Imagine if you had a way of immortalizing the fleeting moments of life. Imagine telling your everyday story in a way that is hand-made and close to your heart.
What would it feel like if your could relive your memories by flipping through the pages of a tangible book, journal or album?
Instead of thumbing through your phone.
Instead of scrolling through your old social media posts.
Instead of never actually looking back, or worse, forgetting the moments that were.
Refreshing? Nostalgic? Sentimental?
I’d say it feels pretty damn good.
That’s what intentional memory-keeping can do you for you.
There is a desire burning inside of you. A desire to remember, to relive and to pass on the stories from the moments in your life when you explored the world in your own terms.
I want you to be able to key in on this feeling. If you do too, then keep reading.
What is intentional memory-keeping?
Intentional memory-keeping is the process of documenting your story, both the everyday moments and the big events, in a way that is fun and purposeful for you.
The keywords I want to highlight here are fun and purposeful. Simply put, I want you to discover a memory-keeping method that gets you excited and at the same time, adds a layer of meaning and intention into your daily life.
I’m not going to tell you which memory-keeping method is the “best” because that is something that you have to explore and decide for yourself. What I do want you to take away from this article is the mindset that you need to nurture in order to create a habit of intentional memory-keeping.
Whether you prefer writing or taking photos or creative journaling, the mission is to tell your story.
Personally, my version of intentional memory-keeping is capturing the small moments, the thoughts that pass by my very busy brain, and the little things that add up into my life through a mix of creative journaling, drawing, and filming videos / vlogs.
It’s never black-and-white for me and I thrive in the variety (just my Sagittarius self taking over!). I use a Hobonichi Techo daily journal for my everyday memories, create digital travel photo books for printing, and film videos for my art/work-related behind-the-scenes. (It’s a lot, I know, but do remember that this is mostly what I do for work as well!)
Don’t get me wrong, I did my fair share of experimenting and trying out different methods over the years — writing, blogging (when blogs were more diary-esque), Project Life, etc. — and I’m pretty sure that things might change in the future. The method itself is not important rather the focus is on creating a physical* archive of your life.
But before we dive into the nitty gritty of memory-keeping (tips, tools, techniques, etc.), I’d like to start by defining the three basic phases of memory-keeping. Whichever method you choose, these three phases will always be present. It’s imperative that you cultivate the proper mindset for each of them so you don’t fall into the traps of overwhelm, unrealistic expectations, and becoming too focused on the “aesthetics.”
The first, and arguably the most important, phase is to live your life.
Get into the habit of being in the moment.
Here’s a crucial tidbit: you need to notice something in order to actually remember it. The brain is a powerful machine but it’s actually up to us to utilize it. You have to exercise your awareness and ability to remember details. If you’re not taking notice of your experiences, how do you expect to document it later on?
With the “instant” nature of today’s reality, we’re accustomed to everything just speeding past us. We’re used to a society of next-day deliveries, social media, instant noodles (okay, this I don’t mind) and that oftentimes causes us to become a little desensitized from the world around us. Research have shown that attention spans are narrowing more and more as technology has taken the driver’s seat in our day-to-day lives.
This is precisely way you need to develop a habit of being in the moment. And by that I mean:
- Look ahead! Peel your eyes away from your phone and look at the world around you. What do you notice? Make it a habit to actively OBSERVE.
- Pay attention to your thoughts and actions as you go about your day. Are there recurring themes in your daydreaming? Concerns brewing in your unconscious mind?
- Plan for “white space” your schedule so you’re not always in a rush to do things. Giving yourself some breathing room allows you to actually process your experiences which then helps you become more intentional about your daily life.
I watched a documentary following Studio Ghibli’s Miyazaki Hayao, a Japanese animator and filmmaker who created legendary works such as Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke, as he brought his films to life in a span of a decade. When he has working on the initial concepts for Ponyo, he taped a camera to his car seat’s headrest and started a video recording as he drove around his neighborhood. He wanted to capture the scenes that he encounters as he drives along the familiar streets. As he was driving he said:
“It’s in the everyday, ordinary scenery, where I discover the extraordinary.”
— Hayao Miyazaki
This really struck me because of how true it is. The more that we settle into our daily routines, the more we lose track of all the minuscule things that we encounter. We become slaves to our routine and end up forgetting the feeling of being aware of our everyday scenery.
Consider this your I’m-furiously-shaking-your-shoulders wake-up call to experience your experiences 🙂 Your future self will thank you for it!
