Wednesday, May 15, 2019

How to Organize ALL Keepsakes from Your Child’s First 22 Years of Life… Like, EVERY SINGLE THING

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Kids consume and generate and create SO MUCH STUFF over the courses of their lives and it can be so hard to decide what to preserve as keepsakes and what to toss… their first outfits, the shoes in which they took their first steps, their favorite toys throughout the years, beloved blankets and stuffed animals, school work, art work, report cards, awards, birthday cards, sports jerseys… it can be so hard to get rid of that kind of stuff.  And that makes it so easy to get completely overwhelmed and overrun by the clutter that our kids, alone, create. 

Because it’s so overwhelming, most people don’t even know where to start, and therefore, they never do.  Then, years later when they finally decide to try to get a handle on things, they’re drowning in clutter which makes it nearly impossible to get caught up.  The very best thing you can do is to implement this keepsake method right when your children are born.  That way, you never get behind and you can just maintain as they grow.  Today I’m going to share with you the method I use to keep it all under control.

Over the past year, I’ve written several different posts on how to declutter, preserve, and organize keepsakes, and today I’m simplifying all of that information and putting it into one big post so it will all be in the same place. 

By the time you’re done reading this post, you should have a detailed plan for exactly how to declutter and organize all of your children’s keepsakes.  You may want to save more than I do, or you may want to save less, so all you’ll have to do is tweak it to suit your needs.

So, how am I preserving and organizing 22 year’s worth of stuff for each of our children?  In a nutshell, each child has four boxes:

1 box for School Papers Keepsakes
1 box for Non-School Papers Keepsakes
1 box for Clothing Keepsakes
1 box for Everything Else (Non-Papers & Non-Clothing Keepsakes)

To start your own keepsake system like this one, you will need to purchase the following FOR EACH CHILD:

2 file storage boxes (Get the ones I use here in a 5-pack, here in a 1-pack, or here in a 1-pack but there are plenty of other options here as well)
2 regular storage boxes (I love these)
Hanging file folders with tabs (I needed 26 for one file box + 25 for the other file box and I used these)
Manila file folders (I needed 9 for one file box + 4 for the other file box and I used these)
Index cards (I like these)
1 One Line a Day book (find them here and here)
1 external hard drive (this one is super inexpensive for 2 TB!)
1 infant keepsake box (find lots of selections here)
1 baby hair holder (this set is similar to what I have)
1 baby teeth holder (I have these here)
4 chalkboard labels (I love these)
1 chalk marker (I love these)

Now to elaborate on each box…

School Papers Keepsakes Box

This box will contain PAPERWORK that is only related to their SCHOOL CAREERS.  If it’s not related to school then it doesn’t belong in here!

For this box, you will use the following:

1 file storage box 
Hanging file folders with tabs (I needed 26 for this box)
Manila file folders (I needed 9 for this box)
1 chalkboard label
1 chalk marker

This box will contain one file folder for each of the following in this order:

- Young Toddler Papers (age 1-1.5)
- Older Toddler Papers (age 1.5-2)
- Twos Papers
- Threes Papers
- Pre-K4 Papers
- Kindergarten Papers
- First Grade Papers
- Second Grade Papers
- Third Grade Papers
- Fourth Grade Papers
- Fifth Grade Papers
- Sixth Grade Papers
- Seventh Grade Papers
- Eighth Grade Papers
- Ninth Grade Papers
- Tenth Grade Papers
- Eleventh Grade Papers
- Twelfth Grade Papers
- College Year One Papers
- College Year Two Papers
- College Year Three Papers
- College Year Four Papers
- Grades – this hanging file will contain two manila folders for the following:
            - Report Cards
            - Test Scores (standardized only, not everyday tests… those go in grade folders)
- Awards – this hanging file will contain three manila folders for the following:
            - Academic
            - Scholarships
            - Sports
- Keepsakes – this is for all other school related papers (programs, diplomas, etc.)
- School Pictures – this hanging file will contain four manila folders for the following:
            - Individual
            - Class
            - Dance
            - Sports

You will only keep a small random sampling of school work and art work from each school year to keep in the folders and you will toss the rest.  Then for the special folders at the end, you will keep everything for those – all report cards, all important test scores, all awards, all school pictures, etc.

By the time your child graduates college, you should have a small random sampling of their school work by grade plus all of their report cards, standardized testing grades, awards, and school pictures plus some assorted keepsakes like school programs and diplomas.


