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Family Memory Jar

Create a Family Memory Jar

Happy New Year to you!

I love the start of a fresh new year. The wide open possibilities that lie in the months ahead, a chance to shake things up, try a fresh approach. Out with the old, in with the new!

It’s also time to empty out our family memory jar and start over again.

Last January my family started with an empty container. Throughout the year we filled it with notes about all of the good things that happened over the months.

I’ve probably added twice as many slips of paper into the jar as anyone else, but the kids have been pretty good about writing notes after we’ve returned home from a trip or a particularly fun day out and I’ve reminded them to include any awards received at school or bringing home a great report card.

The plan was for us all to gather around the jar and read all of the notes inside on December 31st.

We were away over New Year’s (creating some great final memories of the year!) so we postponed the opening of the jar until we got back and could light a fire, serve up some drinks and make a nice little occasion out of it.

We took turns drawing out a note and reading each one out loud.

It was fun to remember all of the good stuff that’s happened over the past 12 months. We applauded any merits, laughed at some of the funny occasions and were pleasantly surprised when we read out three slips of paper written by friends and extended family members who’d slipped in memories about their stay with us. I’d also stuck one in there to document our excessive family expression of the year, ‘WHAT THE HECK?!’ and my husband declared that this needs to be the year we all stop saying it. (What the heck is wrong with saying ‘What the heck’?) 

I’ve poured last year’s notes into a labelled envelope and the family memory jar is now empty and ready to be filled with more fantastic memories for the year ahead!

I’m also setting some time aside this week for my annual personal goal writing session.  I’ve been doing this every January since 2000 and can give this process full credit for all I’ve achieved in the years since then. I haven’t run any marathons or climbed any (actual) mountains – my goals are more about how I want to feel and be in each area of my life. When I read back through my yearly goal writing notebook I can actually witness the slow but steady progress I’ve made in my self-awareness and personal growth over these past 16 years.

It’s like that evolution of man drawing of the crouching ape slowly becoming more erect and less hairy!

I’ve gone from a hard-done-by, very moody, wildly impatient, constantly frazzled, unfulfilled and confused mama into someone who I rather like spending time with now! And my family agree.

In 2012, as I was writing out my goals, an idea came to me to write a book called Project Me. That book idea eventually morphed into this very website. See how this works?!

In the comments below, share any family traditions you have around New Year. What do you think of the family memory jar? Also let me know if you’re a Goal Digger – or if you’d like some help becoming one!

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  1. Katie on January 5, 2015 at 1:04 PM

    This is a fantastic idea Kelly! I just emptied my big, red, sugar bonbons jar as I’ve started a 40 days without sugar challenge and I was thinking “what can I do with this jar now?”…problem solved! Thanks!

    • Kelly Pietrangeli on January 5, 2015 at 1:09 PM

      Ha ha! I love it Katie! That jar doesn’t yet realise how much better it’s contents are about to be… Here’s to an exciting year ahead FILLED with great memories 🙂

      Good luck with your challenge too!

  2. Charlotte on January 5, 2015 at 1:12 PM

    I think this is such a lovely idea! It’s a wonderful way to remember all of the wonderful times you shared! x

  3. Adrienn on January 5, 2015 at 1:31 PM

    What a great tradition! It’s greatness lies in it’s simplicity. I can even start it now when my kids are little to jot down what they say about our trips, days etc.

    • Kelly Pietrangeli on January 5, 2015 at 2:33 PM

      Adrienn, I wish in hindsight I’d used a jar or a notebook to jot down all of the funny stuff they said and did when they were little. I did start a Book of Quotes, but many years after I could have. I’m sure I’ve forgotten some real gems!

  4. Catarina on January 5, 2015 at 1:37 PM

    Great idea Kelly! I wish my kid could already write, but maybe I can write some things down on his behalf (and on behalf of our cats too?). Just a thought!

    • Kelly Pietrangeli on January 5, 2015 at 2:35 PM

      Catarina, I wrote down quite a few things on my kids’ behalf and it was nice for them to know I’d captured these things for them. And I’m laughing at your comment about the cats because our cats had two notes in the jar last year! (I hadn’t realised they could write….) 😉

  5. Sonali on January 5, 2015 at 3:34 PM

    I’m always trying to come up with ways to teach my kids about gratitude. This is a great hands-on way of teaching that lesson. Love it!! x

    • Kelly Pietrangeli on January 5, 2015 at 4:04 PM

      Me too Sonali and I was even thinking of encouraging more notes of gratitude in our jar for this coming year. Never too much gratitude!!! 🙂

  6. Denise Dare on January 5, 2015 at 6:10 PM

    Brilliant!

