Creating a memory box… Part II

I published “Creating a memory box… Part I” a few months ago. This post gave my readers 10 Easy Steps to Creating a Memory Box, so be sure to check that out first if you haven’t already done so!

This post, Part II, will cover how I went about organizing my own personal memory box. The goal of organizing a memory box is to simply create a place for your memorabilia in which is not overwhelming when opened, a place where certain memories can be accessed while others do not have to be, and a place where others can more easily enjoy your life memories once you are gone. A memory box does not need to be super organized, just accessible.

Organizing a Memory Box…

I started this project with a plastic storage bin full of mementos that had just been thrown in over time and already reduced a few times over the last several years…

Step #1:  I first dumped it all out and sorted my memorabilia into piles of similar things and labeled the piles using sticky notes… 


I put class and sports photos from elementary to high school together, college graduation program and mementos together, wedding memorabilia together, old school work and art work together, handmade cards from my daughter together, etc.

At this point, I was able to see what categories of memorabilia I had and realized I had more documents in my office filing box that I could include here rather than taking up space with my more active files.

Note: I have chosen to keep clothing out of my memory box. Instead I have a trunk in the attic for storing interesting clothing items I think my daughter would enjoy down the road. I like to put a couple of pieces in the trunk (i.e. dress I wore to my rehearsal dinner, bikini I wore on my honeymoon, college game day jersey, high quality shirts that are trendy at the time, etc.) every couple of years. I think she will love it one day!

Step #2: I then used some [IN]Place document envelopes ($3 for 3) {and the plastic envelopes that the set of 3 came in!} to contain most of my paper and school photo mementos. If you find yourself with large piles, you may want to get envelopes ($8 for 5) that have room to expand. I also used a document holder I already had to store old, loose schoolwork.


I used these round Avery kraft labels ($10 for 225!) {that you have seen before} to more uniformly label the different categories of memorabilia. Even though the document envelopes are clear, labeling does help for accessibility.

DSC_0009 My wedding memorabilia envelope, for example, includes our invitation, program, inspiration photo, select receipts, registry printout, etc. … all of which will be fun to look at many years from now.

Step #3: I then just thoughtfully put my items back in the plastic bin ready to be stored and enjoyed at a later date. By having the different types of memorabilia contained in separate folders I can easily find and retrieve something when I want it or when I need to file something new away.


Pretty simple, right? Well, there were a lot of decisions over the last several years that got me there. And there were even more that morning when I tackled the project. Here are a few that I struggled with…

Hard Decisions…

1. Pictures… Photos are hard and there is no one-fits-all approach. Personally, I have organized (chronologically with dividers) all my loose random photos in a photo box, I have kept my old childhood albums intact, and I’ve kept more recent digital photos in digital albums. However, I decided to keep all my older large class photos and school portraits together in my memory box.

2. Trophies & Awards… I imagine many people, even if you weren’t really sporty (that would be me), have plenty of awards and/or trophies boxed up somewhere. Most may feel relatively meaningless to us but have the overall sentimental value of winning/succeeding so they can sometimes be hard to part with. They may have your name on them or your old school… why would you get rid of them? Instead ask yourself: why are you keeping them? I highly recommend getting rid of anything that you don’t remember what it was for or has very little sentimental value.

I kept a few ribbons in my “Awards” folder, one plaque and one trophy that was more funny than anything else. The others I recycled by taking to Goodwill.

Note: I called two local established trophie/award businesses in the Austin area and asked whether they accepted old trophies and/or awards for recycling and neither responded positively and suggested Goodwill. Goodwill it is — you never know when an artsy-type will be on the hunt for old trophies for a project!

3. Oversized items… Many times we have oversized items that just don’t fit into a box. They take up more space so a more critical eye needs to be applied.

For example, I had a large, rolled up group photo I preferred to keep. However, I didn’t like it enough to take up space in the tube that it came in so it was either get rid of it or bend it. I just went ahead and bent it in order for it to fit with all my other school photos. I do not plan on ever framing it, so why not? I also had a homemade veil from my Bachelorette party (wow, that feels like many moons ago). It had sentimental value but instead of throwing it in the memory box I put it in my daughter’s dress up box for her enjoyment.

Items from your past need to really mean something in order for you to make room for them in your present.

Seeding Simplicity

That was my simple, no-frills process of organizing a memory box. Do you have plans to create and/or organize a memory box? Or have you gotten stuck on one area of memorabilia? I would love to hear your comments or field your questions. Please leave me a note below (comments will be individually approved so will not appear immediately).

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16 responses

  • Love the idea of a trunk filled with sentimental clothes for Lilah! We have a t-shirt quilt with college tees- it’s my favorite since its so comfy (though a bit ugly). 😉

  • We are about to face our first fall of empty nesting. This will be a wonderful project this winter as I sift through each of the kids’ rooms. Thanks

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  • Hi Sarah, Beautiful yet functional ideas. I am stuck on how to put together a memory type box or momento box of items that war veterans might have had with them. I was thinking perhaps a bible, cigarettes, do you have any ideas? It will be 100 years since the great war and I am trying to put together some ideas and projects now ready to display in 2015

  • Thanks for your comment! I’m no history buff, but some other things you could include in any small old looking box might include a letter(s), photograph(s), pipe, comb, pencil, matches, and handkerchiefs. Good luck!

  • I have been stuck for a while trying to figure out how to store my current memories (kids stuff, stuff they give me, family memories). I do digital photo books so I was not liking the idea of scrapbooking all my old photos and tickets to different events, so I love the idea of plastic envelopes. That is a life saver for me 🙂

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  • Hi again,
    I have now put everything in boxes etc & have decided to just work on
    one year at a time.

    I’ve decided to start with 1979, a year that I enjoyed as it was the first time I visited the US & I want to always remember those memories.

    For me, small & simple is the way to go:)

    Cheerio for now from the UK.

  • I apologize for my major lag in response. Congrats on making the first step! I would highly recommend separating pictures from memorabilia and doing whichever you prefer first. If pictures it is, then I would first separate out in a way that makes sense to you. Possibly you could organize pictures into years (sounds like this is what you already chose) or even 5 year or 10 year increments. Discard pics that you don’t like or are too blurry. You can store in albums or even boxes (shoe boxes or purchased storage boxes that fit up to a 5×7) with year(s) dividers (can just be made with card stock). Remember that you are organizing to better enjoy your belongings; so think about how you would most enjoy your pictures. If you would rarely look back at them then the simplest method would be boxes. You can within minutes find the pictures you are looking for. If you really enjoy looking back at pictures throughout the year then albums may be your best bet, just more time consuming. Best of luck!

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