And if you want to see even more pictures, details, and explanations for our kids’ School Papers Keepsakes Boxes, check out my original post here.  There is a ton more information and a lot more pictures as well.

Non-School Papers Keepsakes Box

This box will contain all other PAPERWORK that you’d like to save from their personal lives, NOT from school. 

For this box, you will use the following:

1 file storage box
Hanging file folders with tabs (I needed 25 for this box)
Manila file folders (I needed 4 for this box)
1 chalkboard label
1 chalk marker

This box will contain one file folder for each of the following in this order:

- Artwork – artwork they do at home that you wish to save
- In the Media – newspaper articles, newsletters, etc. where your child is featured
- Professional Pictures – this hanging file will contain four manila folders for the following:
            - Baby (professional pictures from their baby years)
            - Birthdays (pictures of them with their birthday chalkboard from each year)
            - Family portraits (beach sessions, fall sessions, Christmas card pictures, etc.)
            - Santa Visits (pictures of them sitting in Santa’s lap each year)
- 2010
- 2011
- 2012
- 2013
- 2014
- 2015
- 2016
- 2017
- 2018
- 2019
- 2020
- 2021
- 2022
- 2023
- 2024
- 2025
- 2026
- 2027
- 2028
- 2029
- 2030
- 2031

The yearly folders are for everything else that you want to save from each year – birthday cards, birthday invitations, Valentines, Christmas cards, notes from their friends, etc.  Your labels for your yearly files will obviously be different than mine as you’ll do one for each year of your child’s life. 

Again, you will only keep a random sampling of items from each year to keep in the folders and you will toss the rest.

You can see more pictures and details about our kids’ Non-School Papers Keepsakes Boxes in this post here.  Again, there is so much more information and there are also specific details of what exactly I save. 

Clothing Keepsakes Box

This box will contain all of the clothes that you’d like to save. 

For this box, you will use the following:

1 regular storage box 
Index cards
1 chalkboard label
1 chalk marker

This box will contain the following:

- All outfits they wore for the four professional picture sessions during their first year of life (newborn, 4 month, 8 month, 12 month – these are the pictures in the panels that hang in our dining room)
- First bib
- First bathing suit
- First sunglasses
- First jacket
- First Easter outfit
- First Halloween costume
- First Thanksgiving outfit
- First Christmas outfit
- First Christmas PJs
- First/favorite blanket
- First sleepsack
- All personalized birthday shirts (we had special shirts made for each of their birthdays, ages 1-5)
- Other special shirts that they made/decorated at school for special events/holidays
- Team jerseys from sports they play
- Team shirts from sports (Jacob has a couple from soccer with his name on it)
- First dance recital costume, first ballet shoes, etc.
- First school uniform
- A few other outfits/shirts they wore throughout their lives that they loved so much/that had special meaning. 

I use index cards to label each item with the date, year, or age that they used it, and I also include a brief description of each item. 

You can customize this box to suit your needs.  You might save more or less than I do.

You can see more pictures and details about our kids’ Clothing Keepsakes Boxes in this post here.

Everything Else Keepsakes Box (Non-Paper & Non-Clothing Keepsakes)

This box will contain everything else that does not go in the boxes above, so basically, everything that you want to keep that’s not paper or clothing.

For this box, you will use the following:

1 regular storage box
Index cards
1 chalkboard label
1 chalk marker
1 One Line a Day book 
1 external hard drive
1 infant keepsake box
1 baby teeth holder

This box will contain the following:

- Photo album of ultrasound pictures
- Book of their birth (I made these for our kids)
- Baby book
- One Line a Day (journals I kept from their first five years of life)
- Hard drive of all pictures and videos from their lives
- Infant keepsake box (you can see more about the contents of those here)
            - Copy of the local newspaper from the day they were born   
- Caps and shirts the hospital dressed them in right after they were born
- Flowers delivered to the hospital when they were born
- Umbilical cord stumps (yes, I saved these… don’t judge.)
- Going home outfit (you could keep this in the Clothing Box if you prefer)
- Baptism mementos
            - Shoes in which they took their first steps
            - Lock of hair from their first haircut
            - Baby teeth (yes I’m saving these and I’m keeping them in one of these)
            - First pacifier
            - First brush and comb       
- Ticket Stubs Book (binder of all tickets stubs from movies, plays, sporting events, etc.)
- Rock collection box
- Souvenir penny book
- Disney Autograph book from our Disney trips
- Mickey ears from their first Disney trip
- Diaper bag
- First bottle
- First sippy cup
- Favorite stuffed animal
- Very favorite toys through the years
- Very favorite books through the years
- Trophies/other medals that don’t fit in their school keepsake boxes
- Flowers/corsages from first dances, etc.
- Other random school projects that they want to save that don’t fit in their school papers keepsake boxes (posters, pottery, picture frames, etc.)
- Other special keepsakes, souvenirs, etc.

