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Scrapbooking Q & A : Excess, Feeling Behind/Overwhelmed, Purging/Donating Supplies

This may sound strange--but do you have an opinion if there is ever too much? I get comments frequently from family/friends who do not pursue this hobby/passion that I have too many pages devoted to my son or that it is ridiculous to have a space devoted in a corner of my home to scrapping. What do you say to this or do ever question your own excess to this hobby?
Posted by: Kristine Sherman

Yes, I believe there can too much. For me the excess comes in the form of supplies more often than the number of pages. Many people out there buy much more than they actually scrapbook.

I think that everyone has a choice for their hobby time and dollars. Some people will choose to spend their time + money playing golf or video games or racing cars or sewing or reading or gardening or decorating or whatever their hobby may be. All those hobbies include some "stuff" but rarely does it include as much little bits of stuff as crafters end up acquiring. I usually bring something up along those lines if someone drives the conversation that way.

Going back through all my layouts recently I did have the feeling that there were too many. Part of that feeling for me came from the observation that some of them felt like they were just fluff with very little substance (either in stories or photos). That said, I will not be getting rid of any of them - they are part of the overall story of our lives. It made a big impact on me moving forward.

Hey Ali, wondering what you do with all your scraps? Do you purge a few times a year? I feel guilty throwing away scraps, but want to leave room for new stuff too, without ever expanding my space. I'm trying really hard to 'contain' my hobby to a certain amount of space.
Posted by: young c-m


I keep a box under my work table (a kitchen island - I stand up to scrapbook) that holds scraps. As you can see, it is pretty full right now. If I am looking for smaller bits of paper (maybe ones I want to square punch, etc) I hit that box first before reaching for a whole new sheet. Sometimes when my Mom comes over she will go through the box and pick out pieces that speak to her. Other than that, every once in awhile I will just empty it into the recycling box (or ask the school if they want it) and move on.

I would like to hear some suggestions from you about getting back into scrapbooking after several years out. I used to do a lot of scrapbooking in the late 90's and really enjoyed it. I used mostly CM products and style and did almost exclusively 12x12. I had life events that took me out of the routine and have never successfully gotten back to it. I think part of the issue is that I am overwhelmed by getting so far behind again (I was SOOO happy when I got the 90's completely done) and also don't really think those big album/spreads are inspiring me right now. I also lost my mom a little over a year ago and I think that is contributing to hesitation to get back in there. I have continued to do paper crafting with cards/stamping and I have done a couple of mini albums for trips in the last year or so that I've enjoyed.
Posted by: Peggy

One of the biggest things I suggest is changing your mindset. The entire issue of being "behind" is something that really binds people up.

What I would do is identify three stories you really want to tell. These don't have to be monumental stories, they can be simple everyday stories about your life right now or they could be something that happened five years ago that you want to remember. The idea is to find the love again - what did you love about the hobby in the past.

It sounds like you may be interested in doing something in a smaller size? How about choosing one of those stories you really want to tell and doing that in minibook? One of the best things about minibooks is that there is a beginning and an end and they tend to give people a bit of creative confidence in the simple fact of finishing a specific project.

This may be too big of a jump for you (or it may be of interest and inspiring) but here's a link to what the inside of one of my 12x12 albums look like: anatomy of an album. Maybe you are ready to try a smaller sized layout or work with some divided page protectors to get some of those stories told.

i love scrapbooking and have 4 kids (ages 12-22). needless to say i have a lot of albums. i noticed that you have a lot of albums, too. i don't think there can be too many, but it seems like the magazines have been doing articles about scaling down lately. do you think there is a problem with having so many albums...i like to document all areas of our life.
Posted by: christen

I think it is a personal choice on how many albums you want to have and how much space you have to store them. Right now I have a lot of albums (around 30 I think) and only one kid that is just 6.5 years old. To be honest, to me, that seems like a lot. We also live in small space and storing those albums becomes an issue. I am not sure how I am going to address this issue once baby number two comes along.

I don't think there is a problem with having so many albums - like I said above, it is totally a personal choice and if it brings you joy + happiness then you should go for it!

You seem to be a very environmentally conscious (among other great things) person who would not waste supplies either bought or given to you. I'm wondering how you deal with old supplies never used that are now "out of style" or that you don't like anymore. Do you donate them, use them anyway or alter them?
Posted by: Laura

Most of the time I donate the extra supplies (some new and some gently used) to local schools, charities, to local friends, and some go to a boutique sale.

