Thursday, August 9, 2012

46 UHeart Organizing: A Scraptastic Planning Process!

Crafting and scrapbooking seem to be something that many of you readers love heart to do, and I am with you!  That is why I brought Sarah on board as one of my contributors.  In my personal opinion, she is the queen of organizing in the scrapbooking department and has a lot of ideas and systems that can be adapted for many types of craft projects.  Here she is now to share ways that she does some planning ahead of time, so when the time comes to sit down and scrapbook, she is ready to go!

Tell me if this sounds familiar: You sit down to scrapbook and spend the first hour sorting through pictures and trying to decide what to work on, then maybe another 20 or 30 minutes trying to figure out a layout and which paper and embellishments to use. Three hours later you’ve used up all your allotted crafting time and you only have one layout to show for it. Or maybe you’re the crafter who is so far behind and feels so overwhelmed that you don’t know where to start and it’s entirely taken the enjoyment out of the experience.

Here’s one of my key rules of thumb: crafting should be fun, not stressful.

Luckily, I have a system that helps make efficient use of precious crafting hours by allowing you to quickly and easily put your hands on exactly the item you want to work on. I’m going to use my scrapbooking projects to illustrate this system, but it can definitely be tailored to fit other crafting needs.

As with any good system, dedicating time on the front end to get organized saves oodles of time on the back end. And when it comes to crafting, that time savings translates to MORE FUN! {And if you love organizing as much as I do – and since you’re here, you probably do – you might find the planning and organizing almost as much fun as the crafting!}


When I’m working on a scrapbook, I break the process down into 3 steps: Prepare, Plan and Create. I think of the Prepare phase as the staging area, where everything gets piled up in anticipation of the Plan phase. But rather than leaving everything in literal piles – where items from separate projects might get mixed together or key items might get misplaced – I sort items by project into tote bags.

I use tote bags I picked up from my local craft tore {selected for their size, durability and cuteness}, but the sheer abundance of reusable bags on the market should make finding an option easy. I like the bags because they allow me to make use of the hanging space in my closet and they are easy to grab and go. But any portable container large enough to safely store 12 X 12 paper will do.

Here’s what I do. Each scrapbook I plan to create gets its own designated project bag, which I label and hang in the closet of my craft room.

As I print pictures, spy perfect layouts, purchase paper and embellishments or collect memorabilia for a project, I slip them into their designated project tote. When that project is ready to move onto the Plan phase, I just grab the tote, confident that I have everything I planned to use for that project.

Even if you’re chomping at the bit to move onto the Plan phase, I recommend you take time to sort all your projects into their totes or containers first. Once you've done that, you will be ready to move each project to the Plan phase in a nice, orderly fashion. I promise this will make the Plan phase much easier and set you up to use this system going forward, avoiding having to go through “the big sort” more than once.


Step 1: Sort

When it’s time to move a project tote or container from the Prepare to the Plan phase, I start by removing all its contents. It’s kind of like Christmas, rediscovering all the items I’ve squirreled away for the project! Now it’s time to bring order to the chaos. Love it!

 I first sort all the items into piles, categorizing them into planned layouts. 

While some of the items will sort easily into layouts, other piles will have to be sub-divided multiple times to get down to the layout level. This is always the case with my Christmas pile. Also, some of the piles will be ready to pick up and start scrapping, while others will require more work to get to that point. That’s okay. The goal of the Plan phase is to get everything into its proper place and capture all the ideas you already have in your head.

Step 2: Create folios

After I’ve refined everything down to as many individual layout piles as I can {if I get stuck on how to sub-divide a particularly large pile, I give myself permission to save that exercise for another day, just making sure to label the pile to keep it organized}, I tuck each layout into its own folio.

Folio is just my fancy word for folders I create out of paper.  Here is what I do:
  1. I fold a piece of 8.5x11 paper in half once.  {As a writer, I always have a lot of used paper sitting around.  So before sending it to the recycle bin, I re-purpose it as a folio by folding it printed-side in.  Use whatever folder solution works best for you; just remember that this is for temporary use, so don't spend too much time or money creating it.}
  2. On one side of the folded sheet, I label the folio to indicate the layout subject {if I've already thought of a title, I'll use the title to label the folio}.
  3. I use the rest of the open space to draw out layout ideas, making journaling notes or jot down other ideas I have for the pages.  I might also note if there are things I still need for the layout, like to print a certain picture or pick up some themed paper.
  4. Finally, I tuck into the folio all of the items I have collected for that layout.

Again, this is a quick and dirty solution because I want to spend my time creating layouts, not folios.

Step 3: Create an outline

Once I’ve created a folio for every layout and tucked the designated items into the folio, I line them all up, so I can see what I have.

