The Scrapbook Diet: Trim Supplies & Drop a Size

scrapbook dietI used to have big scrapbooks and a lot of supplies (see why I stopped scrapbooking).

Now I have small scrapbooks, basic supplies (see photo above), and I am happily scrapbooking again.

I call it The Scrapbook Diet – a five-step process that helped me downsize to small albums, eliminate the majority of my scrapbook supplies, and rediscover my enjoyment of simple scrapbooking.

Here’s what I did:

diet detach

I was packing to move into a new home, and it was time to face the scrapbooking supplies. I hadn’t made a scrapbook page in nearly three years, so most of my supplies had been slowly transferred to closets. As I faced the dusty boxes of doom, I was certain of one thing: there was no way all that scrapbooking stuff was coming with me.

I gathered everything and spread it out on the floor. There was a lot of stuff. I felt sadness (this was a hobby I once enjoyed), panic (how am I going to go through all of this stuff?), and irritation (why am I even letting this stuff bother me?).

I also felt detached from the supplies, and I was willing to let everything go.

In addition to the supplies, I had albums, unfinished layouts, and finished layouts that never made it into an album. I kept the loose layouts – finished and unfinished – in a box for another time; my first priority was clearing out the mountain of supplies and deciding whether or not I ever wanted to scrapbook again.

diet define

Meanwhile, my children started looking through the albums and asking me questions. Apparently I had a lot of fluffy layouts with insufficient journaling. So I began telling them stories about what they were like as toddlers.

And then it hit me.

That is what I want my scrapbooks to be like: storybooks. Stories written just like I would tell my children in person. Stories they can read over and over. Stories that tell what they were like, what they did, funny things they said and more.

I realized that for me, scrapbooking is storytelling – with photos and embellishments used to enhance the story. And I knew I wanted to start scrapbooking again, but in different way.

diet downsize

I wanted these storybooks to be small.

Small layouts mean less intimidating space to fill; I can concentrate on the story because there isn’t much room left for embellishments. Small albums also take up less space on my shelves.

Before I started discarding supplies and planning small pages, I wanted to make sure I could find small 3-ring binders (this was a couple of years ago, when small album choices were limited).

I found Avery half-size (5.5×8.5) 3-ring binders and page protectors at an office supply store. Update: The tan albums in the photo are We R Memory Keepers Memory Dock system. I got them at TJ Maxx years ago but I’m glad to discover that they are still available online. They are fabric covered 3-ring binders, and Avery page protectors fit in them.

Now there are more small album choices. Update: See my Small Scrapbook Album Review.

Next, it was time to face my supplies.

diet detox

The thought of going through each item one by one, trying to decide what to keep, was overwhelming.

So I did the opposite: instead of starting with everything and taking out what I don’t need, I imagined starting with nothing (I had already detached myself from the supplies anyway) and thought about what I would actually need.

If I shopped my stash, what would I buy?

Not much.

First, I needed 5.5×8.5 solid color cardstock, so I cut all of my cardstock to that size using a paper trimmer. No turning back now! Trimming was easy with letter size cardstock – I just cut it in half. It was more time consuming with 12×12 paper and there were a lot of leftover strips.

Then I needed adhesive. I’m an old-fashioned glue stick and sticky tabs kind of girl, so I kept all of those.

Next, I selected only what I thought I would actually use with my new small & simple storybook approach. This is what I currently have:

organized supplies

The bookcase (shown in the first photo of the post) is a Closetmaid 8-cube organizer with lined baskets from Target.

1. A 3-tiered wire stand (found in the kitchen department at Target) holds thread, paint, punches and stamps. I kept the punches I used most: large and small circles, a large square and a corner rounder. I also kept the stamps I used most: a date stamp, a round stamp, an alphabet set, and a couple of ink pads. I included thread because I sew on pages a lot. The paint was included not because I paint on layouts, but because I paint on canvas and this wire basket seemed like a good place to keep it.

2. Small albums fit nicely in the 11″ cube openings, including 5.5×8.5 binders, Simple Stories 6×8 binder and Smash books.

3. A desk carousel (found at TJ Maxx) holds paint brushes, pencils, pens and scissors.

4 & 5. A basket of embellishments includes some adhesive, journaling cards, ribbon, stickers, etc. A small plastic container holds brads, buttons and other tiny embellishments. Larger sheets of letter stickers are tucked next to the basket. While selecting which embellishments to include in the basket, I had to remind myself that my layouts would mostly be stories printed on cardstock – I would not need many embellishments, and certainly not large ones.