How often should one do a Spring Cleaning with crafting supplies? (I am embarrassed to admit that I have stamp sets that I HAD TO HAVE, but have never used them... Is it best to adopt a Use It or Lose It philosophy?)
Posted by: Sarah (Hutchinson, MN)

I think spring cleaning needs to happen anytime you feel like you are being overtaken by your supplies. I end up doing it quarterly (or more often depending on how I feel). I know all about the "had to have" but have never used syndrome - I think that is normal :). I do a modified use it or lose it - sometimes I have good intentions to use something and it just doesn't happen. I carefully consider those things when I am doing a spring cleaning. Actually, I am pretty ruthless when it comes to spring cleaning.

How you make decisions on what to purge. I realize this is very individualized but I am having a heck of a time letting go of things. Maybe what I am asking is the whole state of mind regarding letting go, simplifying and so forth.
Posted by: Bec

Over time I have really come to know that supplies I will most likely use. There are supplies I know I will use: my 5 colors of cardstock (white, cream, kraft, red, and black), Dot N Roller adhesive, certain stamps (see below), lined patterned paper, minibooks, silver mini brads, embellishments that focus on the theme of memories, life, or today, a selection of letter stickers, and letter stamps (and probably a few other things).

For me the decision to get rid of supplies usually comes down to a combination of storage space and just feeling overwhelmed with the amount of stuff in this room. When I feel like I can't breathe when I come in here or the room seems to be throwing up out the door I know it is time to reduce the overall amount of stuff. I always ask myself "will I really use this?" and I am brutally honest with myself because it does me no good creatively to have the weight of supplies I am not going to use hanging around.

I'm wondering if I've gotten into buying more than crafting. Can you have too many stamps? I was thinking of actually getting rid of some because it seems overwhelming. Does that sound crazy?? LOL
Posted by: Rainy


I totally think you can have too many stamps (or too much paper or to many embellishments and on and on). I find that the more supplies I have the more time I spend thinking about (and choosing) what I am going to use rather than just picking the first thing I think of and using that. Too many choices can paralyze you for moving forward in your creative process.

Here's a look at my collection of wood mounted stamps. I was just thinking yesterday that it has been awhile since I used most of these (as goes my creative cycle) and it is probably time to go through them again. In the case of some of the stamps I know there are ones I will never get rid of: many of the circles, squares, lines, holiday, ones related to today/everyday, numbers, etc - essentially the basic/generic shapes and themes that I create with most often. They are the ones I have already used multiple times and are most likely to turn to again.

What do you do to get your spark back when you don't feel like scrapping for a while or have been unable to?
Posted by: Miriam

I am in this place right now. Being pregnant for me so far has meant that I feel more unmotivated than I can remember for a long time. I pretty much just want to sleep and/or read all the time (hence I am half-way through the Twilight series).

In general my answer to this question is to just ride the wave. No force. No guilt. No pressure on yourself to get back into the groove. Let yourself be attracted to other things, develop other passions, etc. I tend to believe that we all need a break (and that they happen for a reason) and that when you come back to scrapbooking you will have a new perspective/new thoughts that will only enhance the way you tell your stories.

One of the ways I have gotten back in the groove in the past is by using a kit. It's nice to just have a project to follow along (without a lot of creative energy being expended) and get your hands, heart, and head moving together again creatively.

What you would suggest for someone who has gotten so far behind?  I have a ton of supplies that I can't possibly organize (I don't have a scraproom, just a section of my closet and piles on the floor).  I really would like to get into a creative flow but I've been blocked for so long.  I know the cause of the block (lots of family drama and personal illness).  I have spent time getting things clear in my head and am ready and have a ton of ideas for things I want to create but I can't seem to get it together!  Do you suggest I start with organizing photos or supplies or just dive in?
Posted by: Jennifer

I suggest picking one story to focus on and diving in. I know I can spend more time organizing than creating if I let myself. You may also want to spend a bit of time writing down those ideas you are having if they are just currently living in your head - I lose those ideas way too fast if I don't write them down quickly.


Q & A posts :
MiniBooks/Sharing Your Story/Supplies
Design/Inspiration/Finding Your Style
Events/Teaching/Internet/Creating Keepsakes/Misc.
Hybrid/Digital Scrapbooking/Photoshop
Excess/Feeling Behind/Overwhelmed/Purging/Donating Supplies
Organization + Storage/Work + Life + Finding Time
Scrapbooking Baby/Getting Started + Design Teams/Telling Your Story
Techniques/Photography + Printing

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29 thoughts

  1. Joscelyne Cutchens says…

    I am loving reading all of your Q& A. It is so nice of you to spend your time answering our questions. Thank You! :)

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  2. christen says…

    thanks for doing this q and a...totally informative and fun. and it has made the first and second days of school w/o my kids easier for me :)

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  3. Nora says…

    I love the questions and answers you are doing right now. What a big help to me and I'm sure all of us. Thank you so much for taking the time to do this for us. I know you live a busy life so taking your time out of your busy life to do this means a lot to me and all of us.

