Preserving Childhood Memories

I am so excited about today’s post because this particular project has been along time coming. After hours upon hours of work, I am so happy to finally have created these amazing memory boxes for each of my kids:

Within each child’s file box, I have their artwork, report cards, schoolwork, school photos, team photos and special mementos, all organized by year/grade! Do you hear the angels singing?? Cause I sure do!

Since each of my kids were babies, I have been documenting and saving mementos for both them and myself to look back on as they grow. Once they started school, that became an overwhelming task for a sentiamental mama like me! Over the years I have tried different methods for managing all of these keepsakes, but nothing really worked for me. I found myself overwhelmed and without a plan and the “stuff” started piling up! I am so excited to share my system with you today in case you too, are drowning in precious things you can’t bear to throw away and you are craving a storage system. I think what makes me the most excited is, not only have I created storage for the memories that they have made, I have a system in place for all future incoming memorabilia! I love me a good system and now I won’t have to feel overwhelmed by stacks of artwork and report cards that I don’t know what to do with!

A few years ago I created a Pinterest Board to help gather ideas on how to organize and preserve all of this memorable “stuff” they were busy creating.  There were lots of great suggestions and various systems that other parents had created. In particular I liked this system created by a clever mama who did a guest post on one of my favourite blogs, I Heart Organizing, about creating a school memory bank. The system I am sharing with you today was heavily inspired by this post. I took many of her ideas and used them to create the memory boxes that I am sharing with you today.


The file boxes created here spoke to my love of function and fashion. They were pretty and colorful and I loved that each kid had all of their memories stored in one file box. So off I went to buy 3 file boxes of my own, and some hanging folders. I piled the stacks of paperwork, photos and mementos on top of the file boxes, and there they sat for,  I’m not kidding, at least a year. It became this big, overwhelming task that I couldn’t deal with so I stuck my head in the sand. Not only did the pile mock me every time I passed it, not only did it collect dust…but it kept growing!! Cause guess what? My kids continued bringing home precious schoolwork and art! Ahhh!

About a year and a half ago, I made an attempt at creating a system out of this chaos. I even enlisted the help of our old nanny Carly, who is the most organized person I know. While I thought I was being clever, outsourcing this daunting task, the system didn’t work for me and the whole thing broke down. I went back to letting “stuff” pile up on top of the memory boxes and again I became an ostrich. The problem, I realized, was not that Carly didn’t do a great job organizing the bins using the blog post which I had showed her. The problem was that I was unfamiliar with the system as I had been totally hands off. When I finally sat down to tackle this project, I used the above mentioned blog post as framework that I built on to create awesome system I have in place today!

One of the major pitfalls that contributed to my memory box system failing before it even began was that I was really hung up on the file box being beautiful and pinterest worthy, just like the ones Karen from A House Full of Sunshine had created.

I realized that if I was ever going to finish this project and see the surface of my dining room table again, I was going to have to let go of my perfectionist ways and go for function over fashion. I made a conscious choice to overlook the fact that I hate the color of my hanging folders, for example. The ones used in the above photo are clear … the ones I bought from my local Staples are pea green. But I told myself that the only thing worse than the pea green color was the anxiety I was feeling from this unfinished project. I mean, look at this:

True confession time? When the kids came home during that last week of school this past June with bags full of schoolwork, artwork and used school supplies, it gave me so much anxiety, I piled everything into my laundry hampers and stuck it in my dining room where it sat all summer long! Doing laundry without two of my hampers and not being able to eat at our dining room table was a bit of a problem. The only reason that this went on as long as it did was that we were away at our cabin for a large chunk of the summer, so I was able to ignore this mess for most of the time. But every time we would come home, the mess was there to greet me (mock me?).

