Our Storage Spaces: Memory Boxes

I pulled out our memory boxes to begin labeling them today and thought it would be a good time to snap a couple of pictures and share a bit of what we decided to fill them with, as we tackled our storage spaces one bin and one memory at a time.

Organizing can often times be extremely challenging and emotional for people.  I am not typically one of those people when it comes to everyday material items.  For me, the thought of living with less clutter and "stuff" is far more appealing than keeping things we don't use or need as often as we may have initially intended.  Popping through the donation center drive through leaves me feeling incredibly joyful, and I really can't remember the last time I said goodbye to something with regret.

But it is a different story when it comes to memories....

Organizing memories is a whole new ball game.  A game that now requires even more thought and decision making.  One that has emotional ties and heart felt feelings.  These are the items that are priceless.

We have always kept Rubbermaid totes under our stairs for each family member.  As the area became filled with clutter, the ability to adequately access those bins to add to them, or to simply take a trip down memory lane, slowly came to a halt.  Not to mention, those five bins were extremely bulky and took up a very large amount of storage space and were never given much attention.

As I mentioned in this post, we knew that it would be time to do something more to get our memories in order and give them the respect they deserved.  Our wish list looked something like this:

One single bin/box for each member of the family.  The goal is to be ruthless about what we are keeping, yet have a space for the items that simply have so much meaning that they have to stay.  Each member is allowed one box, and if it becomes too full, then something must go in order to add something new.The boxes must be durable enough to last at least 18 years.  I hope to pass the boxes down to the boys when they leave the nest.The boxes would have to hold a decent amount of weight and be able to withstand sliding on and off of the shelf frequently.The boxes must fit a specific area of shelving within our storage room.  We intalled five shelves to hold the bins/boxes, and wanted to find something to completely fill the allotted space to maximize the amount of storage for each individual.  By keeping them on these specific shelves, they would also remain simple to access moving forward, vs. stacking and becoming an obstacle to maintain.Handles were preferred.Of course I wanted the boxes to be somewhat attractive, but I don't typically put that high on my list because I know that is always something I can try and modify if need be.
After searching endless websites and options, we ended up purchasing these from The Container Store.

Although far more expensive than I initially wanted, we were able to use a couple and once I finally found something that fit every single bullet on the wish list, I pounced.  And considering they will be in the family for a very long time, I considered it a long term investment.  The box dimensions are 15"w x 20"d x 11 3/8"h so they are a very good size box {much larger than they appear in photos}.

As far as what you should keep inside of these bins, no one can tell you that.  What has sentimental value to me most likely would have none to you.  There is no way for me to portray the sentiments and emotions attached to the objects inside of our boxes, so what anyone selects to keep is a completely personal decision.  A decision you should never feel the need to explain and justify to anyone other than yourself.

However, knowing how challenging it can be to purge these types of bins down, I thought I would still share some of what lies beneath the box covers.  Please do not judge the fact that I wore overalls while pregnant with my first child.... true story...

A few more things to mention about the contents.  Although I am typically over the top about making every project excessively labeled and perfect, these felt different.  I really want these to be a treasure chest time capsule of sorts, so digging and sifting through these boxes feels like part of the thrill of it all.  I want them to feel organic and simple.

The two items that I fell in love with when organizing the contents of these bins were plastic envelopes {I found mine at Target, similar to these}, and large zipper storage bags.  That was about as fancy as things got; purchasing archival storage boxes and holders for each item would have cost us our entire kitchen renovation budget. 

Below are examples of the items I selected to save for each of our boys:

Handmade gifts from friends and family members; the quilt shown below was sewn by a very dear friend for our first born.Coming home from the hospital outfits, hats and blankets.The bunny was a gift from my father who later passed away.  He gifted it to me while I was pregnant with my oldest as he wasn't sure he would be around for his first Easter the following year.  Of course, items of that nature had to stay.

Baby books and a pair of shoes from the time each boy took their first steps...

Our family photographs are stored in a separate location, however, back in the day I enjoyed taking time to scrapbook.  Fortunately, I always ordered doubles of my prints so when I cut them for my books, I always had the original duplicate photo stored away.  Knowing that, I removed specific pages from the few books I had made years ago, and placed the appropriate pages inside of each bin for the boys.

Inside the clear envelope below, you can see special moments from pregnancy to birth.  Each boy has their own envelope within their personal box.  It contains things like their announcement sheet from their cradle in the hospital nursery, ultrasound photos, hospital bracelets, first haircuts, etc...Our oldest has had a few milestones in his early baseball career, such as playing for an all-star team and hitting his first grand slam.  Those baseballs are kept in inexpensive display boxes.Publications and features in local newspapers.

Special achievements and awards received.  Some are also currently displayed within the boy's bedrooms, but ultimately will be purged down and stored within the boxes.Schoolwork milestones are saved in separate schoolwork boxes.  Special artwork is saved in separate artwork boxes {seen here}.
Of course, my hubby's memory box as well as my own, look a bit different.  Here are a few of the things you would find inside of each:

Graduation memoriabilia {diplomas, tassels, senior portraits, announcements, etc...}.Yearbooks {one from each school}.Awards, achievements, medals and ribbons.Special objects with memories tied to them.  My baby security blankie, a journal/scrapbook from my childhood, my dad's keys {store discount cards and all}, cassette tapes with messages from my dad. 

Special pieces from larger collections of coins and baseball cards.Special greeting cards {I rarely keep cards, however, I make an exception for those that are extremely special and also try to keep one from each member in our family}.Love letters.

A file folder filled with accomplishments, awards and milestones.  Ever have a bad day?  It is nice to have that folder to look back on. Printed publications featuring our blog projects and articles.

Wedding memorabilia such as the knife used to cut the cake, our vows, music from the day and even my dress {which was small and simple enough to fit into a compressed zipper bag}.Travel souvenirs.  I am not a huge collector when I travel, but I do like to grab a postcard or brochure at each place we experience.  I also keep important ticket stubs, travel docs from our honeymoon and shells from strolls along the beach.

A few more of those epic scrapbook pages... pregnant in overalls and all....

It is amazing to me that we were able to neatly tuck all of those different items inside of our bins.  The boxes are quite spacious, and we still have room for expansion.  Although, I am guessing the boy's boxes will continue to fill up at a much faster rate than our own.

So knowing those are all of the items we did keep, what did we let go of?  Basically our goal was keeping only things that truly mattered and documented a cherished moment or milestone.  I didn't keep every single award, plaque and trophy, just the best of the best.  I didn't keep all of our yearbooks, just one from each school attended.  I didn't keep every single greeting card, just ones with special thoughts.  My hubby has a few collections and for now, they each have their own box until he can determine what he wants to do with them {hand them down, sell them, etc...}.  However, he selected a few of his all time most important pieces of each for his personal bin.  We didn't really have anything that was too large for us to keep inside of the bin, other than my hubby's letter jacket, in which he removed his patches and donated the jacket.  The best part of living in a digital world, is that there is also always the option to photograph items with special meaning before letting it go.  Again, no one can tell you what to keep and what to let go of, I just wanted to share our personal decision making process and how we hope that our memories will live on in an effective way.  It is our goal that having this system will be much more simplified for our kids as we grow old, vs. endless bins of memories filled to the brim and being stored in the attic.

Anyone have more ideas and suggestions to add to this type of decision making process?  How do you go about storing and making choices when it comes to organizing your cherished memories?  Am I the only one who thought overalls were super fly?