Thursday, October 4, 2012

25 UHeart Organizing: An Organized Inspiration Binder for Scrapping & Crafting

My super organized scrapbooking friend is back today, to share with us her method for staying inspired when creating her beautiful books.  Inspiration is everywhere, so she keeps it tucked away in a super fantastic binder that she can quickly pull out and use when she is ready to scrapbook.  Welcome back Sarah!

Last time I visited IHeart Organizing, I shared with you how I get myself organized before I scrapbook.  Today, I thought I would share how I use organized inspiration to jump start my scrapbooks.  

{Spoiler alert: I'm about to share with you all my number one secret to speedy crafting!}

As I shared in my last post, when I come across layouts that will work perfectly for a particular project or page, I either drop the layout in the appropriate project bag or tuck it in the designated folio.  You may be thinking, what do I do when I come across a layout I love that isn't earmarked for a specific project?  I'm so glad you asked!  The answer: my Inspiration Binder!

In my before-binder days, I would pour through each page of a scrapbooking magazine, turning down the corners on the pages I loved {which typically was the majority of them}.  But if I was working on a scrapbook page and needed a little inspiration boost, I had to flip through all those marked pages again. Not very productive.  Thus the idea for my Inspiration Binder was born.

Here are the materials I used to create my Inspiration Binder:

  • Patterned craft paper
  • Die cutting machine, sticker letters or stencils
  • Paper cutter
  • Xyron sticker maker
  • 2 1/2" standard three-ring binder with sleeves on front, back and spine
  • Plastic page protectors
  • Typing paper {previously used}
  • Scrapbooking magazines
  • Scissors
  • Adhesive runner or glue
  • Adhesive labels
  • Pen
I started by making the outside of my binder as inspirational as I wanted its contents to be.  First, I cut three pieces of coordinating patterned paper to size {in shades of blue and yellow to match my craft room}.  Then, I cut out the word "Inspire" using my die cutting machine {though stickers or a stencil would have worked as well}.

I then adhered the letters to the binder spine using my Xyron sticker maker.  Finally, I slipped the papers into the pockets on the front, back and spine of my binder.

Now for the inside.  The inside of my binder contains three key components: plastic page protectors, 8.5 x 11 sheets of typing paper with layouts glued to them and section labels.  My Inspiration Binder is {currently} divided into 18 sections:
  • Multi-photo, same size
  • Multi-photo, multi size
  • 4 photos
  • 3 photos
  • 2 photos
  • 1 photo
  • Journaling layouts
  • Title layouts
  • Technique
  • Color combinations
  • Vacation/travel
  • School/book club
  • Personal expression
  • Pet pages
  • Baby/pregnancy/child
  • Wedding/special occasion
  • Seasons
  • Calendars
18 sections may seem like a lot, but I've learned that having more sections with a limited number of layouts in each section is the key to making the Inspiration Binder a useful tool.  You'll notice that the sections fall into two camps: layout-focused and theme-focused.  When I first created my Inspiration Binder five or so years ago, all of my sections were theme-focused and I had one giant "Favorites" section for everything that did not fall into a specific theme.  The problem with this approach: I don't always scrapbooked based on theme.  I would find myself looking at four photos on my work table and being unsure how to use my Inspiration Binder to turn those pictures into a fabulous layout.  Flipping through 50 pages of "favorite" layouts wasn't doing the trick.

But every good organizing system is a work in progress and requires tweaking after you've lived with it for a while.  So, I dismantled the "Favorites" section and replaced it with numerous layout-focused sections, most notably, layouts identified by the number of pictures.

And because sometimes journaling, a catchy title or a new technique are the driving force behind a layout, I included sections based on those as well.

This was one of the best organizing decisions I've ever made.  The small adjustment transformed my Inspiration Binder into a tool that works for every type of layout and has made me a much faster scrapper.  The sections you choose to include in your Inspiration Binder will vary based on the style and focus of your scrapping or crafting.  But if you intend to use your Inspiration Binder for scrapbooking, I highly recommend including sections based on the number of photos.

Once I identified my 18 sections, each section got a label.  My label of choice were these adhesive tabs I found in the office supplies section at Target, because they met all my criteria.

