Deranged ramblings about scrapbook paper organization

This is the deranged and rambling confession of a scrap-crazy, organizational freak. I will now commence to talk for a very long time, very seriously, and in detail, about the storing and sorting of my scrapbook papers though my “scrapbooking career”. If this topic seems insane, or insanely uninteresting to you, read no further. Nonetheless, here’s is my rant, so let me explain the evolution of my scrapbook paper organization (I know, riveting stuff, right?).

Now; why am I writing about this? Partly because organizing is both important and enjoyable for me, but also because the more I think about the progression of my scrapbook paper organization, I realise how it deeply it is connected to how I have developed as a crafter and scrapbooker over the course of the last seven or eight years or so.

Back when I just started scrapbooking, I remember how completely decadent and self-indulgent I felt when I hand-picked two, maybe three favourite 12×12 inch patterned papers at the old brick and mortar Scrapbook store I used to go to. That local store was where I really discovered this particular hobby. I hadn’t really seen anything online, so, what was in that store, that was the equivalent of scrapbooking for me.

I knew nothing about brands and manufacturers, collections or trends, what my own style was, what colours I liked, what weight of paper I preferred, that there was such a thing as double sided-paper, or even exactly what I would use the papers for. They simply just appealed to me on some basic crafter level. The products were pretty. They looked gorgeous and designed and lush. To a life-time stationery/office supply/pen- and paper freak like myself, who even get excited about a new Post It pad, these were complete luxury items, and picking the papers out, one by one, was a very lovely and time-consuming process.

Looking back, I feel rather amazed that back then I could very easily fit all my papers in a single plastic folder.

And I don’t know exactly how it happened, or what made me decide this initially, but when I first started out, I sorted all my scrapbook papers by type of pattern. True story! Stripes, polka dots, floral, vines/leafy patterns (obviously completely different from florals), paisley (it was a phase… don’t judge me), sort of plain background papers, and “crazy patterns” (e.g. everything else). It had nothing to do with any fancy interpretations about metaphorical meanings or symbolism or anything like that, it was just simply an initial, sort of visual logic that happened to determine how I started organizing my papers.

It worked rather well for the first year, when I didn’t have large quantity of papers, because I could just flip through them in a matter of seconds and choose something (even though choosing one of my precious papers to actually use and, gasp, cut into, could take hours). Some eight years later, not so much.

Here’s the point: Back when I first sorted my papers like that, I didn’t know what kind of a scrapbooker I was (or even that there was such a thing as different kinds of scrapbookers), or how I actually used my papers. I could put pretty ok projects together, but much like grammar, I would not be able to explain exactly how I made my choices. It just looked good together.

But, I can safely say this: I have NEVER EVER gone to my stash looking for a specific pattern type. I have sat there scrapbooking and found myself thinking: “Huh, a flowery paper, or a paisley would look really good with this photo”. At least I have figured out that much about my crafting brain. So, sorting the papers like that was rather futile. But it was my first system, and it was a system I kept for several years. Let’s just say it lingered.

As the amount of projects grew, so did the amount of papers in my stash buy two papers, use half of one, keep the other, right?), and likewise the need for storage. So I traded in my single plastic folder for an expandable storage bag, with 13 pockets for 12×12 papers. The left over pockets were quickly filled up by plain cardstock in different colours. The expandable storage bag was a result of me often going to mini-crops, back in an era when I could actually bring my entire stash and ALL my tools with me. Every time. I brought EVERYTHING. Everything I had by means of scrapbooking supplies I had sorted and organized in various kinds of bags. I was completely portable, but it was starting to get heavy.

Little by little I started to discover that I had bought more papers of one kind than another. I realised that some went together. I realised that some were all made from the same manufacturer, and was from the same collection, and that they were sold in just a few stores in the Stockholm. And I realized that I was missing some of the papers from the collection. Once I recognized that, I hunted them down (it was DCWV’s “Once Upon a Time”, by the way… I got them all and never even once used them on a single layout), and suddenly I had a new category in my system; the “Paper that goes together in a sort of collection thingy” category. I think the second brand or collection to get its own pocket was Graphic 45 papers, because they stood out easily in their style to me, more than the other papers did. But the rest of the papers kept being sorted by pattern in various ways.

Later on (more ideas = more projects = more papers in my stash, it’s the Impossible Scrapbooker Theorem) I had to get yet another one of those expandable bags. I stored my patterned papers in one, and solid-colour cardstock in the other. Still portable, but now it started getting really hard to carry ALL of my scrapbooking belongings to and from the crops. When I wasn’t at crops, I would store all my bags of stuff on the floor of a wardrobe. Take the bags out, unpack in the living room, craft, pack the bags again, put them back in the wardrobe.

It was a tedious process. But I got really good at packing up my stuff quickly and efficiently.

The happy ending to that story is that I moved to a flat that had a little bit of an extra corner, like an extra little hallway, that actually fitted a desk and a few shelfs! Now almost all of my bags are gone and I have gone stationary. What a relief!

The organization of my patterned papers developed into a sort of revamped, completely byzantine version of my impossible patterned paper system. It felt rather incomprehensible, but worked surprisingly well.

