If you have followed me on Instagram for a while, you may recognize the above video. This time last year, when my daughter Annie was about to graduate from high school, I posted an IGTV video tutorial sharing the details of the system I used to store and organize eighteen years of sentimental items from her childhood.
Last week I began to gather up Jake’s childhood items in preparation for his graduation, and I realized I needed a refresher on a few details. I pulled up the video, watched it, and quickly got to work. I know it sounds crazy to say I watched my own video, but I did, and it was helpful. Today I am reposting the video in this blog post so that we can all access it when needed! You can click the above photo or here to watch.
The video is about twenty-five minutes long, and if you have children, I think you will find multiple nuggets to consider. In the video, I walk through the supplies I use along with the philosophy of how I choose what to keep (or not keep) when it comes to my children’s sentimental items.
My goal when they graduate from high school is to have at most three bins worth of things that are collected from their eighteen years at home. The system I created continues to work well for me and for them. I love having a way to functionally and easily store childhood memorabilia in a way that maintains the integrity of the items.
Here are a few highlights from the video…
BE KIND TO YOURSELF.
There is no such thing as a perfect collection. Everyone has gaps. There are years where we can lend more attention to keeping up with things, and years when we cannot. Be kind to yourself and embrace what you have to work with.
THE FIRST YEAR OF LIFE.
I think the first year of a child’s life has more memorabilia than any other year. For me, I have an entire bin dedicated to the first year. The video includes more details on how I approach baby books, birth story books, and how I store really special articles of infant clothing. You will also see me fight back tears multiple times. Sorting through childhood memorabilia brings a lot of big feelings, and that’s okay.
LABELING MAKES A DIFFERENCE.
Around the 9:00 mark in the video, I talk about how I label and organize everything. If you only watch one thing, I would watch this part.
Before a child begins Kindergarten, I mark the time in years that correspond to their birthday. So, each yearly folder begins the day after their birthday and ends on their next birthday.
However, once they begin Kindergarten, each yearly folder begins on the first day of school and ends on the last day of summer. I have learned that once they begin school, the school year dictates the way we refer to time in the life of a child.
Yes, this approach means there is a small chunk of extra time between their fifth birthday and their first day of Kindergarten, and the size of this extra time will depend on when your child’s birthday falls. For Annie, who was born in January, it meant we had an extra eight months between her fifth birthday and the first day of Kindergarten. Don’t overthink it. Simply tuck items from this extra few months into a folder and label it accordingly.
Then, when Annie began Kindergarten, I started a fresh folder and continued in this pattern for each school year until she graduated. This approach has transformed the way I organize items from when they are toddlers versus the way I organize items from their school years, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.
Labeling folders with the year, the grade, and how old they turned makes it so easy to find, for example, a 7th grade volleyball picture or a twelfth birthday photo or the award she won at camp the summer after her ninth grade year. It also makes it a cinch to know exactly where to tuck a photo I found from our beach vacation in 2009 or the polaroid from the third grade Daddy Daughter Dance. The label says it all and effortlessly directs me to the folder I need.
The tools I use for this system are vitally important to the process, at least for me. In the video I mention the 74-quart weather safe totes, the 6.5-quart weather safe totes, and 13X13 plastic envelopes. The original plastic envelopes I use in the video have been sold out, but I found a back up option that I am using currently. Links to all of the tools are at the end of this post.
Along the way in this video, you will hear me share how I approach what to keep and who gets to decide how many items make it into the final bin. There are a lot of different ways to think about this, and I love sharing my approach with you.
At the 18:00 mark, I share how I train my kids to manage their stuff so that they feel valued and part of the process, but also learn the reality of limits when it comes to keeping stuff. This lesson is invaluable in my opinion, and it sets them up for success as adults for managing all the sentimental items they will collect over the course of their life.
As a mother of another graduating senior, I am so thankful to have an entire childhood organized into a memorable collection of manageable items. Everything in the video is what I wish I had known as a young mom about keeping up with childhood memorabilia. I hope it helps you as you navigate the memorable stuff associated with raising children.