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Scrapbook Clutter & the True Price of Digital Freebies

Learn new techniques for decluttering your digital freebies & scrapbook stash

Jennifer Wilson

I’m your guide here at Simple Scrapper. Our community helps people find what fills you up and fits your life in memory keeping.

July 5, 2011

You don’t have to be involved in digital scrapbooking very long to recognize the massive quantities of freebies available for download. You’ve likely stumbled upon freebie blogs and directories as well as come upon many goodies at shop sites. Unfortunately, hard drive space is limited and you can only scrap so many layouts a day.

Over the years, I have begun to approach my scrapbooking as a sorta-minimalist. I crave order though my natural tendency, as with many creative people, is towards disorder. I love the things that mean something to me (and many do), but I become easily overwhelmed with clutter, especially scrapbook clutter.

Yet I’ve battled through these contradictions to find systems that work for me, including (what some might call) a drastic approach to scrapbook freebies – both traditional and digital.

A couple years ago I wrote somewhat of a manifesto on the madness of digital freebie hunting. I beckoned you to curtail your habitual stashing in favor of more moderate approaches. I feel even more strongly about this now – and it also applies to that great deal you scored on a giant stack of patterned paper five years ago. Scrapbookers today are so blessed with many choices and endless sources of inspiration, but we’re also drowning and thus, finding ourselves less able to document and create.

Learn new techniques for decluttering your digital freebies & scrapbook stash

Today I share some of my best techniques for managing your scrapbook clutter. It includes tips on how to pare down what you already have as well as a plan to maintain them. Use these suggestions to help you reduce the stash and begin making room from what matters most – documenting your memories.

My New Scrapbook Stash Guidelines

To escape this burden, I’ve found myself contented by self-imposed, fairly strict guidelines for managing my scrapbook stash:

  • I treat “free” and “on sale” the same as full-price.
  • I bring in only what I will love and use within the next 3 months.
  • Every 6 months, I let go of all that is unused and older than 1 year.

I came to this approach after spending hours upon hours organizing my digital scrapbook supplies, only to find that I had not (and would not) use a majority of what I had amassed. When I could have been making or capturing memories, I was effectively rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. I was wasting my time. I decided enough was enough. No more scrapbook clutter!

What this means is that I don’t hunt for freebies at all and that if I find a free (or even on sale) item, I consider whether I’d be willing to pay full price for it. If the answer is no, then the question is off the table. A “no” answer means I don’t really love the item and I definitely don’t need it.

I use this mindset to acquire only products that fire up my creative juices and get me scrapping right away. Through regular (and ruthless) purges, I am no longer bogged down by guilt over my stash. In understanding what freebies were costing me, I discovered the true value in staying organized and clutter-free.

How to Declutter Your Scrapbook Stash

Are you finding yourself drowning in scrapbook freebies? If so, now is the time to stop the madness. Here are three practical and easy ways to begin paring down your collection so you can truly enjoy and use what you love most.

1. Be honest with yourself: This is by far the biggest hurdle in scrapbook clutter management, whether digital or in-real-life. Take a good hard look at what you have and truthfully answer,

  • “Will I ever use this?”
  • “Do I really need this?”
  • “Is this adding value to my life?”
  • “Do I already have an item that is very similar?”
  • “Is this item something I can see myself using again and again?”

2. Kick emotion to the curb: Just because you downloaded it, doesn’t mean you have to keep it. Don’t let guilt run your life – even if you’re wondering whether to delete a product you purchased with good, hard-earned money. Use the questions above to divorce good organization from worry and emotion.

3. Play favorites: Think of decluttering as a process of unveiling greatness, not of losing stuff. Ever gotten excited when all of your favorite new clothes are clean and waiting for you? Focus on what you gain by being able to scrap with your favorite products, without having to wade through all those supplies you ignore again and again.

A Scrapbook Organization Plan You Can Stick To

So many free digital scrapbooking goodies and so little time – it’s awfully easy to let your downloads folder become overrun with clutter, like unopened zip files and awkwardly labeled folders. Establish a basic organization system and use it always to control the download chaos.

To start, establish your downloads folder as your inbox. From your download inbox, every new supply should be moved into one of three folders: temp, freebie and purchased. (Creative Team members may wish to add a fourth category.) Like with an email inbox, your goal is always to reach zero. Empty.

Regardless of whether or not you use a folder system or leverage the power of software to organize your scrapbooking supplies, this kind of simple top-level category system is essential. Use the temp folder for 1 kit calls and challenge sketches. If you loved the item after scrapping with it, move it to your freebie folder. If you didn’t, feel free to trash it. It really is OK!

The freebie folder is where your new goodies will live, but don’t forget to tidy them up first. This folder should only contain files that meet the following criteria:

  • Are items that add personal value to your digi-stash
  • Are properly labeled with the designer and kit name
  • Are tagged to YOUR organization system, however detailed that might be

There is no one right way to organize, but even the most simple of systems can make finding that fun alpha or perfect paper all the easier.

Finally, surf through your digital freebie stash on a regular basis to purge items you no longer like. Consider it a must-do, like cleaning out your closet. You’ll find a sense of clarity and lightness that only decluttering can offer!

