An Essay About Happy Memory Jar

For the New Year: Make a Memory Jar

posted by JadenJanuary 4, 2015

This idea was so popular last year that I’m reposting it again! Happy New Year everyone! ~Jaden

I always say that time goes by too fast. Every. single. year. Other than this blog, I don’t keep a family journal (lazy at writing with a pen and too shy to spill all our personal family stuff on Steamy Kitchen), so every year, I’m always stuck with wondering, “what happened this year?!?”

Of course, all the big memories are never forgotten, but it’s the little joys, the teensy things that tend to get forgotten. This year, we’ve started a new tradition to do just one thing – remember the little joys all year long in a memory jar.

Memory Jar

We keep this vintage pale blue canning jar on the kitchen counter with a stack of colorful paper and a marker. Every few days, one of us will jot down something that made our family laugh or smile. On New Year’s Eve, we’ll be emptying out the jar, unfolding each paper and reading them one by one.

Next year, a new jar to begin again — and the best part is we can bring out past jars anytime to remember the little things that shaped our lives.

A memory jar is more fun than a journal – as anyone in the family can contribute to it. The best is when one of us secretly writes memory and quietly slips it into the jar. I can’t wait to read some of the notes my kids have written all year long.

Inside the jar, we also keep little silver trinkets and charms. Sometimes one of us will have a bad day, need a little extra reminder for compassion or a good luck charm on a spelling test. These are little enough to put into your pocket to serve as a extra oomph of support for the day. We used to have a small heart too – I carried around the small silver heart one day and ended up giving it to a stranger I came across, who needed a little love.

The charms are indeed magical – and I encourage my kids to give them to a friend or stranger who could use a bit of magic.

If you’d like to create a memory jar, here’s what I used:

Vintage mason jar – quart size: you can find these on eBay or Etsy. Try to get one with a lid so you can store each year’s memory jar on a shelf. The photo below is from Mason Galore on Etsy.

The colorful notepad is from Staples – even though it looks like a Post-It note, there is no sticky backing. Just a pretty spiral of colorful paper. $3.79 for 600 sheets.

You can also use scrapbook paper and cut them into 4″x4″ squares. I love the ones that come in a giant pad from Michael’s.

The silver charms were bought at a local gift shop near my home. There are so many gorgeous handmade ones on Etsy: sterling silver wishbone, faith angel wing, dragonfly word charms, copper pocket heart.

From Cartelle $28:

Another great idea I picked up from Pinterest (are you addicted as much as I am?) is to create a memory box full of index cards. Each card is stamped with Month and Day. Everyday, write a one or two liner of something that happened that day or a wonderful little memory. The key is to keep going year after year, writing the next year’s memory on the the next line on the same card. So everyday, you’ll be able to see what you did each year on that day.

From Design Sponge:

From Wit and Whistle –


While we’re at it, here are a few more ideas that I plan on incorporating in the near year. I have way too many photos, but unfortunately, all of them are either on the camera or on my hard drive. There’s just no excuse not to display them.

Printing is easy, it’s the framing that’s tedious. Here’s a great idea that uses an empty frame, wire and clothes pin. It’s so easy to change out photos and put up new ones.

Clothespin Frame:

I probably take more photos with my phone than my camera. Sticky Gram turns your Instagram photos into magnets. How cool. I haven’t used their service yet, but I certainly plan to. Turn your refrigerator into a memory board! We have a massive magnetic dry-erase board in the craft/homework room, which will be perfect to display the photos.



The kids’ artwork that comes home from school normally gets displayed on the magnetic dry-erase board (I’m not a fan of sticking stuff on the refrigerator) but after seeing these ideas, I’m going to have to change it up! The kids’ artwork are masterpieces and should be displayed for everyone to see!

From Oh Dee Doh A $30 project: curtain wires and clips from Ikea:


Less Than Perfect Life of Bliss says that “Home is Where Your Art Is” and I agree. She uses empty frames from the discount store and a clip to display her kids artwork. I love it.