The bright colors are fun, the size and surface make them easy to write on and read, I can easily find and flip to the section I want, and they are easy to reposition without damaging the page protectors.  When selecting or creating labels for the binder, make sure they are visible and make each section easy to access: having to flip through all the pages defeats the purpose of having a sectioned binder.  Also, make sure to select an option that is durable and that won't stick out too far above the top of the binder.  These are particularly important tips if you are going to transport your binder or store it away in a closet or bin.

Once each section was labeled, I slipped multiple page protectors into each section.  As I mentioned in my previous post, I have a lot of used paper lying around.  I stuck two sheets {used sides facing} into each paper protector and popped them into the sections.  Even if you are using clean, never before used paper, I recommend putting two sheets into each sleeve.  This way, you don't have to recreate both sides if you decide to make changes to one side.  And I do recommend adhering the layouts to paper, rather than ripping out entire pages from a magazine.  In most cases, I am only interested in one part of the page, so I don't want to clutter up my binder with layouts I don't intend to use or text I don't need to reference.

Another benefit of gluing layouts onto paper is that it allows me to label subsections by writing directly on the sheet.  For example, within my "Journaling Layouts" section, I've sorted the layouts for those featuring typed versus hand-written journaling.  Labeling these subcategories makes finding just the right inspiration piece in my binder even easier.

Now for the really fun part: adding the inspiration!  My primary source of inspiration is scrapbooking magazines, since my Inspiration Binder is geared towards scrapbooking, but sometimes pictures from other magazines and my own sketches make it into the binder.  I source my Inspiration Binder contents, which are constantly evolving, from a scrapbooking magazine I subscribe to.  However, for those of you just starting to create your Inspiration Binder, you will want to pick up multiple magazines to start with, so you can build a significant foundation of content.  The goal is to select enough layouts to fill your binder with rich content but not so many layouts that you're unable to organize and use the binder.

A note on subscriptions to crafting magazines.  If your goal in subscribing is simply an enjoyable read, then subscribe away.  If you're like me, however, and subscribe for the primary purpose of finding inspiration, I recommend limiting your number of subscriptions.  Despite my pathological desire to hoard crafting supplies, I do actually believe that one of the secrets to productive crafting is exercising self control over the volume of crafting supplies I invest in {allowing for the periodic indulgences, of course!}.  So I limited myself to one scrapbooking magazine subscription.  One magazine seems to provide enough new ideas to allow me to periodically refresh my binder and keep my scrapping from getting stale, while preventing me from spending all my time reading scrapbooking magazines and no time creating scrapbooks.  Inspiration overload can be as debilitating as being devoid of inspiration.

When the long awaited day arrives and my glossy new edition is here, I spread the magazine on my lap, absorb each word and gaze lovingly at every picture {am I adequately conveying how much I love the arrival of my new magazine?!}.  When a particular layout catches my eye, I don't just cut it out and plop it in my binder.  I force myself to be discerning when selecting which content is binder-worthy, because cutting out the majority of the pictures in even one magazine is still not very productive.  So when I see something I like, I evaluate why it appeals to me.  Is it:
  • Theme
  • Layout organization or orientation
  • Color combination
  • Product use
  • Techniques
  • Title and journaling style
Once I've figured out why I like a layout, I ask myself some questions to determine if it is a keeper.  Am I really going to use this layout?  {If it's significantly different than my normal aesthetic, realistically, the answer is probably no.}  Does the binder already have a layout similar to this one? {Many times the answer is yes, which explains why the layout appealed to me in the first place.}  If a layout passed the weeding out process, I make a note next to it.  

That's right.  I read my magazine with a pen in hand.

As I read through the magazine, I jot down what I see as that layout's purpose.  My notes typically indicate one of two things: what project it will be used for {meaning it will be slipped into a project bag or folio} or more often, what section of my Inspiration Binder the layout is destined for.  For example, the note on the layout below tells me it will end up in the Techniques section of my binder.

After I've gone through the entire magazine and made notes next to my chosen layouts, I go back through the magazine and begin cutting out the selected items.  Yes, I do dismantle the magazines when I am done with them, but it is really the only way to create an organized, categorized Inspiration Binder.  Once I've cut everything out of the magazine, I sort the layouts into piles based on their notations.  {Note: Sometimes I have to make tough choices, if I've selected layouts that happen to be printed on back-to-back pages.  If I really can't decide, I will make a photocopy of one side}.

