Organizing Our Kids’ Keepsakes

Over the last year or so I’ve been on quite the purging adventure, ridding our home of things we don’t need or love. It’s been a really slow yet consistent process and I’d say we’re about 80% ‘there’ with ‘there’ being a place where nothing requires massive attention or causes unnecessary stress and upkeep in our physical space. Together with Andrew’s feedback, my efforts have been driven by four primary thoughts and perspectives.

1. When our kids are older and ask questions about when they were babies, kids, etc, what sort of tangible items will I want to have to share or give to them? Will I want to have things like photos, documents, notes, and other small items to give context to experiences and stories that are shared with my adult kids and hopefully their spouses and children? What items are a part of our family’s legacy and what ones are unique to our values?

2. When our kids are older and ask questions about when they were babies, kids, etc, will I or they be disappointed if photos, documents, notes, and other small items not available to share and give to them? Meaning, if my boys marry women like me, women who, for example enjoy working on baby books and building a legacy for their family, will they be bummed out without say, school photos of Lachlan or some of Ev’s first pieces of artwork?

3. When we leave earth for heaven, legacies aside, what type of tangible and physical reality will we leave for our kids? Will we make their grieving process harder emotionally and physically by having more things for them to have to shift through and make decisions on? Or will we have left minimal items, most of which are sentimental and worth keeping? Better yet, will the items we’ve left behind be easy to access, make sense of, and bring joy and happiness to them as they experience an otherwise (what I am assuming) difficult time?

4. If a fire started in our home and we had to try and save a handful of items, or even just one extra thing in our home, after of course our kids and our dog, Zoe, what would it be? Do we have keepsakes that the thought of losing in a fire, would be devastating? Do we have things that are irreplaceable when it comes to preserving our family memories and legacy, and if so, how do we simply and easily collect and protect those?

Friends! This is a DOOZY of a post.

I haven’t even touched the tip of the iceberg when it comes to organizing the photos on my iPhone because that’s going to be a process too. But keeping in line with organizing our physical stuff, especially stuff of value that just cannot be replaced, I feel very passionate about sharing my experience so far. It’s been a surprisingly fulfilling journey over the past year and one that gives me much peace of mind as I continue to make decisions on what stays and what goes in the never-ending receiving and gathering of our kids’ keepsakes.

MY SYSTEM FOR STORAGE

By far, the easiest and most cost effective way to keep everything together has been in Tupperware bins, each child assigned to their own bin (I went with blue of course because #boymom). When I first started collecting mementos while pregnant with Lachlan I used small shoebox type containers from IKEA for storage. They are the gray ones within the Tupperware bins. But the items I felt strongly about collecting were starting to overflow that box and then came Ev meaning the four smaller boxes weren’t cutting it on their own anymore.

The bins are affordable, stackable, and clear so I can see everything inside which is another driving force behind keeping things intentional and organized; if you can SEE your stuff chances are you’re more inclined to keep it organized and trim. While I don’t want to collect enough items to warrant buying more bins, I do like knowing I can easily source more like them, an especially helpful thought should we have more children.

The bins currently sit in our bedroom closet which is a nice walk in size. However, I’d like to find a place closer to the garage door so again, if needed they could be removed quickly in an unfortunate situation. I’m also finding a certain little boy likes to climb on the stacked boxes to see out our closet window so my ideal place for the bins would up high enough that they are out of reach but easy enough to access when needed.

I feel it’s important to note that I don’t keep the boys’ baby books in these bins. Those are in our small fire-resistant, locked safe, along with our passports, my greencard, life insurance paperwork, my grandmother’s wedding rings, our old kitty’s ashes, and a couple other very special items. These are things that if we absolutely could not get anything but ourselves out of the house, would be safe as a last-resort effort. They are irreplaceable. Ultimately, should we build another home in the future we’d like to create a walk-in fire-safe closet where all of the special things could be held but for now this works.

