Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Organizing the Kids' Keepsakes

As part of of my Project Room clean-out project this year, I finally got caught up on properly storing the kids' keepsakes and mementos. This was quite an achievement, I have to say! Ever since we moved here almost five years ago, their special keepsakes had been sitting in boxes that continued to pile up in the closet. It was very disorganized and guilt-inducing. The perfectionist in me puts off important projects like these for way too long. But I finally managed to set aside that unproductive mentality and give these special keepsakes the care and attention they deserved. Now instead of opening the closet and being greeted by the chaos of my children's lives, I'm greeted by the best of my children's lives.

In the last several months, I figured out how to tackle big, overwhelming projects like this effectively (thanks in large part to Mind Organization for Moms--the link is to their free webinar about making huge projects feel easy--and thanks also to the book The Power of Less by Leo Babauta.). Just a half-hour a day until it's done makes almost anything pretty easily do-able. I got a few good ideas from Pinterest and then got started. I did John's things in February and Sam's in April. For simplicity's sake, I've decided not to do cute scrapbooks or anything too fancy or time-consuming. Binders, folders, storage boxes, and basic scrapbooks are all that I'm planning to use from now on. In addition to being less time-consuming, it will be much easier to maintain this system in the years to come.

John had a lot more things than Sam because he's over four years older and has almost five years of elementary school and other activities under his belt. His things were such a sad, sad mess!

First I took everything out and sorted it into piles and groups.

Sweet baby keepsakes that were in need of being stored properly.

I had at least gotten a special box for John's newborn keepsakes and put them in there when he was still actually a baby. After he was born, I had first-time mom enthusiasm, energy, and time, so he got the special newborn box, the filled-out baby book, a beautiful Creative Memories scrapbook, and many, many photo albums in which I photo-journaled and added specially themed stickers. (Sam didn't get ANY of that!)

 More piles that now included all of the school things...

Each school year gets its own binder. This is about the only thing I was good at doing over the years because it's easy to start a binder at the beginning of the school year and add to it during the year. By the end of the year, it's pretty much done!
This is John's Kindergarten binder:

Here is the picture of success!
This is the completed system of storage bins, binders, scrapbooks, and a file box (which I'll talk more about in a minute).

Schoolwork bins:

It all fits neatly into the closet (at least for a few more years!).

I know that some people do no more than four or five storage boxes per child for their whole childhood up through high-school, but I am not one of those people. I like to save more things to hold onto than throw out. I can't bear to keep only "the best of the best." Perhaps if I had more kids I would feel differently out of necessity and space/time restraints, but I don't and so many of their papers and projects and things are personally dear to me. I do get rid of things--I consider myself a pretty good editor of "things"--but I'm definitely not a minimalist when it comes to things like this. I think this system is perfect if you're looking for a more sentimental but still easy and simple way of keeping and storing your kids' special things.

I felt especially bad about Sam's things. Like I said before, I never filled out his baby book, made him any kind of scrapbook, never did special baby photo albums, never even properly stored his special little newborn keepsakes and ultrasound pictures. (Partly because we ended up moving halfway across the country when he was a baby!)

It all looked like this to start, crammed into two diaper boxes. It was less overwhelming than all of John's things, but still intimidating because there was stuff in there dating all the way back to my pregnancy with Sam. I really hadn't done anything (with the exception of keeping preschool binders for him).

First I organized things into piles by year.

(I have a thing for saving little kid shoes.)

I organized papers into binders and put everything else into categorized, labeled storage bins: a bin for newborn keepsakes, a bin for baby/toddler keepsakes, and a bin for the preschool years. I put his binders of preschool work into the preschool storage bin.

This is a great idea that I got from Pinterest: a file box with a file for each year of his life to hold mementos that didn't fit the storage bin or binder or scrapbook theme. (Things like birthday and holiday cards, a journal I kept about him, and other random things that aren't quite scrapbook-worthy or that don't fit into a 3-ring binder easily.)

Binders for non-school related papers are so nice and easy. They hold things like artwork and papers from extracurricular activities and doctor appointments.
Note my no-frills cover sheet, created in about three minutes on Microsoft Word!

Each year gets its own section in the binder.
(Target has really cute divider tabs.)

I bought some simple scrapbooks at Barnes & Noble.

And I simply glued scrapbook-worthy things in and labeled them with the pen I had on hand. No stickers or artistic endeavors, just plain, simple, and effective storage keeping,

Finally, a proper resting place for the ultrasound pictures!

That's all of it. Chaos no more!

Sam's things fit nicely into the closet right next to John's.

I put a little basket on top of their respective piles to collect memorabilia during the year. I also have a file folder for each of them on my desk, as well as the aforementioned school binders that I add to during the school year. My plan is to "memento-ize" their things semi-annually in order to keep it all up-to-date without too much accumulating. This is a system that I think should be pretty simple to keep up with.

I still need to do a few things like fill out Sam's baby book and put together some cute photo albums of him, but this particular behemoth of a project is DONE and I've crossed it off my list!
It feels so great to finally have their things cleaned out and organized and to have a system in place for managing it effectively from now on.
It was totally worth the time and effort!