For the New Year: Make a Memory Jar

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!


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Comments 89

  1. Carri

    Jaden, Thank You for this! I am going to start a jar right away…my family will love it. Happy New Year to you and your family…all the best in 2010!

  2. thecraftyangel

    I LOVE these Ideas!!! I think I may have to scramble and get some things for the memory jar–what a beautiful lovely way to remember the year–I imagine you could also put the notes into a photo album if you don’t have space for multiple jars (and it might protect those precious notes!)

    I am so glad I found your website–what a treasure 🙂

  3. Sheila

    Love love lUUUv the memory jar! And all the other great ideas. Thanks for sharing Jaden!! ; ) Hugs to you and Happy New Year!

  4. Abigail (aka Mamatouille)

    When we lived in Japan I kept a “thankful” jar, so every so often I would write on a little piece of scrap paper and put it in the jar. When we moved, I wanted to cut down on shipping breakable stuff, so I just took all the papers out and taped them in my journal–I had already written the date on each piece of paper.

  5. Lauren

    I love all these ideas! I have a book that I write in random thoughts or funny things that happened throughout the day. I usually only get around to writing once or twice a week and it’s mostly just to remember the funny things my daughter says. But at least it’s something! I know I will treasure it in years to come!

  6. The Mrs @ Success Along the Weigh

    Oh man, this is EXACTLY what I needed to see! We need something to look forward to Christmas night when the punch in the gut that it’s all over sets in. This is the perfect way to spend the evening remembering all of the fun times we had!

  7. JulieD

    I love every single one of these!! I need to clear of my fridge and just put up sticky grams and I LOVE your memory jar idea. Thank you, Jaden. I can’t wait for 2012!

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  10. Devorah

    These are fantastic ideas.
    I may start one with my 5 year old and then she can look back at how she changed ver the years-by what interested her year on that day!

  11. Lori

    Jaden,I absolutely love your memory jar. Sharing the charms with friends and even strangers in need is a wonderful way to teach kids compassion. Such small gestures can often mean a lot in trying times. Love reading what you’re up to.

  12. Shirley

    Love it! First project for me for 2012! We had so many little memories with our little 3-yr-old that this will be excellent to capture these moments and read them at the end of the year.

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  14. Karen Reed

    I am 54 years old with daughters ages 29, 26, and 19. At the end of each school year, I would pick “the one piece” I wanted to always keep and I would have them dry mounted and laminated. The pictures now hang all over my office where I teach. My students often comment how I have the most comfortable and prettiest office. I agree! And while I can feel nostalgic now and again- the pictures more often make me smile… they are truly my physical medals! Happy New Year.

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  16. Jen Laceda

    These are ALL excellent ideas! I have a similar wire hanger with wire clips that I can “string” to make a curtain on photos. Unfortunately, they are still in their packages, one year later. I’m such a procrastinator when it comes to handiwork! I also have a collection of clothespin that I bought with the intention of hanging polaroids and photos as well, but…you guessed it…never came around to hanging them YET. One day, one day…

  17. Debbie

    I’ve had a Memory Jar, I made w/my oldest grandson(just turned 18 in Dec), We used stickers on the outside: “Cody’s Memory Jar”, and I ran across it the other day, opened it, and started reading the slips of paper–one of my favorites is: At Uncle Scott’s wedding, Grandma took Cody (5 yrs old) around to the buffet, since Mommy & Daddy each had a 2 yr old twin to feed–Knowing how much Cody loved shrimp-I put a big prawn on his plate, when we got back to the table, he looked at the food–leaned over and whispered to me: Grandma, what is this? (pointing to the prawn). I said, That’s a prawn (he wants to know everything-so serious). He looked at it a little longer, leaned over and whispered: What part did I get? Knowing better to NOT laugh, I whispered back: What part do you think you got? So so seriously, he said: I think I got it’s arm! I excused myself, went to where he could’nt hear or see me, and laughed till the tears rolled down my face!
    Kids–grandkids are so precious!
    I’ll wait and give him his Memory Jar when he graduates from high school this year.

  18. Teresa Gilliam

    Jaden, I wish I had thought of, or heard about, the memory jar and memory box idea YEARS AGO! How precious those little pieces of paper would have been to me now. I’m 57 and my sons are grown, but I will surely start a memory jar for myself and my grandkids when they come to visit. Thank you!

  19. Lynette

    Great Idea! I love passing on a great wish and love to someone in need. The girls have grown. I read Alice Walker’s book “The Chicken Chronicles: Sitting with the Angels Who Have Returned My Memories: Glorious, Rufus, Gertrude Stein, Splendor, Hortensia, Agnes of God, the Gladyses & Babe: A Memoir.” I looking forward to creating My Gratitude Jar!

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  21. Kathy Stumm-Bogale Calgary

    What an excellent idea! I will definitely use this with my own family!

  22. Cakeboule

    A wonderful idea which I hope to recreate. Thank you . I started collected shells on our beach walk on holiday today as the first thing to go in it.

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