption the image.

If taking pictures of these items will suffice, you can let go of the physical object. When dealing with trophies, medals, and awards, if you or your child are not ready to part with the physical thing just yet, find a suitable location in the home where you can gather and display these items in a cohesive, aesthetic way. You don’t want them to look like accidents in your home.

3. The Written Work 

Group items related to written work like stories, poems, analyses, and the like. The idea for these is to make binders or books later on. But, for now, organize the material to create these books later.

4. The “Warm & Fuzzy” Box 

Regardless of your most ruthless efforts to eliminate clutter, there might be a few (a few), small items that you or your child can’t simply let go of, even when these have been digitized. That’s where the “Warm & Fuzzy” box comes in. 

Everyone should have a “warm & fuzzy” box, by the way. This is a nice-looking box, basket, or container with a lid that includes items we keep forever. Those are the items that take us back in time and make us laugh and cry every time. Therefore, it is crucial to be selective with the things we include here. Not everything makes it to the coveted status of “warm & fuzzy” box material. Remember that!

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5. Paper and Flat Media

Loose papers, awards, recognitions, messages, etc., on paper, are scannable media. As you do this, name the electronic file with the child’s name and the year when they made it. This process is equivalent to the post-it notes you applied to items photographed.

Scan everything using your printer/scanner, your iPhone, or any equipment you might have or can purchase for this purpose. This equipment is not that expensive anymore. However, it would be an excellent investment to have a reliable scanner at home.

Stories, poems, essays, and other items you put together to make binders or books (step 3), don’t need to be scanned individually. However, it is clever to digitize these, ensuring a safe record. If you do, ensure that pages of the same item remain together in sequential order. 

You will manage the scanned material the same way you dealt with the pictures. So think of each scanned paper or project a digital image comparable to the photos.

6. Rinse and Repeat

Once you finish working with all the mementos of a child’s years, repeat the process with each one of your other children, working a year or a stage at a time. 

In my case, we have three children, and for each one, I divided their electronic files into four main stages: infancy, elementary school, middle school, and high school. Note that pictures or souvenirs from extra-curricular activities and summers get included in one of these four stages, depending on the year. 

7. Create Digital Files

Download all the photos you took of non-scannable items into an electronic file. You could name this file “Kids’ Projects” or something like that. Then create a file folder per child, and move every picture related to a particular child into their electronic folder. After this, you may subdivide each child’s electronic folder into years or stages or any way you want to do this.

Do not forget to add all images from your scanning process. Add these to the same digital folders. 

From Now On 

From the moment you gather all those projects, awards, and papers from around the home, consider it is a clean slate and new beginning. Pay attention to how you manage your children’s documents, projects, and awards. The key is to stay on top of things. Here’s is how you do that.

Every day, when kids come home from school or extra-curricular activities

  • Note important dates and deadlines and place those dates on the family calendar.
  • Post any school reminders for your children on a magnetic or chalkboard where they can see them every morning. 
  • Discard those notes or papers. Those are the miscellaneous papers you tossed on step 1 above.

The Artwork

When the children bring home artwork pieces, trophies, medals, and other non-flat items 

  • Photograph these as soon as they get home (so they look their best and you don’t forget to do this). 
  • Save these pictures in the child’s electronic file. Name the file with the child’s name and year. 
  • Add subsequent art projects during that year to that same file.
  • Create a new file with the child’s name and year every year. 

You or your child might want to display such an item for a while. That’s great! Just ensure you place this item in that particular location you designated for this kind of thing. But, again, you don’t want their projects to look or feel like clutter.

In any case, taking those pictures early on gives you and your kids the freedom to let go of the item after displaying it for some time.

The Paper

Scan all paper items and flat media such as report cards, academic evaluations, school pictures, stories, essays, and poems as soon as they come home. 

If you can’t process these items immediately, park these papers in a bin close to the scanner, and assign a day of the week or the month in your calendar (yes, do it now!) to periodically scan these things. Of course, discard originals as soon as you digitize them. But should you need to keep it, place it in a file with the child’s name in your filing cabinet.

Now You Tell The Story

It’s a lot of work, I know. But consider that all this work needs to be done just at the beginning of the project because you did not have a method to deal with all this stuff so far. So once you follow the initial process, you only need to stay on top of it. 

