A few generations ago, many young women had a “hope chest” where they acquired things that they would need once they were married. In some families heirloom quilts, clothing, and other meaningful items were passed from mother to daughter to seed the next generation’s hope chest.
Today, memorabilia comes mostly in digital form, Instagram & Pinterest images, videos uploaded to YouTube, emails and text messages instead of letters. Still, even the most modern inhabitant of the digital age is going to acquire memorabilia that they want to treasure. Event programs, awards, physical photographs, notes that came with flowers or other gifts. Any object that reminds us of a happy or celebratory moment or of a special relationship becomes a part of our personal record.
Parents are good at accumulating objects that are associated with their children. Most baby books today begin with the first sonogram and by the time the kid is in college, Mom and Dad may have amassed rooms full of stuff to remind them of those wonderful years.
Setting a few rules will help keep childhood memorabilia from getting out of control. Start by limiting yourself to a single tub or archival box for each child. Keep only items that were made by the child directly and set a maximum for anatomical items like locks of hair and baby teeth to one of each. Make sure to include a note indicating the date and memory associated with each item. You’d be surprised how many people don’t remember the names of the kids at their 8th birthday party.
Most adults have collected ephemera and other items associated with their life: diplomas, awards, memorabilia from first dates or special events, items associated with an engagement, wedding, or special birthday. If you haven’t organized your own memories, now might be a good time.
Start by gathering items from various storage boxes, drawers, etc. Then sort it. If you can’t remember what something is now, it can probably be discarded. If you’re the scrap-booking type, you may want to create a book for special events, people, or other theme. If not, follow the same rule as for kids and find a single tub or box to store all your items, including a note as to what it represents for you.
It is easy to lose track of where memorabilia resides across multiple devices, computers, social media and cloud accounts. Set aside time at least once a month to sort through the new photos on your phone, tablet, or other device and choose one or two good images. Label them and back them all up in one organized place, whether it’s a folder in the cloud or on an external drive. When there’s a particularly good photo, consider having it printed for yourself or specific family members. You might also want to get in the habit of saving particularly important messages or images from social media to the same location.
One last thought regarding digital storage. There are numerous services available that allow you to design a photo book online. Gather digital images and organize them into an album or digital scrapbook, complete with annotations, snippets from emails or text, etc. It can be a great gift for grandparents to gather photos of your kids into a book and have it shipped right to their door. Or, you can make a book each year and add it to that child’s memorabilia box.