Then, I create an outline. Why am I giving myself a homework assignment, you ask? Because it makes creating a scrapbook so much easier! The benefits of a project outline include:
  • It helps me figure out how to sequence my layouts in my scrapbook before I start and to verify that I haven’t missed anything.
  • I can pull out my outline and use it to decide which layout to work on next, rather than flipping through all the folios.
  • It allows me to scrap in non-sequential order, meaning I can work on the layout that feels the most fun and motivating, rather than being forced to work on the next one in line.
  • And, I get to cross each layout off the list as I complete it, reinforcing my sense of accomplishment and showing me how much progress I’m making!

Here’s what I do. I title the outline according to the scrapbook, since I usually have multiple scrapbooks in process at once. I then divide my folios into sections – months of the year, destinations on a vacation, etc. – and add those sections as headers to my outline. Under each section header, I list the layouts I plan to include in that section.

I even give myself a To Be Determined section, where I list layouts whose location I haven't yet selected.

Even if your scrapbooks don’t have sections, it would still be helpful to use the outline to list and order all your layouts. And don’t forget the benefits of crossing completed layouts off! Once I’ve finished my outline, I stick the outline into a clear, plastic sleeve, to protect it and make it easy to grab.

To help get you started, here's a printable outline you can download and fill out for your next project.

{click HERE to download your FREE Project Printable}
Step 4: Create section dividers

Before moving into the final step of placing everything into a bin, I create section dividers that correspond to the section headers in my outline. When I’m dealing with a book that contains a lot of layouts, these section dividers make it so much easier to keep folios in order and to find the folios I’m looking for without flipping through my entire project bin.

I then clip my section dividers to pieces of cardboard that I reuse from bin to bin. Giving them this extra weight makes them easier to find in my bin.

Step 5: Load the project bin

Now that I’ve sorted, folioed, outlined and section divided, it’s time to put all the goodies in their new home.

My bins are from The Container Store, but really you just need a bin that meets the following criteria:
  • Wide enough to fit 12 X 12 paper, plus a little bit extra to make room for section dividers.
  • Not so deep that items fall down. 7-10” deep is great.
  • Not so tall that you can’t see – and sort through – the contents. No higher than 9-10”, unless a lid is mandatory for your particular storage requirements.
When loading the bin, I find it easier to tip the bin on its side and load from back to front.

I put the layout folios as far to the right as possible and the section dividers as far to the left as possible. This makes it easier to flip through the section dividers and find the folio I want. When I’m done loading all my layouts into the bin, I tuck other items I might need into the front on the bin, including layout ideas and paper I want to use, a calendar of past events, and of course, my outline.

I remove the label from my project tote and place it on the front of my project bin.

Now the PLAN phase is complete and my bin is ready to go.

All I have to do is select a folio from my outline, find it in my bin and let the creative juices start flowing!

I highly recommend that all crafters give this system a try, regardless of your storage challenges and blessings. This system will make it so much easier to make efficient use of your crafting time and you’ll be amazed at how much more quickly you progress on your projects. For the on-the-go crafter, this allows you to grab just the number of layouts you think you will have time to work on and just the supplies you we’ll need to complete them. This is so much easier – and much more productive – than bringing all your supplies and only using 2% of them. This is also an ideal solution for those of you who have to keep your supplies tucked away in storage and pull them out every time you want to craft. Instead, you can pull out your project bin, decide which layouts to work on, and then pull out only those supplies you will need to complete the selected layouts. And no matter how much space you have dedicated to crafting, you still want to be organized and productive.

Happy crafting, everyone!

"My name is Sarah Eelkema and I live in a suburb of Minneapolis, MN with my husband of almost two years, Eric, and our two adorable Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Hermes and Brontë. I am a Communications Consultant by day and by night/weekend/any spare moment, I indulge in my passion for writing, crafting and organizing. I am honored to share with all you dedicated iHeart fans my tips, tricks and secrets for organized crafting, which will not only help you get control of your craft clutter but also allow you to make more efficient and productive use of your precious crafting time. While I am blessed with an entire craft room, I promise to explain how all the solutions I share can be tailored to your specific situation, whether it be a dedicated room, a small storage space or mobile crafting.


  1. This is awesome! I tried (and failed) to be a scrapbooker. I only wanted to make one for our honeymoon, but it stressed me out so much that it sat there for THREE years before I finally gave up and decided it would be better for me to make one in photoshop and have it printed. Like you said, it should be fun, not stressful - and I have way more fun creating things digitally than by hand. I am still a wanna-be-scrapbooker though!! :)

    1. When we moved out of state, I wasn't meeting any new people, so I joined a scrapbook club. The lady that runs it happens to be a Close to My Heart distributer and that is the product we use, but I'm sure any club would work. If you can't find one maybe you could start one.