But why do all of this in the first place? First, this solves the overwhelming number of papers and artifacts cluttering our home space. Second, this process allows you to have all that worth-keeping material organized and ready to create meaningful stories of each stage of your children’s lives. 

Telling a story is the real purpose of keeping all these projects, pictures, and awards. Having all those papers and items with no order all over the house does not tell any story nor inspire anyone to create one. This material is simply meaningless when scattered around or carelessly stored in a bin somewhere. 

On the other hand, memories in book form, like photo books, are easy to keep neatly on a shelf or library and are a joy to share. Our children will be able to see and enjoy their path through life and share this fantastic legacy with friends, family, and their children.

Also, imagine the storage space you will recover when you let go of physical items and original papers! However, you might think that throwing all that away is what you did not want to do. But how many times has anybody enjoyed those things since you put them away? Is there space in your home to display them all? Are they all worth exhibiting? Do you want your home to look like a kindergarten classroom? 

Maybe when your child created a project, you displayed it for about a week or so. But eventually, that project, along with so many others, started cluttering your home and your life. So, this way of purposely and intentionally working with your children’s stuff will take you where you want to be.

Looking Beneath Your Need to Keep the Stuff

If you feel it is too hard to let go of those physical objects and original papers, even when they are safely digitized, what you are probably trying to keep is the feelings they evoke. It is not about the item itself. Images of these items can still satisfy those feelings without drowning you in “stuff.” Instead, having these memories accessibly organized enables everyone to enjoy and share them for many years to come.

4 Factors That Feed Disorganization

4 Factors That Feed Disorganization

Disorganization has many root causes, but some elements can aggravate a chaotic environment, compounding the problem. Addressing these elements can make our environment much more manageable.

1. Too much stuff

We can’t organize clutter. That’s a fact. Things accumulate over time if we do not keep a close eye on what we purchase or even what we have had for years. Things that once served us well might no longer be relevant in our lives. We need to make room for what we truly need and want by eliminating what no longer has a place in our lives. 

Ongoing purging what we no longer need and want should become a lifestyle rather than a once-a-year activity. Things will continuously enter our space. If we do not get in the habit of eliminating what no longer serves us, we end up with an unmanageable accumulation of stuff.

2. Improper use of the space

Holding on to things that we do not want or need is just part of the problem. The inefficient use of the space available is another.

Thinking in terms of categories and placing similar things together forces you to assign a specific space to each type of thing, so everything in your home has a place where it belongs. You will always know where to go when you need that item and where to return it.

When things do not have an assigned home, they get everywhere. And when anything can go anywhere, then everything will go everywhere. 

Your disorganized belongings occupy three or four times the space they should.

Suppose you used the space appropriately, thinking about item categories and assigning each category type a unique and logical place. In that case, you’d recover space you had no idea you had.

3. Lack of proper tools

The purchasing of containers or organizing systems should happen after purging what we do not want or need anymore. 

Buying these items beforehand is a waste of time. It might even compound the clutter problem. Getting these solutions without first knowing what they are for or where they go results in incorrect items for the purpose or space intended.

Storage solutions and containers purchased beforehand may become circumstantial band-aids to our organizing project at best. As such, they will perform a mediocre job. At worst, purchasing these items negates buying the right tools for the job. Then these end up cluttering our home. 

4. Broken things

Broken things can be structural barriers to organizing. These are items or systems that have stopped working as intended and, as a result of being neglected, cause further disorganization around them. 

The dresser with the broken drawer that no longer opens causes its contents to be scattered around the room because it has no other place to go. 

The closet rod that fell caused you to install a rolling laundry solution in the middle of your bedroom, and you trip on it every day when walking by (not to mention how it looks!). 

That shelf inside the cabinet that fell off caused you to start shoving the cabinet’s contents inside without any rhyme or reason. The broken shelf means the contents can no longer be divided or organized. 

We live life at a fast pace. That causes us to ignore many details of our environment. Those details accumulate over time and result in a dysfunctional environment that stresses our minds and bodies. Often we do not even realize how it happened – we feel the mess at some point. 

These details do matter. Take time to fix these minor problems the moment they happen. It would be more time-consuming and costly to let them go and deal with the consequences later.

Many elements can become roadblocks to an organized life. But if we could keep up with these four factors that feed disorganization, we would be better shaped to bring the organization back into our lives.


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