Scrapbook Organizing and Giveaway with Heather Vanderlaan

REMINDER: I am currently gathering a group of women who will be my cyber circle of friends who will help my ministry by praying for requests I send them and by being gals off of whom I can bounce ideas or ask for feedback on book titles, stories or examples that go with my content. It will be done by email.

If you are interested, please send an email to with the words “Cyber Sisters” in the subject line. The actual email can be blank if you are in a hurry. I’ll be contacting you all real soon! Thanks!


A few weeks ago, I asked what your greatest procrastination project was; that one task you wish you had time to tackle.

As I read the comments that came in, I saw a common theme begin to emerge. So many of you were frustrated with your scrapbooking projects.

Well, since I have ZERO talents in scrapbooking (bought the start-up kit, worked diligently at it for one summer, got frustrated and gave up!) I decided to call in the expert.

She is a woman I originally met through a speaking engagement at the moms group she coordinated. When I was asked back to speak again, we got to know each other even more. Then I spoke there the next year too. And on, and on…Yep Grand Ledge Baptist holds the record for “church I’ve spoken at the most”. I think it has been 8 or 9 times so far! I LOVE those gals at Moms and More!!! And I love the talented, fashionable, fun and yet deeply spiritual Heather Vanderlaan.

Now, I’ll share her with you. Meet my friend Heather:

I have had a life-long love affair with pictures.  I still remember the thrill I felt at owning my own camera.  Many cameras later and thousands, if not tens of thousands pictures later…my love affair continues.  However I still haven’t figured out a good way to get in any of the pictures.  I keep joking that our grandkids are going to think I never did anything because there are so few pictures of me.  Finding a picture of me for Karen to share with you was tough because I just don’t have that many of me.

One of my very first albums that I completed was my wedding album.  I married my husband Jeff 14 years ago and would marry him again in a heart beat!  I loved doing that album!  It still is one of my favorite albums.  I have also done several albums for each of my kids (Jackson-7th grade, Ainsley-4th grade, Olivia-2nd grade).  I don’t put every picture in their albums, just the highlights.  I figure it isn’t fair to saddle them or their future spouses with 18+ albums so try to fit at least 3 years in an album.

I am a teacher by training and got to teach for about 6 years before Jackson was born.  I was able to stay home after he was born but realized that I wasn’t going to be able to support my scrapbooking habit on one income.  I started my own business with Creative Memories almost 12 years ago, teaching and consulting with women on their scrapbooks and have had a ball doing it.  I love getting to build relationships with women and laugh and cry and share in their lives and their stories.

I am a firm believer that God takes the pieces of our lives and makes them in to a complete picture.  All the things I have done in the last few years and all the opportunities to speak to women’s groups, to lead a mom’s ministry, to facilitate Bible Studies, to sub at my kids school, to lead our church’s Children’s Christmas Musical, to be a wife, to be a mom and to teach about scrapbooking are all pieces of a larger picture.  My hope and prayer is that the bigger picture reflects my Savior.

Now, tell us Heather, how did you get started scrapbooking?

I started scrapbooking formally 13 years ago but truthfully began when I was in grade school.  Like I mentioned in my bio, I have always had a love affair with pictures and the stories behind them.  My packing list for camp or vacations always included my camera and film.  I loved capturing moments and memories on film.

I put those early pictures in peel and stick albums along with notes of who was in the picture and what we were doing.  As I refined my skills I began cutting out words from magazines and using my favorite stickers to “jazz” up the pages.  I

n college I heard a presentation on “scrapbooking” and began incorporating more of my story in to my simple pages.  Then 13 years ago I went to my first scrapbooking “party” and was hooked.  I quickly moved my pictures to more photo safe albums and have been scrapbooking the highs and lows of our lives ever since.

Okay. I am a scrapbooking dropout. I just found it so hard to keep on top of, although many of my friends soared through albums with ease. What are some ways women can simplify their system and stay on task without stressing out?

I think one of the biggest things we can do for ourselves is simplify what we are doing.  Don’t make it so complicated!  Use the same color of paper all the way through an album.  Create simple pages that aren’t super fancy…maybe ones that don’t have any stickers on them. (I know at least one of you just gasped.  Trust me!  It’s okay to not put stickes on a page.)

