Scrapbooking: How Much Is Enough?

by Lain Ehmann on March 7, 2013

Americans take over 80 Billion photos per year!


According to National Geographic, Americans took over 80 BILLION photos in 2011.

So how many of those 80 billion photos are you going to scrapbook?

Yeah, I’m being a little facetious. But I’m also serious.

If we’re taking about 250 photos PER PERSON in your household per year, that means you’ve probably got somewhere in the neighborhood of 1000 photos per year to deal with.

Imagine the piles of photos already printed and stored in shoeboxes and Iris bins and three-up photo albums… think of the gigabytes of photos on your hard drive and camera, still waiting to be printed…

Are you really going to get them all in a scrapbook album?

I didn’t think so.

If you’ve got a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach right about now, you’re not alone. I hear over and over again how people are swamped with photos and they don’t know where to start. Then we start feeling guilty as the “Bad Mom!” or “Bad Grandma!” gremlins set in. And the next step is to give up on scrapbooking altogether since we’re NEVER going to make a dent in that mountain of unscrapped photos… Maybe we should just take up crochet instead. ACK!

But I don’t want you to give up! The world has enough crocheters, but we need more storytellers. So let me help you.

First, let’s just get a handle on the idea that you AREN’T going to be able to scrapbook every single one of the photos that you take, inherit, get forwarded by well-meaning friends and relatives, and find in old trunks in the attic of your grandmother’s house. It’s just not going to happen.

That may be hard to accept, particularly if you are a perfectionist/”I wanna do everything right” kind of mom like I am. But it’s just reality. We don’t have unlimited time, energy, supplies, or storage space, so we’re going to have to make some choices. Get out a piece of paper and jot down the answers to these questions:

The first question I want you to answer is:

“Why do I scrapbook?”

Is it to document every breath your family takes? Is it to hit the high points like holidays and special vacations? Is it to record the little moments? Is it to showcase photographs? Do you do it as therapy, as a creative outlet, as a way to record your own thoughts/ There is no wrong answer here; there’s only YOUR answer. Take a second and write it down (seriously, do this! I’ll wait.).

I’m not sure exactly what you wrote, but I bet you don’t scrapbook just to put pretty paper behind every photo you’ve ever taken. I bet there’s some element to meaning or story behind your desire to scrapbook. Am I right? (Humor me and say “Yes!”)

Now, the next question is:

“Who am I scrapbooking for?”

(I know it should say “WHOM am I scrapbooking for” or “FOR WHOM am I scrapbooking” but that sounds awkward to me. Change it if you want but I’m going with “Who.” Sue me.)

Again, no wrong or right answer. You can scrapbook for yourself, for your kids, for generations to come, for the Smithsonian because you know they’re going to want to memorialize your amazing life… it’s all good! Just write it down.

Finally, we get to the nitty-gritty:

How much time do I have to spend scrapbooking?

This is tough. Right now it might only be an hour a week, or a weekend a month, or even 15 minutes a day. But getting real about the time you have to put towards this hobby can and will help you create a realistic idea of what “enough” is for you. NOTE: This amount will change over time! If you are in med school or you have seven kids at home like my friend Crescendo, you’re going to have a harder time carving out space and energy to work on your albums.

There are ways to scrapbook more quickly (I can help you with that!), and to reallocate time you’re spending elsewhere. But there is indeed a finite limit on how many pages you can create in any given time period. So if you typically take an hour on a page, and you have three hours a week on average, you’re going to be able to create about 150 pages per year. Is it “enough?” Well, I can’t tell you. What is “enough” is self-defined. 150 may seem like a huge amount to some people and just a drop in the bucket to others.

But hear me on this: THE NUMBER OF PAGES YOU CREATE IS LESS IMPORTANT THAN THE MEANING IN THOSE PAGES. The pages that fit your “Why” and “For Who” (okay, okay, “For Whom!”) are going to do more to helping you feel that feeling of “enoughness” than those that don’t.


After scrapbooking for over a decade, I can testify that the pages I’ve created to capture one of my kid’s personality quirks with a simple scrapbooking design and meaningful journaling is worth 100 that were created just because I had pictures lying around and I figured I’d better get ‘em on a page and into an album.

You’ve heard it before, but I’ll say it again: QUANTITY is secondary to QUALITY. It goes for shoes and it goes for scrapbook layouts.

So while I cannot give you a certain number like a doctor writing a prescription and say, “Create 100 layouts and call me next year,” I can say that if you take a few minutes to answer these questions, you’ll have a much better chance of reaching that ever-elusive state of “I’ve done enough.”

Let me know in the comments… do you feel like you scrapbook “enough?” Which pages tend to make you feel like you’ve achieved your scrapbooking goals?



P.S. Come back next week when I’ll be talking about scrapbooking triage to help figure out which photos to scrapbook first!


  • Maureen

    great post Lain, I always like the 80/20 rule when choosing photos, 20% of your photos can tell 80% of your story and that is good enough for me.

  • Lain Chroust Ehmann

    Maureen, I love that! Great rule!

