Organizing Your Memories With Family Yearbooks

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Aaaaah, January! My favorite month of the year! The month of fewer commitments, fresh starts, resolutions, and organization! While I’m probably not the person to turn to for advice on how to lose 20 pounds (not my forte) or optimize your finances this year (still looking at you, leftover law school loans), I’m pretty competent in the organizational department. I can whip a pantry into shape and Marie Kondo a closet with the best of them. Without question, though, my favorite things to organize are my memories.

The Family Yearbook

As a hobbyist photographer, I have been hearing the drumbeat for years now to print your photos and get them off of your camera! Dutifully, I would heed this advice and fill up photo box after photo box of archives. But I realized one day that when I want to look at photos from my childhood, I am less than thrilled to have to hunt through my mom’s boxes. It’s a treat to find the photos that made it into albums. Now there’s an even better way.

Raise your hand if you were on the 1990s scrapbooking bandwagon. Both hands in the air over here! Family yearbooks are the scrapbooks of the digital age. They serve the purposes of organizing and printing your photos, documenting your family’s history, and creating an heirloom you’ll actually want to spend time looking through – without all of the scissors and stickers from their scrapbook predecessors. In fact, my kids regularly pull out the family yearbooks on their own to reminisce and are always asking me when I’m going to add more years’ worth of books to the collection. Someday I intend to print a copy of each yearbook for each kid so they’ll have their own set of printed family memories. But first things first.

Pick Your Platform

Unless you are already a Photoshop pro, you’ll probably want to use an online design service to create your family yearbooks. I like using the photo books at Shutterfly for their ease of use, variety of design options, and affordability, but there are so many sites to choose from. Some of them will even do all of the work for you! This article from Good Housekeeping does a great job of breaking down some of the currently available options. Whether you’re looking for total creative license or a service to handle everything, there’s a site out there for you.

Where to Begin?

My advice would be to start with a recent year, rather than at the beginning of your marriage or your kids’ lives. More recent years will be fresher in your memory, and your photos will probably be more accessible. You can start with January of this year, go forward, or start with January of last year and work your way through 2020. I like to organize my books by month, starting each with a spread that showcases random photos from that month followed by a few pages devoted to trips, holidays, or special events that fell within that month. That way, I’m only having to work with and organize 30 days’ worth of photos at a time. Also, do not try to put all 10,000 photos on your phone into a book! Think of your family yearbook as more of a highlight reel than a dumping ground. Only your favorites or those that help you tell a particular story make the cut.

Special Sections

In addition to the monthly pages and special event pages mentioned above, you may want to consider adding a few special spreads into your family yearbooks as well. Bonus pages that have made their way into my books include:

  • Pages with photos of my children’s best artworks that year
  • A page devoted to each child’s school year, including their school photo, class photo, first day of school photo, photos of their classroom and with their teacher, and any other school-related photos I may have
  • Sports pages for each kid, including team photos and action shots
  • Birth stories for each child in the year they were born
  • Special sections devoted to pets
  • Pages documenting special or unique family traditions or even recipes
  • A spread devoted specifically to photos of the house we were living in that year. We move often, so I love being able to look back and show my kids what their bedrooms, playroom, etc. looked like in a particular house.

Don’t Forget the Details

The last page in each of our family’s yearbooks is devoted only to information. Here, I list things like our address(es) that year, each person’s ages and jobs, schools, grades, and teachers. I list the cars we drove, each person’s favorite things, and notable friendships. I also devote a small section to things like deaths in the family, notable achievements or struggles, and major historical events. It’s amazing how you can forget that your toddler begged you to read the same book every day for months or the way he used to say certain words until you’re reminded by this page in the yearbook.

Finally, on the inside back cover of each of our family yearbooks, I attach a pocket. In this go our Christmas card for that year, party invitations, special tickets, or other small memorabilia. I have even thought about putting a CD in there with all of the videos we took that year and maybe a backup of the photos. See? My books are still works in progress, too.

No matter how simple or detailed your plan, just give it a shot! Get those photos off your phone and into a book that your family can cherish and enjoy. Your memories deserve more than to be hidden away in the cloud. Resolve this year to put them into a family yearbook. Your family and your future self will thank you.

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Emily is an import to Pensacola, hailing originally from the Mitten State. She is a lawyer, Army wife, and mom to two wild boys. Her favorite things include good coffee, children’s books, photography, rainy days, and playing in her kitchen. She reads cookbooks for fun and loves a good podcast. Her happy places are the library and the woods. Emily has lived in five countries, five states, and the District of Columbia. She has traveled around the world (literally), has crossed the U.S. while living out of an RV (twice!), and believes strongly in educating children through travel.

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