A personal memories vault is a [[Permanent life asset]] intended as a repository for memories you want to keep for the rest of your life. It should be designed in a durable format, backed up in case the original is damaged or lost, and allow for continuous additions and improvements. How you structure the vault is up to you. I describe my personal approach below. ## A personal example I started this practice in 2021, occasionally refining it along the way. My vault consists of a set of local markdown files that I access using an app called [Obsidian](https://obsidian.md). I also have an attachments folder that collects photos and other media that I might link to in the notes. I've broken my memories vault into six types of notes, each contained within their own folder: ### People These notes are about people I've known. Nearly all of these notes are about people I used to interact with, but no longer do. So this includes my first girlfriend, my deceased grandma, and that work colleague I'd occasionally hang out with but stopped seeing once I changed jobs. ### Places These are notes about places that have been personally meaningful in my life. While there is some overlap with my [[Digital gardening for travel]] journal, these places are usually the local places I regularly visited: our local bar, my high school campus, my first apartment, or the favorite mom-and-pop restaurant I'd frequent. ### Things These notes are generally about possessions that I want to remember. This might be my first car, or that trinket (and the story behind it), or a particular book that really inspired me. ### Stories Many of these other note types naturally contain their own stories. But this is a destination for stories that don't fit elsewhere. ### Events These notes focus on a particular (usually special) event. Examples include: my wedding ceremony, a family funeral I attended, or getting my first covid vaccine. ### Themes These are probably the most unusual of the note types. Theme notes tie together other notes (sometimes acting like a [[Map of Content]]), or allow for reflection across a broader topic. I only use them when the topic seems to span individual notes. For example, I have theme notes around 4th Grade, my memories of the City of Mesa where I grew up, my first marriage, and my experience of online dating. ### Inbox New drafts start in an inbox folder until they're ready to be moved into the appropriate folder. I don't wait for a note to be perfect or complete before moving it, as I expect to continue to add additional details in the future. It just has to be more than a stub. But I personally like having a place where I can capture something I want to write about but might not have the time to do it justice yet, and I don't want it to get lost amongst the other notes. ## Benefits Because [[Memories are forgotten]], [[Memories change over time|change over time]], and [[Digital memories can be lost in clutter|can be lost in digital clutter]], a personal memories vault is a great way to preserve and reflect on important memories. When I started my own memories vault, I primarily saw it as a way to permanently store memories, as I had noticed that I was starting to forget some details. And so far, I can tell that this practice is going to create one of my most treasured life assets. But I didn't realize that the simple act of writing these memories down would help me think a bit deeper about each topic. I know that [[Writing is thinking]], but I hadn't really applied that concept to my own feelings (as opposed to just thinking through ideas or strategies) until I started journaling more. And, just like my travel journaling, I've learned that [[Reflection leads to self-discovery]], and that's been one of the best aspects of this endeavor. In addition, having a place to permanently store the memories associated with things makes it much easier to declutter and get rid of a physical object, which many people keep simply to remind them of something. Written memories (along with attached photos and/or video) in my memories vault are better than just keeping the object itself because they contain far more context and personal insight. In a similar way, having a place to capture memories about specific people also helps me to declutter my digital life, too. I don't need to hold on to things like a contact record or a facebook friendship that I don't really need or want anymore, simply to maintain a memory that I want to keep. I sometimes include whatever contact information I have at that moment in the note in case there's a reason to track them down later, but then remove them from my other digital systems. ## Why I like this more than traditional journaling Traditional journaling is usually structured by time—specifically, the day you happen to write. This works well when you're just trying to get something out of your head. But most memories aren't tied to a certain day: they're tied to people, places, things, concepts, as so forth. Searching a date-based journal in order to add more details or a new insight does not seem ideal. So I wanted a structure that would better align with how my brain works. It's also easy to connect notes together using bidirectional links, which ends up feeling more like a richly connected wikipedia entry than a narrative in a personal journal. ## When to add to your memories vault Whenever you're inspired to! I personally expect this to be a lifelong endeavor, not something that's ever finished. So I try to add to it as I think of something and have a spare moment or two I can devote to it. And while I'm not in a rush or feel pressure to add every important memory to my vault as soon as possible, I try to add items—especially stories and events—soon after they happen, if only to ensure I don't forget the important aspects. I also write a note about an object or person before I purge either from my life. Similar to my [[Progressive journaling]] technique, I will also add additional detail or reflections to existing notes whenever I run across them. I've also experimented with devoting a few minutes towards it during my morning or evening routine, though it's not something I've committed to doing long-term just yet. I'm trying to find a balance between making sure that I start building this as a real resource for myself, while also not making it feel too much like work. Reflecting on all of the things, people, places, events, and themes in your life is an incredible undertaking, so I just want to keep chugging along, even if my progress isn't as fast as I'd like it to be. Even if I never quite seem to capture everything I *should*, I know that the effort will have paid many dividends. --- If you start your own personal memories vault, [please let me know](https://rscottjones.com/contact)!