In which I solve an annoying problem: what do to with those childhood keepsake papers?

One of my most obvious yet helpful commandments is “Identify the problem.”

Very often, I allow myself to be bugged by problems that I haven’t made any effort to solve, and I’ve been amazed by how easily I manage to come up with effective solutions once I take the time to articulate problems.

Several months ago, I realized that a low-grade, persistent annoyance in my life was that I didn’t know what to do with various keepsake papers associated with the Big Girl and the Little Girl. For example, I wanted them both to have a copy of their birthday party invitations, the family Valentine’s cards we send out each year, family wedding invitations, class photos, etc. Where should I store these items?

Making little piles of stuff in out-of-the-way cabinets and pinning papers to the bulletin board wasn’t a long-term solution.

A friend told me that she made scrapbooks of such items for each of her kids, but my heart sank at the thought. I just couldn’t face it. So much work.

Then I had a fantastic idea. File boxes. I decided to splurge a bit (my resolutions include “Indulge in a modest splurge” and “Spend money to further my goals” in this case, “Be a storehouse of happy memories”), and instead of buying ugly cardboard file boxes — the kind of cardboard box used to transport files — I bought a slightly fancier version from some upscale office supply store. I wish they were prettier, but they’re a lot better than cardboard.

I fitted them both out with a pack of files. I labeled the first file “Baby” and put in some baby memorabilia – birth announcement, invitation to the first birthday. Then I made a folder for each year of school. I only include a few samples of schoolwork, because I want to limit these files to special items. When the girls are older, I’ll include report cards, school programs, and the like.

I get a little thrill every time I see these boxes. They’re such a great solution to a problem: now it’s easy to put these mementos away; the boxes are very compact and organized; they’ll make great keepsakes for the girls when they’re older. How fun, when you’re fifty years old, to be able to look back at the birthday invitation you sent out when you turned seven!

So satisfying.

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In case you’ve never checked it out, Seth Godin’s very popular blog is well worth a visit. He has a marketing/business slant, but his posts -- short, snappy, and engaging -- are almost always of general interest.

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