When September rolled around, I knew that this was not a great way to begin the school year and that the pile of  “stuff” was going to start growing again. I knew I had to do something about it, so I spent hours sorting through the stuff and deciding what to keep, and then figuring out what my system was going to look like. Even though I had decided to let go of aesthetics, I did find some simple ways to add some little touches that made the boxes fun and colorful. Today I am so excited to share my system with you, so here goes!

Each kid gets a file box, I prefer plastic because of the durability and the fact that you can stack them. A more cost effective option is a cardboard file box.

Within each file box, I hung 14 hanging files, for pre-school through to Grade 12.

Label each hanging file accordingly, I used some free printables from I Heart Organizing, and since I began writing this post (weeks ago!) Jenn has come out with these fresh new ones which I am loving! These are totally free, all you have to do is click on the link she provides, download and print! So easy!

If you wanted to, you could just put all of the stuff directly in the hanging folder and call it a day. I was inspired by Karen, from the original post I read, to further organize within the hanging file. She used these cute colorful binders, but I simplified this ( and saved money!) and used a pocket folder like this one.

Just like she did, I assigned a color to each kid. Sadie got purple, Stella got green and Kallum got blue.

Every year I take a picture of the kids on the first day of school. I thought it would be cute to use these on the cover of the folder for each year.  I created a simple layout on Word, turning to the original post for inspiration when creating this.

I then printed this cover sheet out on cardstock and glued it to the front of each folder, all 14 of them for each kid! I printed out all of the photos I had taken up till now and glued each kids photos on their respective folders. Some people might think I am crazy for doing this, but I actually enjoyed this part the most!

And now to explain how I organize each folder…

I put report cards, achievements and awards in the pocket on the left…

And then I put photos (school pictures, team pictures and any other photographs that are school specific) and other mementos in the right side pocket. I also like to save the mother’s day/father’s days cards the kids make me, recital programs, ticket stubs from performances and any other keepsakes I have in this side.

I created these cute labels using Avery.ca. Originally I bought some large shipping labels that I thought would fit each side nicely, and I went on to Avery to design them-I was pleasantly surprised by the options available here and this added a much needed creative twist to this project. However, the one hicup was that when I went to print said labels, for some reason they weren’t printing properly and it was frustrating! I happened to have some project paper on hand so used that instead. It just meant that I had to cut each label out which was a bit of a pain. I just did this mindless task while watching Netflix, it gave my hands something to do other than eating chips!

I labeled the left and right sides of all 14 folders for each kid.

Artwork and Schoolwork goes into the middle of the folder, like so…

And then the complete folder gets tucked into that grade level in the file box.

My kids had some oversized artwork as well as scrapbooks that not fit into the file box, so I went to our local art store and purchased these simple art portfolios. They were $19.99 each. You could also create a portfolio out of bristol board-just take an oversize piece, fold it in half and staple the sides.

Because I had so much fun using the design software on Avery, I went ahead and created some labels for the top and side of their bins as well as the front of the art portfolio. I always love an excuse to pull out my laminating machine so I had to laminate them as well!

One of the best tips I picked up from the blog post that inspired my system was to keep the folder for the current school year accessible so that you can file these memories as soon as they come home!

This is another reason why having a different color for each kid makes this system very user friendly!

I store each kid’s folder in their section of our hanging file rack above our family desk area.

The file boxes and art portfolios have now been stashed in each kid’s closet for safekeeping.

If you would like to create a similar system for yourself, here is a list of the supplies you will need:

1.File box –  a plastic one or a

2.Hanging folders like , letter size

3.Two Pocket Folders like

If you want to create the labels and cover pages you will need:

4. Avery Project Paper

5.Cardstock

So there you have it, the story of how we went from this:

To this:

Hopefully this has provided you with some inspiration! If you would like a similar system for your home but don’t have the time/energy/desire to do it yourself, I can help! If you would like me to create a system for you and your children, email me at khansen@littlenestdesign.com for an estimate!

Please feel free to leave any comments or questions below!

Thanks for reading,

xo, Kerri

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