FIRE ESCAPE PLANS

I know I’ve referenced my concern for a house fire and keeping our things safe multiple times in this post so I wanted to touch on that specifically. I’ve seen the devastation of disasters like floods and fires from friend’s experiences, and felt like it would be responsible on our behalf to come up with plans should we run into these situations. Not to be paranoid and on edge with the what-ifs but to instead be prepared and responsible. This means Andrew and I talked about who would do what in the event of a fire (who grabs what kid, who gets Zoe), how that plan would change if we were upstairs versus downstairs, what we would grab pending the severity of the fire, and making an investment into things like a fire escape ladder, an extra set of car keys taped to the fire escape box so we have a way to potentially get our car away from the house, and of course the fire-proof safe. While I hope we never have to put this plan to action I feel confident knowing we have a plan in place, and of course a way to hopefully salvage the things that mean the most to us.

ITEMS I KEEP

For each of our kiddos, I’ve saved the following items so far:

• Miscellaneous items that were collected during my pregnancies like ultrasound photos, cards from friends, the onesie I bought to tell Andrew I was expecting, the onesie we used to announce L’s pregnancy, and special photographs. I have especially more of these items for Lachlan than I do for Ev and that’s probably because Lachlan was our first baby and Ev is obviously sill quite young.

• Sentimental items from each child’s birth like the hat Lachlan wore in the hospital, the blankets they were first swaddled in, and hospital bracelets. I also have both boys’ bracelets in their baby books on the appropriate page.

• Odds and ends from ‘first’ celebrations like a dinosaur from Lachlan’s first birthday or the booties Ev wore for his first Hallowe’en. I could see this category of keepsakes being one that could get a little out of hand so I’ll need to remain very intentional about what I keep and what I toss in this department! For example, I have a sweet monogrammed burp cloth that we were gifted after Ev was born thanks to this sweet former bride. I didn’t have the heart to use it and have it stain so I saved it for his bin. But! It was rightfully so worth saving because it was the first and the only monogrammed item he has. Again, saving those ‘first’ items is special to me.

• Artwork from school but only the really best pieces and ones that are sentimental and clever; like art where my kids’ hands and feet were used to ‘stamp’ animals and plants. Or saving special holiday artwork or pieces from Mother’s and Father’s Day. My plan is to keep only a few pieces from each school year until the boys are five years old then determine if this resource will be worth the investment for the treasures we keep. The first artwork piece each child completed at ‘school’ is framed on our legacy wall for good measure.

• Leftover images that didn’t make the baby book! These include photos larger than standard 5×7 prints that I may have purchased to be framed but didn’t, leftover Social Print Studio squares, photos that were gifted to us from talented photographers that captured our maternity sessions and newborn sessions, and so on. I’m trying to reduce the amount of photographs in the box because there are some better ways to organize these things on an external hard drive but I also greatly value the timeliness of a tangible image so I want the boys to have many.

While this bin system is more newly implemented in our home I look forward to using it for years to come in. I also purchased bins for my things and Andrew’s, so that our special keepsakes would be organized and kept the same way. With both sets of parents divorced and being on our own now for well over a decade, there are a lot of childhood keepsakes in our collective possession, and especially so with my things since my family lives much further away and have relocated multiple times since we were all under the same roof.

Some keepsakes that are stored within my three purple Tupperware bins:

• Anything from when I was a baby that was saved by my parents and grandparents and given to me. This includes many photos (these are such treasures given how much technology has changed), the flower girl dress I wore in my parent’s wedding, my first pair of eyeglasses, and much more.

• Many, many photos! My high school and college years took place in the disposable camera era, where if you were like me, before any event or holiday, you’d stock up on the $25.00 plastic cameras from the drugstore. Then when the film roll was full you’d take the camera back to the drugstore and drop it off to be processed. Getting back those envelopes full of your memories and images, eagerly awaiting to see what moments you had managed to capture, was SUCH fun. Talk about delayed satisfaction! For that reason, there are quite a few photos I’ve saved. I’ve tried to only keep the best.