  2. while I'm not a scrapbooker myself, I certainly appreciate all the work that goes into them. This is such a great outline for how to stay organized and plan out a thoughtful and meaningful scrapbook, amazing! Great post, Sarah!

  3. This article is AMAZING! I love scrapbooking but I'm an unorganized mess. This system will hopefully bring the joy back into my favorite hobby. Thank you!

  4. This is really neat! I'm going to try and adapt it for my sewing projects!

  5. This is great for setting aside pics and papers that you take to a friend's house to do, but for at home...
    Seems like a lot of extra steps.
    I just do the pics as I get them.
    And since I switched to mostly digital scrapping a year ago, I save time, money, and effort and my craft room is pared down to card making essentials.

    1. Thanks for the feedback. This system is definitely for crafters who aren't able to scrapbook as they go. I use this system primarily at home for that reason and it definitely keeps me on track!

  6. I think i may try to apply this system to my new etsy shop!

  7. As an avid scrapbooker, I'm always trying to find ways to prepare and plan effectively. Although I don't think this will work as well for me, there are a few tips I can walk away with. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Wow!!! I thought I was an organized scrapper but this is the phd version. Of all the talented scrap friends I have, I have never seen anything like this. I have some work to do here :-)

  9. Wow! What a great way to scrapbook. I think with anything planning is the key! LOVE this post. I can't wait for my craft room to be done and start scrapbooking again! I get all "giddy" just thinking about it!

  10. I love your bag system!! I am so tight on space and this might actually work for me. GREAT system you have! And this is from a 15 year scrapper!!

  11. This is a really good system! One of the things that I do is make a list of all of my to-do layouts--my scrappy friends makes fun of me, but I always know what still needs done and can cross off what is finished. I don't like to scrap chronological so that just seems to work.

  12. Looks like a great system. I love the folio idea. Thanks for sharing!

  13. Awesome post! Thanks for all the detailed info!

  14. Wow! What a great organizational system for any project. Thanks for walking us through it!

  15. This is great! I miss scrapbooking- this project makes it look do-able again. Thank you so much!

  16. Although I'm not into scrapbooking, I have to admire your excellent ideas and organizing skills. Want to come organize my many, many photos?!

    Keep writing...

  17. I have favorited this posting for my wedding / honeymoon scrap book I plan on doing over the Christmas holiday!!!!

  18. I heart you Jen. Thanks to your blog, every facet of my life may one day be organized and fabulous. Thanks for all that you do.

  19. I lost everything but some pics in a house fire 4 years ago and have all that to now organize! I have been overwhelmed and only doing current scrapping... Thanks to you I can now attack my mess and organize it with stuff I already have! Thanks for offering this tute Jen! Kathi

    1. I'm so glad I could help! Good luck, Kathi!

  20. Wow - this is fantastic! I was thinking about using project bins for our home/crafting projects but the totes are great! this is some serious motivation to plow through and get organized, so that I'm excited, not overwhelmed, come project time. Thanks, Sarah for such awesome details and tips!

  21. Thanks for sharing! I will totally be attempting this. I was wondering if you could share storage and organization tips for all of your photo albums. I'm not sure where to put all of mine and was hoping you could help. :)

    1. Like the fabulous Ms. Jones, I am a huge fan of the Expedit system from Ikea. I'll talk more about how I use it in future posts, but one of the best things is that the shelves are deep enough for my scrapbooks. I typically put my most recent book on display in our living room for guests to enjoy and the rest live in a 4 X 4 Expedit bookcase in my craft room.

  22. You've got me inspired Sarah! I love the storage bins too - excellent find! :)

  23. This is amazing! I haven't been able to scrapbook for almost a year since having my little one since I've been so busy but if I take some time to tackle this project I might just have time to start scrapbooking again! I really miss it!

  24. Thank you so much for sharing this system would work for sewing, cardmaking and general crafting. All of these I have in various stages but do not know where to begin well I am going to go back into each area and start organizing thank you

  25. Thanks for sharing this! I love it. I've always wanted to scrapbook but the amount of time and everything that goes into it was so daunting. Breaking it down this way makes it seem a lot easier and more fun!

  26. Super ideas. I always attend my scrap nights ready to go with several projects, but I do spend two days ahead of time planning for that. Thanks for the tips.

  27. I do something similar to this- I take all of the pictures I want to use for specific layouts, find the layout and the paper I want to use and paperclip them together. It makes my actual crafting time go so much quicker. And since I never really make the time to do it at home and only go on a couple scrapbooking weekends a year- this process helps keep me caught up!

