Organizing keepsakes with memory binders and totes

My friend Sandy over at Reluctant Entertainer has started off our keepsake/picture month talking about how she organizes her kid’s keepsakes into binders.   It’s very similar to the method I use so I thought this would be as good as time as any to share my system with you again.


A couple of weeks ago I talked about how I organize the kids school papers and today I want to share you with how I save some of their special memories. Using memory binders that I purchased from the dollar store, I save my kid’s special keepsakes for them in page protectors sorted by grade. These binders are kept easily accessible in my office and throughout the year I can very quickly just put the keepsake papers/awards/notes/stories that they want to keep right into their binder. Having one page protector sheet per school year helps us to really be selective and only keep the most favorites.

I also have a separate one for my daughter’s piano certificates and awards.

For bigger keepsake items (special outfits, baby books, journals, art, etc) I keep one clear tote for each child in their closet.  The kids are each allow two totes, one for elementary school and one for secondary school.

Using memory binders sorted by grade keeps everything organized nicely and the memory totes allows us a little space for the bigger things that the kid’s don’t want to part with. This system forces us to put limits on what we keep which is a good thing because I don’t want to burden my kids with excess when they are grown. I always ask myself, is this my memory or the kids? What we hang on to is what is important to them, not me. Sure I guide them with their decision making if they need it but ultimately keeping what is of most value to them is what is most important to me.

As for how I store my own childhood memories.    I have one 60 L tote that I keep in my basement storage room.  That’s it.


One of these days I’m going to have to open it up and pull out all of my old notes from my best friend in elementary school.  She’s still my best friend now, living in the same town as me, 27 years later!  What fun we’ll have laughing at our ever important, highly dramatic (no doubt!), school girl shananigans.

How do you store your own childhood memories or the memories for your own kids?  What works, what doesn’t work for you?

Filed under: Containerizing, Keepsakes, Kid Stuff, Monthly Round-up


41 Responses to Organizing keepsakes with memory binders and totes

  1. 1
    Organising Queen says

    I have one memory box for everything – my mother has my school reports and ballet certificates and whatnot (as you say, those are her memories :)) I should take a pic and show you

  2. 2
    Organising Queen says

    P.S. We are decluttering so the babies have space for their own stuff so am throwing away even more!

  3. 3
    Roan says

    I am joining you! My keepsakes for the children are pretty well organized. One rubbermaid box per kid in the basement, one file in my filing drawer, and they have one small plastic container in their closet (which we empty into the large box in the basement periodically). As for school, since I homeschool, I choose what to keep or toss on a daily basis….keepers go into binders with page protectors.
    I am focusing this month on my photos! Here is a link to my plan:

    Thanks for all of your assignments!

  4. 4
    Robin says

    I have a tote for my son’s old clothes and one for my husband’s old concert T-shirts. These will be turned into memory quilts for them. I also keep track of my son’s art work in a plastic filing tote with a folder for each year.

  5. 5
    Niki says

    you know how I deal with Landon’s pre-school stuff? I give it all to my mom and she has some kind of system LOL. seriously I know I will have to come up with something soon as the kids start entering school but for now I am in denial.. lol

  6. 6
    Malinda says

    We are all about digital storage at this house. We’ll take a picture of our kids with their school projects, artwork, or even their latest Lego creation. If they write a funny story or draw a really great picture, we’ll scan it in. All of the memories, with none of the clutter.

  7. 7
    micki says

    I scrapbook most of that stuff. Of course I’m really behind on my scrapbooking! I don’t save school papers at all. I take pictures of the big stuff and will scrapbook it. It makes it a lot easier 🙂

  8. 8
    susieshomemade says

    That’s exactly what I do! I am glad to hear that I am on the right track:-)

  9. 9
    Kristen says

    I recently started sorting through all my childhood memoribilia. I have 5 totes full of keepsakes & clothes from birth through highschool; I also have one other tote full of pictures, papers, certificates, etc. from birth through college!
    Something my Mom & I have done is as I come across something that does hold a particular memory, but I don’t necessarily want to keep, is take a picture! I modeled my old bedazzled jean jackets, sparkly tops & embellished blue jeans for the camera… & then put the items in the donation pile. I can now scrapbook the photos & memories.