Use only your best pictures and don’t include every single picture you ever take.  It is okay to use just one picture from an event.  I know for some that is sacrilege but seriously you don’t need 10 pictures of your child on the slide…no matter how cute they are, you don’t need them all!

How do you build scrapbooking into your schedule?

Just like we do everything else in our busy lives.  We schedule it in!  We find the time for the things that matter to us.  We find time to go to Bible Studies, Moms Groups, doctor’s appointments, and school events.  And yet it seems to me that scrapbooking often gets a back burner.  And truthfully there are times that it should.

However I have found that most women that are consistent with their scrapbooks have found the time to do it and have scheduled it in to their week.  I am right there with all of you as I look at my fall schedule.  Where in the world am I going to fit scrapbooking in to my busy schedule?

So here are a few things that are helping me as I try to “fit” scrapbooking in to my life this fall.

1. What is my motivation for doing my scrapbooks?

We all have stories to tell of what God has done in our lives that need to be passed on to a future generation. I want my scrapbooks to not only be a record of the events in our lives but also a celebration of the places and people we hold dear.  I want to share with my children and their children about who God is to us so that they will know Him and praise Him.  Figuring out your motivation gives you purpose and helps you stay on track.

2. How much time do I have in this season of my life to devote to my scrapbooks?

Maybe it’s daily time.  I had that when my kids took naps each afternoon.  Maybe it’s weekly.  With the season I am in right now weekly is going to work best for me.

I have picked out one afternoon a week that I can concentrate on my scrapbooks.  Maybe it’s monthly and you can commit to a longer time frame.  Maybe it’s quarterly.  I do at least two weekend getaways with friends that allow me to work on my albums for longer periods of time.  Or maybe you only have 10-15 minutes here or there. If this is you, then be sure to read all the way to the end.

I have a great tip about doing Power Layouts toward the end. You have to figure out what works for you.  I can’t tell you that this way or that way is the perfect way.  Only you can decide what works for you right now with where you are at in your life.  It has to be an intentional choice though.  Trust me you will never just happen to have “the time” to scrapbook.

3. What is your style?

What kind of scrapbooker are you?  Do you love the creative process?   Do you enjoy spending time creating unique works of art?  OR Do you want to get more enjoyment from your pictures? Do you want to spend minimum time for maximum results?

There is no right or wrong way to scrapbook but your style will determine some things.  If you answered yes to either of the first two questions you may need to embrace a more simple process so that you can complete albums.  More often than not this kind of scrapbooker has loads of pictures but very few completed albums.  One of my favorite sayings is “Simple and Complete is better than Fancy and Far Behind”.

If you answered yes to either of the last two questions you may need to quit feeling guilty for not doing “fancier” pages.  You may need to focus on the gift you are giving to your family by completing albums.

Here is a great story that I love to share.

Let’s pretend for a minute that we are sitting face to face.  In my hands I am holding 2 albums.  They are both done by someone who is very dear to you who is no longer living: someone who holds a high place of honor in your life.

In my left hand I am holding an Album that is a beautiful work of art.  It is gorgeous and would hold a treasured place in anyone’s home.  Each page is carefully thought out and very well put together.  The paper all matches perfectly.  The letters are placed just so.  The pictures are placed on each page with care!  It is beautiful and obviously represents hours and hours of work.  It has very little writing and there are many pictures that you are unsure of where they were taken and who was in the pictures.

In my right hand I have an Album that is very simple.  It contains very little paper and very few stickers.  Each page is filled with lots of pictures and lots of writing.  The writing, done in your loved one’s handwriting, is full of anecdotal notes and quips.  It has dates, people, events and gives you a very complete picture of their life.

Which would you choose?  For most, it is a rhetorical question.  Most would choose the album in my right hand.

The fancy album is beautiful but is almost meaningless because much of the story is missing.  The simple album then becomes a treasure of great worth!!  Which album do you want to do for your family?

4.  Are your supplies organized so that you can easily work on your albums?

As in any project it is tough to work if your supplies aren’t together.  For instance, if you are baking a cake and your supplies are spread all over the kitchen then it takes twice as long.  In the same way you need your scrapbook materials organized so that you can work efficiently.  It is daunting to even begin a project when the supplies are scattered or unorganized.

