Thoughts On Scrapbook Album Organization

If you’ve been scrapbooking for any length of time, you know just how quickly your layouts can pile up. If you don’t have an album system in place or even if you do, it’s a good exercise to think about how you store your pages and whether or not it’s working for you.

For the past four weeks, I’ve taken part in Shimelle’s Cover to Cover class where she discusses her album organization system and ways to start a system of your own or improve on a system you already have.

My story

I currently organize my albums in categories. I took Stacy Julian’s Library of Memories class at Big Picture Classes in 2007 and it was life changing for me.

I’ll never forget the moment that Stacy’s message penetrated. She told a story of how she was reminiscing with her Mom and they spent a morning chatting about childhood memories that spanned many years. But they didn’t say…(my paraphrasing here) “OK,  let’s talk about all the memories we can think of that occurred in 1975, starting January. No skipping around and no memories from 1974 or 1976 or any other year.”

It was a “Duh.” moment for me. Our brains recall things at random. One memory leads to another but it doesn’t flow in date order. I had always organized my albums in chronological order because it never occurred to me to do it any other way.  But chronological order wasn’t working for me and I needed a change.

Different ways to organize an album

While there are unlimited ways you could conceive of to organize your albums, most of us go with chronological order or by category.

Chronological simply means having your layouts in date order. You could have one (or as many as you need) album for each year and you place the layouts in order by the date of the photos on your layouts beginning in January and ending in December.

Organizing by category means dividing your layouts into different themes. For the Library of Memories system, the categories are us, people we love, places we go and things we do. I simplified my categories even further to be Me – self explanatory, People – family, nephews, friends, etc… Places – theme parks, city parks, the beach, home, specific cities, etc… and Things – sports, current events, weather, daily life, four seasons, etc…

Categories could also mean albums for each child, family albums, vacation albums, an album for celebrations and holidays, etc… The categories are only limited by how much each scrapbooker wants to limit them.

There is no right or wrong way. It’s a matter of personal preference and what works best for how you scrapbook and organize.

Types of albums

While there are many types of albums on the market — from strap hinge albums to Creative Memories style albums where you create your layout on the paper inside of the book — the two most popular styles are post-bound and 3-ring.

Post-bound albums use metal binding posts with screw heads on both ends of a post — one stationary, one movable — to tightly hold page protectors between the front and back covers. The facing pages in the album fit right up next to each other.

3-ring albums use clamp rings just like you would find in an office style 3-ring binder. The rings are attached to the binding spine and hold page protectors more loosely between the front and back covers. The facing pages do not fit up against each other.

There are pros and cons to each style. Again, it’s about personal choice and what works best for you. If you can’t decide or don’t know if you’ll like one over another, buy one album in a different style and use it for a specific use – like a cruise or a trip. Try it out and if you don’t like that style, you haven’t made a big commitment.

My story continues

In 2007, I was at a crossroads in terms of my scrapbooking. Using post bound albums (and keeping them in chronological order) caused me complete frustration. My bulky pages did not lay nicely within the tight confines of the post bound style. I hated reordering my layouts when I created a new one that fit between two existing pages. It was glaringly obvious (to me) the parts of my life I was intentionally skipping and will not be scrapbooking. Eventually, I stopped adding layouts to my albums because it was too time consuming. I almost gave it up.

But per Stacy’s direction in that class, I took a chance and implemented a category album system. I converted all of my post bound chronological albums to category albums in one weekend. Most of my layouts had dates on them, so I knew that I could reorder them again if needed. I am not intimidated by big organization projects, so I spread all of my layouts out on the dining room table and got to work.

It was the single best thing I have ever done to improve my scrapbooking.

I loved the 3-ring albums from the moment I started using them. Inserting new layouts and reordering pages was a breeze. They allowed more give between the pages so my bulkier pages weren’t getting squished. 90% of my layouts are single page so the gutter or gap between the pages has never bothered me.

Best of all, the categories alleviated my anxiety over the gaping periods I won’t be scrapbooking. And if there are things I never get around to scrapbooking, that’s OK too. My categories are like mini albums unto themselves and you don’t notice anything missing. I have been very happy with my system.

But that said, no system is perfect and any system can benefit from tweaks and upgrades. So I took Shimelle’s class to get a different perspective. I asked myself, are categories still the best way for me? Is random the best way to order them? With my random album categories, do my pages flow? Are my stories complete?

The answers surprised me and I’ll share them later this week.

How do you currently organize your layouts?

Thanks for stopping by today!