How to Maintain Your Digital Freebie Stash Going Forward

It’s easy to get sucked into the satisfaction of scoring a sweet deal, especially a free one. However, it is super-important to consider the intangible costs to your sanity. Set some limits for your freebie hunting. It might even be helpful to implement one or more of these rules to gain control:

  • Don’t hunt for freebies every day
  • Create a one-in/one-out rule
  • Require immediate tagging/organization

Remember getting control over scrapbook clutter takes time. Start by only choosing the best of the best when it comes to those freebies. Then begin taking a good hard look at what you already have. In time, you’ll find it easier and more enjoyable to record those memories using a more manageable scrapbook collection.

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13 Comments

  1. Janice

    Jennifer, I completely agree with this. In fact, I don’t enter contests for prizes that I wouldn’t buy, either, even if it’s brand new product. There’s so much overhead to keeping up with contest entries. It’s a lot like organizing your freebies; it robs you of time you could be making to actually scrap. Nice article. 🙂

    Reply
  2. SWJenn

    I’m with you too. I’ve gotten ruthless about what I’ll collect. Blog trains are the worst – you end up with a kit scattered over 30 folders then have to put it all together!

    I have started going through my kits as I use them and just deleting the items I really dislike. Often there are things that are just not my style, or that I’d never use, or that I already have in other kits – all those can get deleted! I got rid of about 3Gig of stuff that way the other day 🙂

    Reply
  3. Candi in Colorado

    I have to tell you….

    I remember your blog post regarding “hoarding freebies” from last year. Since that time I have LITERALLY LIVED by that standard. Meaning, if I wouldn’t pay for it, I am not going to download it. It was some of THE best advice I have received. I then went through all the freebies I had downloaded and got rid of those too. It was so nice to see my EHD freed of space that was full of clutter! I don’t hunt for freebies, but I do know WHO has freebies that I will use and I do follow those awesome designers all of the time!

    You rock, Jennifer!

    Reply
  4. Julia

    Having just started scrapping – both digital and paper – this has really struck a chord! I have been madly downloading everything I could get my hands on without any consideration of whether or not I really like it. End result – a very messy and cluttered hard drive! Will definitely be applying this same philosophy from now one. If I wouldn’t pay full price for it I don’t love it! Thanks!!

    Reply
  5. Lindsey

    The reason I started digiscrapping was that I could no longer afford the amount of money I was spending on paper scrapping. I was drawn to the no mess part of digital as well as the abundant freebies. I can’t afford to spend money on kit after kit and I use almost exclusively freebie kits. That being said, what you said still applies to those of us that use almost exclusively freebies. I only go for high quality kits that I KNOW I will use, and I am very picky about what I keep in those kits.

    Reply
  6. Florida Cindy

    I’ve been a digi scrapper for 5 years. I’ve had 3 hard drive crashes. I spent alot of time retrieving some of the items I previously purchased after the first hard drive crashed. While accessing pay pal records of what I purchased, I was horrified to see how much money I spent within one year.

    When the 2nd and 3rd hard drives crashes, I felt relieved. I could start fresh!

    I’ve usually back up my photos 2x, so didn’t lose many memorabe photos.

    One way to use quality products without spending alot of money is to to become a member of a designers creative team. I always have the latest and the greatest digital items and it doesn’t cost me any money. I arrange my items by kit or item, release date of items, designer and year. I usually delete the kits after one year. I’ve saved alot of money and digi scrap on a twice weekly basis.

    Reply
  7. Lindsay

    AFter a four year drought of creativeness, I’ve recently begun scrapping again and spent the bulk of the first couple of weeks going through my hard drive and started doing this very same thing. While there are still a lot of kits there, I was looking through each one and deleting extraneous files…like all the Thank You files, kept the latest TOU from the designer, and any papers or elements that I knew I would just not use. About a third of the way through my expansive list of designers, I was able to dump 30GB of space and I’ve dumped even more since. I’ve filled it back up with lots of new layouts and have set myself a rule that if I haven’t scrapped with the kit by the next payday, I’m not getting anything new.

    Reply
  8. Ramie

    Just last month, I spent an entire rainy weekend (well, except the hours sleeping and cooking for the family) deleting a bunch of freebies that I had amassed just because. I deleted almost 100GB of crap. Stuff I downloaded 5-6years ago in some cases. SOOOOO relieved to be free of that junk pile!

    Reply
    • Jennifer Wilson

      That’s such wonderful progress Ramie, congrats!

      Reply
  9. Pammy

    I’ve recently been ignoring so many freebie posts, but I’m guilty of having way too much stuff and a lot of it I know I’ll never use. Since I was a designer for a while, I can make my own stuff and usually do when I’m scrapping. The collecting just seems to become an addiction for some reason. I’ve even found myself buying CU stuff “just in case” I start designing again. Silly, silly me! I need to do a real purge of a lot of the old stuff I still have. Some of it, I look at and think “Yuck! I can do better than that!” I just have to get around this horrible…. hmmm… it’s not really fear but can’t come up with anything else… of deleting things. Great article!

    Reply
    • Jennifer

      Try to remember, the digital industry moves so incredibly fast. Anything you buy today will likely be “old” in just six months. If you embrace that idea, I think it will be easier for you to let go.

      Reply
  10. Michelle

    I’m just starting to understand this. I’m not a hoarder by nature with my physical stuff, but for some reason, “digital” + “free” = stupid to pass up. BUT… I do have a lot of stuff I will probably never use! I have become like my father-in-law who saved everything because ‘someday’ he might need it…. ugh. (To which I would say, “When that someday comes, do you really think you’ll be able to find it? Is it worth storing it for decades? Just go buy what you need when you need it….”

    Reply
    • Jennifer Wilson

      So glad you had an aha-moment with this Michelle! Hope it helps.

      Reply

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