Motherhood Mondays: Scrapboxes

Last year, for his first birthday, Toby got a toy bus as a gift, and since then, he played with it so much that we lost the passengers inside, and then the wheels fell off, and then the whole bottom fell off. In the end, it was just a yellow shell. We ended up throwing it away this past weekend, which was surprisingly heartbreaking for Alex and me. (As a parent, you become so sentimental!)

So, these scrapboxes by Darcy Miller, below, really appeal to me. You frame a photo and an actual item. We could have framed this photo of Toby along with part of his beloved bus. This kind of thing could come off as cheesy, but Darcy handles them so beautifully. How sweet to have a photo of your child’s birthday with the actual candle she blew out, or a newborn photo along with that sweet striped hospital cap. (And they could be great for grown-ups, too. Think: a vacation photo with seashells, or a wedding photo with a dried flower from your bouquet.)

Thoughts? How sweet are these? I’m turning into such a sap!

P.S. Remember this couple’s idea?

(Photo of Toby by our wonderful photographer friend Kelsey Foster)

  1. Can’t help thinking they are cheesy, but at the same time am loving them! (is that a problem?)

  2. I’m looking at this from a different perspective, as my three daughters are now in their twenties. Over the lifetime of children there are keepsakes that we all care about, and that changes as the ages go by. Some of them don’t fit in shadow boxes, or all of them on the wall, so we kept keeping boxes.

    There were shoe box sized keeping boxes, for smaller notes, cards, momentos, report cards, and awards, and larger boxes for drawings, art projects, and what was left of a much loved baby blanket. The best part of this system is that then everyone knows where things go that you want to keep, without the continual decision of where and how to do this. And given they were boxes, we knew we couldn’t keep everything, and it helped us be discriminating about what we did want to put away for later.

    When the girls were little I was the keeper, but then they began to curate, and it was interesting to see their choices. We weren’t pack rates, at all, but we did live in a big house in Portland, so not a small NYC apt, but apart from the art boxes from about ages 3 to 7, which do take up more room (my middle daughter was a prolific drawer, as she said), these shoe boxes just lived on a shelf in their bedroom closets.

    They were available to the girls, even at a young age, and I’d on occasion go into their rooms in the afternoon after their preschool quiet time, and find them going intently through a box. We’d look through the small piles and talk, and then put the pieces back into the box and into the closet. They knew their baby box and their little girl boxes, and it was an effective way for them to keep the actual physical remembrances, and the memories.

    I’ve recently had the opportunity to go through some of these boxes, as I now downsize from the family home. Two of the girls will sort their own things as they decide what to keep in their adulthood, but due to time and logistics, I’ve gone through for my middle daughter. Serious time travel, but two decades later still a way to have these bits of individual and family history ready to archive (or recycle) for their own purposes.

    Now, all those photos, that’s a different story…!

  3. Too funny – I just put something together like this! A photo of my husband holding our little guy right after he was born, the knit cap they gave him at the hospital, his little foot bracelet and the extra footprints I had them take! In addition to a little bunting for flair, of course :)

  4. Geri says...

    My son turns 3 next month and already have boxes of stuff i refuse to get rid of! Crazy i know but i always think if we have another boy… i still have most of my toys from when i was little so i guess it’s in my genes to be sentimental! I love looking through my old stuff and hope my son will love it too (and hopefully we won’t move too much as it’s hard to justifying keeping stuff when you move a lot). I love keeping things like napkins from birthday parties, we collect sand and shells from beaches we go to and keep them in cute bottles, and keep hotel card keys. I would put these things in a scrapbook though, not in a frame, I prefer artwork on our walls. Cute idea though!

  5. That’s such a great idea! I love it. I’m one of those sentimental hoarder types. The biggest source of misery for me right now is my fathers first car — a beautiful red hot-rod named Scarlett that hasn’t been touched in over twenty years. My mum is pushing for us to get rid of it. If I could put a picture of my proud young dad with his first car, annnd maybe a piece of her in a frame — It would be so special!

  6. I’m already a total sap, I cling to things like they are real people! I also really love history, and I think that may have something to do with it. In our day and age we throw things away like never before and I wonder what our descendants will have that is tangible to bring us to life for them. I own special things of my grandmothers (including a diary), and my father passed when I was a little girl, so I cherish some of the belongings I have of him (a letter in particular). I think preserving something from the moment other than a picture or an e-mail (or texts) is actually an important think to do. Not sappy at all! (Ok, maybe just a little – but absolutely worthwhile and warranted).

