“I didn’t realize how I had saved for my oldest son and my younger daughters have so little.” Do you say these words as a mother of multiple children? Or do you feel overwhelmed with the school and artwork that your kids bring home or produce? Do you wonder how you can preserve the precious memories without feeling guilty about tossing out a hand tracing, an early attempt at writing, or school achievement certificate?
Too many parents are divided into two camps when it comes to preserving their child’s life… a) they don’t save enough or b) they keep too much. In between, a parent will say, “Not another keepsake. Do I really need to save this?”
The answer lies in your preservation system. Whether you have a small flat or apartment or a large home, the amount of
clutter memorabilia you save for your children should fit into a portable file folder box or a file drawer. If it can’t fit inside, that blessed darling should consider parting with the item (or you could stuff it in the trash can when they’re not looking!)
There is an inexpensive system that will help you curate the most valuable treasures, so you have something to provide your offspring with to remember their childhood that will make a family historian’s heart sing.
What you’ll need:
- 15-20 hanging file folders with tabs
- file drawer or hanging file folder box
- all of your child’s (or your childhood) keepsakes and artwork
If you’re handy with a computer, you could print out file tabs. Otherwise, go simple and preserve your handwriting using a pen or fine-tipped sharpie. Your file folders will include the grade school years and then additional folders to round out the child’s life.
- Each school year receives a tab from Kindergarten – 12th grade (in the US)
- Additional files could include:
- Infancy, 1-Year-Old, 2-Year-Old, 3-Year-Old, Pre-K
- Vital Records, Health Records, Prenatal Care
- Baptism, Scouts, Activity Days, Sports, Communion, Awana’s, Brownies, etc.
You don’t have to have a category for each file folder at the onset. As your child ages, new categories may be necessary. The beauty of this system is that it’s expandable!
What goes in the files?
If you have a file box, you will soon realize that you can’t save everything. That’s the BEAUTY of the Grow With Me boxes. You’re forced to keep the best artwork, the best report card, the best photos, etc. Here are a few suggestions of what to keep:
- Annual photo of child
- Annual family Christmas card or photo
- CD of photos for the year
- Copy of family journal
- Letter to the child from the parents
- Most meaningful recognitions, ribbons, and certificates
- Most significant school project
- Most outstanding art piece for the year
- Report Cards, IEPs, Assessment Test Results
- Special Needs Diagnostic Results and Updates
DECISION-MAKING TIP: If you have trouble narrowing down pieces every year, then wait until the middle or end of the following year to pare down the potential keepsakes to the most significant.
ADDED BENEFIT: If your child struggles in school or has a special need, this system can manage their progress and serve as a reference aid. If there is ever a question or challenge, refer to your files to review what has been achieved or needs continuing services.
It’s Never Too Late To Start
Many of you are lost past your childhood or child-rearing years. Your box would not grow with your offspring but could help you when you prepare to downsize or declutter your home. You’ll be able to have the files made and sit with a stack of preserved documents. As you review each piece, you can file them appropriately. Be prepared with tissues if you’re a weeper! The memories are powerful, but they will be better preserved.
My friend recently shared how she started this organization system after finally purchasing her first home. Her son is a teenager, but he enjoyed sitting with his mom and sifting through his earliest scribbles and cut and paste activities. Together mother and son reviewed photos, certificates, and report cards. They speak fondly of the experience, even though they did throw out a mountain of keepsakes that were less valuable that when would fit in the files. As the son approaches adulthood, he knows his childhood has been preserved and knows where the report cards and recognitions should go when he receives them.
A Perfect Gift
If you want to give a uniquely thoughtful gift for moms-to-be or mothers who are having their third or fourth child with no planned baby showers, these systems are highly praised gifts. If the receiver already has a system, they can regift the system to another deserving mother without any stigma!
An even better gift is spending time with your disorganized children or their spouses, providing the file system and file box and then helping with the legwork of sorting the papers. It’s a family history project that saves the recent past and present and plans to save the future as well.
Do you have an organization system that preserves childhood well? Let me know if the description below. If you’ve used this system or given it as a gift, share that below as well.
This post is part of my year dedicated to demonstrating that busy people can participate in family history! You’re never too busy to contribute to genealogy! You just need to pick something that works for you.