Scrap Happy | Free Love Scrapping

I came across a forum post the other day from a scrapper who felt a little overwhelmed with all the photos she had- and she was looking for a plan to get them all scrapped. It made me think back on when I first started scrapping- actually- let me take that back- because when I look back on the photo albums I made as early as when I was 8- I realize those were more than just photos on a page. I added journaling and mementos- basically, a voice to each page- so I think that counts as scrapping. But I mean “consciously scrapping”. Planning albums and pages and gathering supplies and reading all I could on photo and page composition. When I started scrapping that way– I remember getting burned out and overwhelmed pretty quickly- even though I was head over heels in love with the process.

I think a lot of that frustration came from the fact that I tend to be a bit of a perfectionist. I want to do things the right way. And many times- that means I will fall into the trap of being a deer in the headlights- just standing frozen as I try to figure out the best way to do something. So you can imagine what I looked like holding with my pad of 12×12 papers, a bag of craft supplies while staring at the massive shoe box holding about 1000 photos. Where to start?
After all, I started consciously scrapping when I was married for about 13 years- and had a five year old son. Marriage, first house, first job- first child, lots of holidays, good times- the milestones were countless. At the time, the friend I scrapped with was very much a chronological scrapper. We would shop for seasonal and theme papers together- and I would get a pit in my stomach as I watched the supplies pile up- and my list of pages “to-do” grow. The joy was slipping away- and soon- the weight of all the photos I had to scrap almost pushed me to take a step back from this hobby.

But then, (cue in a choir of angels) I came across a mind blowing article in one of my Scrapbooking magazines. (*sigh- remember those?- good times, good times…) It was by Stacy Jullian and she was sharing her take on breaking out of the chains of chronological scrapping and finding Photo Freedom. It blew my mind! I read her book– then found one by Nic Howard and another by Ali Edwards and together they shifted my focus from scrapping photos to telling stories. Storytelling was much easier- and more fun for me than “scrapbooking” as I had come to know it.

The way I see it- if we were to sit down and get to know each other- I would not tell you about my life in a time line. My stories- the ones that make up the person I am- the ones about my family, my awesome husband, my boys, the little silly days, the milestones, and even some of the sad times, they would bounce around like a happy little handball in the court of our conversation. And I’m sure yours would be the same. And we would have fun in this game of back and forth – and get to know each other. 🙂 That is exactly how I scrap.  My albums tend to be random stories- from all time lines.  The albums themselves may focus on one of the boys- or on a season- or on me- but the pages are not chronological.

Here’s how most often I decide which photos to scrap: I will go through my folders- and if a photo catches my eye- I will print it out- and tell the story about why it needed to be scrapped. I give it a voice. Maybe it will tell the story of a milestone- a bench mark- maybe it was a feeling- a thought- a wish- maybe I just thought it was a pretty picture- and my journaling will be sparse- but I will spotlight it in a way so that one day- someone will look back and know that moment was special to me- and by knowing that- they will know me- and my heart a little better.

This Free Love style of scrapping doesn’t mean there is no intention behind my pages– or that I don’t take time to compose or try new techniques or play with new products.  Lots of times, I will get new supplies and work in reverse and try and find photos that go with the supplies. But that still works for me- it’s not fake or forcing it. I’m just looking for a story to tell in a particular way.

Letting go of the time line- and just telling your story is the plan that works best for me. I am still holding onto my Project Life albums- I started them last year- and am working to keep it up because I like corralling my photos in one place- and lots of times- when I print out my month’s highlights- Ill come across one or two photos I want to go into a little more than a pocket. I like to think of my Pocket Album as the Cliff Notes of my memories- they give a great over view- and there’s no doubt they get me more conscious about photographing, printing and documenting. Scrapbooking both ways makes me happy right now- and I think that is the key. This hobby should always make you happy. If it’s not- if you are getting overwhelmed – or stressed or guilt-ed- its time to try another way- shift gears. But I think it’s important to tell your stories. That’s basically all we really are- isn’t it? Our lives I mean? A collection of stories. Not a box or hard drive of photos.

So the next time you start to feel a little like a deer in the photo box headlights- take a breath and just grab a photo- any photo and give it a voice. I promise- it will feel great- and you will make a genuine layout that you can’t help but love. Free love baby!

I don’t make an album for each school year- but most times- my “school” layouts will be like this- a time capsule of sorts.  On this day- as the boys climbed into the trusty old minivan- I grabbed a quick shot.  It may not look like much- until I explain the signs of life. Adding a voice- explaining the back-story helps bring an everyday photo to life- and has made this layout one of my favorites! 


This layout is about the best Christmas present I NEVER got- basically- Ryan tried to but me a coffee maker I had talked about months earlier- that was way more than he had to spend- it’s not a “traditional” Christmas layout out- (Heck- I used a photo from that summer!)  but, I think it captures the spirit of the season better than any under-the-tree photos I had that year. It also goes to show you- you don’t need a photo form the event itself to capture the story. 😉 


This layout  really captures what I mean about conversational scrapping. We brought the little guy to a favorite spot this afternoon- one that had giant wooden play structures. The big guy, Ryan,  had love this place- but we hadn’t been there for about 5 years. A now much bigger Ryan stood in front of his favorite structure and asked- “where’s the BIG boat?” It was right in front of him!- but now being bigger- everything looked so much smaller. *ouch. It was a story I couldn’t wait to share with my husband- and as we laughed- I knew I had to tell it one more time on paper. I’m glad I did. It was a little story- one that may have been forgotten- but now- I get to keep it forever.


I have tons of photos of the kids looking very cool on the field of play- but I knew it was important to capture the fact that things are not always easy- and that there is a back story  to the picture day photos with the medals and trophies. Liam learned more than soccer skills this year- he learned how to lose- and bounce back. Big lesson for a little kid. And while I know some parents were horrified of my taking photos of my crying tot- I’m glad I have this one. Real life, baby. Not always easy- but always- always good! 


what joy will you create today?


  1. Brilliant!! Yes, this hobby needs to bring you joy. If chronological is the method to your madness go for it … otherwise, just have fun with what inspires you. Above all else … just tell your story!!!

  2. Brilliant!! Yes, this hobby needs to bring you joy. If chronological is the method to your madness go for it … otherwise, just have fun with what inspires you. Above all else … just tell your story!!!

  3. I agree with this completely! No rules about having to be "caught up" or doing things in a certain order. I do what inspires me now. Especially since the photos I want to scrap are not always the ones my kids think are great, for whatever reason (teenagers)!

  4. I agree with this completely! No rules about having to be "caught up" or doing things in a certain order. I do what inspires me now. Especially since the photos I want to scrap are not always the ones my kids think are great, for whatever reason (teenagers)!

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