  7. My little brother, who is now 28, wore a Superman cape from age 2 to age 4, he lived in that cape. He won a thing like this at a raffle and my mom had his cape framed and a put in a picture of him and a copy of his favorite Superman comic. The cape was stained around the edges from use and the shadow box still hangs at my mom’s house. When she saw it done she got teary and pointed out how cute her “little man” was in his cape (he was 25 at the time). Mothers should be saps about their kids!

  8. these are absolutely gorgeous! i love this idea :) xx

  9. But it’s nice to keep things like this- there are things I threw away in my early teens from my childhood that I now wish I’d kept- but I’m a total hoarder!

  10. I’ve done these for years with my first-born and now my second-born. I just couldn’t bear to toss some of those more quixotic or idiosyncratic babyhood/childhood items that otherwise wouldn’t have been kept. Plus, I’m a little in <3 with shadow boxes. I once knew a couple who had one with her (1920s! Best era ever) wedding dress, part of her bouquet, one of his shoes, a cufflink, and a love letter.

  11. I think these are gorgeously classic!! I find scrapbooking has become such a fad – these scrap boxes are a fabulous way to scrapbook but make it new and inventive.

  12. My 21 year old sister actually just made one of these for her little son – complete with his little hospital bracelet, part of his hospital blanket and his hospital beanie. I think it’s a beautiful keepsake :)

  13. So cute! I will be trying this with Eli’s hospital cap and bracelet!

  14. Absolutely love the shadow box idea! So presh. Thanks for sharing!

  15. that’s not sappy at all! i love this idea!! aw man… i totally should’ve done this with so many of my baby’s stuff… gotta start now! thanks for sharing!

  16. Thank you! I saw this featured as a “don’t miss this tomorrow” segment on Martha and of course I missed it. Glad to have found the source!!
    In Switzerland, babies wear a little beaded bracelet with their name. Even now it’s so amazing to look at our daughter’s itty bitty bracelet and think that seven months ago her wrist was tiny enough to wear it. Being a parent makes you very sentimental, indeed!! xo

  17. I love shadowboxes. We have one in the museum collection I manage — it has a veil, silk floral crown and photograph from a 1890s wedding in it.

    It’s nice to hear about someone reviving the practice to create sentimental pieces of art.

  18. Anonymous says...

    You tossed the bus!
    thud…give me air, give me some air

  19. I adore shadow box art, but I hadn’t thought of including a picture of the item and the item. I love this idea. Thank you, Joanna.

  20. This is pulling at my heartstrings in the worst way. My daughter’s first birthday is Thursday (right before Toby’s!) and I’m totally a sucker for sentimentality right now…

  21. Sarah says...

    Very cute idea. But, I have a hard time picturing where you would hang them, without it coming off as a bit cheesy? Maybe because they do remind me of shadow boxes with wedding invitations and dried boquets in them and I’ve just always thought those were fussy and cheesy… Apparently I’m just not enough of a sap! lol!

  22. this is such a lovely idea! the last one with the book gave me chills! i still have toys from when i was a child that i refuse to get rid of, so i’m a total sap as well.

  23. one of my favorite birthday activities for my daughter’s 5th birthday was putting together a time capsule. she picked things to put in there that representer her interests at the time and made a book about herself. I ask all of our closest family members to send a letter, photo or a funny story to place in the capsule. before we sealed it shut some people read their letters to her out loud or explained the significance of the photo. it was quite special. we have tucked it away and have agreed to let her open it on her 18th birthday. so very amelie of us :)

    here’s the link to the post:

  24. This just does my heart in, as a mama. Love the Good Night moon one the best–Darcy does these all so well!

  25. i think these are amazing. she does such a great job without making them cheesy. the ballet slippers are my fave

  26. Sap, well yes! Ha ha ha :)

  27. you are NOT a sap at all. I absolutely love this idea. I was nearly crying when we finally threw away her toddler bath tub and that was just a tub! We have an entire keepsake box of things from Lucia’s first 2 years (so far). In it is everything from her beloved Sophie, her hospital hat, letters from my parents and sister a various other items. A beautiful card from my husband and her birth announcement. Not to mention that the box itself was where my sister put a few gifts for Lucia when we brought her home. We also have a baby book where I taped a few things like our bracelets from the hospital and the card they put on her bassinet.

    I’d love to see what you choose to make with your shadowbox.

  28. I mean, obviously you wouldn’t do this for every item, just the most special ones. Too many and it might give off a weird, creepy shrine look to the house.