6 & 7. A basket with extra page protectors, patterned paper, envelopes, etc. – anything that could be useful as a page in an album was trimmed to 5.5×8.5 or smaller. I punched holes in some items as well. I only kept a few of my favorite patterned papers because although I like looking at them, I realistically would not be using much patterned paper on my small layouts.

8 & 9. Two baskets of solid cardstock, cut to 5.5×8.5. One basket is mostly neutrals.

I left behind a lot of supplies.

diet donate

My children thought it was the best arts and crafts day ever. They made paper chains from the strips leftover from my earlier Edward Scissorhands attack on the 12×12 cardstock, and made numerous other creations using paper, stickers and embellishments.

Buttons: I made a button wreath, and kept the remaining buttons in a pretty jar on my desk for future button crafts or sewing projects.

Ribbon: I made fabric jellyfish for the kids with many dangling ribbons (update: photos and tutorial posted here).

Some Baby, School, Halloween and Christmas themed items were put into separate containers for future use; I planned to create baby storybooks, a Halloween album and a Christmas album (see the completed Christmas album here) and a school album (update: see the completed school album here).

From the remaining supplies, I let my children select some of their favorite things (mostly stickers and anything that might be useful for a school project) and put them in a storage bin.

I separated everything else into categories – stamps, punches, stickers, journaling cards, etc. – and placed them in large Ziploc bags. Then I asked the elementary school art teacher if she could use any of my leftover scrapbooking paper and supplies. She was very appreciative, and I was glad the supplies would be useful.

More donation ideas can be found in this Creating Keepsakes article.

* * *

It’s been about two years since I went on The Scrapbook Diet. I haven’t missed 12×12 scrapbooking or any of my old supplies at all.

I still occasionally buy new and trendy items, but when my embellishment basket starts getting too full, I know it’s time to purge.

Scrapbooking is more leisurely and enjoyable now, and I feel like it has a purpose.


Also see: The Scrapbook Diet: Frequently Asked Questions, Scrapbook Page Makeovers, and Organizing Memorabilia.

  • Christine

    I love it…the scrapbook diet! I really like your approach of literally shopping your stash. Thanks for sharing!

  • Laura

    your space looks so nice and inviting. thanks for sharing!

  • Cricutgirlg

    I love your basket from Target. I love your bookcase. Happy Scraping!

  • bunnyfreak

    Love that you purged from the idea of if you were to start today what would you buy/use.

    • Lisa Moorefield

      Thanks! It made purging not seem so overwhelming for me.

  • Andie

    I LOVE this process! I’ve been waffling about doing this and just really need to do it!!!! Everything looks so neat and organized.

  • shara

    Excellent blog post! And very timely. While I’m not yet burned out on scrapbooking I *am* burned out on accumulating such a gluttony of stuff that I feel overwhelmed each time I sit down to scrapbook. I am preparing to purge but I am also considering a year-long spending freeze. We’ll see.

    • Lisa Moorefield

      Thank you! And I totally understand what you mean about being overwhelmed.

  • pigsflyng

    I think the idea of smaller books is brilliant. I wonder about who will want my 12×12 books when I am gone. They are such an awkward size to store. You have inspired me to experiment with 8.5×11. They are so much easier to store and peruse.

    The only downside of this would be that I am already crowding my pages with photos. It is so hard to decide on which to include. If I go to a smaller format I will need to be even MORE ruthless about which photo makes the cut. I am also more concerned about the story, but I like my stories to be generously illustrated.

    • Lisa Moorefield

      I also thought about what would happen to all my 12×12 albums someday – another reason I downsized. Choosing only one or two photos to include on a page was tough for me at first, but now I’m used to it. I think my scrapbooking brain has been reprogrammed. :)

    • Gypsy Chaos

      You can combine several images into one 4×6 photo. Even 2×2 photos provide a lot of detail. When you get the prints, you can cut them into the individual images. Also, there are several sites [Persnickety Prints comes to mind] that have templates that help you create 4×6 collages from multiple images.

  • pigsflyng

    What font is in the title “scrapbook DIET”?

  • Gina

    Great ideas. Thanks for sharing. I just linked over here from two peas. I’m going to look for some of your new pages.

    • Lisa Moorefield

      Thanks! I’ll be posting more layouts very soon.

  • Lisa Bundy

    I’m on the scrapbook diet too! I took most of my supplies to my classroom, and now a group of students meets at lunch to scrapbook!

  • Angie

    Love it. I’ve noticed I only use certain things and the rest I cringe when I see it. :) I do still love my 12 x 12’s, but they work for me and my style. I think I’ll follow your tips and put my supplies on a diet.

  • Quynh

    Great idea! I too am moving and need to do this scrapbook diet! I haven’t scrapped in years since I picked up other hobbies like stampin and making crafty things. But I still want to sit down one day and scrap. So I need to downsize for sure!!