  10. 10
    Sandy says

    All I can say is – you are so organized girl! 🙂 I am NOT a scrapbooker, so this method SAVED ME years ago 🙂

  11. 11
    Taylor at Household Management 101 says

    I deal with keepsakes the same way I deal with my child’s school papers, I keep stuff in a big envelope during the school year, then have a purge when the envelope gets too full. Then, each child has a big manila folder each year for their special artwork and keepsakes.

    You can read more about my system on my blog (click on my name for the relevant post).

  12. 12
    Becky F says

    I don’t have any children in school yet, but I love the idea of taking pictures of the kid’s art work, etc. to easily save them and put them in scrapbooks. I love to scrapbook, so this would work for me. : ) That way, I may be able to get rid of them and not have all the bulk.

  13. 13
    Marcie VH says

    My son is only 9 months, but *he’s* already creating keepsakes of stuff I need to address. I want to create a pregnancy/birth scrapbook, but have decided I want to do this all digitally and only keep the most important hard copies. But I have piles and folders full of doctors apt reports, u/s photos, etc… Time to get to work.

    I have one tote of my childhood memories and haven’t looked at it in years. I purged most of it when I moved across county and my mom wasn’t willing to store it all for me any more.

  14. 14
    Allison says

    I tend to be a packrat. Though, when we moved, I purged a LOT of stuff. I tend to try to do scrapbooking to keep the memories, but I like your tote idea to keep things safe, as well.

  15. 15
    Dawn says

    I try to scrapbook my kids school stuff….but I’m a little behind. I do have a tote full of stuff from my son’s scout and baseball days…nothing for my dd other than her old ballet costumes…

    As for my own stuff…I have a shoe box that has a few things in it… I go through it at least once a year…fun!

  16. 16
    Joy says

    I have 6 of those cardboard file boxes that you get in any office supply dept. or store. There is one for each of my five kids and one for hubby and I. I save everything from the year, gather each childs papers in the 2 gallon plastic zip bags, label it with the year and put it in the corresponding box. The boxes stay tucked away on high shelves in a closet. I only have to get them down once a year, AND bulkier items can also go in them-like favorite baby outfits, first shoes, and the pottery turkeys they all made in 4th grade. My kids are all mostly grown now and I don’t have to add to their boxes much anymore. But when they have homes of their own, they each have 1 box of memories to take. We don’t look through them but once a year while we have them down, but it’s like finding treasure when we do. As for my box, there are a few things that the kids will have fun looking through when I am gone. I don’t let them see in it just yet. But someday, when my husband and I are gone, they will recognize the box (they all look alike with names on them) and be able to read letters and cards between my husband and I and know how deep our love is for each other.

  17. 17
    Susanne says

    Love the binder idea. I had one of those books that have the pouches for each grade level but you still end up with a pile of loose papers when you look at them.

  18. 18
    Betty says

    What a good Mom you are and they will certainly have a lot of fun and memories when they are adults and can share it with their children. The Memories notebooks; did the notebooks come with the words Memories or are they self stick alphabet letters, etc? Neat idea and look how neat you have them arranged. My hats off to you!

  19. 19
    Betty says

    I suggest when you packed stuff away in these plastic tubs or even boxes, add some dryer sheets in there, so they won’t get a musty smell to them. That musty smell from basements never comes out of stuff, but I put dryer sheets in anything I pack away. You know the plastic zippered bags that comforters, bedlinens or tablecloths come in? I save them and pack my clean sheet sets in and of course, even though they are not in a basement, I still add a dryer sheet inside. Sometimes certain wood shelves give off an odor(pine for example)and unless you treat it before painting it, that pine odor comes through. Hanging up potpouri balls in closets help keep stuff smelling nice. I rec’d some gift soaps for Xmas that I would never use on my body but I pricked pin holes in the cellaphane cover and have them laying on a shelf in the linen closet. Such a nice smell when I open the linen closet doors to put towels away.

  20. 20
    Sarah says

    I’ve given you two awards over at my blog…be sure to check it out!