Now that you’ve developed your Spidey Sense (a.k.a. the habit of being aware and in the moment), it’s time to work on a system for collecting your thoughts, photos, and ephemera, which altogether become your story.
Build a collection of thoughts, photos, and ephemera.
In an ideal world, you document your stories at the end of every day so every memory is fresh, all the details are accurate, and your photos and ephemera are on-hand and ready to be archived. But that’s not really what happens in real life.
In real life, you might be too tired at the end of a long day or feel unmotivated to even think about memory-keeping. That’s perfectly fine. You are human and you should not expect yourself to be 100% all the time.
Instead of trying to achieve “real-time memory-keeping,” it’s much more sustainable to decide a schedule that you can follow (more on this in the third phase!). For that to work, you’ll need to create a system that allows you to collect and organize your “memory-keeping assets.”
Memory-keeping assets typically include:
- your thoughts, ideas and experiences expressed in words (think of the things you would normally write in a daily diary),
- photos and visuals that reflect your thoughts and experiences (also includes photos from the Internet like movie posters, screenshots from social media, etc.) and,
- ephemera and memorabilia such as train tickets, food packaging, gift tags, business cards, and the like (basically, any “evidence” of the day that was).
What and how you collect your memory-keeping assets depends on the memory-keeping method that you prefer and the stories that you want to document.
Pick a system that feels right for you and tweak as you go! Remember that the focus of intentional memory-keeping is to tell your stories while having fun and being purposeful. The right answer is the one that you can sustainably integrate in your current lifestyle.
And finally, we arrive at the really fun part…
Carve the time to sit down, relax, and document.
Make yourself a cup of your favorite beverage (mine’s coffee!) and cozy up in front of your journal or whichever memory-keeping method you decide on. Shut out any distractions – yes, I’m talking about your Instagram notifications – and use this time to relax, decompress and reflect.
It’s time to do some intentional memory-keeping!
Step 1: Pull a topic or theme from your Collection.
I’m an advocate for journaling something that resonates with your current mood or feeling which is why it’s important that you build a collection of your thoughts, photos, and ephemera that you can pull from when the mood hits you.
Step 2: Gather supplies that you think would work well with the topic/theme.
This is an important one especially if you often feel paralyzed by decisions. Before you even start working on your journal, gather a limited set of supplies that you think would work well with your topic or theme.
By adding this constraint of a limited set of supplies, you can focus more on actually journaling rather than overthinking about which paper, stickers or stamps to use, which pen to write with or which medium to work with. If you have a hundred of things to choose from, you will get tired and overwhelmed from making all this small decisions but if you pick a limited set of supplies from the beginning, you’ll most likely have a relaxed time while memory-keeping.
Now this does not mean you can’t use a supply that’s not in your initial set, of course you can! Usually, that happens when you’re in the middle of memory-keeping and you suddenly get inspired by something. That inspiration came to you because you freed up your mind from all the overwhelm so it’s a good thing!
Step 3: Work your journaling magic and get those hands messy!
There are SO MANY ways to go about this but really, it all hinges on what you’re in the mood for at the moment. Allow yourself to explore and experiment! If you’re feeling excited and creative, go to town with decorative paper and lettering. If you’re in a writing mood, go minimal and just write down what’s on your mind. Your journal is a physical manifestation of your mind and your memories so don’t force yourself to do things in a certain way.
However, if you are in a mood to do something creative or new to you but you’re out of ideas, you can seek inspiration from a couple of places:
- memory-keeping and journaling hashtags on Instagram,
- Journal With Me videos on Youtube
- art journal photos from Pinterest
I also created a free downloadable PDF guide called “A Week of Small But Certain Happiness” filled with one week of journaling prompts + layouts from my own journal for each one:
One last thing: be okay with not being able to document every single thing. Ultimately, a few missed days or details do not define the life you have lived. You decide which stories you want to tell and which ones you want to remember in the long run. That doesn’t mean those details are any less important to you.
It’s normal to feel like you’re clawing out words and memories from your brain in the beginning. Your mind is just not used to the act of recollecting the small moments and the tiny events of everyday life.
It’s a cycle :: intentional memory-keeping trains you to get better at living and experiencing your life which then makes collecting and documenting easier, more natural and authentic.
With that said, the most important thing is to enjoy the process of memory-keeping. The ultimate goal is for you create more joy into your daily life and have a visual archive of it through intentional memory-keeping.