It becomes important to take stock of how your supplies are organized and see if some changes need to be made.  Are your supplies all in the same room?  Are they stored so they are easily accessed?  Are there supplies that you haven’t ever used?  It might be time to purge.  Do you have an area in your house that you can repurpose and use for your scrapbooking supplies?  Think about where you like to scrapbook and then see how you can get organized somewhere in close proximity to that space.

5.  Do you have scrapbooking goals?

Are they doable?  If I say I want to lose 25 pounds you would say that it is a great goal.  But if I want to do it in two days you would say that is impossible.  In the same way if I say I want to get the last 5 years of pictures in to albums, that is a great goal.  But if I want to do it in one session that is impossible.

The goals you set need to be realistic and doable.  If I want to get the last 5 years in to albums then I need to set a reasonable timeline based on how much time I have to work on them. If I am working once a week on my scrapbooks and have roughly 12 weeks until Christmas and I am doing my albums in a simple way then I might be able to get that much done by Christmas.  However more realistically I probably can get that much done by Spring Break.

Any tips for ways to physically organize supplies and such?

The very first thing I would recommend is to get your pictures organized.  Both your printed and your digital ones.  I have found that when my pictures are spread all over the house (in drawers, boxes and frames) it is easy to miss some.  When they are all in one place it makes it a lot easier to find them and use them.

One of my favorite organizing tools ever is a Power Sort Box.  In fact it is what I am giving away today. I just love it!  I keep my pictures sorted in the box chronologically and it makes such a difference in being organized.  I also use these boxes to store my duplicates or pictures I didn’t use in my albums.  My kids are always needing a picture or two for projects so I send them to the power sort box first.

In the last 10 years most everyone has gone to digital pictures and have scads of pictures all over their hard drives, on CD’s and thumb drives.  It is really important that you get those pictures organized too.  Whether you do it on your own by just putting them in files by date or perhaps using a organizing software.

I use a program made by Creative Memories called Memory Manager that allows me to store and edit my photos quickly and easily.  I have done it both ways and have found the program to be a lot more superior than my feeble attempts at organizing my pictures in files.  I found I could never find anything and then was doing double the work by having to transfer them in to an editing software.  So I much prefer the Memory Manager Program.

The next thing I would recommend is organizing your supplies.  You can spend a lot of money on organizational tools to help you.  Some are worth it and quite honestly some are not.  Often there are things around your house that you can use.  Cups for pens, baskets for paper, little jars for small doo-dads, egg cartons for small pieces.

One tool that has worked well for me in organizing my paper is an accordion file.  Mine fits 10×12 paper (when I got it I wasn’t  using much 12×12 paper but there are larger ones on the market) and each opening is labeled by color.  I can fit my full sheets of paper in there as well as scraps. I often will sit it on my lap while I am working so I can easily check for the right paper.

I found I use up my paper better this way and am not wasteful.  Another tool that works well for paper or projects are clear folders made for this purpose.  Several companies make a variation of this.  I have used these for my 12×12 projects that had matching paper and stickers and accents.

Stickers can be quite messy.  I meet so many people who have them spread all over their  bags and never quite sure what they have.  You can use an accordion coupon file.  You can also use a 3 ring binder filled with clear plastic sleeves used for baseball card collecting.  You can organize the stickers by type and easily see and find what you have.

Put idea pages in page protectors and store them in a 3 ring binder.  It is easy to find an idea and easy to use.

Space can also be an issue. Ideally it is great if you have a space you can devote to your scrapbooks.  I am fortunate to have an area in my basement that I can leave my supplies and incomplete projects out.  I have not always had that luxury and maybe you don’t either.

Can you leave a card table up for a while?  In your bedroom or an unused room in the house?  Can you repurpose a closet or shelves where you could leave your things accessible?  Go to the library and check out some of their scrapbooking magazines.  There are many great ideas to be had for free!

One of the best ideas I have ever done with regards to scrapbooking is a Power Layout.  I take some time (2-3 hours) to lay out 20-30 pages complete with pictures, paper, stickers.  Nothing stuck down, just laid out.  Then I stack it all up and as I have time, I work on a page or two.  I get my supplies out once to do the lay out and then put them away and just keep out my adhesive and pens.