  29. Oh, I still have your pointe shoes! I love this idea.

  30. These are beautiful, and great for pack rats like me!

  31. It is so hard! Sweet idea to make something new, also think about using those treasured materials to make a useful object like a recipe box, wall hooks, or a planter.

  32. Anonymous says...

    as a minimalist, I just couldn’t justify keeping things like that. What would you do with all of the shadow boxes? Seems kind of weird to me.

  33. This is such a great find! I would love to use this not only or kids, but for family members and friends! I have a “Nick box” which has all my silly mementos from the time we started dating. This would be such a perfect way for me to actually see them everyday!

  34. thanks for sharing this! i just ran across my son’s hat from the delivery room, i am going to do this!

  35. Jo says...

    I did this with some of my daughter’s first outfits. My husband had a hard time letting them go so I framed them with pictures and gave him one for his first father’s day. He loved it.

  36. The ballerina shadowbox is my absolute favorite.

  37. what an adorable idea! I must do something like this for my boy…

  38. love this very much

    we’ve actually already got some of these at home with my boss’ children’s bed time bears in :)

  39. The ballet slippers are so precious!

  40. awe this is so SWEET!!!


  41. i dont have kids yet and i haveee to have these for when I do !!!!

  42. oh, this is the sweetest thing!

  43. Just saw your article and picture in Whole Living (always the first page I turn to!). Congrats!

  44. Ι have actually been doing this for quite some time/years…
    Seashells, stones from some beach, invitations, tickets, anything can make a so so photo into an artpiece like that!

  45. I just saw your page in Whole Living! Congrats! And when did I miss this bike post?

  46. Such a nice way to preserve a few select items from babyhood, childhood and egads- the teen years! ~Deirdre

  47. I love the shoes one especially! My mom still has my first pair of tiny shoes somewhere! :)

  48. When I was little, my parents were going through boxes of stuff that belonged to my dad’s parents. They came across some items that belonged to my great grandfather, a rabbi and mohel (someone who performs circumcisions) in Columbus, GA.

    My mom decided to create a beautiful shadow box that contained a picture of him, the hat that he wore to perform the circumcisions, and a telegram that his boss had received saying what a “clean” job my great grandfather had done on a bris that the sender had witnessed.

    The whole thing is so special and such a wonderful reminder of family. The physical items make the photo of him that much more meaningful.

  49. adorable! I would love something like this! Although… my daughter is currently obsessed with a random tupperware container. she kept taking it out of the cupboard, so we gave in and let her have it. It looks ratty and beat up. I was going to throw it out one day and mistakenly tried to while she was looking. Oh boy. She looked so heartbroken I haven’t tried since!

  50. great idea! I’m assuming they’re just shadow box frames? I love the birthday one. It’s a good way to keep clutter down too and seems more personal than just keeping everything in a box.

  51. Anonymous says...

    Nope not for me… Just don’t work

  52. Cute!

    I want to hear feedback on your eyelash curler, pretty please? :)

  53. These are beautiful and such a lovely idea! I was talking with my husband just last week about this. My Mom died last year and so I’m especially sentimental about things that she bought for my babies. I wanted to frame the first onsie that she bought us, it was the first baby gift I received! My second son outgrew it and I simply couldn’t get rid of it. This might be the perfect idea for what to do with it, thank you! :)

  54. Aww, this would be so sweet–as long as parents do this with some cute or normal object from their baby’s childhood. My parents saved my baby teeth (ick!) and my husband’s parents saved his hair from his first haircut. I think both of those things would be pretty freaky to put in a shadowbox!

  55. What a beautiful and super special idea. I LOVE the ballerina flats:) Btw: years ago my mom gave me my first shoes (ever)to keep. So instead of having them stored in a box somewhere I could frame them together with one of my old photos when I wore those shoes. Brilliant! Thank you:) xo

  56. Those are nicely done! I don’t even have kids yet, but reading your posts makes me excited for that time. You’re turning me into a sap, too! ;)

  57. I make these all the time. I have my daughter with her first shoe and my son with his sophie chew toy. I also do them for our vacation.

  58. these are precious! definitely saving this post in my file of favorites for when i have kids.

    this is just the perfect way to display those keepsakes! thanks for sharing :)

    alissa b

  59. I did this with a photo of my daughter’s first bath at the hospital and her first tiny soft shoes + the first knitted hat she wore at the hospital! I used the ribba frame from ikea they are perfect for doing this! :)

  60. that is very precious :)

  61. Love the shadowbox idea! How beautiful ! Love this post JO! Can’t wait to experience motherhood one day :D