Of the Scrapbooking Police and the Shoulds

I’m going to make a little mini series on some scrapbooking myths. I’ll post two myths every week and bust them (I love busting myths).

So how many times have the scrapbooking police come to your house and bound your wrists in baker’s twine or confiscated your supplies because you didn’t write a novel on that layout you just completed or you put more than one photo on a page?  I’m going to take a guess and say never.  I’m also going to bust a couple myths… are you ready?


Okay I lied there’s one should.


SHOULD MYTH #1 Every layout or page should have a story.

Have you heard a picture is worth a thousand words.  If we actually wrote those thousand words on a 12″ x 12″ piece of paper we wouldn’t have room for that one picture OR the writing would need to be so small we wouldn’t be able to read it and you can forget about any kind of embellishing.  Yes sometimes there really is a story to tell and that’s fine we can dream of being the next J.K. Rowling and tell our story.  It also really IS okay to have just a title on your layout.  Let the photo tell it’s story too. 

In this layout I could explain all the photos of my son learning about clothing and where they go and how to wear them but why should I when the photos are already doing that for me.

Another thing to keep in mind is if you don’t want the story to be a prominent piece of the layout you could create a pocket and insert the journaling into the pocket.

In this layout I have a title only at first glance but when you pull out the journaling card there is the story.  The photos can stand on there own though.  The story is just to remind us how lucky we are but not everyone viewing the album needs or even wants to read that.

Maybe you don’t know what to journal. No worries.  If some one was looking at your scrapbook think about what you would say to them about the photo.

SHOULD MYTH #2 You should have only one photo per page please.

I’m really bad at obeying this should.  As you can see in the Getting Dressed layout above I have 6 photos on each page. 

Photo of At The Zoo Left Side
At The Zoo Left Side

In this visit to the zoo collage page I have 9 photos.

I have made some single photo pages also.

SHOULD MYTH #3 You should have a focal photo.

You should have a focus but it doesn’t have to be a photo; it could be journaling, a story or even ephemera (click here for my “What is Ephemera Anyway” post).  A focal is something that your eye is drawn to.

In this layout the story is the focal point.

SHOULD MYTH #4 You should only scrapbook with photos.

Well, I guess the above layout busted that myth.  On the right side of the layout I have no photos I tell a story that I don’t want to loose or forget.  The photos actually span a few years and none of them are a focal photo.  I really felt the need to record this story though and the photos do support the story but they are only the supporting actors.

SHOULD MYTH #5 You should scrapbook every photo you take.

Oh my goodness if we really obeyed this should – well the scrapbooking companies would love us, our husbands wouldn’t, we would be in serious debt, and our families would think that we had been abducted.  With today’s digital age and cell phone cameras I would wager that each one of us has THOUSANDS of photos on our computers.  Just scrapbook the ones that mean something special or bring up a happy memory from the corners of our minds.  I’m in no way saying to deleat the others though, if you have the room go ahead and keep them.

SHOULD MYTH #6 You should fill every available space with embellishments.

Can we say overwhelming and crowded and gaudy and … okay just take a deep breath, put down the embellishments, and walk away.  Less is more!  Again back to the photo having something to say.  If you loose the photo in the embellishments whats the point of scrapbooking it?  Don’t get me wrong.  I have embellished the available space out of some layouts but not every layout.  Some photos need to be center stage.


Photo of First Halloween
First Halloween

I wanted the photos in this layout to be center stage.  I did a title, a journaling spot and a minimum of embellishments.

SHOULD MYTH #7 A layout should only take a few minutes to complete.  Fast, simple, getter done.

Wow I’m in big trouble then.  I’m a mom, a wife, a full time homemaker and everything else that goes with those jobs.  I scrapbook here and there in between folding laundry and nursing a banged elbow and cooking dinner.  I think most of us are like that.  What about that really special layout of your one and only baby loosing his first tooth, and you realize how fast he’s growing up.  Are we scrapbooking just to get it done and doing laundry to have fun?  NOT ME!!!  Personally I’d rather let the laundry pile up and have fun scrapbooking.  Fast and simple is fine and even refreshing at times but let’s do the laundry “just to getter done” and not the scrapbooking.  Scrapbooking is supposed to be therapeutic but if we speed through it are we getting the full benefit of our therapy session?  Are we loosing the fun?  Is this becoming a chore like the laundry?

SHOULD MYTH #8 A page or layout should be perfect.