  • Tess

    I dedicated last year to becoming a crafter instead of a collector through Tiffany Spalding’s Get Organized Challenge (free webinar series). I think I still have some ways to go and got a couple of ideas already. It never even occurred to me to think about downsizing my albums and I KNOW you are right about the journaling. I’m looking forward to following your blog and getting more ideas. Thanks for sharing!

  • Nidia

    Thanks for posting, wonderful! this year I thought I would need to do what you did, also cleaned many scrapbooking, but its guidelines to organize and reuse are fantastic. Big Kiss, Nidia.

  • Julie

    I am going to try this approach, our little bedroom is my craft room (yes, I am lucky) and it has got into a right mess, partly because I don’t put things away and partly because I have TOO much stuff and haven’t able to mentally detach from it all yet. I am in a rut; I know it needs sorting out and I know I have got to do it but I just can’t….. it’s too overwhelming.
    I guess I hang onto stuff because I know that I’ve paid money for it and I know how much I paid for it, I feel guilty about not using it and don’t want to let it go because I am fearful that I will need it one day.

    • Lisa Moorefield

      Julie, it’s great that you have a craft room! I know what you mean about it being overwhelming. Maybe start in sections – like only the stickers or paper – and see how that goes? Or perhaps box up some things instead of getting rid of them, and try working with less supplies for a while. (At least you will still have the old supplies in case you need them). Best of luck to you!

  • Shannon

    I love the idea of telling making the scrapbooks storybooks. I have been unhappy with my journaling for awhile now. I think it is a great idea to write like I am telling them a story. I don’t think I am ready to purge yet. Maybe in a few years.

  • Nikki

    I had a similar scrapbooking epiphany recently! I didn’t need a hobby that made me feel behind or overwhelmed, so I quit for a long time. But, I found a way for it to be fun again and with a lot less stuff and pressure. I blogged about it yesterday:
    Here’s to the future of scrapbooking–cheers :)

    • Lisa Moorefield

      Loved your blog post – thanks for the link!

  • Kim

    OMG, I got to the sentence “I realized that for me, scrapbooking is storytelling – with photos and embellishments used to enhance the story” and that is EXACTLY my style put into words!!!! I look at scrapbook page layouts and a lot of them are super fancy (pieces of artwork) and they don’t speak to me. NOW, I have words that describe what I do in scrapbooking (which will guide me in my buying of supplies)- hard to find page layouts as examples though. Just wanted to say a big THANK YOU!!!!

    • Lisa Moorefield

      You just made my day, Kim! Thank you!

      • Kim

        Your welcome… but really – THANK YOU!

  • Tracie Claiborne

    Lisa – Listening to you now on the PRT – so happy to hear you there. I had seen this post from a pin on Pinterest and was delighted to connect your voice with this post I recalled loving. I have a couple questions for you – once you cut all that paper down to 5.5×8.5 – did you decide to do some 6×8 albums and did you just have to buy more paper since your paper was cut smaller? Who makes the tan albums in your picture and what size are they? After years of scrapping, a couple years ago I started making cards exclusively and didn’t make pages because I was just plain bored with my own style and felt like I was making the same page over and over. I have always been an advocate of “starting with the story” but I think I let pressure to impress myself with doing something new keep from doing anything at all! (So weird but I doubt I’m the only one that feels I have to constantly recreate the design wheel.) I started this year with a new determination to document our stories. I’ve started a monthly PL and after listening to you, I am inspired now to make some smaller pages that tell the story more in-depth and stick them in the middle of my PL or in a Simple Stories album. Can’t wait to explore your blog some more!! Thanks so much for sharing. You have really inspired me.

    • Lisa Moorefield

      Hi Tracie! Good questions. I started typing a response but it was getting so long that I’m going to turn it into a blog post for tomorrow. Yay! :) The short answer is: I am still using 5.5 x 8.5 size for “regular” layouts, and in the 6×8 albums, I mostly use the divided protectors. I have 8.5×11 cardstock on hand (white and kraft), and I could also sew a strip of paper to the side of my cut cardstock and claim it was planned that way. :) The tan albums… I have no idea. I found them at TJ Maxx a long time ago. I think I will post a photo on Two Peas in a Bucket and see if anyone can identify them. Thanks so much for your kind words!

      • Lisa Moorefield

        After much googling, I found the albums. It’s a Memory Dock system by We R Memory Keepers:

        • Tracie Claiborne

          Okay I looked at them and I’m kind of confused – are they just 3-ring binders and you took the journaling inserts out? Do you use those as little albums for your layouts? What size protectors fit in there? It seems like that’s not what they were intended for but you used them since they were the size you wanted. Is that right? I’d love to see inside one of those with your layouts.

