When I started scrapbooking in 1997, I couldn’t even afford to buy the Creative Memories starter album for $36.00; I hosted a party to earn it for free. By that time my son was 9, my daughter was 4, and I had already saved drawers of their artwork and school projects, Safety Town badges, swim lesson certificates, and birthday crowns. I just knew I had finally found a way to preserve all of the wonderful treasures I had saved for them! If only I could afford all of the beautiful papers and fancy stickers to decorate our scrapbooks, my job as a mother would be done, I thought. Well, maybe not exactly those words, but the sentiment was the same: saving their memorabilia and chronicling it for all time was what a good mother was supposed to do. So I began to save my pennies for stickers and host parties to earn papers and page protectors and cutting tools and museum-quality adhesives. A year later, everything I owned for the hobby fit into a fancy tote bag just for taking to crops where I could work on my scrapbooks all day and all night without interruption. For several years, my hobby stayed within manageable margins.
And then things became less tight for us financially. Finally, I could have more of the fancy supplies to make even fancier scrapbooks! I started lots of scrapbooks–one for the family photos; one for each child’s school pictures and grade cards and awards; one for my husband’s coaching team photos; one for our Disney vacation; one for our anniversary renewal of vows; one for our new dog! The possibilities were endless! The supply options were infinite! The new design companies and lines of themed supplies were being released every few months, and I was like a kid in a candy shop. There was even a line called Candy Shoppe!
And then I discovered stamping. It was 2005 and I was appalled at the prices of the products when I attended my first home stamping party. I came home and told my husband that I would never become one of those fanatical stamping ladies. Then I was invited to another party. And another. And I loved it. It was so freeing! It was like scrapbooking on a miniature scale, only with no pressure for perfection to be encased in archival-quality materials for all time! And thus began my stamping supply collection….
After 10 years of stamping (and teaching classes and selling my creations at several points), I still love it, but I am taking up an entire room of my house with all of the supplies to make personalized greeting cards for absolutely any occasion…but I almost never do. I have so many stamps, inks, embellishments, die cuts, and embossing folders to choose from that it is paralyzing. Add to that the boxes upon boxes of memorabilia I have saved from every trip, event, and loved one who has died, and I cannot even move in my craft room. When my brother died 9 and a half years ago, I essentially stopped scrapbooking because I couldn’t bear to look at family photos knowing that he would never be at another family event again. You might think the photos would be comforting instead, but it was too raw then. It just hurt too much, so I stopped the huge family heritage scrapbook project I was doing for my mom, step-dad, and brothers.
At different points over the past 18 years of these hobbies I have sold or given away many supplies. I used to participate in a big swap every year where I would sell my cast-offs and go refresh my stash with bargains from my papercrafting friends. Even so, I still counted at least 75 sets of stamps as I was moving them to the basement to prepare for sale. That doesn’t include the hundreds of single stamps stacked in baskets and artfully arranged in antique printer’s trays on my walls. What was toughest of all about moving all of these supplies to the basement was the fact that they had lived there once before, but I moved them upstairs to the spare room a few years ago. Many of the boxes of memorabilia have never even been opened in all that time. So this is it: my chance to start over. How many times have I said to myself, If I knew then what I know now, I would only use this line of supplies for simplicity, or that style of tool because it works better than all the others. I have been using Miss Minimalist’s book The Joy of Less as my guide in this process. Of course, I have purchased countless organizational books in the past–even one specifically for scrapbookers: The Organized and Inspired Scrapbooker. None of those books ever told me how to be happy with less supplies–only how to dream about storing more in space I don’t have or don’t want to use for supplies I barely touch.
My approach is really two-pronged: First, I am limiting the amount of space my supplies can take up. This will be equivalent to my library card catalog and a Creative Memories tote bag and Longaberger craft supply basket. Completed scrapbooks will go in a bookcase and do not count toward the supply total. Partially completed scrapbooks will go in a separate area of the bookcase until I can complete them. The second part of my approach is to choose what to keep, NOT what to get rid of. So, I have been choosing only my absolute favorite items that I know I used consistently. I haven’t made all of my choices yet, but having a process for doing so is extremely freeing at this point.
The biggest dilemma I have yet to face is the memorabilia. It is a whole category unto itself. Purging the memorabilia will be emotionally draining, so I am being gentle with myself. Much of what is saved is from my kids’ early years, and now that they are in their twenties it seems even harder to let go of those precious memories. Another major source of memorabilia is from trips we took. I would always purchase stickers, postcards, and whatever else they had that I could use in a scrapbook, but I rarely got these themed books completed–and often I didn’t even get them started! So that is a bit hard to swallow throwing out things I collected and paid for but never used. I will get there, but it will take time. Yesterday I was able to clear out almost all of the supplies from the craft room (with the help of my wonderful husband, of course) and most of what is left in the photo here is boxes of old photos and memorabilia.
So, I have my work cut out for me for the rest of the summer, both in selling off 90% of my supply collection and in purging memorabilia…but I know it will be worth the peace of mind I will have in the end when I am not feeling overwhelmed and guilty every time I pass another pile of kids’ drawings or family vacation photos I haven’t scrapbooked yet. And this is only the beginning. Stay tuned for my minimalist journey as I venture into each room of the house, paving the way for a new way of life unencumbered by past regrets and a future burdened with endless projects of chronicling the past. A life where I spend more time in physical activity and less in sedentary hobbies. A life with room for both types of activities within reasonable boundaries. A life with margins. A life of living in the NOW, in which ENOUGH is enough, and more is too much. A minimalist life.
Thank you for reading. Please follow my blog if you’d like to read more. Leave me a comment to let me know how the minimalist philosophy has improved your life. I’d love to hear from you! Have a great week!