Just be sure to label everything with the date and a brief description of what it is… that way you’ll know why you saved everything!  Again, I like to use index cards for the labeling.

And you can see more pictures and details about our kids’ Everything Else Keepsakes Boxes in this post here.


So there you have it.  Four boxes for each child.  And we keep those four boxes in the corners of their closets.  That way, we have easy access to them which makes maintenance a breeze, but they’re also not in the way either.  See Olivia's in the right corner there?

When our kids grow up and move out on their own, they will each have four boxes of keepsakes to take with them when they go – a box of their entire school career, a box of their other paper keepsakes by year, a box of their most special clothes, and a box of all of their other treasures.  Four boxes may seem like a lot to some of you, but when you’re talking about 22 years worth of stuff, that’s actually not that much. 

With regard to important papers like birth certificates, social security cards, baptismal certificates, etc. we do not include those in the keepsake boxes because they are all kept in our family’s LIFE BINDER that is kept in our fireproof safe in case of an emergency.

Your child will be so thankful that you created this little time capsule for them, but they’ll also be glad that you didn’t bombard them with thirty boxes of every single thing they ever owned.  It’s the perfect balance!

Now, go buy those four boxes and get started!  I promise you won’t regret that you did!

And be sure to follow me on Instagram for more organizing tips... I post about organizing frequently in my stories!  I have an entire highlight dedicated just to organizing.  :o) 

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  1. I feel like such an unfeeling, uncaring mom when I read these posts of yours...I have kept hardly anything at all of my boys' childhoods. I am a very sentimental person but I just can not stand clutter of any kind. I don't even have my wedding dress or much of anything from my childhood either. Luckily, my boys seem to take after me! :)

    1. Oh my goodness, please don't feel that way! I'm WAY more sentimental than most people so I keep way too much. Haha. And the older I get, the more clutter drives me crazy. That's exactly why I'm getting a handle on it now!

  2. I am so glad that I have all this information before I have kids...that way I can get on top of it right away once I do. :) Love ALL this. And this life binder you mentioned...please share the details!

  3. I do throw most of the boys stuff out but I keep a couple things. I think they are in a drawer somewhere. I have moved a couple times so I have learned not to accumulate! But we display things in an area of the kitchen throughout the year!

    1. We display our kids' art in the kitchen, too! And then I keep my faves and recycle the rest!

  4. Have I told you lately how AMAZING you are!!! Great job.

  5. I love it. I still need to find Gabbie's school work from before 3rd grade so I can organize that! lol.

  6. WOW! that is very impressive! Great job!

  7. I'm at that point where I just can't throw anything away, but I know I need to get organized. Love the idea of filing all the school stuff. Serena brings home a project <3

    Green Fashionista

  8. HOLY MOLY GIRL! This is beyond impressive! Thanks for sharing! xo, Biana -BlovedBoston

  9. Can you just come organize my life!?! Haha! You are so good at this!

    1. Haha. Thank you! I really enjoy organizing so I would probably enjoy that!

  10. You are my organization guru. I am sending this to my sisters, they will totally love this!

  11. I absolutely love all of your organizational posts! So inspiring! I need to do this, just SO MANY THINGS when your kids go to school. So excited to finally adapt a usable system.


  12. My organization-loving heart LOVES THIS!!! I would love to know how you organize outside toys and things, like chalk, sports balls, pool noodles, etc! Would love any tips!

  13. This is amazing. I give you mad props for putting this all together. I wish I was more organized.

  14. Now I just need you to move in with us and DO the organization 😉 I love reading about it, and could read about it all day long... It's the "do it" part that gets me!

    1. Hahahaha. If we lived close, I would most definitely be happy to do that! I love to organize and I'm running out of spaces in my own house to do that. Lol.

  15. I am pretty sure that you are the most organized person I know! You are an inspiration!

  16. This is an exhasutive list! Looks great! I have condensed Scott's and my things because we just don't have room with 4 kids things now :)! Such great wisdom and organization here!

  17. You are SO organized!! Such a great system, I can only imagine how many things of Tatum's I'll want to keep over the years!


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