  21. 21
    Tracy Hoth says

    I have a clear tub with legal sized manilla envelopes, one for each school year (0-4 years old is the first one). I put anything I want to keep in a file in my action box in the kitchen and periodically I transfer it to the tub in the basement. I wrap each file with a rubberband after the year is out. The kids love to sit on the floor and look through one folder at a time! One tub for ages 0-10 and one for 10-18!

  22. 22
    Michelle B says

    My little guy is not in school yet, but a good tip I heard once was to use new pizza boxes. They hold bigger art projects, but are flat and stack well. That’s what I plan on doing. For now, he has a scrapbook of his birth and a video I put together with pics and video clips of his first year.

  23. 23
    Ev says

    I have a couple photo albums, & 1 Strawberry Shortcake tine can from childhood!

  24. 24
    Jennifer says

    What a fab idea. I have a lot of things from my childhood and I need to clean it out. It’s easy to declutter everything else in my house but my ‘sentimental’ things are so hard to part with. I don’t want to burden my little ones with that.

    Thanks for the tip! I’ll be tote and binder shopping this week!

  25. 25
    Lynn says

    Loved this post!! I have trouble with limits and this will help greatly!

    One question- when I clicked to see the “kids school papers” that you mentioned as posting several weeks ago- the page could not be found. Do you know the exact date?

  26. 26
    Hope says

    Very great ideas! Thanks so much!

  27. 27
    VictoriaS76 says

    I’ve recently started scanning in all my daughter’s artwork because unlike you, I do think they are ALL sentimental but I really don’t want to keep them all. I hate the clutter and mess! So as I was scanning in my receipts for my taxes, I realized, if I can scan those and get rid of the originals (getting a ton of clutter OUT of my house), then why can’t I do the same with my daughters artwork? Oh my goodness, it worked out so well. I’ve kept the few that I really wanted or thought she might want and the rest are kept safely tucked away on my compter on an external drive. The best $80 I ever spent! I can copy all pictures, receipts, artwork etc. onto it and know that when I need them, they are there! The best part, besides no clutter, is if I want to send Grandma a handmade card for her birthday, all I have to do is pull up a scan and print it on a card!

  28. 28
    Molly says

    I found these amazing binders that I use for everything now!!! I added these little trading card pages to store the kids DS games in. I use the wallets for CDs and DVDs AND you can label the spine. ALSO my teenager uses the larger binders for school. Best. Stuff. Ever. I am so OCD about storage. Haha! 🙂

    Here is a link;

  29. 29
    Janet Barclay says

    My husband and I each have a Rubbermaid tote for our personal mementos, which we call our “treasure boxes.” If we run out of space, something has to go!

    I have to confess, after my mother passed away, I took possession of many of her “treasures” and to deal with the overflow, I transferred all my paper memorabilia to a Banker’s box. One of these days I will go through everything yet again and streamline some more…

  30. 30
    Monica says

    I love keeping my children’s art work and certificates, and projects through out the years. However…with 4 kids, from freshman in high school to a pre-schooler, It can take up a lot of space. My way of keeping all the memories is by having my kids take a photo of the artwork or projects and then we scrapbook them. It takes up way less space! Then we can throw out the bulky artworks and projects with out feeling guilty! I am a “hoarder” when it comes to stuff like this for my kids, so taking the pictures make those memories last forever!

    • 30.1
      Denise says

      I couldn’t resist sharing a great solution that I’ve discovered. It is called Memory Pockets ( For each of my kids, I got a set of Memory Pockets to safely STORE each school year’s art, papers, keepsakes, etc. There’s a LARGE – 10×13 – pocket for each year, preschool thru 12th grade. Plus they come in bright, fun colors with fill-in-the-blanks on the front where you and RECORD your child’s accomplishments, dreams, likes and milestones for each year. I keep them handy in a fabric tote on a shelf in our den. When the kids bring their new “stuff” home, I sort thru it and save/record the “keepers” in their Memory Pocket. I love them! See for yourself at

      • jlld says

        Why not just get a school memory book with pockets?

        School memory books are cheaper, sturdier, and much more elegant than a bunch of large envelopes.

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