Piles that are earmarked for a project bag or folio get tucked into their appropriate place.  Sometimes I have a "Take Action" pile, where I've cut products I want to purchase or websites I want to check out, so that pile gets set aside for later.  If any of the remaining piles destined for the Inspiration Binder are particularly large, I will sort them into sub-piles first, to make placing each layout into its proper place in the binder super easy.

Once everything is sorted, it is time to glue the layouts into the Inspiration Binder.  I don't crowd the layouts as I glue them in.  Just like I believe a crafter should limit his or her supplies to what are absolute must-haves, I believe organizing systems should be designed with the future in mind.  So I leave room to add additional layouts over times, which enables me to update my binder without having to do any major overhauls to fit new content.  In some sections, I leave entire blank pages, if I think I will add a lot of new content over time.

I recommend doing a refresh on the entire binder at least once a year, to keep it organized and useful, culling out layouts that no longer appeal to you.  I also update my binder regularly through the year, adding content as I get new magazines.  Between updates, I store the cut out layouts in a zipper pouch that I keep in font of my Inspiration Binder {if I'm stock piling layouts for a particular project, like a vacation or special-occasion, they go in their own zippered pouch in the designated project bag}.

I periodically go through the pouch, sorting its contents and gluing the new layouts into their appropriate place in the binder.  This sorting process gives me a second chance to ask myself if each layout is really binder-worthy.  As I'm adding new layouts to the binder, I also remove existing layouts, either redirecting them to a specific project bag or folio or sending them to the recycle bin.

So that is the story of how I went from inspirationally challenged to speedy scrapper, with the help of one organized binder.  As promised, I'm offering a solution that works for many types of crafting.  While I primarily use my Inspiration Binder for scrapping, the concept translates to other crafting hobbies.  And the Inspiration Binder really is a one size fits all solution.  The approach to creating the binder is the same regardless of whether you have a room, a closet or just a cart on wheels, and it stores easily for all of these storage options.  When I'm at home, my Inspiration Binder sits on a shelf so I can quickly grab it when I'm sitting at my work table.

{Don't worry, I'm going to talk about those other binders in on future post}.  When I'm on the go, the binder fits easily into my scrapping caddy.  And let me tell you, I'm a pretty popular girl at crop night - everyone wants to get their hands on my Inspiration Binder!  And because I use the page protectors, it's easy for someone to pull out just the page they want without keeping the whole binder.

I love the digital world {or I probably wouldn't be here, right?!}, but in my heart, I'm a tactile girl and love perusing magazines and flipping through my Inspiration Binder.  But that does not mean that this technique cannot translate for those of you who prefer to organize your inspiration online.  Pinterest anyone?  Instead of creating a binder with different sections, create boards that correspond each section and pin layouts on the appropriate boards.

For those of you who are concerned that using an Inspiration Binder is cheating, rest assured, it is not.  For starters, "scrap-lifting" is a widely accepted practice in the crafting community. :)  Also, if you are like me, you rarely translate a layout verbatim from the magazine to your page.  Rather, it serves as a jumping off point to get your creative juices flowing.  And really, we pull inspiration from everything around us when creating.  This is just a bit more organized way of going about it.

I hope I've inspired you to get started organizing your own inspiration in a way that helps take raw materials from lovely finds to beautiful, finished products.

"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. In the meantime, Happy Crafting!" 


  1. While I will never use this for scrapbooking (I just don't do it enough) - so many of these tips could REALLY help my growing-out-of-control stack of recipes! I honestly think the zippered pouch in the front of the binder might be my favorite part. A quick place to shove stuff until you have time to sort it? It seems so obvious, and yet I never thought of it! Thanks! (Now I just need to work on the self-control-while-ripping-from-magazine part your strategy!)

    1. Paula - Thanks for suggesting an alternate use for the binder approach - love it and I feel your pain when it comes to recipes! I actually use a similar approach for my recipes (though I use photo albums instead of page protectors, because the photo slots work perfect for recipe cards) and it works great. I use multiple albums and categorize them by type - appetizer, entree, dessert, etc - so I can just grab the one I need. Good luck!


  2. I loved this!! And your first post too. I've been waiting for you to post here again! :)
    I have 4 kids, all of who I still have to make first year scrapbooks for. This makes me excited to get started and continue to scrap our family albums. Even with all the digital options, I still love actual scrapbooks, doing them and looking at them.
    Looking forward to your next post. Thank you!!

