Fast, Easy Scrapbook Ideas: Start with the Story

by Lain Ehmann on March 15, 2013

So often with our scrapbook layouts we start with the photos. There are several reasons for this:

1. The visual reminder is front and center, so it’s easy to start there.

2. The photos are often physical: When we have something in our hands, it takes precedence over an ephemeral “memory.”

3. Most of us started scrapbooking to do something with our photos: The idea of starting with some other “prompt” is unusual or just downright weird!

The challenge with this model is that sometimes our photos just don’t inspire us. We look at at a cute photograph of our toddler or a beautiful picture of the flowers in our yard, but they don’t “speak” to us. So we sit there moving lovely embellishments around our page, trying to make it into “something.” After an hour or two (or three or four!), we give it up, slap a half-@$$ title like “Cherish” or “Beauty” on the page, scrawl some meaningless journaling, and stick it in a page protector and wonder why we don’t feel fulfilled.

Well, DUH! It DOESN’T mean anything. Your layout has become a fancy photo holder. No wonder you feel like you’re not doing it “right.”

There is another way…

I talk a lot about your “Why” for scrapbooking. For me, it’s almost entirely about the stories. I want to document my family’s unique personality, events, occurrences, and quirks — the little things that might get lost in the shuffle of birthdays, Christmases, and family vacations.

I want to encourage you to try a different approach: Start with the story!

If you, like me, want to get the stories down, then maybe it’s time to turn your process on its ear. Instead of starting with the photos, start by thinking about stories you want to remember about your family. Is it the funny thing your daughter said when you dropped her off at school this morning? Is it the way your son gets absorbed in the latest Rick Riordan book? Or is it your recent new-found love for green smoothies?

Make a list if you’re a list-making type of gal (I am!). Or just jot down a few ideas about the story and the meaning behind that story (the “meaning” may just be that your daughter is hilarious, your son has finally fallen in love with reading, or you are working on eating more healthfully).

THEN look for an accompanying photo. You may have to take one, or find a photo from generally the right time period, or even scrapbook without photos (Yes, it can be done!).

After you’ve got some idea of your story and your meaning, the next step is to start choosing your design and your products.

Here’s a simple scrapbooking layout I created using this approach:

scrap booking ideas

I was thinking about Callie’s love for doing the dishes, and came across these old(er) photos. I immediately knew what I wanted to share about this story (the idea she loves chores and is a little homemaker). This made it so easy to select products and to write the journaling. The whole page came together very quickly (just about 30 minutes – the part that took the longest was finding a complete set of letter stickers! Ha!).

I love this page not only for its cute photos, but because it actually MEANS something about Callie’s personality. And that’s what my scrapbook “why” is all about.

Your turn! Create a page using the story-first process and link up below. I’d love to see what you do.


P.S. Disclaimer: You may have a completely different scrapbooking “why,” and that is okay! Many people scrapbook for a creative outlet, to showcase their photos, or to have fun with paper and ribbon. That is totally okay! This blog post was written to address those who are looking for deeper meaning in their scrapbooks. If that’s not you, feel free to move along. ;)


  • Linda

    I like your thinking. I am going to make a layout about my grandson, age 6 comments about his mom’s pregnancy. He said, “Does the baby get food on it’s head when mommy eats?” Dad said, “Wrong compartment, Colton.”

  • michelle b.

    Hi Lain! You are an inspiration! I love your ideas and cant wait to scrapbook!

  • lainehmann

    That is so cute- and one the new baby will love to hear someday!

  • lainehmann

    Thank you!! :)

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