Confessions of a Scrapbooking Dropout: Why I Went Digital All The Way

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When my teenage son Jacob was a baby, I decided to give away scrapbooks documenting his first weeks of life as Christmas gifts for a few close relatives.

A month before the holiday, I painstakingly cropped dozens of photos of his hospital stay and homecoming. I cut out colorful paper borders and shapes and purchased decorative background papers and gel pens. I went nuts in the sticker aisle at Michael’s.

By a week before Christmas, all I’d managed to finish were two pages of three photos each. And those were nothing to write home about either.  As much as I wanted to be a creative, artistic scrapbooking mom, in reality my pages looked like a fifth-grader’s collage project. What did I have to show for all that effort? Sloppy, uneven handwriting. Tilted photos. Rumpled stickers. And a nagging ache in my shoulder.

So even though this was 1997 and the concept of digital scrapbooking didn’t really exist yet, I returned to my comfort zone: the family PC. I scanned photos and inserted them onto pages in Microsoft Publisher, creating captions in even, readable fonts (mostly Comic Sans – hey, I told you it was 1997!).

After an hour of work I printed out an entire, completed book… and then made a few extra copies for my grandmother, mother and mother-in-law. And of course, they loved them.

Still, I didn’t give up on scrapbooking by hand for years. I even signed on as a consultant for a major scrapbooking direct sales company when my two oldest kids were small. I attended all-day scrapping workshops, invested a small fortune in pens, punches, and stickers, and worked my shoulder muscles into hard knots. I think somewhere down deep, I really believed that scrapbooking time-intensive, crafty, sticker-and-stamp-covered pages was just something that good moms do.

But after a few years of trying – trying really hard! – to produce an entire, finished, not-too-embarrassing scrapbook, I still faced down the same unfinished project. In the years after my oldest son was born, I had more children and launched a writing career. My free time dwindled even as the number of photos to be scrapped, experiences to be documented, grew. Finally, I decided to throw in the paper cutter for good.

I learned a few things via my defection from traditional scrapbooking. First, that not everyone is good at the same things. Second, that fonts can be just as fun as gel pens, especially if your handwriting is as horrible as mine. And third, that scrapbooking – at least for me – is more about documenting important memories for myself and others than it is showing off my artistic skills.

As a mom, I’m all about doing what works. And what works for me is getting my old photos out of boxes, getting my newer ones off my hard drive, and getting those adorable pictures in front of the people who want to see them…in whatever way is the easiest and most fun.

And things have come a long way since my first attempt at a computer-generated scrapbook. Now, easy-to-use digital scrapbooking programs – like the Summer Scrapbook Maker from our sponsor, Wendy’s – make the whole process fun, fast, and easy even for the not-so-coordinated.

Some moms create beautiful handmade scrapbooks, and really enjoy the process. I’ve finally come to peace with the fact that I’m never going to be one of those moms. But the way I see it, digital scrapbooking is a creative outlet, too. And a virtual cropping tool is a lifesaver for the scissors-challenged among us (me!)

And I’m confident my kids know I love them and cherish their memories…even if I never did get around to finishing that Creative Memories scrapbook I started in 2001.

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