Every year around tax time, we read articles about what kinds of financial records we need to keep, for how long, and in what format. And every year we think, yes, we can pretty much manage to keep track of our financial records. It's our personal records that we need help with!
This is a problem that gets exponentially worse when babies and kids enter the picture. Photographs, videos, cards, letters, artwork, schoolwork, crafts, diaries, blogs, not to mention sentimental clothes, toys and other mementos all start to multiply beyond any semblance of control. A few years into the parenting business, you've accumulated a small mountain of records of your children's lives, records that you treasure immensely, records that make you wish that someone from the Library of Congress would come over to help you organize them all.
So what would a historian or archivist say to the parent who frets "Life with small kids moves so fast, who has time to stop and organize all of the oodles of records that get produced along the way?"
The answer should relieve the anxieties of even the most disorganized among us.
So here is what you need to do, in two simple steps:
1. Make sure that each item you intend to keep is labeled with: date and place, full name (of the author/artist/subject/owner), and child's age (optional if you have both of the above, but still a good idea).
2. Make sure that the things you want to keep are in a lasting format. You can store almost infinite numbers of pictures and more in digital format, but remember to back up, back up, back up and then update, update, update. (We'll be writing more about storing photographs tomorrow.) And: paper is still the safest bet for things you really care about. Archival storage boxes help too.
And that's about it. If you want to organize, make albums, create a chronological display of your child's artwork, winnow on an annual basis -- fantastic! If you don't, or simply don't have time, that is frankly no reason to fret. You and others will still, at some retrospective moment in life, be able to look through all of these beloved, beautiful traces of the past and know when and where they came from, and whom they concern. And that's what really matters, isn't it?
There's lots more to say on this topic. Stay tuned this week as we offer tips and inspiration for keeping and organizing family photos, journals, artwork, schoolwork and more.