What you really want is to get photos off your camera and into the world, to a make your memories real. You take photographs because moments matter—and scrapbook them so you don’t forget why. The creative process elevates that desire to a joyful, fulfilling experience.
But if our needs are ultimately simple, why do we perpetually feel so overwhelmed? I believe it’s because we’re attempting to apply outdated scrapbooking expectations and “rules” to today’s world. Even those who already embrace a slower, more intentional lifestyle have trouble keeping pace with the sheer quantity of photos.
In Nobody Wants to Be a Rebel I explained why it’s time to rewrite the rules of scrapbooking. But what actually happens when we do that? Today I’d like to paint a picture of possibility for you and illustrate what modern, simple scrapbooking actually looks like.
1. It starts with photos.
Scrapbooking is by default photo-centric, but the rapid influx of photographs today means that we must expect and plan to spend time doing image management. The system for handling photos is no longer simply a stepping stone for getting them into albums, but is instead a cornerstone component of the scrapbooking process.
Because the vast majority of those images will never be “scrapbooked” in the traditional sense, we must look upon our digital photo libraries as the most complete record. Photo management is scrapbooking.
An extension of this concept is continual attention on the photo library as the best and most meaningful source of inspiration for taking a creative next step. But as a consequence, the photos do not themselves represent a checklist of pages to create. The onus is on the memory keeper to be selective, to curate highlights of their family’s story whether in albums, photo books, or on the walls of a home. Visible evidence of prioritizing photos includes:
- Reducing creative expectations or taking on fewer projects to preserve time and energy for photo management.
- Routinely redirecting attention towards learning, maintaining, or improving systems that support the photo library.
- Celebrating photos in all forms and formats without judgement of whether it “counts”. It all counts.
2. It embraces impressionism.
In The Scrapbooking Rule You Must Break I introduced the idea that, out of necessity, we are 21st century impressionists. Following in the footsteps of renowned 19th century painters, today’s scrapbookers paint pictures of life “with broad strokes” that capture as much emotion and meaning as they do reality. Because there are more photos and stories than we could ever scrapbook, we must value how each glimpse documented adds to the big picture.
The impressionist mindset goes beyond a rejection of “caught up” though, as it seeks opportunities that purposefully simply the process while retaining a sense of depth. It invites the scrapbooker to look at her hobby more holistically to ensure that it’s really meeting her needs. Visible evidence of impressionist scrapbooking includes:
- Choosing a project format for each story that maximizes enjoyment and practicality.
- Balancing attention between everyday details, big milestones, and meaningful stories.
- Allowing words and visual symbolism to take the place of scrapbooking every photo.
3. It focuses on stories.
A direct consequence of not scrapbooking everything is a natural emphasis on storytelling. But whereas the concept of impressionism broadly calls our project and process decisions to demand balance, a focus on stories counters a more specific unwritten “rule” of the hobby: that our objective is to capture the facts of each life event. Thus a story-first approach to memory keeping doubles down on the impressionist directive of adding meaning to the picture, making it worth it’s own point.
More plainly, using stories rather than events as a basis for scrapbooking makes going deeper more intuitive. By asking “why does this matter?”, examining personalities, or discussing feelings, we invite our brains to do what they’re best at: make connections. And while facts are certainly still important, we must use storytelling to add a deeper level of satisfaction when we can’t possibly capture it all.
But let’s be clear: focusing on story when creating scrapbook pages and projects don’t necessarily mean more journaling, though of course it can. It’s about looking first to the underlying meaning to guide the visual and written elements of your creative effort, to maximize the effort you’ve invested. Visible evidence of story-first scrapbooking includes:
- Identifying why a photo (or group of photographs) is significant or meaningful to you.
- Including more feelings and memories along with the facts in your scrapbook journaling.
- Finding the through line between photos from different time periods or places.
4. It is personalized.
We have more options than ever for documenting our memories, but instead of focusing on what works best I see too many scrapbookers attempt to do it all. I understand the temptation to try new approaches (and I do recommend testing the waters), but too much dabbling only contributes to feeling unfocused and overwhelmed.
Instead we must leverage the array of choices to intentionally personalize our hobbies. If impressionism means letting go of capturing every detail, personalization is the selective re-addition of what matters most to you. You get to precisely determine both what your finished projects and the process of creating them looks like, down to how much is “enough” for you.
We all naturally desire personalization and often take steps toward it, but it is here where “the rules” often prompt second-guessing. That’s why I spend so much time writing about, talking about, and leading you through the process of making your hobby a perfect-fit. I want to give you both the tools and the encouragement to genuinely trust that you know what’s best. Visible evidence of personalization includes:
- Working in continuity from a clear-but-flexible framework in lieu of always seeking the greener grass.
- Choosing not to use a project format if it doesn’t work for you, even if you think the products are pretty.
- Listening to yourself (what you know, your gut/intuition) when making each project or purchase decision.
5. It is guided by life.
Each month, season, and year are different. There are ups and downs, ebbs and flows. Your interest in and motivation for scrapbooking will shift along with the tide of your life. We must look at our albums as treasure chests, ready for each gift we are able to add, and stop looking on them as unfulfilled obligations.
When you let your life gently and intentionally guide your scrapbooking, you’ll find creative flow with less effort. And when projects have that natural, perfect-fit feel you will be more likely to finish them. Instead of paddling against the current much of the time, you can let the current make it easier to move forward.
The reality of this means that sometimes you will scrapbook a lot and at others you won’t create anything at all. During some seasons you will invest your energy into projects that require thought and details and during others you will find solutions that are good enough. Visible evidence of letting your life guide your hobby includes:
- Accepting that you are no less a scrapbooker if you don’t scrapbook for a period of time.
- Choosing to scrapbook longer time scales with a smaller or more condensed approach.
- Taking time each season to align your mindset, plans, and expectations with your life.
Scrapbooking in the modern era is not one-size-fits-all. Your projects can be graphic or fancy, paged or pocketed, fast or thorough, frequent or rare—but it’s when you start writing your own rules that memory keeping can truly be simple.