Did you know that if you don’t tell anyone then no one will know that it’s not perfect?!  Here is a rule for scrapbooking.  THERE ARE NO MISTAKES IN SCRAPBOOKING ONLY OPPORTUNITIES FOR EMBELLISHMENTS.  Sometimes the most beautiful layouts come from complete screw ups.  We are our own worst critics.  I’ve made photo mats or background paper out of my screw ups or even embellishments like flowers.  Go find a band aid sticker from Recollections and slap it on that misspelled word or glue blob.  Have fun with your mistakes.  Laugh at yourself.

Another interpretation of this “should” could be that everything should be lined up, linear, square or perpendicular.  While looking through my scrapbooks from the last seven years I am embarrassed to admit that some where in this time frame I became very straight.  Not one single photo is on an angle some journaling is but no photos which is ironic because I can’t cut, sew, draw, write or stamp a straight line to save my life.  By contrast my very first album, every single photo is at an angle.  Putting photos on an angle is a great way to incorporate wonky photos that you really love.  It’s also fun and playful, a great way to do a playdate or birthday party layout.  Sometimes putting photo on an angle helps with the telling of the story or continues the flow of the photos.  Straight lines are good for more formal layouts such as weddings.

Photo of Photos on an Angle
Photos on an Angle

This is a layout that I did 16 years ago.  The angles of the photos compliment the freedom of the content of the photos.  Mother nature doesn’t do straight.

SHOULD MYTH #9 My life should be interesting or perfect or my photos should be professional looking.

I have heard so many times in my scrapbooking career people say “my life is boring” or “I don’t do anything fun that would be worthy of scrapbooking” or “my life is just not interesting enough for a scrapbook”.  As far as interesting, it’s your life, of course it’s interesting even if only to you (thinking of the lonely old lady with photos of all her cats).  You’re what matters in your scrapbooks because they’re about you and your life.  You may not think that some things I scrapbook are interesting and that’s okay.  Think about the reasons we scrapbook:

  • to remember.  Let’s face it, we want to deny it even hide it or not admit it but the truth is we forget.  There, I said it, we forget.
  • to count our blessings and acknowledge the positive in our life.  Maybe you had a bumper crop in the garden.  Take pictures and write what you did different to help the crop along.  Take pictures of your flower bed, then in the winter you can kick back with a lemonade and remember the warm summer days (or take some photos of a sunset, get a hard lemonade and pretend to be on an exotic vacation).
  • for fun and therapy.
  • to turn a negative into a positive.  Maybe you had a vacation from hell were everything went horribly wrong.  Last summer my family and I traveled to Arizona for my father’s funeral and on the way home EVERYTHING started turning into lemons.  Very long story short we blew a tire.  So I took out my phone and started taking pictures of my husband changing the tire.  He asked me what I was doing.  “Making lemonade,” I said.  Turn a negative situation into a positive one.  This will help us see the good in everything. 

Maybe your photos aren’t professional looking but they’re your photos of your family and that makes them perfect.  If you cropped heads that’s okay; put all the photos on an angle to give the layout a fun whimsical feel.  If the photos are out of focus do some blurred stamping to make it look like you intended to do it.  Also a blurred photo suggests movement so you could do some generational stamping to pull it all together.  If your still not happy with it don’t throw it away, stash it between other pages in your album where you won’t have to look at it but you still preserve the memories and keep the story.  Remember you don’t have to show your scrapbooks to anyone.

SHOULD MYTH #10 My layouts and pages should look a certain way (ie. shabby chic, vintage, clean, distressed, symmetrical…).

If our layouts were meant to look a certain way we wouldn’t have all these different styles of scrapbooking and scrapbooking supplies.  Personally I love vintage aged looks however some things just beg to be clean and symmetrical.  The only way a page or layout should look is your way because it’s yours.  If you and I were given the same supplies to make a layout I guarantee each layout would be different and that is how we inspire each other.  To say that our layouts should look a certain way is squashing our creativeness, our individualism.

SHOULD MYTH # 11 My handwriting should be neat.

We don’t think our handwriting is neat but that’s because it’s our handwriting.  Other people might think our handwriting is neat.  Our grand and great grand kids might want to see our handwriting.   Handwritten journaling adds a personalness and tenderness that is lost in typed journaling.  That doesn’t mean we have to hand write everything, we can pick and choose.

SHOULD MYTH #12 Photos of males should never have flowers or pink or lace or anything remotely feminine.