          • Lisa Moorefield

            Yes, you are right – I discarded the paper & inserts that came with it, and used it as a scrapbooking album. The Avery page protectors (5.5×8.5) fit perfectly. I’ll take some photos of the album to include in tomorrow’s post. :)

  • Tracie Claiborne

    Thank you!! Can’t wait to read that blog post!

  • Heather Beasley

    I think you are brilliant! I have SO much stuff. I have hoarded AND given away – and I still can’t get out for under the pile of stuff! I love your approach! I want to go simpler… But I guess I just need to DO it. I’m definitely going to follow your blog. I enjoyed hearing you on a Paperclipping episode recently and your approach to sharing the story resonated with me. Thank you!

    • Lisa Moorefield

      Thank you so much, Heather!!!

  • Karen

    Oh thank you for this post! I was (am) facing the same scrapbooking crisis and this is exactly what I needed to read today! It’s the story that is important!! Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  • Moni/Penny

    I’m really motivated to do a purge now, I don’t have so much supplies (like others) but my style has really changed from when I started and the old stuff just seems to be in the way…Your idea of “shopping your stash” is wonderful.
    I think “fancy, complicated” scrapbooking can be fun when you don’t really want to document anything. I have to admit I love this style and for me it’s more like doing art. But for documenting I use PL and try to keep it simple (with more or less success^^) and my photography blog. I don’t have any children but if I had I would never have the time to fuss so much over a single layout like I do now :))

    • Lisa Moorefield

      I agree – sometimes scrapbooking is more like art or a creative outlet, and sometimes it’s all about documenting stories. I think that’s what makes it such a popular hobby and different for everyone.

  • Diana

    Hi; liked reading your post and am glad you found a way that works for me. I’m a 12×12″ scrapper and like to use lots of pics and journaling. Sometimes it’s hidden in a pocket behind the layout. I see my adult children reading the journaling when they look at what is new.. that’s nice.

    You said: “I realized that for me, scrapbooking is storytelling – with photos and embellishments used to enhance the story”. Good for you. I’m glad I felt that way right away. I’ve also turned my scrapbooks into photo books just by gluing pics on 12×12″ cardstock (plain)… the pics are the important part and they follow a fancy layout usually.

    Reading this post is very timely as I’ve been purging my Scrap room this week (yes lucky there to have a tiny room) of what I don’t use and will not use again. The pile for a garage sale and GoodWill is growing and I’m starting to feel freer. I’m gaining room to use my most favorite supplies more efficiently. Again, thanks for your nice post.

    • Lisa Moorefield

      Thanks so much! It does feel freeing to get rid of some supplies. :)

  • Diana

    I mean to type “you” in the first sentence…

  • Margaret Richards

    Just loved reading your scrapbook diet. I only have and buy what i need for my next project. And yes when i started scrapbooking, it was all for the story telling. Several photos on one page and interesting tid bits about those phots. Birth, 1st birthdays, growing up, holidays, school days and awards, school formals, graduation, family tree, how my husband and i met etc, and now i am doing ancestors, i still use 12 x 12 and i use embellishments, but i make great use of the page. Thank you.

  • Deb

    Thanks for your informative article. I have been on a slow purge of supplies for over a year and I am in the processing of making an 8×8 for one grown son and I find I like the smaller size. I have two 12 x 12 albums started and would love to rip apart and redo on a smaller scale that my small grandson could pick up and look at easily. I will be downsizing to a condo from a home as my husband and I approach retirement in a year or so. I do not want to give up the hobby but will have to get rid of a lot of belongings and scrapbooking 12 x 12 may be one of them. Thank you, thank you for the inspiration.

    • Lisa Moorefield

      Thank you, Deb! I love the small size. :)

  • Cathy D.

    I’m off to purge my supplies! Thanks for motivation!

  • Beth

    Wow! Although I’m not ready to go to 8.5 X 5 pages, I love the idea of “shopping your stash/what would you buy” I think I will try this! It could really put things in perspective! thanks for sharing your experience. I often get very anxious when I imagine moving from this house some day!

  • Linka

    I moved to a foreign country where they don’t have craft stores (and I arrived with just suitcases). I cut down my supplies to basics and found that I can go about two years with the bare minimum. I’ve found that my scrapbooks have not suffered because of my lack of supplies. It forces me to be more creative and to really use “scraps” instead of expensive embellishments. I’ve also learned new techniques to make cool embellishments that I would have just bought before. Scrapbooking should be fun, not expensive or cluttering.

    • NN

      Agree with you! it should be fun, not expensive or cluttering!