An even better idea is to buy several large art canvases and host an outdoor art party! How cute is this!???? From J and J Home:

The last idea for today is from Fifth Wizardry: a cheap, clear shower curtain taped to the kitchen floor + markers and kids = adventure. I’d hang this in the kids’ bathroom!

Would love to hear more ideas from you on how to incorporate more memories, photos and art into your life!


So just how do we live more? It’s perhaps a little easier said than done, right? Especially — well, particularly — for those of us with children. Perhaps even harder for those of us with no family to help out for even a day, let alone a night or a weekend? How do we live more?

I will admit, I struggle with this intention. And that’s why I wrote it.

But, now more than six years into this parenting gig, I do get it. Perhaps I always did.

For me, living is the little things. And when I look back at old videos, old pictures, old blog posts from a couple blogs ago, I realize … we have been extremely blessed to live a really awesome life — one that I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world.

How do we have powerful moments with children?

I started thinking about this concept when I read Life is a Verb, as I wrote about in Monday’s Amaze Yourself & Live Life post, but that mindset really sunk in when our family created a memory jar.

For us, the memory jar has gone from a small rice container to an extra large one that has been repurposed with a little sign that says Magical Memories Jar. We started it last September or so — long enough to know what we are doing. This idea popped up on Pinterest last year and I think it came from Parent Hacks but I’m not sure of the origination of anything anymore.

Currently, I am usually the only person writing memories in the jar but the whole family contributes to what should be written so it is truly a family effort. But, contrary to what you might think, memories are verbs. There are actions in memories. We have to do something, see something, hear something, notice something for it feel like a true memory.

We have to notice the beauty or we may miss it. And then you’ll get to the end of your day and think there’s nothing to write about today. There weren’t any A-ha Moments, in other words. It might have been a lovely day, a wonderful day even but no memories?? How can that be? How sad! What a tragedy!

I brainstormed one evening during my gratitude practice and discovered that there’s a whole lotta memories and living happening that we had glossed over as a family. I had been ignoring some wonderful, tiny, special, glittery moments that pass by with barely a blink.

This lesson was a lot like in the movie, “Up” when Mr. Frederickson realizes that his wife was a dreamer, yes, but that their everyday life together was all that really mattered to her. Such a poignant moment in the movie and I dare you to not cry during that scene. Double dare.

The reason that scene is so emotional for so many is because we realize that we are all so busy chasing those big “Rainbow” moments that we often forget about the small, everyday shimmery ones.

And, this magical memories jar project is also great motivation to start living life more. I highly recommend you start this jar today. You can put the little notes of paper in anything at all — a bowl, a ziplock bag — but start today. You will not regret it. Please share some ideas for memories to write down as well in the comments!

Here are 25 ideas to trigger your brain to remember the good stuff, the in-between stuff, the small but-oh-so-wonderful moments.

  1. Silly songs your family sings

  2. The crazy things kids say

  3. The crazy things parents say

  4. Anything related to body functions

  5. Illnesses — or better yet, that amazing feeling you feel when you are finally better!

  6. Random Acts of Kindness — both that you’ve done and when others do it to you

  7. Movie nights, game nights, art nights

  8. Big, scary bugs

  9. Big, scary messes

  10. Trips — big and little, far and near

  11. Daily rituals

  12. Traditions

  13. Adventures — tame and wild

  14. Learning moments

  15. Teachable moments

  16. Firsts. Ah, the firsts. {first roller skating experience}

  17. Books read — this includes parents’ books, too!!

  18. Special meals {spontaneous invite to a friend’s for Pizza Margherita!}

  19. Neat sightings {like when we saw 5 deer run across a highway}

  20. Silly things that make everyone laugh like taking a night to talk in a made-up language

  21. Weird things{ like when five cats suddenly show up living in your backyard.}

  22. The precious, sweet moments when you catch random kindness

  23. Your promotions and successes at work or in your community

  24. Your milestones {such as when I did back bends in yoga!!}

  25. Your dreams turning to reality {the day 5,000 people visited my blog!!}

At the end of the year — or whenever you feel like it — read these notes from the whole year. Now, share some of your own ideas to add to our memory jars!

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