Precision Memory Filing

I keep memories! My photos are digital and I stopped buying souvenirs when I travel. But I keep lots of mementos of special times. Mostly paper.

During my first year of Covid restrictions, I loved catching up on home tasks and being out in nature. This Spring, I’ve been hit hard by regrets for all the things we’re missing – not only family visits, but travel, concerts, plays, art exhibits and festivals – all of which are a huge part of my life. I am willing to stay the course until our vaccination rates increase and restrictions ease. But I am missing my old life much more than I did last year.

Recently I reorganized all my personal mementos. At some point I had separated them by year, put each year’s stack of items into a “pocket,” then placed them in a box. I had about 4 years of jumbled items on top. They needed to be sorted by year and given pockets.

Let me show you what a year looks like!

My latest project was to make everything more accessible. I had a plastic file box with hanging folders in it, used to store a selection of Link’s school work. It is organized into sections: preschool, elementary, junior high, high school (diminishing in volume at each stage since as they grow older, their work is their own and not a parent’s property!) I decided to use the same system for my own papers.

I explored purchasing archival (acid-free) storage containers and folders but they were not available, even online, in the formats I needed. I laughed at myself, too, at the thought my papers should outlive me. Our kids do not want our stuff! You may ask how often I even look at my pockets of mementos. In theory, I organize my current-year items at the end of each year. I would say I spend a day going through them every 5 years since I began collecting at about age 20. If I look at them every 5 years from age 25 to age 80, that is 12 times. Worth it? I say yes. (I’m not saying I’ll drop dead at age 80, but I may not be able to take them with me if I downsize further in my 80s!)

I bought the least expensive file boxes, since they are sitting in a clean, dry closet and not in a difficult environment. I bought light grey legal-size file folders. I thought the dye from red, blue, purple or green folders might stain the papers, or start to “run” if there was any humidity. I continued using the pockets I have: acid-free multi-page sheet protectors.

To make one file box for 25 years of papers, it cost me:

Plastic File Storage Box $14.99 CDN

Box of 25 Hanging File Folders $23.99 CDN

Pack of 25 Sheet Protectors $3.49 CDN

TOTAL $42.47 plus tax (purchased by me – not sponsored)

Most offices are getting rid of hanging file folders by the hundreds (working from home has accelerated the switch to all-digital files) so you might be able to take a box of used folders home!

Why do I need the pockets, you may ask? I keep the items in order inside the pocket. I know if I put the papers directly into the folder, whenever I take the folder out, I’m likely to spill it. I am clumsy! I could have used envelopes, but I like to be able to see the contents.

You could also ask why I want to organize the mementos at all. I could throw everything into a box and dip in to look at random items. But that would not be me! I like to view things like “my Paris trip” or “all the concerts I saw in 2010.” If you think this project is silly and excessive, you are reading the wrong blog 🙂

Here is the result. I have two file boxes containing 38 years of memories!!

Plastic box full of grey file folders

I will probably add tabs to the top of each folder to show what year is inside. I may even add extra tabs to show big one-time events such as the aforementioned Paris trip. With my increasing interest in journaling, a nice touch would be to add a decorative front page for every pocket. Or a list of significant events inside.

It makes me happy to look through the folders and think about places I’ve been and things I’ve done. I have accepted that when it comes to arts and culture, I am primarily a spectator. I am proud to support the arts.

Despite the convenience, I’m sad that event tickets are digital now 😦 Before long, I will have nothing to collect. I’ll have to keep a list of events. And journal about them!

For 2020/21, I kept a couple of public health postcards received in the mail, informing citizens of Covid protocols and vaccinations. For posterity.

Do you have favourite concerts, plays, exhibits and festivals? Have you kept mementos of them?


  1. Hi Dar
    I so admire how organised and neat you are, the way I aspire to become. Your previous post on your home-office was a source of great inspiration. I am not messy, but a far cry from what I’d like to be. 🙂 I used to keep all the programmes of the plays I attended, but with the house-moving, many had been abandoned — a shame, in retrospect, and especially after reading your post.

    • Thanks, Vera! It was part of a project to limit all of my personal belongings (except clothes) to one closet! After reviewing some play programmes, I decided not to keep the whole booklet, and only kept the cover. Feels a bit sacrilegious but I really did not enjoy reading the contents again.

