Unless we want to live in a home much like this (but with considerable less charm),
our family must have a system for controlling, managing and minimizing ‘keepsakes’.
Keepsakes can come in all shapes and sizes. That little dress that Aunt Barbara knitted for your first baby, journals and scrapbooks, photos, awards and trophys, children’s drawings and art creations and even pretty rocks, bird’s nests and an innumerable amount of minutia that children find attractive or attach with special memories.
Storing and managing all these ‘precious’ possessions can be a challenge to any family, but it presents a particular challenge to larger families.
Up until our eighth baby (Colby) was born, I regularly printed out the best of our photos carefully labeled the back of each one and put them into simple sleeve albums. It’s nothing fancy, but the children love looking through our albums and reminiscing. I highly recommend this.
After Colby was born, I decided I no longer had time to do that, and besides, wouldn’t I enjoy printing and organizing photos more when I didn’t have oodles of small children running around? It would be nice, when Mark and I were all alone in a quiet home, to go through and beautifully scrapbook these bits of reminders of our children’s childhood.
As a result, I have 6 years worth of photos on CD’s and backed up in computers. The younger children have no idea what they looked like when they were babies and I’m wondering if there ever will be a time when Mark and I are all alone in a quiet home. After all we will start over again on this beautiful journey of parenting in August and our oldest is 15. It’s possible that we will be blessed to go right from small children running around to small grandchildren running around.
Oh, and if you have any tips to help me get caught up on my photos, they are always welcomed.
Storing Children’s Art Work
I have a filing box in which we keep the children’s art that we are going to keep. I have one hanging folder with each child’s name and I regularly look at their current creations and pull out pieces that I particularly admire.
We all enjoy going through the files, comparing and laughing at each child’s first ‘person’, Alyssa’s yarn girl and Amber’s giant frog. Love it!
Art work that isn’t going to be kept long term is displayed on the magnetic wall in our dining room. We allow the children to switch their drawings around as they see fit.
3D artwork such as pottery, pipe cleaner creations, etc. is displayed on a set of shelves in our family room.
If the item is particularly special to the child, they may keep it with their ‘special things’ or we will take a picture of them with their creation and they may keep that picture with their ‘special things’.
If the artist is willing, their creation is donated or thrown in the trash after it has lived it’s display life.
Storing Kid’s Keepsakes
Each of our children has a box for storing their special things. They may keep anything that fits into the box with one exception, no organic matter allowed. (Trust me on this one.)
If our child has more than will fit in their box, they go through and decide what to get rid of. The box must be able to close.
One exception is that if our children take the time to create a scrapbook and/or journal (I’m not talking about the 4 year old throwing together some drawings. I’m talking about a child who has taken the time to write out their thoughts and experiences and has included mementos and/or photos.) These are kept on our bookshelves with our family photo albums. At this point in time, we only have 3-4 journals of this type.
The short answer is that we don’t.
Each child is free to keep their favorite projects in the notebook that they will use for the next year’s work or they may keep things in their ‘special’ box.
At the beginning of each year they look over their notebook and evaluate what they wish to continue keeping. None of our children have over-stuffed notebooks, they are good at purging (or asking mommy to put it into their art folder).
The one exception to this is our children’s nature journals. We keep these with the family photo albums as they are finished. At the rate that our children fill their journals one journal lasts for many years, so this has not become a storage issue.
Storing Baby Keepsakes
My plan was to complete a baby book for each baby.
The first five children have lovely books with lots of journaling, pictures, locks of hair, 1st birthday cards, etc. and all their firsts diligently recorded. I highly recommend this!
The next 3 children have the same, minus the pictures and with a little less detail in the journaling. This is certainly acceptable.
The last two children have a file in the file box where I keep all of the little trinkets that I will one day put into their baby book, plus a calendar with some of their firsts written down. Plus I write about some of the funny things they do and post pictures of them here on the blog – does that count for anything??
Storing Family ‘Heirlooms’
The doll that my mom crocheted for me when I was 11, the teapot that belonged to my great-grandmother, most of us have things passed down to us from family members or items that we (or our parents) kept from our childhood.
Purge – Simply because something belonged to someone you love doesn’t mean that it should be kept. Evaluate and keep only those things that will be used and enjoyed byyour family.
Toys – We have a couple of toys that were ours when we were kids (including the hand-crocheted doll). We encourage our children to play with and enjoy these. Currently, Bella (1) is carrying around, cradling and sleeping with that doll. As things wear out we throw them away, happy that our children were able to enjoy something that we loved when we were young.
Keepsakes – At this point, this is not much of an issue for our family because we only have a handful of items that have been passed down.
Our plan is to keep only those items that are useful and/or truly loved. I figure that something that belonged to my great grandmother, but is stored in a box in the attic throughout my kid’s childhood will have little meaning to my children. The things that we’ve chosen to keep, we’ve also chosen to display and enjoy. (Yes, with 10 children sometimes things get broken, but my children have many happy memories of playing with and listening to the music box that played with and listened to at my great-grandmother’s home when I was a girl.)
I have a figurine that belonged to my grandmother. When I was little she allowed me to sit on her bed and play carefully with this lady that I called ‘Cinderella’. That now sits on the dresser in our bedroom for our children to look at and hear stories about.
And the little sweater that Aunt Barbara knitted? Our children wear it. Each time we have a baby it comes out of the box and is used and loved. Perhaps we’ll pass it on to our grandchildren or perhaps we will wear it out, but either way I’m sure that Aunt Barbara will be happy that it was so well-loved.
Enjoying what we have is one of our guidelines when deciding which things we will keep (which is why I really need to get some pictures printed and into albums).
Some quick tips:
- Give kids a limited amount of space where they may store whatever it is that is important to them. The fact is that we will always have a limited amount of space, so learning to prioritize and de-clutter is a necessary skill.
- Take pictures. In the day of digital, it is easy and inexpensive to take pictures of items that hold special meaning, but which you do not have room to store.
- Enjoy! It makes no sense to me to spend time and energy storing, organizing and caring for items that you don’t use and enjoy just because they were owned by someone you love. Sometimes the best way to enjoy is to get rid of ‘stuff’ (or simplify)’ so that you have the time, energy and space to enjoy the ‘stuff’ that you do keep.
- Prioritize. We have one file box and a few shelves where we keep all our ‘keepsakes’ (photo albums, drawings, journals, etc.) Anything that doesn’t fit needs to be let go.
How do you handle keepsakes?
Visit the other 4 Moms to read about how they keep up with all those ‘keepsakes’.
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