28 Comments

  1. I loved taking that class too! I am a chrono organizer 🙂

    Reply
    • I’m really glad I took it too! 🙂

      Reply
  2. I took Shimelle’s Pretty Paper Party class and loved it! This sounds like a good one, too 🙂
    I also took Stacy’s LOM class and read her book. It really did change album organization for me. I store my cold photos in the categories she mentions, but otherwise still store them chronologically on my computer.
    But as for albums, I have school albums for each child, individual albums for each child where I just put everyday layouts I create for them, travel albums, and all about me albums.
    I do have family albums that I make for events and stuff that happen throughout the year. But I just create layouts when I feel like it for those as well.
    I am big on scrapping what I want, when I want 🙂
    Can’t wait to hear more about Shimelle’s class!

    Reply
    • I felt it was worthwhile, even as a category organizer. Shimelle presents her system which is chrono, but she weaves in other ideas that can be applied to any system and that’s where I really paid attention! 🙂

      Reply
  3. I am behind on printing and usually go with themed chronological photobooks. They are impossible to add pages too though! 🙂 Hence my lack of printing!

    Reply
    • Yes, you can’t really go back and change it once it’s printed, can you? You’ll catch up one of these days!

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  4. I’m another Chrono organizer and like you I separate my albums into categories as well 🙂

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  5. I always love your blog posts! So full of info and leaves me wanting to read more! Now you’ve inspired me to go checkout and reorganize my albums.

    Reply
    • Thanks Sheri! Thanks for stopping by!

      Reply
  6. Great post! I’ve already adapted Stacy’s system a bit to fit our lives better, and really appreciate the perspective Shimelle’s class brings. I tried 3-rings albums and just do not like the gap, so I will stay true to my post-bound albums. Worth the hassle to me! Looking forward to your follow-up.

    Reply
    • Thanks! I’m glad I kept an open mind because I did get some great ideas even though I’m really happy with what I’m doing now. But I’m looking forward to making it even better! 🙂

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  7. I need to organize my layouts soon….have no idea yet how to, but your idea is great!

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    • Thanks! It really is a time consuming project. Good luck!

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  8. I’ve never organized my albums (or scrapbooking) chronologically. It would take the fun out of scrapbooking for me. I use themes like Heritage, Family, etc. And I love 3-ring binders where it’s easy to move things around. 🙂

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    • I can relate! 😀

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  9. Wonderful post! This year I went over to a ring system after using Creative Memories for a couple of decades. I won’t change my old albums but I LOVE being able to add pages wherever I want and my pages also needed more breathing room.

    Thanks for explaining this all so clearly for your readers.

    Reply
    • Yes! 3-ring albums can be amazing. They have been a huge help to me – made me enjoy scrapbooking all over again! 🙂

      Reply
  10. love this post tammy! I am going to come back and revist this post in a couple of weeks when it is time for me to work on my scrapbook organization! tfs this!!!!

    Reply
    • You are welcome! While it’s time consuming, I do think that finding a system that works for you is so important to the overall process. Good luck with yours!

      Reply
  11. Fantastic post Tammy! I never would have thought to organize by category! Love the binder clips too 🙂 I always used post bound, but have recently switched to 3 ring. What type of albums are your 3 ring?

    Reply
    • The ones in the photo are all American Crafts. I love them! I also have some by We R Memory Keepers and they are equally wonderful, but more expensive.

      Reply
  12. I have a couple subject albums – Christmas, and a few specific to a trip, and an ongoing Halloween mini. I stopped scrapping chrono a long time. I have three sets of main albums-ours, DD, DS…they go in the order I scrap them. They bounce all over time, but I date all of them. I think it makes looking at them spontaneous.

    Reply
    • That’s one of the things I like about what I’m doing too – the randomness of it all! Makes it more fun and interesting in some ways. 🙂

      Reply
  13. I never thought to organize albums like this, it totally makes sense if that is how your brain works. Will you be going into more specifics about your categories and albums?

    Reply
    • I will show some specific layouts in my albums but categories are simply Me – all about me. People – which includes sections for family, my nephews, grandparents, extended family and friends. Places – which includes the subsections of theme parks, city parks, the beach, the pool, home, and specific cities where I’ve lived. And Things – which includes sports, current events, weather, daily life, food, and four seasons. That’s it. Stacy still teaches her class at Big Picture Classes each year so I would have to refer you there for more specifics on how the system works as a whole. 🙂

      Reply
  14. Very interesting topic.
    I only do 2 page layouts …when I actually do them. So I love the post bound albums.
    So happy you found a system that you love so far “:)

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  15. I’m looking forward to hearing more! I really need to work on this.

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  16. Great post on album organization Tammy. As you know, I use the LOM system, but I also took Shimelle’s class and will be using some of her ideas in the theme album I’ve barely started for our cruise at the beginning of the year. And I really liked her philosophy of it’s ok to go back and add more journaling to a completed layout to be sure the story is told.

    Reply

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