The first thing we have to do in our ORC room is to clear out space! I have memory box after memory box of sentimental items I’ve saved over the years. But the cardboard boxes are falling apart and disorganized. None of my memories are stored in a thoughtful way that makes them accessible, safe from degradation, or easy to store.
Memory items are not trivial, they help us to remember and honor our personal histories. More broadly, the sentimental items we keep in our collections fit into an overarching cultural conversation that our culture is starting to have about our relationship with material objects.
Here are the guidelines I’m using to tackle the memory buildup in my ORC space. Feel free to alter them to suit your own memory organization needs!
Game plan for memory box organization
organize memories with a buddy
A buddy can help you keep moving (and not get distracted by reading middle school love notes for an hour). You can share stories about your life and childhood with them by sharing these artifacts. Reminisce with a longtime friend, or forge a deeper relationship with a new one! When you finish, you can also reciprocate and help them sort their memories.
Choose storage wisely
- You’ll want storage that will help preserve the items you want to keep. Books, papers, stuffed animals or clothes might benefit from an airtight plastic bag to prevent moisture damage. You can vacuum seal clothes and sentimental blankets so they take up less space.
- Lots of paper memories like schoolwork, concert tickets, and receipts? Try organizing your papers by year in an expanding file.
- Storage that’s easy to organize. Clear walls make it easier to see what’s inside, and stackable bins keep your closet from becoming an avalanche of cardboard boxes.
- Double duty storage. I’m using vintage suitcases to store some of my memory items. This way my memory storage can also
indulge my vintage suitcase addictionserve as decor!
Be realistic about how much to keep
Some people prefer to travel light, some have tons of extra storage space. Everyone’s situation is different. Since 2019 is the Year of Kondo, it’s worth considering keeping only a small amount of objects. Choose to only hold onto items that evoke powerful emotions rather than a bunch of random toys that you remember being in your room.
Create an album of memories you’re not physically keeping
Snap a quick photo of each item before discarding or rehoming it, then make sure you get the photos printed! Assemble the photos into an album, and if you really want to hold onto the stories associated with each item, write out a description of the item and why it’s a strong memory for you, then slide that into an adjacent slot in your album. Now your stories and memories are still stored together, but in a more compact format.
Consider storing memories by collection
Think about how you want to organize your stored memories. When you go to look at them later, what stories do you want them to tell? You’re essentially curating a mini-exhibit about your life. You could keep all your hockey jerseys together in one place, or group together all your memories from elementary school, or all the stuff from when you lived in Indiana, etc. If you’re keeping a lot of memories, organizing your collections like this will make it easier to find what you’re looking for later.
Set goals for time
Break your memory box organization into smaller chunks like:
- sort memories by year
- take photos
- write a phrase to describe each memory
- packing each item up
You’ll probably get sucked down memory lane to some extent (that’s the point, right?) but you don’t want to get stalled in the middle of the project and end up with a living room full of scattered treasures for two weeks while you’re busy with life. Set a time budget and stick to it. Again, this is where organizing with a buddy might help.
The memory organization is ongoing, so wish me luck! Let me know if you come up with any other ideas for organizing your sentimental items and keepsakes. And head over to the One Room Challenge to see other bloggers progress on their projects!