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  4. angie says…

    i just want to let you know that i am loving "hearing" from you on all these topics! thanks=)

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  5. Tonya Baiz says…

    This is great stuff! I can't wait for the organizing part! Thanks

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  6. {vicki} says…

    Just send those scraps and stamps my way!!!!!
    and by the way NO WAY can you have too many albums

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  7. Amy says…

    TWILIGHT = love. LOL. I haven't read any books so fast since before Emma was born. These are terrific books!

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  8. iHanna says…

    Ali and young c-m,
    there is a market for everything. I do collages that uses very tiny pieces of any sort of paper, I buy scrap bags of other peoples left overs or try to get them in trades or gifts. Just so you know, One person's junk is another person's treasure! :-)

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  9. Karen says…

    All these questions and answers are great. Thanks for taking the time to do this. It motivated me to purge a huge stack of patterned paper which I gave to a very grateful friend today. I DO have too much, and I think it keeps me from being productive. Thanks for the inspiration. Little by little I'm planning to purge other supplies as well.

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  10. Bonnie says…

    I would like to reiterate a point Ali has brought up which is the opportunity to donate supplies that we have outgrown, "regret purchases" (i.e., things I buy and then think later, wow, this isn't me at all!), duplicates (which is a sign I am shopping way more than scrapping), or simply feel like cleaning up my space and hence my mind. I recently donated my wood-based stamps (which I felt take up way too much room) to our community center. They do lots of crafts there with kids who are primarily from economically disadvantaged populations. I believe that no one need be artistically disadvantaged so I have vowed to clean up my scrap studio and donate whatever I could. They loved the items, especially the inspirationally slanted messages. I bet every scrapper (come on, admit it, there is a bit of packratness in all of us) could make a huge difference in their communities by simply purging and donating! :)

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  11. Bonnie says…

    I really like the point raised about motivation. I am finishing my PhD at the age of 49 (why I decided to do this I really wonder on some days!) and feel drained by the demands of academia at times. I am simply too tired and my creative juices need to be focused on so many other things realted to my career that I find no motivation to scrap -- instead I just think about it all the time. To me this is a sign that I am out of balance -- I find that focusing on one project, or one story, or simply one moment breaks the stupor of being stalled in the land of scrap paralysis. The question I ask is, what story do I want to tell right now?

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  12. Jen Demmon says…

    Ali - Thank you for all the answers. They are very thoughtful and very inspiring. Thank you for making the time to address them all. You are awesome!
    Happy Friday,

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  13. Peggy says…

    You're the best. I KNOW I read the post about the divided page protectors and I probably even followed the links but today when you set it in that context and I went to look at the Pebbles and Co. Share and Tell products, there was a definite 'click' for me. This may be just what I needed! Thanks soooo much for taking time to so carefully answer all these questions! Do you feel the love? ;)

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  14. Linn says…

    I like your point of view stress or guilt, just find some stories and tell them with the basic supplies. I've recently purged my space and love having less to work with...seems to make my decisions a lot easier. I reorganized my albums after reading Photo Freedom a little while after you did, and I found lots of pages of just faces of my babies without any journaling. I'll keep them, but I did feel there were too many. That's helped me not feel guilty about scrapping as often as I used to. Thanks for all the answers!

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  15. Lisa says…

    Hey Ali, I am an environmentalist and have definitely struggled with the idea of all this stuff we buy for our craft. To mitigate my guilt I've come up with a few habits:
    - I love magazines but hate recycling them. I give them to my LSS who lends them/gives them to new scrappers.
    - I went through all my paper recently and gave away about a third, around 75 sheets-- some from 2003 when I first started. My LSS drops off donations to a local women's shelter every so often. This might be a good thing for everyone to suggest to their LSS! I also put together a care package of scraps and small embellishments for a friend in Europe and sent it off-- so I know it's going to someone who will appreciate it!
    - For scraps, I have two sections: anything that still has a 12" portion I put together, and anything smaller I put in a little box that I keep within view. I find this system helps me see what I have and utilize my scraps more often.
    As for being overwhelmed with product, I had an interesting experience last summer when we were between houses and spent a month living at a cottage out of a suitcase. I packed up my small scrap tote and one box of embellishments-- and I was sooo productive that summer! Narrowing my choices let the story shine through. I was more creative and more inspired.
    Loving your Q&A...