  28. This is BRILLIANT!! I love it!! I love to craft and scrap and I am always looking for ways to do it faster and better! I teach scrapbook and card classes and I am going to implement this system. As I get ideas for a class I will have a bag to put it in. I find ideas and then so much time wondering where I put it and so on! Thank you so much!!

  29. oh my goodness! i love love love love love it! thanks for the free printable! i'm a scrapbooking/stamping FREAK, so this is a good tool for cardmaking as well!

  30. Nice work, Sarah! I'm inspired by your wheels are already spinnning about setting up something similar, because I may have one or two, or twenty-two, projects that need finsihing at any given time.

    Your fellow BookBabe,

  31. What a great system, Sarah. I am so impressed. And the printable is fantastic.

  32. I remember reading somewhere years ago when I started scrapbooking that 12x12 paper will fit into 2 gallon ziploc bags, they are a bit hard to find, at least where I am, but it could be a good solution to help keep each section together if you travel with your scrapbook items to crops and such.


  33. Love, LOVE, LOOOOOVE this post! Great tips! I'm just in process of organizing my scrapbook stuff in a way that lets me scrap out of order, yet keep specific projects separated. This was sooo helpful to me for filling in some blank areas of my plan!

  34. This is awesome! I used to make similar folios at work when I was bored but had to stick around (shh don't tell!) but the rest of your organizing system is awesome! I usually haul so much to crops that I don't use, this would eliminate stress or remembering everything or re-buying something I forgot at home.

    Once I am done organizing the pantry, and garage, this will be my next project. :)

    Thanks for sharing!

  35. This is such a great system. I love the hanging bags! I have tried baskets before to separate out projects, but they are much bulkier, take up lots of space, and don't work well for paper crafting projects as the papers can get crunched. I love this system and am looking forward to implementing it into my craft projects. I think it will work especially good for me since I craft infrequently and by the time I get the time to work on my projects, it might be months + since I have come up with my original idea and bought the materials. This will help me from spending so much time wondering "where was I at again?". :) In the past I have felt overwhelmed about scrap booking sessions outside the home because I don't have time before a given session to spend hours gathering all of my materials together, and I never know exactly what to grab-- this would solve that problem and bring the joy into it! Been looking for information on this subject for awhile.
    Thank you for sharing and being so thorough in sharing your system!

    Do you have any kind of a system/project list/ "table of contents" that keeps all the projects you are working on at a given time straight? Or do you just know this by the boxes you have? Also, how do you store your container store scrap booking boxes? How many do you have of these at a given time? Thanks again and looking forward to your future posts!

    1. I'm so glad to hear that some of my ideas will help you. I know so many people who abandon scrapping because of frustration, and I hope my ideas will help some of those people rekindle their love. :)

      I'm going to answer your questions in reverse order. Right now, I have a card table set up beside my craft table, where I keep my project bins, as well as any layouts that are in process (though this will soon be changing to a more permanent solution in the near future - more to come on that!). I keep them there for easy access, but when I need the space occupied by the card table (my craft room also doubles as a guest room), the bins go in the closet.

      I generally limit the number of bins to 2-3 at a time, even though I usually have more scrapbooks to work on then that. I want to give myself a variety of things to work on, but I also want to remain focused enough to get a scrapbook completed. So I won't move one of my 3 pending project bags from the closet to a bin until I've completed one of the bins.

      Hope that helps!

  36. I love the tote bag idea! I have a ton of them since we own a gift shop and everytime we go to a gift/trade show I get another one! I now have a use for all those bags plus I can organize my scrapbooking ideas to boot! Thanks so very much! :)

  37. Great information and ideas! Thank you for sharing. I like all the steps!,

  38. Love it!!! When I have a big project I'm taking somewhere I do something similar - but not to this extent - I divide them out by layout and number them. ( I have a layout idea book also) I use post-it flags in the book w/ the same # and then I put it all in a Ziploc - yes the 2 gallon ones! I buy them at the grocery store - but have also seen them at dollar stores! and then I can put any embellishments in there with the layout and my paper and photos. That way when I am ready to go to the crop/or only have a limited amount of time - I can pull out the one bag and go! Its great! Your plan takes it a few steps farther and I LOVE IT!!!!! I cant wait to start using ur prepare w/ a tote idea!

  39. Thanks for all of your organizing ideas, Sarah! I am new to scrapbooking - just made my first - but I love it and have plans for many more. I've also been working on organizing all of the "stuff" and your ideas have been invaluable. Yesterday I organized my paper, scraps, and tools, and right now I'm going to create totes for my next few projects and then use the planner outline to organize myself. Thanks again!

  40. I can't seem to download this file. Is it still available?


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