When it comes to capturing our lives in photos, we’ve never been more prolific than right now. Gone are the days when cameras were bulky and film was expensive. Back then, enjoying your pictures meant waiting for the local drug store to process them. Today, the results are instant.

The phones in our pockets changed the game. Capturing the moment is easy. Organizing those photos for later enjoyment is the challenge. “What You Need to Know About Google Photos” gave you a strategy for handling the digital side of life.

Today is all about the paper mementos.

Your child just participated in his or her first recital. You leave holding the program in your hand. A decade from now, you’ll wish you still had that program.

Today’s mail brings a hand-written letter with special thoughts from a special person. How will you keep it from becoming one more piece of clutter in a drawer?

You return from that once-in-a-lifetime trip with postcards, brochures and buttons you picked up along the way.

You just got that essay back from your teacher. At the top, it says, “This is the best paper I’ve ever read.” You’ll want to hang onto that one.

Like everything else in our lives, physical or digital, we put it “somewhere.” The only question is whether that “somewhere” is thoughtful or whether it’s haphazard. Let’s look at a method for making it easy.

Two scrapbooks and a file folder

Add to your shopping list two of those magnetic photo albums. Get the size where the pages are roughly 8 1/2 X 11. Why get two? When you fill up one, you need to have a second already in place. Nothing is worse than having items for a scrapbook and no place to put them.

Grab a blank file folder and label it “Scrapbook.” That’s going to become the one spot to throw those programs, ticket stubs, keepsake letters, and anything else that will go in your scrapbook collection. Put the newest items in the back of the folder so everything stays in chronological order.

At the end of the month, take the scrapbook and the folder. Put what you have collected over the last month into the scrapbook.


There’s an old time management practice known as “batching.” It refers to handling many similar tasks at one time. Think about making a batch of cookies. It’s almost as easy to make three dozen as it is to make a single cookie, but the results are far more rewarding. I wrote about batching communication in this blog post and batching birthday cards here.

If you have to haul out the scrapbook every time you have one item to enter, the process becomes a chore. You’ll soon abandon the practice. Throwing the new item in the file folder is easy. At the end of the month, pull the folder and scrapbook. Handle the entire batch at once.

Building tomorrow’s memories today

As I write this article, only a few feet away sit scrapbooks whose pictures date back as much as a hundred years. I see photos of my father during his days in World War II. I see my grandfather in uniform from World War I. They are among the treasured moments carefully trapped and thoughtfully preserved. Together, they tell a story.

In the next room are shelves of scrapbooks I have built over the years. The earliest entries date back to report cards from elementary school. Along the way are memories from high school, college, the highlights of almost 30 years as an educator, and the last decade as a writer and speaker.

People tend to do what’s easy. Use this simple system to make capturing meaningful memories a easier.