Do you have a “Happy Box?” You probably do, even if you don’t know it. A “Happy Box” is simply a bin or box where you keep memorabilia. If you have been following me, you know that I am a strong believer in giving each member of the family a container for storing memorabilia. All of us, from babies to seniors, have some items that we keep for sentimental reasons, everything from love letters to awards to newspaper clippings. Just like our other possessions, objects like these need a designated place in which to live.
I like the phrase, “Happy Box” because it helps us decide what should be stored within. Believe it or not, we sometimes keep items – even memorabilia – for the wrong reasons. Maybe we feel we “should” keep an article because it has a family member’s name inside. Or, we keep a book because it has an inscription on the inside cover. Perhaps we feel the burden of maintaining family records. Often, we keep things without much thought, simply tucking them away with the vague belief that we might want to look at them in the future.
Generally speaking, when it comes to why we “should” keep something, the answer is typically threefold:
- Because we use it now or expect to use it in the future
- Because it has investment value
- Because it brings us pleasure
By its very nature, memorabilia is not something we use. If it has investment value, it probably warrants safe and protective storage. The bulk of sentimental items are kept for the third reason, because they bring us pleasure or make us happy.
The first step in setting up a “Happy Box” is to gather the memorabilia you have accumulated so far. Spread out your accumulated items and take a look. This can actually be a very fun process for a rainy day or weekend. Of course, if you have 20 boxes of memorabilia in the basement, you will likely need to review it slowly, over the course of multiple days.
The reason to do this step first is that you are likely to come across some items that don’t fit the criteria. In other words, you have probably held onto objects that no longer make you happy. For instance:
- The “participant” trophy from a youth sporting team
- Letters or objects from a relationship that went sour
- Clothing that has degraded or been eaten by insect
- Tickets or programs from events you don’t remember
- Dime store trinkets from previous trips that you wouldn’t display
Our goal in keeping memorabilia is to feel good, so anything that makes you feel guilty, resentful, bitter, disappointed, or otherwise down should be eliminated. In addition, you may discover that you no longer have an emotional attachment to some of the things you have kept. This is perfectly normal! Life is an ever-evolving journey, so it is understandable to decide, for example, that the rattle your Mother saved “for you” evokes no emotional response.
Think of this step as a treasure hunt, where you are seeking to pull out the pieces that mean the most. The ones that you gravitate toward, that you pick up and immediately have a story about, are the ones you should definitely keep. Items that you feel lukewarm about, or for which you cannot tell a story, can go.
Once you have curated your collection, it is time to store it in your “Happy Box.” As I said, I believe everyone should have at least one box. Some people may need more than one. I caution you, however, against collecting too much. If we have one or two boxes of special pieces, we are apt to periodically pull out them out and enjoy the contents. However, if we have stacks and stacks of boxes in the attic that are dusty and difficult to access, we are likely to forget about them, and correspondingly everything that we have kept inside.
What kind of container is best for a “Happy Box?” There is no single right answer. An ideal container will be:
Easy to access
A box that is placed at the bottom of a closet, under a bunch of other stuff, won’t get used. When storage is inconvenient, the tendency is to stash items on nearby shelves, drop them on the floor, or leave them on other surfaces “just for now.” Understandably we simply don’t want to undertake the hassle of digging down and putting items inside.
Children generally need larger boxes, as they bring home giant pieces of artwork, bulky trophies, and otherwise awkwardly-sized pieces.
You don’t need to go out and invest in expensive boxes. There are lots of affordable options, including a cardboard box you already own.
We want to use containers that will protect the contents, especially if we will be keeping them in a location that tends to be dirty or can be damp.
Attractive, if out on display
Sometimes we may choose to keep our box on a shelf, coffee table or other public space. When this is our location, we will want to get a box that fits our décor and has a lid.
In addition, it is important to note that your “Happy Box” doesn’t need to be an actual box. It can also be a drawer, a bag, a trunk, or any other container in which items can be easily dropped.
Once you have set up a clean, easy-to-access location for each family member, there are a few further steps you can adopt to keep the process running smoothly.
- Label each box with the owner’s name. This is helpful if the box gets moved and you forget whose belongings are inside.
- Don’t feel you need to immediately force every object into the box. It is healthy to allow yourself to put new pieces on display while the memory is fresh. As yet newer pieces arrive, simply move any “save worthy” older items into the box.
- Periodically review the contents. This shouldn’t be a chore, as the whole reason for keeping memorabilia is to look at it and enjoy the positive thoughts. You can either do this according to a timetable (e.g. once a year), or simply when the box is full.
For inspiration, and if you are in the mood to do a little shopping, here are a few containers that might meet your needs.
Again, the options are endless. It can even be a fun project to let children decorate their own box with markers, stickers, or whatever you have on hand.
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Objects that make us feel happy, when properly cultivated and stored, can be a source of joy and a wonderful way to preserve precious memories.
Do you have a “Happy Box?”