Saturday, November 14, 2015

Creating a Scrapbooking Space

Scrapbooking, as a hobby, starts out innocently enough.

Someone invites you to a class or workshop and you make your first pages. You learn how to create a nice layout, how to choose just the right papers and embellishments, do your journaling,, you're hooked.  You're going to put all your photos and stories into albums.  Awesome!

You buy an album, a few tools, some nice paper. It takes up a little corner of your desk. Innocent.

A couple months later, you look around and realize that your hobby has taken on a life of its own, and that a purchase here and there - just one little punch, a stack of paper, an extra album - has added up to a major investment, and it's everywhere. Disorganized, cluttered, taking over the desk, the corner, maybe a whole room or closet.

As my friend Natasha once said, getting into scrapbooking is like jumping down a rabbit hole: a seemingly endless, confusing-but-exciting experience. One thing leads to other. You discovered the die-cut machine, and you have to have dies and embossing folders. You bought these papers that match those stickers and OH LOOK there are also matching stamps and alphabets and are those color-coordinated sparkly doodads?!

Here's the thing. Scrapbooking is a wonderful, meaningful hobby.  It preserves photos and stories for you and future generations to enjoy. It's a relaxing, creative outlet which reminds you how rich and wonderful life can be.

But it takes up a lot of real estate.  And unless you organize all The Stuff and make a space where you can work, your albums are not going to get done. (There is also a lot to be said for keeping your pages simple, and focused on the pictures, but that's another topic.)

Everyone has a different situation, I know.  Some people live in small apartments, where your space might be a card table with a shelf above it. A lot of those living in houses have claimed the dining room as your creative territory (because - hello - who has formal dinners anymore?).  A fortunate few (like me) have their own scrapbook/craft rooms. Our house has a very small office which is my craft room, and since we don’t even own dining room furniture, what's meant to be the dining room is the office! I can leave my work and come back to it anytime, and no one has moved anything. Mostly because they’re afraid to go into the room when it looks like this: 

Oooh, that's better.

The biggest challenge is probably for those of you with little ones.  I have four of them who are all in school now, but when kids are very young, it's not easy.  Even if you can find TIME to work on your albums, leaving it all out is just not an option when you have toddlers or preschoolers who are drawn to the paper, stickers, pens and beautiful colors.  During those years, it is best to keep it all out of their reach, and work on albums when the kids are asleep. Or, find evening/weekend crops or retreats to go to!

So, here are a few ideas if you’re looking to create or expand your scrapbooking area:

1) The physical space: The first thing to decide on is what square footage to claim. If you have a spare room, and the people you live with are cool with it, this is ideal. No room? Do you have space in a corner, a loft, a dormer?  I have even seen pictures of closets turned into office or craft spaces, with a built-in desk and shelves above.  Don’t just look at the floor space— think vertically too; some cabinets, shelves or a desk hutch above the work surface can give you the storage you need. Also consider that natural light is a great feature, if you can find a space near windows. 

2) The work surface: The best surface is a large, sturdy desk or table, but a folding table is a fine alternative (plus, you can move it or take it down as needed).  Two desks or tables is even better, if you can swing it: one for stuff and one for working. Or, again, consider open cabinets or shelves for storage above your workspace. 

Here is my desk...again, before/after. It usually looks more like the "before," and usually much worse.

3) Furniture: There are companies who would like to sell you furniture made specifically for scrapbooking, but this is expensive and unnecessary!  Consider pieces you may already own that you could repurpose. For example, my scrap room furniture is all having a second (or third) life. My desk (above) was bought second-hand by my in-laws, and my husband used it as a teen. It's very sturdy and well made. 

This cabinet holds my photo boxes, albums and refill pages, but it used 
to be our pantry, when we lived in a house with a little kitchen!

And this rolling cart was a purchase for another kitchen which lacked storage and counter space. Now I use it for my die-cutter, for gift wrapping, and to store my stamping and card-making stuff.

If you don't have spare furniture, ask family members for items they’re not using, or scour yard sales or second-hand stores.  

4) Lighting: here is one area where you might want to spend a little money.  Scrapbooking requires good light, and when the sun goes down or you do not have adequate lighting, it’s frustrating. There are many good craft lamps that cast a bright, even light on your workspace.  I got my floor lamp with a  half-price coupon, and the small folding lamp was a Christmas gift. 

5)Tools: Scrapbooking tools are so much fun, but take up a lot of space, and some are really heavy!  Creative Memories can help you organize many tools, like the Border Maker system, Shape Maker, Corner Rounder, pens, scissors and more in the Tools Organizer.  The interior of these sturdy cases can be configured as you like, they stack nicely and have multiple handles for carrying. I keep two of them on my desk (above, under the lamp), and have even made a space in one for my beloved CM slide-in cards!

My slide-in cards fit in this little section, divided and labeled for easy location

Punches, trimmers, and cutting systems are best stored in drawers, sturdy shelves or cabinets. Punches may also fit nicely in hanging organizers meant for shoes or toys. 

6) Albums, refill pages & protectors, plus all.that.paper!  Albums, pages and protectors, of course, need to be stored flat or, upright and straight. Keep them in their packaging until you need them!  Any organizer used for 12x12 paper also works well for pages and protectors.

And the paper. Yes, we all have a lot! It multiplies by itself, I think.  I can tell you all about how I store mine (pictures below) but the truth is that our minds all work differently, and my organization style will be different from yours.  Besides, the storage of paper and how you categorize it is always going to be a work in progress. 

Stacking wood cubes hold my solid-color cardstock

This rolling cart has 6 12x12-inch bins for storing paper and embellishments. I have them labeled by theme or collection.  I also have a basket full of paper.  And a cardboard box with paper.  
And other paper, somewhere, which I am honestly going to use someday. 

On my wish list this year, these paper trays by Umbrella Crafts, which will lead 
to paper organization nirvana. Or may just cause me to buy more paper.

7) Photo & memorabilia storage: CM makes it easy to safely store lots of photos in their Power Sort Box. The little compartments inside, along with dividers you can write on (and erase, if you use pencil) will help you sort out those stacks.  A tip: only order those photos that you need for one project at a time. It’s less confusing and overwhelming. But if you have quite a backlog, the Power Sort Box is a good temporary home.

Don’t forget your memorabilia - the invitations, tickets, postcards, kid drawings, certificates and various clippings you have saved for years.  A large accordion file with tabbed dividers is a good solution here: just drop all that stuff in labeled sections and it’s ready for your projects. 

8) Motivate yourself: A creative space needs a little inspiration! Consider hanging some beautiful art, “wall words,” or a bulletin board for posting ideas. Paint the walls your favorite color. Print out sketches or ideas you see for page layouts. Post a list of all the albums you want to make, and check them off as you go. Put on your favorite music, and get to work!

This is, of course, just the tip of the iceberg. There are so many ideas online and many innovative products for craft rooms and storage. The main point I want to make is that creating your own, organized, inspirational space will help you complete albums!  I hope you are able to make this a reality in your home. :)


  1. LOVE your ideas! I too have a scrap room, but it is a train wreck! I am on my 3rd tour of trying to organize it.

  2. Thanks for your suggestions, some I utilize now and others, well, let's just say I've known about what I want to do but getting it done can be the challenge. Looking forward to organization soon!!

  3. Love the accordion file for memorabilia! I have tons of cards, certificates, etc in plies on my table and yours look great!

  4. Thank you for the time you spent getting me motivated to be better organized.