Preserving the Most Precious Memories

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image by Pink Sherbet Photography

Yesterday I spent more than 4 hours trying to transfer old voicemail messages to my computer.  These messages are as valuable to me as old family photos because they are the recorded voices of my children over the past 5 years.

My son’s first voice mail: “……(heavy breathing)……..five……(heavy breathing)…..”

My daughter’s tiny, worried voice, “Mommy, when are you coming home?  I need you.”

Those voices, and memories, bring tears to my eyes, and I’m determined to preserve them.

It’s amazing what comforts us in times of crisis.  Following a house fire, tornado, or some other devastating disaster, I’ve seen women poking around the rubble of  her home suddenly break down in tears at finding a wedding album or an old school photo.

All this has me wondering about my other memories: photos, plaster handprints, my kids artwork, and all the other precious collectibles every mom and grandma has around the house.  In a worst case scenario, these will become more precious than we could ever imagine.  How can we keep them safe?

Here are a few suggestions for making sure you have these treasures to enjoy in the future and can pass them along to the next generation.

  1. Think small.  Large photo albums and scrapbooks are wonderful to handle but heavy and bulky to pack.  Smaller albums, select treasures will be much easier to just grab and go.
  2. Be picky.  Do you really need every photo taken at your wedding or could you single out just a dozen that capture the most special moments?  Likewise, can you sort through art projects, report cards, and other mementos and choose just a few that are most meaningful?
  3. Utilize technology. My plan is to save my children’s voicemail messages on a CD and maybe even an mp3 player.  Unfortunately, when it comes to sound, that’s about all I can do.  I’ll be sure to save the mp3 player in a Tech Protect bag or some other type of Faraday container just in case an EMP ever occurs.  Storing photos on CDs, memory cards, flash drives…it’s all good.  However…

    Guilty of storing way too many "memories"!
  4. A catastrophe that takes out our electric grid, long-term, would render anything stored electronically useless.  So, figure out how you might preserve the cream of the cream, so to speak, of your treasures.  Paper documents can be stored using a vacuum sealer, like a Food Saver.  Photos should be wrapped in chemical free paper before storing.
  5. Have a plan for including your mementos in an evacuation.  We never think of throwing a few photos in a Bug Out Bag, but you could do worse.  Another option is to keep them stored in a water and fireproof container, stored near an exit door, ready to grab on your way out.
  6. Consider storing duplicates with a friend or family member living at least 50 miles away and offer to return the favor.  If your neighborhood ends up under water, at least you’ll know where to find these special treasures.

Lest these suggestions give you the idea that I am some hard hearted shrew without any feelings of tenderness, take a look at my kids’, “memory filing cabinets.”  Yep, we started out with individual memory boxes holding their early drawings, school papers and mementos, but my sentimental nature quickly outgrew mere little boxes and we began filling up drawers in two empty filing cabinets we have out in the garage. I’ll be following my own advice in the very near future and weeding out what I can.

When we do let go of a physical memento, it’s important to remember that we aren’t letting go of the memory!

What have you done to preserve your own sentimental treasures?



9 thoughts on “Preserving the Most Precious Memories”

  1. Scan it all! Anything I want I have in electronic form, and it’s not creating clutter in my home anymore either (other than the small profile of electronic media). I still have photo albums and such, but in an evacuation I’ll grab a thumb drive / portable hard drive / laptop before I’ll grab those.

  2. For all but TEOTWAWKI, consider using something like Google Docs to store precious pictures, movies, even audio files… all of which can be accessed from any computer with an internet connection.

    1. thesurvivalmom

      Good idea. Another one is to email scanned photos and docs to yourself. You can access your email from any computer and immediately have what you need.

  3. Fantastic post and reminder! I have only begun to get my “stuff together”, but you have lit a fire under me to get this done prior to hurricane season this year. Since we are military, I am far from home so will send my mom in “tornado alley” a copy of my stuff and I’ll take hers here in Hurricane Land LOL!

  4. I made sure I stashed photos along with copies of important documents that are at a relative’s house a couple hundred miles away. If something happened to our home here, we’d still have family photos along with the other important stuff.

  5. I do upload all my photos to It is a local/online company that I use frequently for prints. My personal folders there hold images all the way back to 2007, the birth of my first child. I haven’t scanned my wedding pictures yet, from 2002, but I will get there soon. For my children’s memories, I have had little 4×5 books made of their best artwork and presents. So they can remember those if something bad does happen. All of our documents and such are in a waterproof, fireproof box. That can travel if needs be. And there are two sets of keys for it.

  6. Scan all of it, buy a Survivor flash drive on Amazon now that the price is down between 30 and 60 bucks, the rugged flash drive will definitely help protect your memories in almost all scenarios. For the few where this will not work get a small album as recommended and store it along with other “treasures” in a fire safe. The inexpensive ones are under $100 and mine doubles as a method to keep my dangerous (read incredibly sharp or highly toxic) items secured with a three year old who gets through child locks like they aren’t even there. I also have my smartphone, 32 GB MicroSDHC card included, which is easily chargable via solar panels with a 5V USB out which are now down to less than $100 on Amazon. It seemed too expensive for me to buy these things, but the value of having them in a SHTF scenario really is worth a few hundred bucks, less if you’re not using an electronic viewing device that needs to be charged by the sun.

  7. GREAT ideas! Now, any ideas how to get your grown kids to take THEIR favorite items WITH them to their own homes after they’ve flown? Two closets and part of my attic will thank you for any tips, haha!

  8. This is special. I love keepsake items but sometimes my schedule and demands of four kids keep me from staying on top. When you mentioned preserving your child’s voice, it hit home. My little four year old is my youngest and I see her growing up quickly. I feel like I want to stop time. I love the idea of preserving their voices on a CD. My mother taped a message of me at six and it was cool to hear myself at such a young age. In a small way, you are capturing time. Now that my mom is gone, it has even more meaning.

    Thanks for your post! Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms! DisasterMOM

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