It turned into a rather emotional hybrid system completely based on what I loved or liked. Half my papers started to get sorted by specific manufacturers I loved, and the other half of my papers were sorted into various vague categories depending on the “like or love” factor, like thus:

  1. Graphic 45 (The first specific brand I fell in love with and suddenly had a lot of)
  2. Bo Bunny (A long and ongoing infatuation that has left me with a good amount of their papers)
  3. My Mind’s Eye and October Afternoon (Favourites – had a handful of both to they got to share pocket)
  4. Various brands I started to love but only had had a few papers from each (like Echo Park, Pink Paislee, Cosmo Cricket etc)
  5. Patterns & Themes I loved and wanted to use more of (this was the most vague and largest category, I think. Any theme that took my fancy at the moment; birds, stars, clouds, bicycles, skull- and crossbones, cameras, travel themed papers and the likes all went in this pocket)
  6. Kraft based patterned papers (because I for some reason found it practical to keep kraft-based patterned papers separate)
  7. Polka dots (Love ’em. A pattern I actually look for when making a layout)
  8. Stripes (Ditto)
  9. Printery, ledgerish papers (Something I found myself looking for a lot, especially for journaling, so it got its own category)
  10. Papers I love (These don’t have a certain pattern, theme or brand or anything, I just love them)
  11. Papers that are definitely very usable but not my favourites (Pretty papers without a certain pattern, theme or brand, but that I could absolutely see myself using)
  12. The “What was I thinking?!” category (I’m glad to say this category was not a very big one, but they were papers that, most often, I bought a long time ago with no purpose or plan. They were bought on impulse, a long time ago, and as my taste developed, I just fell out of love with them. But I still found many other fun uses for them, I personally just didn’t find them very suitable for making scrapbook pages)

So, at least I had my papers sorted by what I would most likely to reach for, which was certainly a good progress. And I had them sorted in a way that would encourage me to use the things I like the most, first. Because one problems I have identified with myself is how I “SAVE THE BEST FOR LAST!”, meaning that the papers I love the very most, I just keep and keep, waiting for the right project. And that is such humbug. It’s not rare, precious artefacts after all; it’s crafting material. It’s meant to be used. They make nobody happy by just being stored and organized. (Well, except me sometimes, when I get to re-sort and re-organize, which for me is like therapy, but that’s another story).

Also, this system was a rather flexible one where I would move papers from “love” to “like” or vice versa, or move a whole category into “What was I thinking?!” if I felt like it.
Downsides? Yes. I kept moving my papers around based on changing emotions and whims. The “love-like-what?” relationship kept fluctuating with at least 50% of my papers.

So I spent a lot of time sorting and moving my papers around. That, on the other hand, meant that I often looked over my papers and was reminded of which ones I had, and could fall in love with them all over again, and decide that “this is the day that I finally use this paper!”. It worked, sometimes.

But it was a system that kept getting out of hand, for sure, and needed a lot of constant curating. I’d have favourite brands getting misplaced and slowly slipping into other categories. It certainly lead to a lot of frustration when I could not find a paper I knew I had. Furthermore, it wasn’t a system that made it easy to find “just the right paper” or “just the right colour” or, you know, things that would match.

And this is where I really started to contemplate what type of scrapbooker I was, and how I, in the end, actually used my products. What were my starting points on a new project?

  • Story, photo or just the desire to play with my pretty papers? (Turns out, it’s roughly a 30-40-30 ratio)
  • Did I think in patterns? (Which I had already established that I really didn’t, except for polka dots, which are always on my mind and seems to go with everything)
  • Did I think in themes? (Travel themes and geographical aesthetics, yes to some degree, metaphorical ones, a big no. Although I love stars, birds, owls, fleur-de-lis, and skulls and geeky motifs, still, and will sneak them in there if I can)
  • Did I think in colours? (I was convinced I didn’t, but in the end realised that I always spent a really a long time to find papers with colours and shades that either matched or made a good combo. So, granted that I don’t start a project at just go “Oh My, my brain is filled with pink and yellow, that inspires me today!”, I did see a need to be able to FIND colours faster)
  • Did I think by manufacturer/brand?

Turns out, that yes, I do think by terms of manufacturer, designer or paper collection. I don’t work from patterns, I don’t start with deciding on a colour, I go by styles I like by manufacturer or designer, I go by a feel I like from a collection, and in my crafty brain I can connect the dots and find things from old and new product, or different brands, that go together. It lines up like a map of the sky. So now I sort that way, and it works like a charm.

It only took me like 7 years to get there…

But I suppose I have developed as a scrapbooker for those 7 years as well!

The only problem now is this: I have some very neatly sorted scrapbook papers that are have been in my stash for way to long. Having the newest little kits and collections closest at hand have made my older favourites a bit neglected. But I am working on a plan for that! Promise! Not a paper shall be wasted!

jenandtricks - Scrapbook Paper Storage

If you read through this whole post: Thank you! You are a scrapbook blog reader hero!

Have a terrific day!

/Jennie, a.k.a. jenandtricks

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