Create a Memory Tote

memorabilia hanging by clothespins on a string representing create a memory tote

We all have memorabilia (physical objects) or photos with immense emotional value. Preserving them is critical to our life story and family history. In times of emotional need or an emergency, you want to be able to locate and retrieve memorabilia and photos quickly. That’s why I believe you should create a memory tote for every person in your home.

What Is a Memory Tote?

A memory tote is a durable, water-resistant storage container that holds the “must keep indefinitely” items specific to each family member. Generally, the bin’s contents often have little to no financial value. However, they have a high sentimental value because they represent memories in the form of objects, pictures, and papers. Ideally, you should have only one memory tote per family member.

Preserve your memories, keep them well, what you forget you can never retell.

Louisa May Alcott

What to Keep in the Memory Tote

The cherished “must keep indefinitely” items will differ for each person. Below is a list of items typically found in a memory tote.

  • Original photos
  • Baby’s take home from the hospital outfit
  • Cards and letters from loved ones
  • Awards – school, extra-curricular activities, and work
  • Yearbooks
  • Art projects, school papers
  • Books with inscriptions

For parents especially, deciding who receives the physical memory is difficult. When creating a memory tote, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Who is the memory for?
  • Does this item belong in my child’s memory tote or mine?

It is common to find a treasured item in the wrong memory tote. Take your time and be intentional about who keeps which ones.

How a Memory Tote Aids in a Disaster

In an emergency when you must leave your home quickly, you need to be able to grab your memory tote without hesitation. It should give you a sense of relief to know you have your most cherished memories in one easy-to-access location. Take the time to create a memory tote before a disaster occurs, giving you confidence and a sense of calm during a period of chaos.

Where to Store It

As we say in the organizing world, “everything needs a home.” I recommend keeping each family member’s memory tote in their bedroom closet (either on the top shelf or floor). If the family member moves out, the memory tote should accompany them. Your home is not a storage unit for those that have moved on. The exception might be for college kids who live in temporary housing (e.g., dorm room) and return home regularly.

When objects are lost, it’s not that memories are lost forever. What you lose is opportunities for spontaneous reminiscence: those times when you catch a keepsake in view, and suddenly a memory floods your mind.

Brian Resnick

What Type of Bin to Use

Typically, you should create a memory tote using a transparent, water-resistant bin with a tightly fitting lid. Aim for something between 60 and 80 quarts (15-20 gallons), as this size is big enough to hold your items yet small enough to be transported and stored easily. Below are some options for both closet and under-the-bed storage.

Unclutter Me by Lisa Witzleben can assist you in finding and protecting your precious memorabilia and reduce emotional attachment to unneeded items while relieving you from the clutter.

You can do this! Unclutter Me by Lisa Witzleben is here to assist you.

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