  2. I just did a currency conversion and reckon it would not be possible to buy a pub lunch for what you spent on supplies so your project looks like an absolute bargain, well done. Sometimes the hardest thing about getting (and staying) organised is working out how to physically do it.

    I used to keep all the same things, but a couple of years ago I realised I could bring back the same memory looking at a picture of the items as if I had the physical object. So I digitised everything and chucked the paper. And then backed up the files, and then backed up the backup (more than once 🤪). My logic is that the main backup discs live in a fireproof safe, other copies are more accessible and one could be grabbed if I had to leave the house in a hurry.

    • I think you are onto something, Jayne! After taking the photo of the contents of one file, it did occur to me that I could just keep the photo. So when I eventually downsize, that’s what I’ll do. Good job on your multiple backups!!

  3. I sometimes think I over-organize but I am very much reading the right blog! My own more chaotic version of this is a ‘memo-box’ holding items I can’t throw out for sentimental reasons. Old passports, school photos, unexpected letters, calendars and agendas, important ticket stubs and such. Just jumbled up. 2014 I went through over twenty years worth and threw out 90% (as I then knew nobody would write books about me). Now I only have one larger sized shoebox (and I never look in it but it solves the problem of keepsakes).

    • I know I’m not keeping this for future generations (or the public, LOL!), just for my own interest. Nevertheless I am OK with keeping 2 or 3 file boxes. I’m glad you have a system that works for you.

  4. Bee

    For digital tickets, I screenshot them! That way they can live in my photos.

    A lot of my paper mementos go into the journal I was keeping at the time– I almost always use notebooks with pockets now. For last year I know I kept a copy of my stimulus check and the envelope from my absentee ballot, and in my first journal this year is a printout of an update on vaccinations in my region (I highlighted the sentence about the site where I got mine).

    • Bee, that’s such a great idea – when there are actual events to attend, I will absolutely do that! Sounds like you have a nice “time capsule “going.

  5. Mary

    I really like the way you have organized your files/mementos. Just right for YOU and that is the only thing that counts!
    I do have some old airplane and train boarding passes (really old ones–near cardboard-like stock) of special trips and still keep the ticket in my wallet/purse for the last concert I saw–January 2020–Joshua Bell and the Academy of St Martin’s in the Field at the Usher Hall in Edinburgh. Thankfully, it was glorious and I attended it with a dear Scottish friend, so a wonderful memory. Keep checking all my usual venues (e.g. Wigmore, Cadogan Hall, Usher, etc.) in the UK for concerts, as I am determined to get over the Pond asap (having had both jabs-completed by mid-March)–while I am still mobile enough to get around on my own.

    • Hi Mary, Apologies for the delay in replying! What an amazing concert to keep as your most recent music memory for this year! I do like looking at old tickets, boarding passes, etc. and seeing how the formats changed before they went digital. Now one buys fake vintage tickets, postcards, maps and botanical printed paper for one’s scrapbooks, ha! Everything comes around again (e.g. Polaroids/Instax pictures, or sending away a film to get developed).

  6. I used to hang onto ephemerals for memories. Now I am ruthless. I get when you look at them, they spark fond memories, I hope my digital photos will take their place. I do like how some people’s collections become items in museums. Maybe your health postcard will be?

    I think at the least, stuff may babe become things grandkids use in their school assignments. But even the latter are digital so pasting in a postcard from grandparents’ era doesn’t have the same impact and immediacy. I remember a student of mine made a collage of things from a monumental election – one that changed Australia forever. She even had a badge. Things like that I think may be worth keeping. And then I think I want to be free of stuff. No clutter. No things.

    Ah the dilemma.

    • Hi Lucinda, ooh, you are ruthless. Maybe someone in the family has to be, haha! Do you look at your digital photos months or years later? Do you delete any? Share any?

      When we were in Bristol UK a few years ago, a museum had a great display of household and hobby items from local people, very specific to their area and the years they grew up. I also loved the brands and packaging museum in London.

      • I still have photos on my phone from years ago but I delete tonnes. And go back and delete more. I also love seeing brands I knew or household items from the past but decided I wouldn’t be the archivist for the future or the archivist’s dream find

  7. Wow! I wish I could hire you to organize my house. I used to buy mementos but they just end up dumped in a box in a closet and then donated once I’m annoyed with the stuff. Now I just buy magnets from my travels.

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