5.5 Tips For Beginning Memory Keepers

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Every now and then I'll receive an email or a question about how to begin scrapbooking.

I first started scrapbooking in 2002 when Simon was 11 months old. I had been browsing the internet looking for a baby book. After finding one too many that didn't fit my style I somehow ended up at twopeasinabucket.com and first saw what I would describe as "modern" scrapbooking that included a variety of photo sizes, journaling and embellishments on 12x12 or 8.5x11 cardstock foundations.

Fast forward 12 years (!!!) to today and some things are the same and others are very different.

There's definitely more variety these days - more options for page sizes and philosophies albums and projects and one of the biggest changes are the advances in digital photography. When I first started I was using a film camera as were most people at that time. So many different options can be great but it can also be super overwhelming if you are attempting to figure out where to begin.

Here are some 2014 thoughts on getting started with memory keeping:

ONE | Begin with the end in mind. Think about your overall memory keeping purpose: photo storage, storytelling, creative expression, etc. Why are you embarking on this adventure? Do you want to have more words on your pages than photos? Do you want to play with lots of pretty paper or try out lots of different creative techniques? What are you looking to have in the end? Are you looking to this to be your creative outlet or is it more about organization of memorabilia or storytelling or a little bit of all those things? It's totally possible that you won't know in the beginning what you want in the end as you first start - but it's worth thinking about it in advance. You will absolutely learn as you go and will likely go through phases where one or the other or the other aspect is most important for a period of time.

Once you've started thinking about the format for your scrapbook(s) and your overall intentions with memory keeping it will make it a whole lot easier moving forward. If you aren’t sure I’d recommend beginning with something like Project Life® - a simple and straight-forward memory keeping system that uses pockets for photos and journal cards without a ton of embellishments. You can see all my Project Life® archives hereI think Project Life® is a great entry point for people who are interested in bringing their photos and stories together in one location.

Also think about how much time you envision yourself investing in this endeavor. You might have just one project/album to complete or you might be embarking on a new lifestyle of documentation (you might not know it at this point in time and that's okay).

PS | Don't get caught up in the name. Maybe it's traditional scrapbooking or Project Life or art journaling or pocket pages or a single stand-alone album project or digital scrapbooking or whatever. They are all memory keeping and they are all awesome ways to tell the stories of your life and those you care about most.

TWO | Start simple. Don’t go out and buy a bunch of craft supplies or feel like you have to have a whole room set up to document your life. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with everything that's available. Start with the basics: an album to hold your photos or your layouts (those might be 12x12 or 8.5x11 or 6x8), some pens for writing your story, some paper or journaling cards and something to use to take pictures (I use my iphone probably more than 60% of the time these days). You can see my list of basics and things I recommend here. Also my list of Project Life basics here.

You might want to check out a memory keeping kit club that offers a fun collection of coordinated papers and embellishments. Most offer at least a one-month purchase option so you can see what it's all about before making a longer commitment. A few companies I have worked with and recommend include StudioCalico.com, CocoaDaisy.com and ScrapbookCircle.com. Another benefit of kit clubs is that most of them include galleries for people to share what they made with the kits - makes it easier to get started with specific inspiration and ideas for the stuff that you have right in front of you.

TWO POINT FIVE | You don't have to scrapbook every photo you take. I'll repeat it again in case it's something you need to read again: you don't have to scrapbook every photo you take. People tend to go one way or the other on this and both result in overwhelm (you will likely either have a hard time narrowing it down to one or two or you will want to include all 20 shots you took of your daughter hunting for Easter eggs). When I'm working on a page or a project I ask myself over and over again if one is enough to complement my words (and often it is but sometimes more are needed to tell a more complete story).

THREE | Make a list of the stories you want to get told. What are the important stories you want to include in your scrapbook? Consider going beyond birthdays and holidays to include stories and photos about your everyday life. Where do you call home? What does it look like and feel like and how do you feel about it? What's your daily routine? Check out my Day In The Life or Week In The Life posts for additional inspiration.

Also consider using your scrapbook as a place to write about the things you’re thankful for, letters to your kids that document where they are right now, a list of the most meaningful moments in your life up to this point, etc. Scrapbooks are such an awesome opportunity to celebrate and document more of our lives than just the holidays.

To collect the stories I want to tell in my memory keeping endeavors I've been using Evernote.

FOUR | Look online for inspiration. Check out sites such as Twopeasinabucket.com or Scrapbook.com or StudioCalico.com or Pinterest. Don’t be afraid to copy other layout/album ideas as you begin to get comfortable with your own memory keeping methods.

FIVE | Embrace imperfection. It’s less about making things perfect and more about getting your stories told. People often stop scrapbooking because they're afraid they aren't creating “perfect” pages or telling “perfect” stories or using "perfect" supplies. Let that go. Just start. Start with the story that's on your heart right now. Maybe all you do is type it up on a piece of 8.5x11 paper and stick a photo alongside those words and call it good just to get started. Our lives are full of imperfections and our scrapbooks are an awesome place to reflect that truth. Have fun and don’t take it too seriously.

