Video: Be a Treasure House of Happy Memories. Specifically, Use a Filebox.

2010 Happiness Challenge: For those of you following the 2010 Happiness Project Challenge, to make 2010 a happier year – and even if you haven’t officially signed up for the challenge — this week’s theme is Family, and last week’s focus was to Stop the nagging. Did you try to follow that resolution? Did it help to boost your happiness?

This week’s resolution is to Be a treasure house of happy memories.

Many people who’ve read the book The Happiness Project have asked me for more information about my file boxes. You can see one of them here in the video! I bought them at Gracious Home, a store that exists only in New York City, but you can get this kind of file box at upscale office supply or home-outfitting stores.

If you want to read more about this resolution, check out…
Six tips for using mementos to keep happy memories vivid.
Want a quick, easy way to preserve happy memories?
In which I solve an annoying problem: what to do with those childhood keepsake papers?

How about you? Have you found some clever ways to create a treasure house of happy memories — that don’t take a lot of time, energy, or money?

If you’re new, here’s information on the 2010 Happiness Challenge (or watch the intro video). It’s never too late to start! You’re not behind, jump in right now, sign up here. For more ideas, check out the Happiness Project site on Woman’s Day.

* I love the books and blog of Dan Pink. Always fascinating.

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  • Great suggestion for a way to keep mementos organized. But I do think there can be a temptation to keep too many things, especially when they are paper items that don’t take up much space in a file. I’m all for photos, but I don’t see as much value in keeping things like invitations for parties and weddings. Yes, it’s easy to feel sentimental about such items, but filing every little thing can lead to paper clutter.

    • gretchenrubin

      For the most part I agree, and it’s a terrific reminder. Don’t worry about
      getting organized! Get rid of everything you don’t need, and you won’t need
      to be organized!

      But a wedding invitation for my sister…that makes my cut.

  • Elizabeth F.

    I love how organized this idea is. Currently I have fileboxes from Staples that I just shove stuff into which is at least better than the previous system of having large stacks of paper and crying every time I have to find something. 🙂 But the idea of having a filefolder that says “First Grade” or “6 Years Old” or whatever – and the birthday party invitation goes there! – is smart, smart, smart.

  • Sunshine

    I loved reading this resolution–preserving memories is something that comes very naturally to me, and I’ve learned to value it more and more. I started a blog as a baby book when I was pregnant with my daughter–it was an easy way to share information (“It’s a girl!”) with everyone at once and to keep my folks supplied with photos. It was so easy (I’m the computer type) and I love that it doesn’t take any physical space. The little one is 3 and we still update every few days. I scan artwork, add little pictures, and make short posts about cute and funny stuff she says. I also do “interviews” with her on my digital camera and upload adorable short movies. It’s a treasure trove of memories that is much more extensive than anything I could have created were I using any system that required more work or space.

    We also make a nice photo card every Christmas, and each year I give myself a silver frame that fits the card. We’re building a collection of assorted silver-framed christmas cards that we use as our holiday mantle display.

  • LivewithFlair

    You look great in this video, Gretchen! I wanted to add that we purchased a plastic chest of drawers for our basement. The drawers are wide and deep enough for large art projects and even 3 dimensional ones. Each drawer is a different school year, and each daughter can choose 20 things to keep. Works for us so far! Also, for adults, I love that you encourage all of us bloggers. Blogging is a way for me to record a daily happy memory! Thank you for supporting us!

  • I’m really glad you did this, because I’d been wondering what “Be a treasure house of happy memories” was all about, and felt it was an extremely vague resolution. All of a sudden it not only makes so much more sense, but I discovered I’m already doing this without noticing! I write blog entries with photos of happy memories, I scrapbook all cinema/theater tickets, invitations etc. I don’t have any kids yet, so so far this is all for me! 🙂

  • Lynnel

    I love this idea! My daughter just started pre-k and I have been enchanted by all the adorable artwork she is churning out, yet overwhelmed at where to put it all …do you keep all of it until the end of the year and then pick out favorites? Definitely going to do this!

  • bettyjeanbell

    This is a great post! I think it also applied to over-achievers and people’s work lives.

    I’m the type of person that has to be creating something. I am addicted to creation and achievement (sometimes to a fault). I have a tendency to go hard and finish a project but sometimes find myself equally exhausted and needing to take a few days off to recover on the other side. With all this doing, one might think I have quite the trophy case and treasure chest of photos and documents to remember my works by. Actually, it is the opposite. I go and do and when I am done… I forget. I can’t even remember what I did with my college diploma, let alone any awards I have received!

    I know I am not unique in this. When I was coaching small business clients, I ran into this all the time with my high-achieving clients. They rarely if ever stopped to pause and reflect on the awesome work they had just done. To these people, I challenged them to begin a “List of Awesome” and start tacking on their achievements. I directed them to keep this “List of Awesome” in an obvious place. I also recommended they choose one day per week to celebrate all the big and small victories they have enjoyed for the week.

    Often, one may be much happier at work than they realize. But all they remember are the bad things happening at work and the stuff they don’t like. When in reality, they may be having many more happy moments at work than they remember.

    This is an awesome video! I had totally forgotten about the “List of Awesome” and this point entirely. Great post!

