We hold on to sentimental items that mean the world to us – the little blanket in which the baby was brought home from the hospital, a christening outfit, a wedding dress. As parents, we have an innate sense of responsibility towards preserving special keepsakes and passing them on to our children. Memories are, after all, what shape us; and treasured keepsakes help put together the stories of our lives.
As expats, however, we are used to moving countries and often do not have the luxury of a storeroom to preserve mementos. When I moved from India to Switzerland, I packed my beloved books into boxes and shipped them to my in-laws, who stored them on my behalf. My wedding album, scrapbooks, mementos from school, etc. are stored at my parents’. If I were to continue to accumulate “stuff” here in Switzerland, then the paper piles would catch up with me and become my nemesis. Somewhere between moving to Switzerland and settling into life here, I realised I quite enjoyed leading a minimal life with less clutter and more memories.
My son, who is all of three, has given us enough memories to treasure for a lifetime, and with many more in the making, I look for ways to preserve them while avoiding the accumulation of stuff. I now find online journaling a much more convenient way of filing away those special moments that I never want to forget; I save images digitally and try to keep the paper piles to a minimum. Here are some simple ways in which I try to preserve memories without taking up too much space:
Capturing early milestones
The first year of every child’s life is perhaps the most special one. A great way to relive moments of a child’s journey over these very special 12 months is to take a picture every month, and watch your child grow. In his first year, I took a picture of my son every month on the date of his birthday, posing with a little stuffed toy given to him by his godmother. At the end of the year, it was fun to make a collage of the twelve months of pictures and watch how he “outgrew” his stuffed toy! It also made for a nice little addition to the table at his first birthday party.
Maintaining an online journal:
Maintaining a journal of your child’s milestones helps you preserve the memory of your baby’s first toothless smile, your reaction or your family’s reaction to your child’s first step; it is also a great way to record those sometimes baffling words of wisdom or hilarious lines they begin to spout as they get older.
After my son began to speak in short sentences around the age of eighteen months, I found myself looking for ways to jot down what he would say. Using a “Notes” app on my phone, I made note of some of the often-funny, sometimes thought-provoking things he would say. Soon I realised that using this app wasn’t fun. I didn’t really go back to read these notes very often. They had assumed the status of a shopping list, which I was in the habit of compiling using the same Notes app on my phone. So I began an online journal on WordPress, changed privacy settings to “private,” thus ensuring that the blog remains visible to just myself and an audience of my choosing. I now upload a post every month, capturing milestones, and compiling some of my three-year old’s funniest and most startling statements.
An advantage of maintaining an online journal is that you can choose to share it with your family and keep them updated on your child’s milestones. Grandparents can chip in and leave a message, or upload a video message or comment on posts. As my child gets older, he can read about how he used to wonder how Santa could possibly come down the “chimney” above the kitchen hob!
You can start your own blog for free via websites such as Blogger as well and can set it up as a private account if you’d like, so that only people you invite can view it and post comments. Other free journaling tools include Penzu or apps such as Evernote.
Preserving little masterpieces
The first time my son brought home a craft from playgroup, I was delighted! Amber-coloured autumn leaves and twigs were strung on a wire along with a tiny bell. The little autumn keepsake took place of pride in the living room for some days…until the next craft came along, and then the next. Now, we have a few boxes filled with arts and crafts, and some of them get to hang out on our gallery wall in the corridor, until they are eventually consigned to “the farm where all old crafts must go” a.k.a. the recycling bin.
As someone who has lived in 12 apartments in 11 years, it is simply not possible for me to hold on to all the arts and crafts that my son makes or brings home. I recently sorted his art work and here’s what I found worked for me:
Using an app to save arts and crafts projects
I started by sorting through his collection. I took pictures of all his crafts and art projects and use an app on my phone to sort the artwork by date. There are several iOS and Android apps that allow you to store your kids’ art projects digitally.
The app I use is called Keepy (available on both AppStore and Google Play). This is a fun app that lets you save and sort images of art projects by date. What I liked about it is that it lets you set up multiple profiles, one for each child, and lets you add a video or voiceover to an image. In addition to craft projects, I occasionally save a photo of other art as well, such as a chalkboard drawing of what my son insists is a humpback whale, or a particularly fun activity that he loves doing, such as water play or a Lego masterpiece. The app lets you add up to five images or video a month for free. If you will be adding more than that, you need a paid subscription.
A phone app helps store art projects by age and category
The “one-box” challenge
Store keepsakes if you must, but try to limit them to just one box. I saved some of my personal favourite pieces of art in a labelled box to go over his cupboard, for easy access. I plan to store all crafts and art projects here, and then go through them once the box gets full. Since I have a back-up of the art projects on my app, I don’t feel guilty about the ones that I feel need to go to the bin.
Sorting through artwork and limiting it to just one box
Filing precious keepsakes
Invest in a good-quality ring-binder folder with transparent envelopes to hold special art projects, birthday or Christmas cards and letters. We preserved ours, including our letter from Santa (a.k.a. Swiss Post) that we received last year!
Using a folder to save cards and letters
Text and Photos by Shinta Simon
Shinta is a blogger, part-time baker, and mom to a three-year-old. She lives in Baden, Switzerland and in her “previous life” as a marketing professional was based in Bangalore, India. She shares her passion for food on her blog carameltintedlife.com and documents her baking adventures on her Facebook page Sugar Rush.