Random Thoughts After 7 Years of Scrapbooking

For a long time, I wanted to scrapbook, but I looked at the scrapbooking section in craft stores or big box stores with trepidation. I had friends and family who started scrapbooking (usually as the result of attending a Stampin’ Up or Creative Memories party) and gave it up because of the expense or the time investment or never feeling like their pages were good enough. I worried that my experience would be very similar. As a single mom, I worried about the expense and the time.  As a chronic over-achiever, I worried that my pages wouldn’t measure up to the pages I saw in magazines.

When my mom passed away in 2007, I went through a pretty significant depression.  I was only 36 and my mom would never get to see me graduate college, never get to see my children graduate high school.  I started looking for a way to deal with the grief and loss, but also celebrate her life.  So one day, I went to a big box store, picked up a K&Co paper pack, some solid cardstock in coordinating colors, and some inexpensive tape runners, and got to work.  Less than six months later, I bought a Cricut for titles and embellishments in the ever-growing Mom Memory Book. A few months after that, my fiance built a cabinet to hold my growing stash of scrapping supplies, and installed it in a corner of our bedroom.  Fast forward to 2015 and I now have an entire room, complete with two different kinds of printers, a Silhouette Cameo 2, a large u-shaped work space, and more supplies than I could begin to count. (And a rose-hair tarantula named Fluffy, but that’s another story.)

I’ve since completed my Mom book, four baby albums for the grandkids, and I don’t know how many layouts for my own scrapbooks.  I’ve made good purchases and some really terrible ones.  I’ve designed layouts I loved and those I despised.  I’ve thrown up my hands in despair when I did something that looked awful and blushed with pride when an album made as a present received praise.  Along the way, I learned a few things that made my scrapping life today a far different experience than I imagined when I looked upon the hobby as something daunting and expensive.

  1. Start simple and accumulate slowly.  Start with a paper trimmer, scissors, a paper collection pack, a fine-tip archival-safe pen, a tape runner, and maybe some basic letter stickers, if your paper pack doesn’t include them.  Make layouts until you run out of your first paper pack.  Did you enjoy it?  Is it something that brought you joy or frustration?  Buy another paper pack and keep going. Do you find yourself wishing you had something specific that would make the process easier and more enjoyable?  A paper punch or date stamp or a different kind of adhesive?  If so, by all means, purchase it.  But don’t buy every color of a specific kind of ink because you watched a video that showed how awesome the colors are and how it would make your scrapbook layouts stand out. Be selective in your purchases until you’re sure you’ll stick with it.  If you decide after six months that it just isn’t for you, you’re probably not going to be able to recoup 10% of your investment.  Spend wisely until you are as hooked as the rest of us. If you never purchase anything other than the items mentioned above, your scrapbooks are going to be beautiful and unique and perform the same function as the scrapbooks created by someone who has purchased every tool and embellishment in the Hobby Lobby or Michael’s scrapbooking section.
  2. It isn’t perfectbooking, so don’t try to make it perfect. There is no such thing.  Tell your story in words and pictures in a way that helps you remember the details and will allow future generations to know your story and share your memories of a time, place, or person.  So what if your page doesn’t look balanced or if the colors are off or if you find a spelling error in your journaling?  Fifty years from now, with luck, your great-grandkids will look at the pictures and read the stories and be enthralled by details of our lives today or your life during your childhood.  They won’t care that the blue paper didn’t match the letter stickers or that you spelled Kansas with three S’s.  (Been there, done that.) Lighten up
  3. Don’t get married to a particular style of scrapbooking. This is an ever-evolving craft.  Trends come and go but the purpose remains the same.  Tell your story.  Be creative.  Get your photos where your friends and family can see them.  Everything beyond the basic words and pictures is just a bonus, not a necessity. Try new styles or techniques when you have time and can afford the investment if there is one, but don’t be afraid to give it up if it isn’t for you.  I signed on to the Swirlydoos kit club pretty early in my scrapbooking journey and have some heavily embellished, bulky pages to show for it that are beautiful, but just not something that appealed to me after a few months.  I gave it up and moved onto other techniques.  I tried to do a scrapbook that was only Project Life/pocket page style layouts and discovered I missed my 12×12 pages, but I loved the opportunity to add in more photos quickly, even those that aren’t necessarily ideal to be the focal point of full 12×12 layout.  So now, my albums are a conglomeration of 12×12 layouts interspersed with pocket page layouts. I developed a fondness for the mixed media pages that became popular over the last few years, so you’ll find a lot of them in my albums.  More recently, I discovered the Kiwi Lane templates and after playing with a few of them and trying their layout techniques, I determined that they make a great counterbalance to both the unstructured look of the mixed media layouts and the more linear look of the pocket page style layouts. So now you’ll find them mixed in with my other layouts, as well.
  4. Follow blogs and boards on Pinterest and YouTube channels.  Take advantage of all the information that’s out there for free before you invest in books or magazines.  I have a ton of books and have spent more money than I’d like to think about on magazines.  They sit in a closet for most of the year, generally until closet cleaning time when I go, “I should really start using these,” flip through them, and put them back on the shelf.  I find inspiration and ideas more often on Pinterest and YouTube than anywhere else.  I’m more likely to use them as resources than the books and magazines because they’re constantly changing and very diverse.  I’m not limited to the style and insight of the author.
  5. Whatever you do, be you. Get your stories on paper.  If you don’t like your handwriting, journal on Word and print it out.  There are beautiful, free fonts available that look like handwriting. Pick one or two or a dozen and start writing your memories down in your words, the way you talk.  That’s going to be the most memorable and amazing thing about the scrapbooks you produce for the people who love you. I have a two page spread that I made in 2009 or so.  It’s the story of my middle son, some ugly gourds, and a goat. The layout is a cluster-yeah. I put too much in too small of a space, used way too many colors, and used lots of really exaggerated angles on the pictures so you have to hold your head just right to enjoy them.  But it’s the one that my kids and family spend the most time reading and giggling over.  Because I told the story as I remember it, in my words, and took pictures to commemorate the occasion that made my son hate goats to this day. So even though I still don’t love the layout, the story is something I cherish and now others can see it as I remember it.

I love scrapbooking.  I’m rarely happier than a day I get to spend puttering around my office, scanning pictures, pouring through the bits and bobs of memorabilia I’ve collected, sorting through my paper stash for the right combination of patterns, But after seven years and several times of purging stuff I’ve purchased and will never, ever use, I wish I’d had this list when I started.  If I’d known then what I know now, I would have so much more money….to buy more paper!