    Love the family memory jar…so sweet.

    Starting ours today. 😉

    Thank you for the beautiful inspiration, lovely!

    • Kelly Pietrangeli on January 5, 2015 at 6:55 PM

      You are so welcome Denise. Here’s to your jar filling up with beautiful memories this year! xxx

  7. Mariah on January 5, 2015 at 7:38 PM

    This is a great idea, Kelly! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  8. Kristy on January 5, 2015 at 9:22 PM

    Kelly, such a wonderful idea. We love looking back through these jars- such simple pleasures that we often overlook. We’ve started our jar this year and I can’t wait to see what unfolds.

    • Kelly Pietrangeli on January 6, 2015 at 8:48 AM

      Simple pleasures are so nice, aren’t they Kristy? Hope your jar is filled with loads of happy memories by this time next year 🙂

  9. Helen Butler on January 5, 2015 at 11:19 PM

    Oh I love this! I’m going to find my own jar today and get started! And I can’t wait to hear more about your course Kelly – I will definitely share it as I know many busy Mums who could use your expertise! Xx

    • Kelly Pietrangeli on January 6, 2015 at 8:54 AM

      Happy Memories Helen!

      Huge thanks in advance for your support for my course. It means a lot to me 🙂

  10. Marcie Paige on January 6, 2015 at 8:32 PM

    I LOVE this idea 🙂 I’m on the hunt for a large cool looking jar now!

    • Kelly Pietrangeli on January 7, 2015 at 5:50 PM

      Marcie mine is the kind of jar found in a housewares shop and I think it’s meant to hold pasta or cereal. I like how it’s big enough that we didn’t have to resort to tiny post it notes because it meant if the kids wanted to add a drawing or go into more detail they weren’t limited to size.

      Good luck!! xx

  11. Pam on January 7, 2015 at 3:39 PM

    I’ve been wanting to do this, too, Kelly, and the other day I spotted this cute journal (http://www.amazon.com/One-Line-Day-Five-Year-Memory/dp/0811870197). I might use it for the same purpose because it’s small and then I’ll have everything in one place instead of all those scraps of paper. Thanks for the motivation to do it!

  12. Pam on January 7, 2015 at 3:47 PM

    …although I really love the idea of how you all got together and took turns taking them out of the jar and reading them aloud.

    • Kelly Pietrangeli on January 7, 2015 at 5:48 PM

      I love that idea Pam! And there’s nothing to stop you from having the same year-end ceremony and reading out various special memories from that. Perhaps dog ear or mark up particularly good pages so you can head straight to those when reading them out.

      Love it! Thanks for that link too! 🙂

  13. Jen on January 8, 2015 at 4:56 PM

    Have I told you lately how much of a genious I think you are? 🙂 I’m doing this like NOW, literally….have the jar next to me!

    • Kelly Pietrangeli on January 8, 2015 at 5:34 PM

      blush blush…
      Thanks Jen and have a fabulously memorable year ahead!!! xxx

  14. Sara on January 9, 2015 at 4:10 AM

    I love the idea of a memory jar, but haven’t tried it yet.
    I love to wrap up the old year with reflection about what’s working in different areas of my life, what isn’t, where I’d like to make shifts and changes. No resolutions, but goals and adjusting my course—sounds a lot like your process.

    • Kelly Pietrangeli on January 10, 2015 at 12:33 PM

      Yes Sara, that’s what I love to do! I love to reflect, learn from what went well and what didn’t and then set my sails towards what I want next. It keeps me focused 🙂

  15. Stacy Kurokawa on January 5, 2016 at 12:29 PM

    I started following you, subscribing to your messages a year ago. A year ago, I started a memory jar. The jar was labelled “Good things 2015″… my son is not literate yet, while I am only in English and my husband’s language is Japanese (we are in Japan). Somehow, mostly me, and some of my husband’s notes were pushed in. We averaged one great thing a month. I even coached my son to write one note in English for himself. It was fun reading them over dinner on 12/25; xmas is a non-event in Japan, a working day, so this was a great way to make it special. Thank you. My husband said, “great idea!” He rarely praises me so I am over the moon. I put the 2015 notes in our photo album. Thank you!

    • Kelly Pietrangeli on January 6, 2016 at 8:43 PM

      Hi Stacy, thanks for writing in to tell me about the happy results of starting your family memory jar! I’m over the moon that your hubby praised you – you deserve it. Love that you put the notes into a photo album as a keepsake too.

      Here’s to creating many more happy memories in the year ahead! 🙂

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