And PS | Do what you want to do. These are your memories and your time and your words and your life. Memory keeping can be anything you want it to be and doesn't have to fit any particular prescription. You might start out doing one thing and switch to another and that's perfectly okay. No guilt, nothing to apologize for, etc. Keep it real for yourself and your family and your lifestyle.

What are your tips for a new scrapbooker/memory keeper?

39 thoughts

  1. orange gearle

    2014-04-21 11:52:15 -0400

    It must be that time for reflection when it comes to all of this. :-) I just did a two part series on my blog about 'just starting' project life and making it work for you! :-)

    * edited 08/08/14 05:56PM
  2. Anne

    2014-04-21 13:35:01 -0400

    I tried to make pages and something just didn't work for me... then I tried Project Life and someting jsut clicked. :-)

    When will you be doing Week in the life in 2014?

    * edited 08/08/14 05:56PM
  3. Lynn Wigren

    2014-04-21 13:58:40 -0400

    Ali, I am very thankful for this post! I've been scrapbooking since 1998 and have felt burnt-out for the last year. This has been great to read through and remember the reasons I started. I feel a "re-newed" sense of purpose and look forward to spending time this evening looking through my albums and re-thinking how I want to proceed.

    * edited 08/08/14 05:56PM
  4. Amberca

    2014-04-21 14:49:50 -0400

    This is all such great advice Ali! I have been scrapbooking since 1997 after the birth of my daughter. When I first started I scrapbooked just for my family and for me, it was very freeing and enjoyable. Then somewhere along the line I started scrapbooking for recognition. I scrapbooked for kit clubs, design teams, contests and submissions....and I burned out, I didn't enjoy it anymore. I am just now starting to want to scrapbook again, and this time I want to tell my story just for my family and me, not caring what anyone else thinks or if I am using the newest products and the enjoyment factor is back. Don't worry about trends, do what looks good to your eye.

    * edited 08/08/14 05:56PM
  5. Viki

    2014-04-21 15:26:38 -0400

    Thank you Ali. I just wanted to share that I have had no time to scrapbook this past year. I still took a good amount of photos. Now that I have time again I have printed the photos and have them in a PL book. Now I just have to go back and tell the stories. How could I not tell the stories of selling a house, building a new house, holidays, birthdays, a family wedding, a family funeral, and everyday life! Thanks for keeping me motivated.

    * edited 08/08/14 05:56PM
  6. Sharon

    2014-04-21 15:32:12 -0400

    I am a newbie to Project Life. Love what I see. Have tons of old family photographs which I dearly need to document. I particularly liked the tip that you don't need to scrapbook every photograph that has been taken. Time to do a clean sweep and turf out what you don't really need to keep. Best to use those that one can share a story about. I will remember these. Thanks Ali.

    * edited 08/08/14 05:56PM
  7. Anne

    2014-04-21 15:33:02 -0400

    Thanks Ali! I've been scrapbooking for a number of years but find I have a mental block when it comes to embellishing. Do you (or anyone reading this) know of a tutorial or anything that can help me better understand how to layer embellishments and make sure I don't have "floaters?" Sometimes these things just don't come together for me. Most times I try to keep it simple, but I do admit to liking many of the embellishments available today. I've tried searching online but I get so many results it's a bit overwhelming. Thanks for any help! :)

    * edited 08/08/14 05:56PM
  8. Ksenia

    2014-04-21 16:22:52 -0400

    Ali, I have been following your blog for almost 8 years and have been meaning to complete Project Life for the last two. I have notes/journaling for the last year and a half, but managed to only complete 3 weeks of Project Life! My problem is that I'm a photographer and it's not unusual for me to have over 200 photos per week. Narrowing down to just a few takes me so long, that I run out of time for the week and get further and further behind (three kids 5yr and under). You say that you don't worry about using all of your photos in PL because you'll use some others in a different project, but I have no intention of doing any other projects. What should I do with the other photos? This photo selection process is so debilitating for me. Maybe you or your readers have some advice.

    * edited 08/08/14 05:56PM
  9. Ellen

    2014-04-21 16:38:31 -0400

    Thanks for tip 2.5!

    * edited 08/08/14 05:56PM
  10. Debbie in AZ

    2014-04-22 00:36:14 -0400

    I have been scrapbooking since 1997. My advice is:
    1) just START-- photos and a few (or many)words in any album is better than photos in a shoebox or on a hard drive
    2) be sure to jot down names and dates-you think you'll remember but you won't always
    3) do what makes you feel good -- as little or as much as you want to
    4) you will go through phases of approach/style/quantity/products; it's all good
    5) it's a hobby (for most of us) not a job; think of it like golf or fishing or knitting. Have fun, avoid perfection, consider the end product as a bonus (a good golf score/fish for supper/scarf/scrapbook album) of your fun.