I hear a lot about how hard it is to scrapbook a photo of men or boys.  My question is “Why”?  Are they going to burst into flames if there is lace or pink or flowers near there photo?  My husband and son like soft sheets and soft clothes.  They like all the flower beds in the yard.  I made a layout of my son and he was upset because there weren’t any flowers on it (I had to go back and add some).  This whole pink for girls and blue for boys thing came from the fashion world in the mid 20th century.  Before that pink and blue were simply pastel colors. 

In 1918, an article from a trade publication called Earnshaw’s Infants’ Department, declared that, since it was derived from red, “Pink is for the boys, and blue for the girls. The reason is that pink, being a more decided and stronger color, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.”  Taken from http://mentalfloss.com/article/65058/when-did-pink-become-girl-color

Anyone who has used red paint or ink knows how powerful red can be so this makes perfect sense to me.

A 1927 survey by Time magazine showed that department stores were completely scattered when it came to recommending gender-specific colors—Marshall Field’s and Filene’s preferred pink for boys and blue for girls, while Macy’s and Wanamaker’s said just the opposite. “There seems, then, to be no great unanimity of U.S. opinion on Pink v. Blue,” the article concluded.  And even before that, new parents outfitted their gender-neutral nurseries in pink and blue, similar to the way we use green and yellow today.  Taken from http://mentalfloss.com/article/65058/when-did-pink-become-girl-color


As far as lace?

Little Franklin Delano Roosevelt sits primly on a stool, his white skirt spread smoothly over his lap, his hands clasping a hat trimmed with a marabou feather. Shoulder-length hair and patent leather party shoes complete the ensemble.  Taken from http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/when-did-girls-start-wearing-pink-1370097/?no-ist
pink-and-blue-Franklin-Roosevelt-2.jpg__600x0_q85_upscaleSo if it’s good for a former president of the United States it’s good enough for my son.  If our boys and men want flowers and lace and pink on there layouts then by God we should give them flowers and lace and pink layouts.  Whose with me?  (Getting down off my soapbox now.)

SHOULD MYTH #13 You should only use something once and you should have the latest greatest.

Well if that’s true we all will go bankrupt.  I can’t keep up with all the wonderful, beautiful, fabulous supplies coming out all the time.  Then again sometimes the latest greatest isn’t always the best for us.  I’m not a technically minded person and the Cricut Expression 2 is perfect for me.  The thought of needing a computer to run my Cricut does not appeal to me and I’m also perfectly happy using punches rather than my Cricut.  I’m very picky about my cardstock and prefer to use Close to my Heart that doesn’t mean I don’t experiment sometimes.  Actually I’m set in my ways and like certain things but I do like to try new things.  I have been known to buy multiple packs of a pattern paper that I really love and use it to death.  There are way to many beautiful papers and embellishments available to only use them once.

SHOULD MYTH #14 You should scrapbook chronologically.

Whoops!  I totally missed this one.  It is so not fun scrapbooking in order, at least not for me.  So many things in life have to be in order WHY do we make scrapbooking this way?  Mix it up, have fun.  Scrapbook what inspires you or makes you happy.  Okay maybe a newborn baby’s album could be in chronological order but after that…?  Of course you can scrapbook in chronological order if you want to.  You can even time travel many years back.  You can group on one layout a bunch of photos from different times.  I’ve made a layout of all our zoo visits.  I’ve made a then and now layout for the same zoo because I went there when I was a child and now I take my son there.  It’s okay to scrapbook a photo more than once if it supports a story you want to tell or because you really love that photo.  When film directors make a film they don’t  always start with the very first scene of the film.

SHOULD MYTH #15 You should be and stay caught up.

If you think about that should statement it really is silly.  That would mean you need to do a layout or more every day or every time you take photos.  Realistically who has time for that?  Think of the creative pressure too of producing a layout every day.  What does “caught up” mean to you.  Does it mean every photo you’ve ever taken has been scrapbooked?  Does it mean you’ve told a story for every photo?  For me it means I’m comfortable where I am.  Can I scrapbook more of my photos?  Absolutely!  Scrapbooking is meant to be fun, creative, a stress release and if we’re worried about this or any of the other SHOULDS then it becomes a chore just like the laundry.  Will we ever be “caught up”?  Probably not if we think of it in this way.

SHOULD MYTH #16 True scrapbooking should only be done in 12″ x 12″ albums.