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  16. Sophie says…

    Oh, I love the Twilight it in April...and now just finished the last one, Breaking Dawn...good stuff...when you need a break!

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  17. nana z says…

    Miss Ali, I am a digital scrapper only an dwhen you came to DD, I was over the moon - still am. Are you overwhelmed by the demand to have new products every week? This industry is so different from paper scrapping and the digi world is all ways about more. I am so glad to work with your products, thanks for making us digi girls SOOOOOO happy!

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  18. Eve says…

    Aren't you just loving the Twilight series?
    I just posted a layout on my blog from the Midnight Release party that my friend Raimi and I went to! It was a super fun night! It would have been 100% better had Raimi and I been 13 years old like the rest of the crowd!

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  19. Diane says…

    Thanks for doing this Q&A, Ali, it's really helped in a lot of ways to see that other people share some of the same feelings I do about certain things. I have a suggestion about when someone is feeling overwhelmed or underwhelmed, as the case may be, about scrapbooking. I just attended your Evolution class at CKU Provo and before, I was kind of feeling that scrapbooking had become a bit of a chore. Trying to fit it around family and work and friends and pets and chores and errands, and on and on...not fun. It felt like my time would have been better spent sleeping. And the layouts I was coming up with were really disappointing me. I found the change of size and medium that your Evolutions class provided to be a jolt of enthusiasm. All I can think about now is working more on my album! The whole idea of working with products totally out of my usual stash and multiple sizes of photos in the same album really revived my enthusiasm. I would suggest working on a smaller project just for fun for a shorter period of time to see if that revives the fun of this amazing craft. Use a product that you normally wouldn't and try to do something different with it (glueing lacy cardstock on the front of an album and then painting it-brilliant!!)

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  20. scrapfin says…

    I love reading your answers!!!
    I cant wait to see what you do with the digital designs.

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  21. Dianne says…

    Thanks Ali for all the real life, down-to-earth thoughts and advice.
    I wanted to share how I'm organizing my clear stamps--so far, it's working the best for me. I took a free-standing countertop paper towel holder that was just one rod without any "arms" attached (luckily found at Goodwill, but I've seen them at Ross and other discount stores) and used 3 large book rings woven through page protectors to hold the stamps. I used half-size page protectors for the smaller stamps, and normal 8.5x11 protectors for the larger stamps. I have used notebook page-lifters to separate them into categories such as alphabets, christmas, and so on. I use this for both my clear acrylic stamps and for my other block-less stamps like Tim Holtz and Inque Boutique. When I need to take a set to use, I just slide it out of the page protector and use it. If I am taking a particular set to use in a class or something, I put it in another page protector to protect it while I travel (once the rings are full, it can be challenging to get them apart to just take that stamp's page protector with you. It was much easier to just get another protector). I have pictures and will work to post it on my blog tomorrow if that helps you visualize what I'm talking about more clearly. After trying many different systems, this seems to be working well.

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  22. Heather says…

    Totally know what you mean. I'm 6 months pregnant and just read the Twilight series. Loved it! Hang in there this slump will pass. (at least that's what I keep telling myself.) lol

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  23. Deirdre says…

    Thank you for so openly and fully answering these questions. I especially loved your suggestion to pick 3 stories you want to tell and focus on those (for those of us in a slump or returning to this art).
    Your creative energy is understandably already being used elsewhere:-) I read "Angle of Repose" when I was pregnant with my second, and I think anyone living out west will enjoy it. A thick, thought-provoking read after Twilight perhaps.
    In terms of space/organization issues, for people who need to see their supplies like me, the Clip-It-Up is wonderful. Even when not scrapbooking necessarily, I find myself reaching for those supplies (for cards and other projects) because they are always in view.
    Thanks again!

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  24. Stacey: Two Writing Teachers says…

    What's all of the fabric for? Just wondering.

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  25. Laura says…

    You have to tell us when you get finished with the Twilight series and how you liked it. Don't make any big plans before starting the last one because it is incredibly hard to put down!! I had to check myself, remind myself that I was a mother and that I needed to stop reading and play with my girl. Sad but true.
    Thanks for letting us inside your head again. I am on a mission to organize my scrap room and purge so your Q&A session was very timely and, as always, appreciated.

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