• The best of the best gymnastics-related keepsakes. This includes special awards, medals, and trophies, select newspaper clippings from college, my first leotard and one of my last, two scrapbooks I made in high school, and my NCAA media guides from all four seasons I competed.

• Old VHS tapes and mini tapes that fit into my dad’s handheld recorder. Most of the tapes have my gymnastics competitions and recruiting videos on them but a couple house miscellaneous content like a school project I did in twelve grade. Again, this is a conversation for a different post because I’ll need to do some content-transfer to get these onto a USB where I can enjoy them but for now they are safely kept and with similar items.

There you have it! I realize this is a lot of information but hopefully I’ve presented one approach clearly enough to inspire you too, to find an organizing solution that works best for managing your keepsakes.

I’d love to know what things you keep when it comes to preserving tangible memories. How do you organize your children’s or even your own, mementos without feeling like like your home is a chaotic or cluttered catch-all? How do you decide what stays or what goes? I’d love to hear from you below! As always, a big thank you to Samantha for capturing the beautiful imagery you see here.

Xo

The Best Way

If there’s ONE thing I feel best describes my outlook on just about everything, it’s that there is always a best way. Minus a few scenarios in life where right and wrong apply in a more black and white way, I feel most situations, decisions, and methods-of can be done in a best way; parenting, taking trips, birthing babies, where and how your home looks, the career path you take, how you operate your business, your approach to finances, marriage values, making and nurturing friendships, celebrating holidays and birthdays, and the list goes on!

I can’t recall when I started looking at my life through the lens of my way being the best for me. Perhaps it was once I got into a groove as a mother with a then toddler Lachlan. But when I did, I noticed how many feelings of shame, guilt, worry, and panic seemed to disappear. It felt like making my decisions and owning them became less of a paralyzing process. I started feeling more free. I became a little more unapologetic.

While I’m all for self-improvement and always seeking to make my life more fulfilled, productive, and joyful under the influence of others (whether I’m taking information away from a book, podcast, personal conversation, blog post, etc), I’m also cool with trusting that my way is often good enough, and as a result, the best way for me.

Some tangible ways I help keep perspective on the best way apart from what’s may be consider right or wrong:

• Keeping my definition of success present in my heart and head at all times. If a way I approach something (let’s say choosing to work only three days a week) points towards my definition of success (which is in this season to be present and fulfilled both at home with my family and at work during scheduled time), then it’s best for me. While a three-day work week might not be right for a full time stay-at-home mom of triplets and it could be wrong for a woman who works 50 hours a week outside the home, it’s best for me and that’s all that matters.

• My best way is flexible and non-linear. Meaning a best way now might not be the best way in a week, month, or year. Giving myself permission to change my mind on what’s best for me and our family has been powerful. For example, the best way for me to give birth to Lachlan was as naturally as possible, with little medical intervention and medication, so I could feel like the experience was peaceful and sacred. And because as a strong-willed woman I wanted the satisfaction of overcoming the challenge. However, that best way quickly changed when a miserable labor led to a scary emergency c-section to safely deliver our boy. I’m so grateful for that flexibility (even if it was forced) because it led to a sweet little boy, and an elective surgery delivery with out second son. Sometimes what I think is the right way, becomes my best way, but then that best way changes too. That’s ok.

• Our family’s and my version of the best way may, and usually does, greatly differ from our friends’ and families’ approaches. Some of my very greatest friends have very different best ways from me. And that’s a beautiful gift I’ve come to use as an inspirational tool rather than a measuring stick. While I used to get frustrated and often feel like because their best ways were different than my best ways I must be wrong, I have now flexed my empathy and compassion muscles in new ways. Keeping perspective and remembering how personal the decision making process can be is helpful to discern between right and wrong versus best.

What are some of the approaches or systems in your life that are best for you? How do you lean into being more unapologetic with your decisions and feelings? Do you feel like your world is more black and white or does it consistently border on the grayscale? I’d love to hear more below. Xo

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