My memory keeping framework – Part 1

I’ve had a few people ask me about my overall memory-keeping system, so today I’m going to share the first of a number of posts detailing my system – or framework. Having an overall framework is definitely important. It’s the big picture. The overall vision that helps determine how all the individual parts come together.

It took me a long time to work out my system. Actually, it took me a long time to work out I needed a system. But by the time Pete came along and I was drowning under a multitude of memorabilia and photos, it became pretty clear to me I needed some sort of framework – especially if we were going to keep having more children (as this would only mean more photos and more memorabilia, and I knew I would be wanting to do something consistent for each child). I remember mulling over it for ages. I kept a notebook with me for over a month, writing down all my thoughts and ideas. When I eventually worked out what I believed to be a reasonable ‘blueprint,’, I typed it up and saved it in Evernote as a way of ‘sealing the deal’ (and so that I could reference it on the go).

That was some two years ago. Since then, the framework has stayed more or less the same but I’ve made some tweaks as I’ve discovered new products/services. Obviously, the biggest change came when I discovered Project Life through Elise’s blog. Even then, I didn’t jump on board straight away as I was rather committed to my framework and didn’t want to chop and change unless I was absolutely convinced it would work for our family. Consistency, to me, is important when it comes to memory-keeping for two reasons: a) it’s easier to keep up with b) things look nicer on the shelf when they come in ‘sets’ (but that latter one could be just strange ole me). Anyway, after watching Elise’s Project Life spreads unfold for the first ten weeks of 2012, I decided that yes, it would be the right thing to do to ‘switch,’ so to speak. I simply had to work out when and how.

Because I know that not all of you are doing Project Life, I thought it would be useful if I outlined my system before I started PL, explain a little as to how/when I made the switch, and then describe my current framework which includes Project Life.

Note that this system includes everything – photos, photo albums, memorabilia, cards/letters, photo books, scrapbooks, etc. – from when I was a baby till now.

Also, it will come across loud and clear from this post that I am a chronological memory keeper. By this, I don’t mean that I have to work on projects in exact chronological order, but it does mean that overall, all my memory keeping is organised chronologically and that chronology determines how I work out what projects I want or need to tackle. I know this approach doesn’t work for everyone, but it has always made sense for me (and subsequently our family) as it takes a lot of the guesswork out and sets some clear parameters on what needs to be done.

Anyway, enough of an introduction. Let’s go:

My childhood years

My childhood photos (0-primary school) are all in one very old album which I’m planning to re-do sometime this year. And by that I mean simply move the photos to a nice, modern dry mount album and do some simple captioning. This should be quite a small job, because I actually don’t have that many childhood photos, believe it or not. I imagine this wouldn’t take me longer than a day to do.

My high school years

Photos from my six years at high school are all housed chronologically in two of these ivory Coral Coast Buckram albums. They each hold 300 4×6 photos, and I’m very happy with them. The corresponding film for those photos are all stored in a single box. And nope, I have no intention of going through that film and having it scanned digitally.

My university years

My university photos are all in two shoeboxes, organised chronologically. I used to have these university photos displayed in a beautiful set of photo albums, but when Rick and I got engaged, I decided I didn’t need to keep a photographic record of my previous relationships, so I went through the albums and took all those photos out. Then I decided the empty pockets weren’t to my liking so I made the executive decision of pulling out five years worth of photos from the albums and simply storing them in two photo boxes.

Just last week, while I was waiting for Aperture to generate thumbnails for 60,000 odd photos after I upgraded my old hard drive to a new solid state drive, I finally made some proper dividers for these two photos boxes simply by using the original dividers that came with the box as a template (they were a garish design and there were only five) and tracing them out onto plain white cardboard. Then I went through all the photos and labelled a different divider for each different event. I didn’t bother with recording the exact date but I did label separate dividers for each year. The final result is what you can see in the very first image above. I’m very happy with this and currently don’t have any plans to re-organise the photos into albums.

My graduations and 21st birthday

For my 21st celebration, I made a special album myself by choosing about 40 sheets of textured black acid-free A4 cardboard, adding a piece of A4 tracing paper between each sheet, adding a special ‘corrugated’ cardboard that was extra thick on top as the cover, and then simply having all this spiral bound at Kinkos kiosk. I liked this album very much because it meant I could customise the number of pages based on the exact number of photos I wanted to include, and I could also cut out my own custom window in the cardboard cover to display my favourite photo from the album. This album is stored in a Kikki K A3 storage box together with my 21st guestbook and the cards that I received from my family and friends, nicely tied up with string (shown on the left hand side above).

