Scrapbook journaling: Fun and frugal!

Scrapbook journaling: Fun and frugal! | Refocus on the memories you want to preserve with a few special photos and the informal art of scrapbook journaling.

Now is the perfect time to finally print those digital photos (or organize the ones you printed two years ago).

While you upload your Walmart prints (or load your printer with glossy photo paper), you daydream about becoming that mom—the one with up-to-date scrapbooks for each of her well-groomed, smiling children. Visions of coordinated papers and stickers for every season swirl through your mind. If only you had more hours in the day–and if only it didn’t cost so much!

If this sounds familiar, maybe it’s time for a new strategy (read: relaxed, frugal scrapbooking). Close your eyes, breathe, and give yourself permission to walk away from all the store-bought paraphernalia. Refocus on the memories you want to preserve with a few special photos and the informal art of scrapbook journaling.

Back to Basics

In a bygone era, scrapbooks were books for storing “scrap.” The ribbon from a spelling bee, the poem you memorized for graduation, and a sepia headshot of your best friend would be pasted in your memory book. If you fell in love with a magazine picture of a rose-garden trellis, you might cut it out to adorn the page with your special friend’s photo.

When did we start believing that memory books demand artistic talent and name-brand supplies? My happiest hours are spent cutting and pasting, with little more than the cardstock and memorabilia I have on hand. When my summer scrapbook pages are finished, they usually include a photo from a party, a postcard from a friend, ticket stubs from the movie theatre, and perhaps a theme-park map and birthday sticker.

Look around at the supplies within arm’s reach. Did you save last year’s calendar pictures? Choose one to use as background paper. Did Grandma send home an extra 5 x 7 photo of the family reunion? Make that the focal point. Add a strip of solid colored paper, and you’re ready to write!

What to Write

Scrapbook journaling should be fun and spontaneous. With just a few lines per page, you can record the funny and heart-warming memories behind the photos, cards, and ticket stubs. Share this writing opportunity with your kids, and see what clever captions they come up with!

  • Uncle Bob sneaked up behind me with a water gun after Mom took this photo. I was soaked!
  • My friend Julia mailed this postcard from her mission trip to Brazil. I mailed her one two months later from my camping trip in Yosemite National Park.
  • Our family enjoyed this movie on the big screen, even though Dad fell asleep and Emma choked on her popcorn when the dragon woke up!

Sometimes, you can insert a quote from a letter if you don’t feel like writing. My Grandma often sends notes with her thoughts about a family trip or gathering, so I like to include her words next to photos.

Keep it Simple

Scrapbooks come in all shapes and sizes, but my advice is keep it simple. Try to limit the layers of paper, because thick pages fill up shelf space quickly. Instead of gluing in whole birthday cards, cut out the fronts and make a note of who sent them. Or, cut out the inside greetings and throw the fronts away. {Yes, I’m giving you permission to cut up cards and letters!}

My final hint? Arrange scrapbook pages on letter-sized paper, and store them in sheet protectors and 3-ring binders. This makes it so easy to rearrange pages later. It also allows you to keep one book for the family, and divide up pages later when your kids leave home. Of course, some of you have teen daughters who keep their own girly scrapbooks, but those of you with three rambunctious boys may not have that luxury. Go easy on yourself! Don’t feel compelled to keep four separate books current (most boys don’t care until they’re older, anyway).

No matter how much you do or don’t scrapbook, give yourself grace. No one’s keeping score to see which mom can hoard the most birthday cards. The photo police won’t come knocking if the collage in your hallway is five or ten or fifteen years old. So relax, have fun, and be sure to tell your friends about the wonderful world of scrapbook journaling!

Daniella Dautrich is a WriteShop alumna and a graduate of Hillsdale College. She and her husband have one sweet daughter. They fill their home with books on writing, literature, and computer science.




  • Posted August 6, 2013


    my kinda scrapbooking. Thanks for the encouragement!

    • Posted August 6, 2013


      Glad you you can scrapbook guilt-free, Joli!

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