    Onward with the conspiracy of Happiness!

  • Cynthmmw

    your new videos have an echo–hard to understand. is it just my computer??

    • gretchenrubin

      Sorry about that! Is anyone else having that problem? I haven’t heard about
      it before.

  • Susan

    Our sons are near 30 and I kept a box for each with school items. I like the idea your file method for their school, art and “life” items. Since I have the report cards in a different spot than their art and their own baby invitation, etc, I think it would be satisfying for me, even now, to condense and combine their storage.
    Our major “memory” problem is PHOTOS. Hundreds and hundreds (and HUNDREDS) of photos and SLIDES. Not just from my husband and myself, but my parents and his parents. I have an actual closet full. Twenty or more created photo albums going 1900 to about 2005, more loose photos and slides than I could look at in two days. People I know and don’t know. More photos by my husband, of the Grand Teton Mountains than the ranger station has. Geology information I personally have no interest in but our parents did. My husband and I came from small families. Our boys – both single, footloose and fancy free – are the end of the line. I have to admit, sometimes taking all the inherited and unwanted memorabilia, and creating a nice bonfire in the backyard – maybe when my husband (Mr. Sentimental) is off on a fishing trip – is tempting. We have no relatives to hand any of this off to! Any suggestions on where to start with memorabilia/clutter of this kind? I get exhausted just looking in this crazy closet! And I bet I am not alone. Others have the same wacky endless possessions – half theirs and half their parents.

    • gretchenrubin

      I hate to sound cold-hearted but — photos of people you don’t recognize?
      Etc? Get rid of it!
      Memorabilia is meant to spur happy memories. If an object or photo doesn’t
      trigger memories or associations, it’s not worth keeping. It will crowd out
      GOOD possessions that will make you happy, or rob you of space.

      Can you donate it to a thrift shop or flea market? Or freecycle it? some
      people do cool stuff with old photos.

      When it comes to memorabilia — or things like photos of the Grand Tetons —
      I find that a few outstanding examples that I can regularly enjoy and can
      deal with are much preferable to lots of mediocre examples that are shoved
      away and neglected.

      • Susan

        Thank you for your insight. My husband and I talked about all the “stuff” and we certainly agree about how they need to spur happy memories. So we are setting up an “appointment” in November (cold weather – garden gone) of three afternoons – and evening if need be – to sort and purge. Our hunch is some of the “family photos” were left to us as no one else would take on the daunting task themselves. Next question: what is the best way to store those general photos one does keep? Online sources for supplies work. We live in the boondocks.

  • I loved this chapter when I read it in your book – and I love hearing it again today – such a wonderful way to combine/contain all the *stuff* that comes with being a mom. One thing I am doing this year (inspired by a client of mine) is with my kids artwork and schoolwork. My son is in 2nd grade and my daughter is in kindergarten and they bring home SO MUCH STUFF everyday. I have an underbed plastic container for each of them and everything is going in that. Sometime during that first week of summer next year, I will plan a special one-on-one date with each of them. We will go through the box, remember the moments, and take photos of them holding/showing off their work. Then they (or I!) will choose a couple of favorites to keep – the rest can be tossed. I’ll then complile a photo book for them of all the photos we took that day, so they’ll be able to look back and see their handwriting, stories, artwork, etc, but it will be in one place (or at least one book per year!) I was so inspired when I saw my client’s books, I thought it was a fabulous idea and wanted to share it with you here!

    jen 🙂

  • Marie

    I started a One-Sentence Journal and it’s been wonderful! I don’t have a great memory, and so many of the awesome things that happen to me are just random weeknight occurrence that I may not remember even a month later. I’ve been doing it since the beginning of summer and there’s already lots of stuff I would have otherwise forgotten.

    • gretchenrubin

      Such a satisfying thing to do, right?

  • Hpvanduuren

    Looks like an interesting idea to use a filebox, it sure will make it organised,

    For my memories I have a ‘corner of the room’ that I call my ‘Trophy Room’ with for example ‘trophies’ I won, beside it I also have a large ‘Wall of Fame’ (a collage of all kinds of photo’s, greeting cards, tickets from music concerts I have been and things like that.)

    And Talking about a HOUSE of Happy Memories, I also have happy memory photo’s of where my parents (and myself) once lived, photo’s that recently became extra Memerable since it doesn’t excist anymore! Some day’s ago there where still some parts standing, now it really is totally gone! you can’t even recognise parts of the garden anymore, it’s all gone, it’s just one big ‘Nothing’ now, really weird.

    Lucky enough we knew that it would be distroyed so I did make a lot of photo’s inside and outside photo’s, especially with a Digital Camera’s, it’s easy to take a lot of photo’s. I also have a lot of other photo’s, from birds and other animals in the garden surrounding the house, infact years ago for a short while I worked as a photo editor at a photo press agency that gave me the idea to created a Big Photo Catalogue with all kinds of photo’s myself, and I am alway’s thinking about new photo ideas for my photo catalogue (a lot of them great memories) and now I even have a whole blog dedicated to digital camera ideas. (

    Thanks for your post a ‘Happy (photo) Memories Filebox Treasure’ might be an interesting idea for a new post for digital camera ideas 🙂

    All the Best,
    To your Happy Inspiration,