I liked my 21st album so much that I made similar albums for my graduations. I have one for each of my three tertiary graduations – each one with a different coloured cover. They are currently stored in the same Kikki K A3 storage box as the 21st album, along with the video tape that my dad made for my first graduation (shown on the right hand side above).

My post-university (pre-Rick) years

The photos from my post-university years are all organised five beautiful dry mount albums like the one above (I told you – I like things that come in sets). The brand was Greenergy and I don’t think they make them anymore, but I’m so glad I found them almost a decade ago now, because the inside pages are all Kraft like the cover and they’re just gorgeous. Again, the photos are organised chronologically with very simple event captions. The dry mount albums were a great choice because it allowed me to store panoramic photos as well as the bigger photo size that my APX film produced.

Looking back, it’s interesting how all my photos from my teens and twenties were event-orientated. Without the convenience of iPhones, the awesomeness of photo apps like Instagram and VSCOCam or the need to record the growth and development of a baby, it never ever crossed my mind back then to take every day photos. Boy has that changed!

As for all the memorabilia…

Up until I got married, I kept every single card, letter and note that I’d received from family and friends since I was little. We’re talking Christmas cards from primary school friends and sweet little letters from overseas pen pals (remember them?). Since getting married, I started culling them but it was only last year before we had to move again that I really made the drastic cut. I remembered what a friend had told me before she moved overseas: instead of keeping every single thing from every single person, she decided to choose only one or two items from each person who was important to her and based on that, she managed to reduce all her keepsakes and memorabilia to one box.

I kept this in mind the entire time I was wading through the boxes of letters, notes and cards, and the end result was that I miraculously made it to one box as well. I even threw out school yearbooks (something I thought I would never do) and only kept one or two that were extra special. It was truly emotionally exhausting to go through that process, and it is definitely hard to let go of so much sentimental material, but I’m happy that I did it. Not only do I not actually miss what I threw out, but I’m much more inclined now to go through this one box because I know that each item is valuable and worth keeping.

* * *

In my next post, I’ll write about what I did for the period after Rick and I got together, our engagement, our wedding and our early years of marriage before kids. I’ll then write about my memory keeping system since we started having children – both before and after I discovered Project Life. I might also share how I’ve approached memory keeping for our precious Cameron.

If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment or to email me directly.


Donna M January 29, 2013 at 6:44 pm

Thanks for sharing! As my OLW is simplicity this year, one of my goals is sorting my photos and albums. This has been really helpful.


Pink Ronnie January 30, 2013 at 11:17 am

Pleasure, Donna. And I love your OLW.
Thanks for stopping by here!
Ronnie xo


Chloe Moon January 29, 2013 at 7:14 pm

I’m going through a huge purge of all my scraps of memories, cards, photos this week due to my boyfriend moving in with me and honestly thank you for posting what your friend said. I’ve kept everything but I don’t need to. Keep important cards one or two from each…I definitely can do that!! =) Thanks!!!!


Lisa January 29, 2013 at 9:32 pm

Wonderful framework, thanks for sharing. I am a notorious memory hoarder. You reminded me that I still have photos of previous relationships in albums which I am sure my husband would not love! Whoops.


Pink Ronnie January 30, 2013 at 11:19 am

I think most of us tend to be memory hoarders. :) It’s just hard to let go of sentimental stuff. Anyway, thanks for stopping by and for your kind words!
Ronnie xo


Betty January 29, 2013 at 10:48 pm

Thanks for the insight Ronnie, this is exactly what I’ll be tackling over the next few months and can’t wait to get it all to a manageable state. Look forward to your next post.


Marilyn January 30, 2013 at 1:28 am

Love this organization, the photo albums you developed, and the card boxes. It’s always hard to throw away a handwritten card. What a great way to consolidate!


Pink Ronnie January 30, 2013 at 11:21 am

Thanks Marilyn, lovely to have you here!
Ronnie xo


claire January 30, 2013 at 1:39 am

Oh Ronnie, this is gold! I love the way you work. Each memorykeeping post gives me a buzz…Thank you for you recent answers to my PL questions, I’ve been thinking about it again (I know it sounds like I just think about it all the time – but really I am a doer, I just want to get my framework right, so I know you understand!)…I’m going to get my recent years up to date before I start the PL journey – and will get time to do this in Feb while K is on holidays. I can’t wait….oh – and funny, I have those same Greenergy albums for my overseas holidays (they were so handy as I could stick in tickets, postcards, menus, and other little things I collected)…even funnier, there was a new one in our local oppie for $3 just last week that I snapped up for our last overseas holiday. Lucky! x


Katherine Vargas January 30, 2013 at 2:01 am

OMG Ronnie! i love how organized your i’m so jealous but i love how everything is in their proper stages thanks for this lovely post i so inspiring.


tracy January 30, 2013 at 3:32 am

I love this post! It is inspiring me to go through all of MY old photos and organize them. I am so focused on memory keeping for my little boys, but often forget that my story has value too. They will want to know more about who I was before they came along. Thank you for posting this and for all the wonderful details. (I’m a chronological order freak too!) And your photos are stunning – as always!