    1. Oh, thank you - you're so sweet! Good luck with your albums.


  3. I blogged a couple weeks ago about inspirational home journals...

    It really is a great idea and cuts back on the clutter of magazines...I really like your idea of doing one for scrapbooks...I don't do a lot of scrapbooking but I do have some magazines I could go through...Great post!!

  4. Great idea! I can't wait to "lift" this idea from you! :) I have an entire shelf dedicated to my crazy pile of scrapbooks etc magazines from 2008 - 2012, so this is a great way to get it manageable and user friendly.

    thanks for sharing!

  5. This is a great idea, a perfect to stay organized with your creative thoughts and ideas! Thanks for sharing :)

  6. You are so right, this is super-organizing at it's finest! :)

  7. I'm not a scrapper but I can really appreciate the system you put into place. thanks for the detailed how-to.

  8. I love this idea and hate the fact that I didn't think of it sooner (I'm a binder junkie). I'm not a scrapbooker really, but I do put little cards as place holders in my photoalbums using stickers and other cute embellishments - I call it lazy scrapbooking. I've been struggling with a system for my growing sticker collection and this would be perfect - especially since I already have a spare binder and sheet protectors.

  9. This looks like a fantastic way to sort out my decade of knitting magazines. I particularly love the "Take Action" idea. A great article!

  10. Great system, Sarah - and although we're more partial to the magazine all in one piece :-), I just wanted to say thanks for loving Creating Keepsakes as much as you do.

    Jennifer Schaerer
    Editor in Chief
    Creating Keepsakes magazine

  11. Sarah,
    I have been scrapbooking for about 15 years and consider myself to be pretty well organized but I have gotten new ideas and inspiration from both your posts. Your explanations are very clear and thorough. Looking forward to the next post!

  12. This is AWESOME! Thanks for sharing. I am an avid scrapbooker so will be putting this idea to good use! You've also helped me justify my love of scraplifting! As you said, most of the time my page ends up looking nothing like the original layout, although sometimes it does, but that's okay too!

  13. Great post Sarah!! I am a new scrapper, so don't have the volumes of magazines to worry about yet, but I do believe I am going to do this for my card magazines!! What a great idea!!!

  14. I'm so excited! This post was meant for me! I was sitting in my craft room working on scrapbook projects for an upcoming reatreat, feeling really overwhelmed with the massive amount of magazine I've accumlated over the years. I became discouraged flipping through them looking for ideas and walked away. Later in the day I read this post!! I've been to Target, bought my supplies and have set up my binder! I've even gone through a couple of magazines clipped what I wanted and filed them!! It will take time, but it will be time worth spending!! Thank you so much for this great idea! BTW, I also loved your project organization and have started my bags for that! I'm looking forward to seeing what the rest of your binders contain!!

    1. Cathy - you made my day! I'm so glad to hear that my ideas helped and Jen will be so impressed to read how quickly you went from idea to organized! Enjoy your retreat!

      :) Sarah

  15. Great Post Sarah! I may have to use this to organize all my 'This Old House' articles (Every time I get a new magazine I also absorb each word and gaze lovingly at every picture :)


  16. Wow - you are so inspiring! I think I'll get up off my couch and go do some organizing now. ;). I've just painted my craft room and still have to put the furniture together, but you have given me so many ideas for how to set things up. Can't wait til your next post!

  17. It's like a real life Pinterest board that you can touch and feel! I love it, so very inspiring.

  18. How funny! I have been working on organizing a general inspiration binder for my sewing and yarn stuff! Thanks for the input, this will really help out!!

  19. Sarah,
    I love this idea and I'm working on putting together my inspiration binder right now to get ready for my upcoming weekend crop in a few weeks. What do you do with the bonus sketches that you find at the back of the CK magazines? Do you also clip these and include in your binder with the actual layout or do you incorporate into the appropriate sections in your binder?

    Can't wait for your next scrapbook organization post!

  20. I have been looking all over the internet for ways to organize such as this and then I found you! Thank you so much for this inspirational article. I, too, go through magazines with a pen in hand. For years, I would tear out the pages, put them in a pile and then lose them in my piles of stuff. I plan on making a notebook like you've shown. Thanks again!


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