As I have 10 or 15 minutes I will work first on adhering the paper and pictures with my adhesive.  When all the pages are secured I will move on to the next step of journaling.  As I have a few minutes here or there I will journal a page or two. I like to do this step in the time I spend waiting in the car pool line, sitting at swim lessons, watching a tv show with my husband or kids, and talking on the phone.  It helps stream line the process and actually helps me got a whole lot more accomplished that I would otherwise.

One summer I took on vacation my adhesive, pens and box of laid out pages and completed 108 pages in less than a week.  I use this process on almost every album I do now and have taught this class to many women.  Every single person that has taken this class says that they will never do their albums another way!

Any other words of advice to women who want to do this but can’t seem to get their act together?

Oh how I wish I could sit and talk to each one of you who fits this category!  I would love to ask you questions and hear your story so that I could try to help you figure out what is keeping you from doing it.

Is it because it all seem so overwhelming?  If so, I am giving you permission to simplify!!  Trust me your children and grandchildren are not going to care if you were able to create works of art!!  They are going to appreciate your simple pages!

Is it because of the expense?  I am right there with you and I even get a discount on my supplies.  However I have figured out what is important to me and then have invested my money as I can to purchase those things.

Is it because of time?  You need to schedule this in to your week and quit feeling guilty for doing so!  You are blessing your family!!!

Is it because you are afraid?  Pick a current project.  Something you are excited about doing and do just that project.  Maybe a vacation from this summer.  It will keep you motivated and will give you the success and confidence you need to keep going.

If you answered yes to any of these questions you might also consider doing your albums digitally.  There are a lot of different programs available. The beauty of a digital program is that you don’t have to have stickers, paper and printed pictures and you will always have your pages ready to work on each time you turn on your computer.  You can either use pre-designed pages that allow you to drop and drag your pictures (QUICK) or you can create your own pages (CREATIVE).  I am partial to a free program by Creative Memories called Storybook Creator. I have used it and love it!  (Here is a link for a FREE download.)

You are offering a giveaway to our cyber sisters. What is it?

I’ll be giving away a Power Sort Box like I mentioned above. It will help one fortunate reader get her act together!

Thanks, Heather!

Okay gals, to be entered in the giveaway, leave a comment on any aspect of  scrapbooking or tell us how many pictures you’ve taken this past month. Your name will be entered in the drawing. You have until midnight Sunday PST. Winner will be announced Monday.

Speaking of winners, the winner of the Spilling Sweet Tea giveaway is: Tina; timestamp Sept. 6 at 9:50 a.m. Congrats! Send me your home address at

Have a great weekend everyone! Go sort those pictures and get scrappin’!!!

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  1. I need a regular space to keep things out while I am working on it. Maybe in the winter I will put a card table up and work on it in the evenings. I need to get busy on organizing pictures.

  2. I have taken over 100 pictures this past month! My son (first born) celebrated his first birthday over the summer and we have had such a great time capturing all of his “firsts”. He is now walking all over and my ‘free’ time to spend at the camera kiosk in Target is non-existent. So my resolution for this fall/winter is to print these pictures, scrapbook them, and continue to make awesome memories with the my husband and son, the two loves of my life!

  3. I love to look back at the scrapbooks I’ve completed for our daughters. I did well up to the time they were toddlers – used their nap time to work on their books. Since then, it’s been hit and miss – mostly miss!

    Our girls LOVE to look at their baby books and toddler years and everytime I realize how important it is to keep it going, but I don’t have a space or much time. I know that the pictures are telling the stories of our lives and the faith that we want to share as a legacy to them! I so want to make this a priority!! Thanks for your post today!

  4. I LOVE scrapbooking but I am a perfectionist so I am one of the people who have many pictures but not many books completed…..I loved this interview, it helped me to know that simple is not taking the easy way out! I will definately simplify my scrapbooks and now I am off to do just that……

  5. I love scrap booking as well. The summer months are hard but I usually get more into it again in the fall. One of the fun things I do is go to a huge event called Scrap Fest at the Mall of America in Minneapolis. It is really fun and inspiring. Check it out at the Archivers website!

    Rebecca Ann

  6. Thanks for all of the great ideas. I have a lot of pictures that I need to scrapbook. I am now going to start with doing a book on our latest vacation and then go from there.

  7. Thanks so much for your many ideas and suggestions. I especially like the Power Layout idea. I must try it. Starting soon I plan to meet with friends one night a week to scrapbook. I have my calendar marked now I must organize my pics in the next few weeks. your give-a-way would be perfect for this. Thanks for the chance to win.