Jane January 30, 2013 at 3:54 am

Wow! This is amazing. I kept thinking back to my “organized” (really cluttered) boxes of photos and letters. I used to keep all my cards and notes from middle school but unfortunately all of them got lost in the midst of all the different moves in my family and my personal life. The same with pictures. We had so many from our childhood, but now they are all scattered between my brother’s and my house or lost. I wish I was more thoughtful in keeping them organized. But it’s never too late! I’m definitely inspired!


ChrisyC January 30, 2013 at 4:42 am

Really inspiring. It’s taken me about three goes to digest everything in your post, jam packed with useful information and approaches. :)
I’m really hoping to get stuck into my stash of photos and memorabilia. I have a chest full of stuff from my childhood and teenage years!


Amanda January 30, 2013 at 6:42 am

Like everyone else has commented, this post is super inspiring Ronnie and so very relevant for me right now as I’m currently in sorting and culling mode (I posted about sorting through keepsakes and cards myself only yesterday). I’ve been reassessing what is a ‘keeper’ for me in my box, what I still value and what is no longer necessary to hang onto. I’d love to have a system of how to tackle my photos (as well as my husbands and all of those from my Dad’s house when he passed away which are currently all thrown into a cupboard together). I’d also like to have an idea of how I want to memory keep for my children so I have consistency over the next few years. I too like things uniform and neat and it is for this reason that I’m eager to organize what I already have. I also have a traditional style scrapbooking album from our first year of marriage which I’d like to re-do. While I put a lot of time into it, it’s just not the style of album or memory keeping I’d like to continue with and the perfectionist in me doesn’t like the idea of one odd album :) I prefer a simpler, easier to keep up with method nowadays. I’m so eager to read your follow-on posts from this one!!


Pink Ronnie January 30, 2013 at 8:35 pm

Hi Amanda,
Can totally relate to not wanting to have one odd album! Actually, next week I have a post lined up where I’ll be sharing the ongoing scrapbook that I do for Rick and myself. Probably Monday or Tuesday. It’s very simple, and easy to keep up with.
Ronnie xo


Fiona January 30, 2013 at 8:04 am

Ronnie, you are amazing! You are the most organised person I “know”! This is such a helpful blog post on getting all those older photos organised. I don’t have that many photos from earlier in my life (before digital), so it shouldn’t be too difficult to tackle them all with a great framework in place. Thanks for the inspiration! Hugs xoxo


Debie Grace January 30, 2013 at 12:10 pm

Wow, Ronnie!! That is really awesome. You’ve been collecting photos since 90s. You’re really creative. :D


Latrina January 30, 2013 at 7:06 pm

Wow. What a great post. Ronnie! And such a wonderful process of keeping all your memories organized & neat. I currently have about 10 shoe boxes full of letters, photos, notes, and memorabilia. I think it’s time for me to go through them and organize them! And many toss a few things away… there’s so many things I don’t even remember their story behind, it’s awful.

I’ve also realized that I have literally a decade of photos ON my computer — maybe only 5% of them being printed. I am in the process of printing & organizing them… but I feel so overwhelmed. I’m trying to come up with a simple framework first. And then hoping the rest will get easier. :)

Your blog post has definitely inspired me!!


The Beetle Shack January 30, 2013 at 8:36 pm

wow ronnie. That is some serious work you’ve done there!

Our photo’s are in a state of complete disarray! Must do something about that

xo em


liz February 1, 2013 at 6:29 am

This post makes my OCD heart go a-flutter. You are my organizational HERO!


chandler August 16, 2013 at 12:03 pm

man, you are kicking my BUTT!! I love/hate organizing. Love : because it is rewarding in some sort of way for my soul. hate: because I am so dang lazy! Seeing this post just shows me that I have some catching up I need to do with photo organizing and memory making. Thanks girl! Your blog rocks! … totally on my bookmarks now ;)



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