There are so many options now why should we limit ourselves to only one option?  I like to use 12″ x 12″ albums with acid free, archival safe, lignen free products for the stories and photos that will be given to my son and his future family some day, anything else I use several different options.  For our gallery wall I use an array of frames, shadow boxes, canvases, whatever fits in with the overall look.  If I have a photo that is to small for the frame I want to use then I’ll make a mini scrapbook page, put the photo on it and put the whole thing in the frame (nothing dimensional of course).  I have a couple of those flip thingies (that’s the technical name) for 4″ x 6″ photos and the same as with the frame; I make a little scrapbook page, put the photo on it, slip it in the sleeve and enjoy.  We have LOTS of mini albums for enjoying now.  I use only acid free, archival safe, lignen free products even with my minis.  Did you know that having your photos exposed to the elements and fingers and the oils on those fingers will deteriorate the photos?  So that’s why I have the big 12″ x 12″ albums for long term preservation; everything else if it lasts one year or twenty I’m okay with that.

SHOULD MYTH #17 You should only do flowing layouts with a left and right page.

Before we get to deep into this one I feel that I should clarify that a layout is two pages, a left and right, and a page is one which is the beginning or ending of an album.  However if you like to do your albums in pages go for it.  I do my 12″ x 12″ albums in layout style because I like the flow from left to right and I like seeing one story at a time (if that makes sense).  I feel like it’s less jumbled or overwhelming to do things in a layout style for my 12″ x 12″ albums.  I have also used flip flaps to make a top and bottom to go with the left and right of a layout.  My minis on the other hand I like to mix and match.  Every page can be of a different story and I don’t feel overwhelmed or jumbled with the smaller format.

SHOULD MYTH #18 You should use the same background paper for both the left and right sides of a layout.

Why?  (My son is so much like me, the first question we ask when told something is “Why?”)  Okay, but seriously why do they have to be the same?  Paper companies are making paper packs that contain papers that are the same pattern but different colors or one is embossed or has glitter on it.  Let’s have fun with the cool papers.  You can have similar papers and use embellishments that are the same to pull it all together or do the same techniques on both sides i.e. stitching, stamping, doodling, etc.  Your photo mats on both sides could be the same paper.  There are so many ways to make a layout look connected without using the same background paper.


SHOULD MYTH #19 You should only use acid free, archival safe, lignen free products or only supplies intended for scrapbooking.

This can be a very scary should to break especially if you are using ancestral photos.  If you have access to a scanner you could scan your photos, put the originals in a safe place and use copies.  Then if something goes horribly wrong you still have the original.  You could also experiment with those out of focus or cropped photos.  Start small and ease into it.  I’m anal and I use acid free, archival safe, lignen free products for everything I do with my photos but that doesn’t mean you have to.  If you want to add a mini clothespin to your layout please do.  You have to make your scrapbooks your way or you won’t be happy with them.  I want my 12″ x 12″ albums to last a long time so I’m very picky about them but I have started relaxing about everything else and experimenting with mini clothespins, doilies, paper bags …  It’s fun going around the house finding things to use as embellishments or as tools.  Give it a go, see what you can find.  This is where our creativity and artistic side really blossom.

#20 I’m going to go in a different direction with #20.  I’ve busted 19 of the many myths that we have saddled ourselves with and touched on the one important SHOULD of scrapbooking.  SCRAPBOOKING SHOULD BE FUN.  We as adults have a lot of rules that we have to live by, think about when you were a kid.  Did you hate all the rules you were expected to follow?  I know I did.  I couldn’t wait to grow up because I thought adults could do anything, anytime.  Then I became an adult …  So why are we forcing ourselves to follow rules in scrapbooking?  Our hobbies should be fun, that’s why we do them.  Be a child again for an hour and ignore all the myths and be creative, go wild.  Wash a foam tray from a meat package, cut a design in it and use it as a stamp.  If you don’t like what you created cut it up for one of a kind photo mats, embellishments or background paper.  If you relax and let the creative juices flow it becomes like a drug and you come back for more, but this is a safe drug.  It’s not like compulsive eating,  scrapbooking doesn’t add to your waistline or make you unhealthy.  On the contrary having a hobby has been proven to improve overall health.  Scrapbooking for an hour is cheaper than an hour of therapy.  An hour of therapy is about $100, you can buy a lot of scrapbook supplies for that.  If you have a hard time finding alone time at home you can go to a friends house or the library.

I’ll end this mini series here.  For more information on scrapbook rule breaking check out Cut Loose by Crystal Jeffrey Rieger.

If you have any questions please leave them in the comments below.
Thanks for stopping by, come back soon and stay awhile.
Happy Scrapping.
Let’s scrapbook together, it’s cheaper than therapy.

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