I have this fantasy that one day I will create The Most Amazing Family Scrapbook Anyone Has Ever Seen, not to mention elaborate personalized books for each one of my children. However, that day may take a while to get here. Having five children from age seven down to newborn means that I have little extra time. Also, when I imagine myself spreading my scrapbooking supplies all over the kitchen table, I immediately flash to an image of us in the ER an hour later, a surgeon removing a decorative charm that says something like FAMILY FUN from my two-year-old’s ear.

Meanwhile, I didn’t want all the cute moments from daily life to be forgotten while I wait for the day that I can capture them in some artsy way, so I’ve found a system for capturing family memories that even I can handle. It’s simple, easy, and—best of all—cheap! All you need is a free program called Evernote, and you’re ready to get started. (I have no affiliation with the company that makes Evernote, I’m just a huge fan of their product.)

How to capture family moments and memories in no time at all:

  1. Download Evernote and install it on your computer. (You can also get it for your mobile phone, iPad, or use a web-only version—whatever is most convenient for you.)
  2. Create a new notebook called Family Memories.
  3. Start adding notes, creating a new one for each tidbit you’d like to remember. For example, one note might recount a particularly amazing performance at your daughter’s volleyball game. Another might record some data you want to remember, like, “Took Billy to the doctor today. He already weighs 24 pounds!”

That’s it! Evernote captures the date of the note, so you don’t need to worry about that. Also, your data is kept on a “cloud,” which means that (a) you don’t need to worry about backups, since your information is stored away from your computer, and (b) you can access your data from anywhere. So if you’re at your brother’s house and the kids do something cute, you can jump on his computer, log in to Evernote online, and add a note to your folder.

Some cool ways to get even more use out of the system:

  • Evernote files can accept pictures, so you can add photos to go with your notes, or even scan in papers like diplomas, awards, or artwork.
  • Add Evernote to your iPhone, Andriod, or iPad. That way when the kids do something noteworthy at the park, you can snap a picture, dash out a comment, and instantly add it to your file.
  • When you sign up you’ll receive a custom email address so that you can email updates to your file. So next time you email the grandparents to tell them some story about the kids, just CC your Evernote account and your story will automatically be added.
  • Add tags to your notes depending on how you may want to use the information in the future. Some examples: Add a tag with each kid’s name who’s mentioned in the note; then, later, you can go back and sort on individual names if you’d like to produce separate collections of stories for each child. You could add a tag like funny, then later create a collection of humorous family stories, or label all your Christmas memories with a tag by that name, one day returning to create a book of all your Christmas memories over the years.

Once you have this system down, the possibilities are endless. You can reference the data you capture to create scrapbooks the old fashioned way, or use services like Shutterfly or Snapfish to create professional-quality photo books in minutes. With the easy search and sorting capabilities, it takes only seconds to access the information you need to create custom collections of memories. With the no-hassle, straightforward interface, you won’t need to worry about letting treasured family moments slip by, even when you’re so busy living those moments that you don’t have much time to record them.

What are your tips for keeping track of family memories when you’re short on time?