    * edited 08/08/14 05:56PM
  11. Leanne

    2014-04-22 02:46:11 -0400

    Thanks Ali! I have been scrapbooking about 10 years, and I have no problem doing the smaller events, it's the big trips and events that I KNOW are going to have many pages that are simply overwhelming to me. I am embracing that it is okay to not get all the photos printed at one time, just break it down into what I can handle and the same for getting them scrapped. I have also decided that with many page/100's of photos projects that I will scrap some pages and intermix them with PL style (but with We R pages) pages as well. That way I get the scrapped pages AND lots of photos with many less hours spent. And I am equally happy with the completed pages whether they are scrapped or in photo pockets. Photos off the computer, out of the box, page done and story told... that is what makes me happy!
    Oh, and advise for a newbie... just start!!! I'm quoting someone I can't recall here, but "The hardest part of getting anything done is just getting started" SO TRUE!

    * edited 08/08/14 05:56PM
  12. Denise

    2014-04-22 12:46:13 -0400

    All of your tips are awesome...they always are. I have been scrapbooking for years now, but I feel like I am still a beginner in some ways. Mostly because of how I have let perfection get in the way. I have many stories and pages that have yet to be documented because of perfectionism. So tip #5...Embrace Imperfection...completely speaks to me. When it comes down to it once I am able quiet the perfection gremlins and just get started, the biggest battle has been won and I am able to enjoy creative bliss. Thanks for the inspiration!

    * edited 08/08/14 05:56PM
  13. Jennifer K

    2014-04-22 17:44:05 -0400

    Project Life/pocket scrapbooking is a great way to deal with a lot of old photos that are already printed, that you just want to get into an album and be able to add some journaling cards. I've gone digital for my 12x12 layouts, as I found paper scrapping to be too time- and space-consuming, but love pocket scrapbooking for printed photos. I'd recommend sticking with formats that have sheet protectors with combinations of 3x4 and 4x6 pockets so you can use the cards that are so widely available now. 12x12 with pockets is great for a large album, or 6x8 with the same sizes of pockets is a great smaller size. Back up all your digital stuff, and HAVE FUN!!

    * edited 08/08/14 05:56PM
  14. Blue Skies

    2014-04-22 18:56:53 -0400

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    * edited 08/08/14 05:56PM
  15. LauraJ

    2014-04-22 21:22:23 -0400

    Thanks for this post. I have been working on paring down my belongings to just the essentials and your post provided me with the freedom to just make a decision! Project life works because I don't need to store a bunch of supplies and spend hours thinking they have to look "just so". This really is a gift -- thanks Ali. I feel much freer to get rid of all the supplies I haven't used and am feeling guilty about not using.

    * edited 08/08/14 05:56PM
  16. Christine Bell

    2014-04-22 23:41:52 -0400

    I appreciate your P.S. on #1 of not getting caught up in a name. I art journal and didn't really see it as memory keeping. I think you are right. It really is memory keeping but just in a different way. I would like to experiment with some of the Project Life ideas and see how I could do things a bit different than I am currently and have done in the past. Thanks.

    * edited 08/08/14 05:56PM
  17. Ru

    2014-04-23 15:41:32 -0400

    I appreciate this post more than words can express. I recently started Project Life and I did exactly what you said not to do. I went out and bought every pretty thicker and embellishment that I thought I "needed". Two months in I was so overwhelmed with the lack of space that I had for everything. Which lead to difficulty choosing what I wanted to use and what I didn't. This post helped so much in reminding me why I want to scrap and that it shouldn't be so overwhelming!! Thanks a ton Ali!!!

    * edited 08/08/14 05:56PM
  18. Lisa

    2014-04-24 20:27:14 -0400

    I tell people that you will never be caught up and that's ok. I tell people to start present and work back as time allows.

    * edited 08/08/14 05:56PM
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  20. Jules

    2014-04-26 01:14:35 -0400

    I found much more enjoyment in scrapbooking (mostly PL these days) once I decided it was just for me. Previously I felt I was recording family history for generations to come and the pressure to be perfect, cover everything that happened and back it all up with super detailed journaling was just exhausting and sucked all the fun out of it. I realised one day my (adult) kids just aren't that interested in my albums and ironically that was very freeing! Now, I record what ever takes my fancy each week. After all that editorial decision reflects me now. In five years I may select different things to record. I also try to include the things I wish I had of my grandparents and those further back - handwritten recipes, notes, cards, anything. I would love to have something that personal from previous generations. Checkout receipts from the supermarket, packaging from snacks or tea, napkins from restaurants .. daily details that will never be recorded in history books but tell the story of who I am and how I spend my life.

    * edited 08/08/14 05:56PM
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