As moms, taking time to document our memories can allow us to find the joy in our lives, even when there's spit-up on our only clean shirt. Life can move at a pace that makes it difficult to see the goodness. Slowing down and adding memory-keeping to your routine can, at the very least, help you see blessings in your life.
"I honestly believe that documenting life makes anyone a better version of whoever they are," says Becky Higgins, creator of Project Life, a memory-keeping solution. "Working professional, college student, world traveler, young entrepreneur, stay-at-home mom ... anyone who takes time to document life is likely to agree that making even the smallest effort to document life is indeed an element to being a better you."
Capture the Ups and the Downs
In her journey as a scrapbooker, author and designer, Ali Edwards has had many "a-ha" moments that make memory-keeping important and meaningful to her as a mom.
"I think the point where it was really driven home for me was after my son was diagnosed with autism," says Ali, a mother of two who has written four books on scrapbooking.
Ali began telling her son's story through memory-keeping when he was 11 months old, capturing his early life and eventually early signs of the disorder that he would be officially diagnosed with at age 3.
"The things I documented in his scrapbooks were actually helpful in putting together the pieces of what was happening in his development – repetitive play, lining and stacking toys, gaining and then losing language," she says. "After he was diagnosed, I know without a doubt that documenting his life has helped me celebrate and embrace him for who he is at each moment in time and has helped me cope. Scrapbooking has been the vehicle through which I have celebrated so many details of his life."
First Steps in the Journey
A lot of moms want to be memory keepers, but they aren't sure where to start or what memory-keeping options are available.
Ali, whose website is a hub for modern memory keepers, advises using trial-and-error to find what works for you.
"It's such a personal process," she says. "Try a photo-a-day project; try a self-portrait challenge; try writing out a story that captures your child or yourself right now. For me, it's the writing combined with the photos that really helps me gain perspective. The words give meaning and context to the photos."
If you have no idea how to get started, don't despair; experts have tips to help you get started:
Tip 1: Capture the Mundane
"For one week, try snapping pictures of seemingly insignificant moments – your child brushing her teeth, your spouse unloading the dishwasher, holding hands with your little one as you walk to the mailbox, nighttime snuggles, your child's little habit of sticking out his tongue while concentrating on homework," Becky says. "What happens can be remarkable."
The simple act of snapping those photos places a spotlight on all the goodness in your life and gives you a tangible proof that there is more to your life than poopy diapers and screaming toddlers.
"Snapping that picture not only memorializes the moment, but also helps you to actually remember it better – even if you never actually printed out the picture," Becky says. "Don't just wait for the big stuff. Sure, the weddings, birthday parties and big vacations are definitely photo-worthy. That's predictable. But the everyday stuff, that's where the real storytelling happens."
Tip 2: Document your Gratitude
As you slow down, take photos and record your life, your gratitude will increase.
"Scrapbooking is one of the major ways I practice gratitude," Ali says. "I write out gratitude lists that include big and little things. I write letters to my kids that are included in their scrapbooks telling them just how much they are loved and appreciated and include how proud I am of them at different points in their lives."
Tip 3: Use Modern Tools
Modern technology means there are a number of tools that make documenting your life super-easy. Seek out tools that can allow you to capture the moments of your life without adding more work.
"Are you someone who uses their phone a lot already? Using your phone's camera and a free app like Collect is a great way to get started with a photo-a-day project," Ali says. "Collect combines a daily reminder to take a photo and an opportunity to jot down some journaling to go along with the photo."
Tip 4: Kick it Old-Tool Style
Not all effective tools are modern. From Da Vinci and Darwin to Hemingway and Picasso, great thinkers and artists have toted notebooks everywhere because you never know when inspiration may strike.
"Stick with words and photos. Grab a journal, such as a Moleskine, and adhere a photo to the top of a page," she says. "Below the photo, write out a numbered list of things that are happening in the life of the person in the photo right now. I love using the prompt, 'Around here ...'"
Tip 5: Dare, Don't Compare
Don't worry about how everyone else might be collecting their memories. Do what works best for you.
"Chances are, you know someone that scrapbooks. Perhaps you've seen their albums or you've browsed online and have seen others' scrapbook pages only to find yourself being more overwhelmed than inspired," Becky says. "There are a million creative ideas out there, and certainly, memory-keeping can be as creative a process as you want. But when you're just getting started, my best advice is to put your blinders on to all the mass creativity, and keep it simple, and remember why you're doing this: for you, for your family, for the preservation of memories."
In other words, memory-keeping should increase your joy, not add anxiety to your life.
"Remember that there is no right or wrong," Ali says. "Remember that you don't have to do it every day or follow a specific prescription. Embrace imperfection, and there should not be any sort of guilt involved."