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Creating an Artifact Catalogue

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Two years ago, Frido and I were fortunate to spend 6 weeks on the island of Yakushima where my grandfather had clean up what was left at the house after he passed away six months prior. My family hadn’t had a chance to go through the process of cleaning and organizing his things because this little island is quite far from major cities and it really took more than a weekend to organize a person’s belongings from his lifetime. During those six weeks Frido, Satchi and I spent at his house, we carefully went through each room. We got rid of perishable foods in the kitchen, recycled as much plastic containers and glass jars as possible (he kept everything!) and boxed personal items in a somewhat organized manner. It was a very memorable process that we had an opportunity to take a part of… because it felt like we got to know my grandfather little better through sorting through his belongings. My grandfather often left little notes on his artifacts. For example, an old ruler had a date of purchase written with a permanent marker with his very neat handwriting. I am sure that it was his way of remembering details. Some of those dates surprised us because they were so much older than they looked. Most importantly his hand written memo gave us a sense of who he was.

This unique experience allowed us to reflect about what we own ourselves at our home in Los Angeles. We are always conscious about what we place in our house: from a small vintage container to a piano that fills up quite a bit of space in our humble home. We try to avoid surrounding ourselves with stuff for the sake of buying and having more… instead pay close attention to everything that enters our house to make sure we love how it looks and feels as well as the story behind it. It is a constant work in progress (and it is never perfect) since we are a growing young family. We know some things are with us temporarily because we don’t have a good alternative. But we curate as much as we can.

In order to continue cultivating the culture of meaning in our family, we have come up with a simple way to catalogue the artifacts that we hold close to our hearts. It’s an analogue system that will continue to grow… and hopefully become a clue for Satchi and Coco to figure out what they might do with these artifacts when they grow older. 

As we were brainstorming on the system of archiving and cataloguing artifacts that we own, we went back and fourth between using a notebook vs. index cards. We settled with using index cards since we loved the flexibility of how we can organize a collection of cards and being able to take an artifact out of the archive if/when we decide to say farewell from it in our life. I ordered a few custom stamps to bring consistency to the way each card was documented. On the front of each card, I stamped a title frame and glued a picture of the artifact which often included little bit of context. I love that it gives intimacy to the image and brings out more visual memory. On the back, I wrote few facts about those artifacts and why they mean something special to us... then our hope for what might happen to each artifact. The last part of "Our hope is..." became little hard to write once I had few cards under my belt. It's such a big responsibility we are leaving to our girls when we say, "I would like one of you to hold onto this vintage globe your aunt and I grew up with..." so instead, I ended up writing phrase such as "Our hope is... that someone who is adventurous and loves traveling can continue to get inspired by this globe." That's not too much to ask for, right?

I will continue to document few artifacts each week to grow our catalogue and share the process with my family. The journey is the destination... 


  • wakako: November 04, 2014

    Sandy, I got all my stamps from I did a quick design with their custom wooden stamps. I used 3×5 index cards. They are small but it gives me a good limit to what I end up writing.

  • wakako: November 04, 2014

    Thank you so much for all your comments! I started to work on more cards with Satchi and she loves it when I read the stories to her as well as creating the archive catalogue of “her things” with me. :)

  • cynD: November 02, 2014

    This is singing in my heart, it is not always the stuff, it is the attachment we have with said stuff.. That is what makes things memorable.

  • CL: October 31, 2014

    Now, this is a great idea, Wakako! I think I will use this as a tool not only to collect / curate but also to help me edit. “Do I want to keep this? Would I make a card for it?”

  • Sandy Guderyon: October 31, 2014

    Oh how wonderful this article is! It came just in time for me, as I am decluttering and wondering what to do with certain things. May I ask where you ordered your stamps and what size cards you used-are they regular index cards? Thank you so much for sharing this with us!

  • Susan Henkel: October 31, 2014

    I love this!!! I just finished doing something similar with my mother’s jewelry – some of it seems like not worth much but each piece has a story and I wanted to be sure my daughters and I would always know those stories as my mother turns 90 next week! I only wish I had those perfect stamps you used to add more interest. Thanks for sharing your ideas!

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