How to Preserve Family Memories Without Losing Your Mind

by Melody on March 25, 2016

How to Preserve Family Memories Without Losing Your Mind

A huge thanks to Montage for sponsoring this post and allowing me to help you not lose your sanity.  All opinions are of course my own.  I can’t even imagine writing about other people’s opinions.

It’s fine. Every single one of us amazing parents have all of our children’s baby books 100% filled out. We have all of our favorite pictures printed, framed, in albums according to date and organized in a beautiful Pinterest-worthy wall collage that gets rotated out every year. We have scrapbooks documenting all the important moments and milestones.

What we DON’T have are Post-Its with tiny snippets of our kids’ milestones thrown in a box, half with dates and half without. Half of them we can’t even remember which kid the milestone belongs to.  We do NOT have an iPhone full of pictures that we know we should probably print.  Or at least transfer to something that we haven’t accidentally dropped in the toilet or left on top of the car as we drive away.  We do NOT rely on Facebook to remind us about that time our youngest child took their first steps.  Because we totally remember the exact date.

We have zero guilt about our ability to capture memories and we will NEVER be one of those parents who look back with regret.

And we also have a unicorn tied up in the backyard and we wash our hair every day.

So you sound more like Parent #2, do you?  Join the exclusive club that consists of just about every parent on the planet.

How do we fix this?  Is it even fixable? Or are we just doomed for all eternity to feel like we have somehow failed our family tree and that our kids will have no sense of community and continuity or even permanence?  Does a child even exist if there are no pictures printed of his first birthday?

A wise French philosopher who died one million years ago said “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good”.  In other words, we can’t just sit around and complain that the job is too big and we will never have pretty scrapbooks, we have to find something that works for us and be satisfied.  If you start now and just do something, you will end up with actual living memories down the road.  If you do nothing, you will end up with, well, nothing.

But what do we doooooooooooooooo?

Just write stuff down.

It doesn’t have to be a pretty journal.  Write stuff on Post-Its or on a napkin or on the back of a take-out menu or steal a piece of paper from your kids’ homework pile.  Write down funny things your kids say or the first time they realized they could punch their brother and make it hurt or when they learned how to tie their shoes.

A billion years down  the road, these are going to be the memories we love.  Who cares if they are organized?

Sort of kind of organize your pictures on your computer.

I have a folder for each year and inside that, a folder for each month.  If I have a lot of pictures from a certain event, it gets its own folder inside the appropriate month.  These may not have dates or captions or even stories to go along with it, but when your kid asks for pictures for his birthday timeline at school, you can actually find a picture from each year instead of sorting through 3,459 pictures labeled IMG_2398.

If we print these down the road, bonus.  But for now, just sort of kind of organize.

Operation Organize Your Family Photos

Actually print stuff.

If you’re feeling ambitious, get those pictures off your phone, sort of kind of organize like we mentioned above and actually print them.  Put them into simple photo albums organized by year, by event, by child.  Whatever works for you.  In case you need some inspiration.

Sort of kind of organize your baby books.

I’m convinced that when my kids are older, I will have more time.  This has to be a thing right?  Their baby books are NOT high on my priority list right now.  Feeding my children outrageous amounts of food and actually getting them to school on time are tops on my things to do.  Down the road, when I do make time for their baby books, it will be far easier if I at least have some notes, some pictures, some dates to add instead of having to scour my brain for information that is probably not going to be accurate.

Spend an hour or two NOW trying to organize the information you do have so you have a head start when you sit down to put their books together.


Capitalize on holiday memories.

Christmas is your friend!  We try to buy an ornament to signify the big events, trips and vacations we have taken together as a family.  We have an ornament from our honeymoon, our family’s first trip to Disneyland, ornaments to represent our favorite sports teams.  There are so many photo companies that will make photo ornaments, this would be a great way to track the growth of your kids.

Buy clear glass ornaments at a craft store, use white paint on your kids’ hands and have them grab the ornament in their palm.  Hand print ornaments!  If you have your child’s hospital bracelet from their birth, save it in another clear glass ornament.  All of these ideas make the holidays so special and make decorating the tree an amazing family event.

Find SIMPLE ideas for preserving memories.

Use the infamous Google or the Pinterest search bar for ideas on how to preserve your memories.  I searched for SIMPLE ideas and came up with several articles with some ideas that were actually relevant.  Of course, there were those brilliant suggestions like MAKE A QUILT OUT OF YOUR KIDS’ BABY CLOTHES.  Which is of course adorable, but not for those of us who can barely spell quilt, let alone make one.  Look for ideas that don’t make you want to stick a fork in your eyeball.  The point is to enjoy this.


Make a simple (but AMAZING) photo book.

Photo books are one of our very favorite ways to preserve memories.  I am not a scrapbooker and haven’t printed a photo in YEARS, so this is one of the few ways I am actually creating a living memory for our family.  We create photo books for big events like our trip to Disneyland and the birth of both of our kids, but we also create a book every December that chronicles our year together as a family.  I add in first day of school pictures, holidays, special memories like the time our oldest son chopped his hair off.  It allows us to marvel at the growth of our kids, while still remembering all the little moments that make life so colorful.

I have used several companies in the past to make our photo books and I’ve always been very pleased with the result, but often times the process of making the book makes me want to shrivel up and die inside. They generally take me anywhere between 3 and 5 hours from start to finish.  And I’m a procrastinator.  So I’m usually under the gun of some kind of shipping deadline.  Which makes me sweat and feel even more anxious.

Surprisingly, after using Montage for two glorious books for our family, I’ve found a site that doesn’t make me want to lay down and take a nap at the mere thought of creating a book.

You upload all your pictures and then they throw them into a layout.  You then go through each page and do your basic edits (enlarging images, adding simple text).  You can quickly change the layout of each page until you are satisfied and you can easily move images in and out of the toolbar that is below your book editor.


I’m not kidding you, once I had my pictures chosen and uploaded, my books took me about 30 minutes from start to finish and they are GLORIOUS.  I love the collage-y, scrapbook-y feel without having to actually put the time in to make a scrapbook.  And with an eco-friendly leather cover, these books are absolute keepsakes.

The best part about photo books is that they are saved in projects on your account.  If something happens to your book at home, you can print another one without feeling like you’ve lost everything.  You can easily print additional books for grandparents or special friends. So. Many. Options.

Montage has a great feature that allows you to see a demo of a book being made without having to upload any pictures.  You can also see a preview of our family’s most recent book here.

What would you add to this list?  Have you figured out a simple method of preserving memories that works for your family?

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