  8. I am also a scrapbook dropout. At first, I was a little disappointed that you chose the topic of scrapbooking related to procrascination but after reading today’s blog, I am inspired. Scrapbooking feels so overwhelming because I keep getting farther behind. As my children grow, I have more unorganized photos and more memories left unpreserved. It can feel almost hopeless.

    I think my goal for the upcoming school year is to get my photos organized, at least some of them. I am a homeschool mom so I take lots of photos. I am fairly good about putting photos in my children’s portfolios but then I have leftover ones which don’t get organized.

    Also, I was able to keep photo albums with comments during the baby years at least until my third child was a toddler but I put them in inexpensive albums. My children love to page through them and now they are falling apart. So I really need help in getting my photos organized.

    I have enjoyed reading Heather’s tips. Maybe there is hope for me!

  9. A blog close to my heart!!!! I just recently moved and my scrapbooking/paper crafting stuff was the hardest to pack. So many different sizes, angles, so much STUFF!!!. I have started the purge process as the my second bedroom will now be my guest room/office/craft room. I would LOVE to win this giveaway.


  10. I like the idea of the power layout. I will have to try and do that if I can get myself organized. I could really use the Power Sort Box! Thanks!

  11. I love the idea of simple pages, and done in stages to boot. This post makes me actually want to tackle the pile that is my scrapbboking supplies. Thanks for the giveaway.

  12. As a newly single mother, I am even more diligent about capturing my childrens moments. With much less space, anything that helps me organize is a great thing!

  13. I take countless pictures on a daily basis. Thank God for cell phone cameras, too. I’ve probably amassed 150+ in the last month, in addition to those from that last 11 years (when my first was born) that need to be organized!

  14. Oh boy…I’m a scrapbooking junkie! However, the time to do…don’t see to have any anymore. As far as pictures go, I couldn’t begin to say how many I’ve taken in the last month, but I took over 70 just the weekend before last on a little afternoon stroll we took through a state park. :-)

  15. I started Creative Memories when my son was very young. He is now 20. I got so behind and overwhelmed. Pictures are in boxes along with ideas and scattered everywhere. Things are a mess. I’m not too confident this project can be fixed but I’m always hopeful to leave this “only precious son” something better than boxes of memories! :)

  16. I think I’m related to Heather in one way. I’ve have taken a camera everywhere as long as I can remember. I did photo albums until a few years ago. We camped a lot and I would load pictures and an album or two in the camper and get a lot done in a week’s time. I haven’t done as well at scrapbooking because I haven’t given myself permission to make it quick and easy and less than perfect. Digital hasn’t helped because I let photo cards and computer files pile up and don’t print many. You’ve given me some great ideas. Thanks!

  17. Precious Memories……..o how I love to take pics……..I’ve bought scrap booking materials…even been to Creative Memories Parties…and haven’t gotten it all together yet.

  18. I would love this power sort box! Most of my pictures are in albums but not scrapbooked. I have several that need something and my digital pics are not organized at all.

  19. I’ve bought scrapbooking books and some pages and a few stickers, but it all seems so daunting that I’ve avoided it. I have an 8 month old grandson and have an enormous amout of pictures I would love to get organized! Love all these tips today. Thanks for the chance to win the power sort box!

  20. I’ve been scrapbooking for about 10 years now. I am finally working current with my pictures. I have found that it is best for me to keep my supplies handy so I can work when I have time. Although I do still seem to go in spurts. I have the Power Layout Box and love it!. It really helps with getting things organized. I do the same as Heather. Organize the pages, then stick everything down, then journal and embelish. Could use another power sort box for my extra pictures. I’m using ziplock bags now because the one I have is full.

  21. I love scrapbooking!! I have not taken a lot of pictures in the last month, maybe 20-30, but with Fall coming, lots of activities are on the way and many picture opportunities. Thanks for the great reminders and ideas for making time for scrappin’. I love the look of the new Power Sort Box :)

  22. I have taken too many pictures in the last month to count. I have a 5 month old and want to remember everything. He is number 3 so I know how fast his babyhood is going to go. I am so behind on getting pictures into albums. I have yet to complete my middle daugther’s first year baby scrapbook !! I want so badly to catch up on my pictures.

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