  • Libby Wiers

    One thing LOAD has taught me is that I do not have to scrap EVERY picture. And thanks to LOAD213, I have kept up with 2013 and even done a few pages from earlier chronology, with a few extras thrown in besides.

  • Lain Chroust Ehmann

    Libby, I agree! And oftentimes for me the story I want to tell goes so far beyond the photo!

  • lynne moore

    Great post about scrapbooking truths.

  • lynne moore

    that’s awesome.

  • Lain Chroust Ehmann

    Thank you, Lynne!

  • Gela

    Wow, Lain this was an awesome post. I am embarrassed, yes embarrassed to say I have not scraped about me or my family it YEARS!!!!! My father was sick for many years before he passed away in 2006. I rarely took pictures during his illness. After his death my mom moved with my sister. In that move I found many photo albums that were not acid free. Many pictures were ruined. I rescued as many pictures as possible and separated them into 7 stacks for 7 brothers and sisters. So for a long while I scrapped those old pictures and had my mom do a little bit of journalling. I think I got burnt out. I still have one more sibling album to complete. My mom has been ill for a couple of years so I feel the pressure to finish that last album. So for the past 10 years (Holy Crap!) I have only scrapped old childhood pictures. None of my daily life, my family, etc. Sigh…… The whole project life thing and your uStreams have made me realize it is important it is to go back and scrap MY life, MY now life. I have no kids and it may well be that these scrap pages will be thrown away after I die but for a SHORT period of time my life has been documented. Now were to start….. I guess there is not better time than Now. Thanks Lain for making me think.

  • Lain Chroust Ehmann

    Oh my dear, you have had a lot going on! You definitely have had your hands full, so please give yourself a pat on the back for even THINKING about documenting your life and your family’s life recently.

    That being said, I praise you for getting some of your mom’s memories down while you are still able (this is something that is such a regret for me, that I wasn’t able to do).

    As far as your current life goes, a few things: 1. It’s never too late to start! 2. Even taking some notes now on index cards or in a small notebook can be enough to jog your memory for the future when you may have more time. 3. Don’t underestimate the value of your story. There are plenty of childless writers and memoirists who have documented their lives and others have found value in it. It just may be that your words of wisdom and life lessons may eventually find a home outside your immediate family. And that is terrific!

    Thank YOU for taking the time to read and comment.

  • Kristie Sloan

    Lain, great thoughts on dealing with the overload of photos that so many people have. Today’s digital stack of photos even multiplies the frustration of having so many pictures. It is hard to come to grips with the fact that we will NEVER scrap all the photos we have. I am trying to be more proactive with current digital photos and delete many that are just not the best, and could be #44 of the same thing going on! There is no way I’m going to make a page will the 50 pictures I shot! I take a lot to get the few that are the best, so why keep the others? I can remember maybe having 1 roll of 24 that covered the year — 1 per holiday, birthdays, etc. I actually have years that I kept up my “scrapbook” when that was the case. (Wow that makes me feel ancient!) We’ve come a long way!

  • Lain Chroust Ehmann

    I think many of us still have the attitude from when we were little with film cameras that every photo is precious. Back in “the day,” you got one shot, you didn’t know if it would be a good or a bad photo until a week or so later when it was developed, and you treasured it whether it was good or bad! When we were little we might have 24 photos TOTAL of Christmas. Now we have 24 of one person opening one gift! ;)

  • Linda Tieu

    I don’t ever feel like I scrapbook enough, because there will always be photos and stories to be included.

    I know it’s never going to be finished and there’s no need to “catch up” – as you pointed out, we all have different goals and ambitions with our scrapbooking. Either way, I still have that overwhelm feeling a lot…

    I think that’s why Project Life is so popular, you get to include more in a fast way and I think that alleviates our emotional burden a bit, you know? Even if just the photos were archived in a way… that would be a huge step for me.

  • Lain Chroust Ehmann

    Linda, I’m trying to do more photo books for this “archival” reason. I think that will help me feel like I have more leisure to focus on the stories I want to tell, knowing the photos are taken care of.

  • Linda Tieu

    Great point – I think digital photos have led us down this trap, because it’s so easy to snap away, but have them sit only on the computer. in the past, all the photos were developed and at least in an album!

  • Betty Weaver

    Great post! You, and a few others, have helped me understand the **story** is what is the most important. I no longer feel the need to get every photo on a LO as my journaling has become more important for me :) Thank you!!! on so many levels…

  • Celine

    Thank you for making me ask “why!” I notice that I scrapbook what I love…I have never done a chronological album so I never feel I am behind or have to catch up! I have holiday albums, vacation albums and will soon be starting an “autumn” album because I love that season and those colors!! My kids and my husband are in all of them, and extended family, because that’s who I love! I’m new to your blog but am liking it very much–thanks!

  • Celine

    oh…and baby albums, too!!!! (my babies are now almost 23 and 24!!)

  • Brenda

    Lain great post. I started scrapbooking when my 2nd son was born in 1999. Over the years I have gone from chronologically scrapbooking family albums, and my 2 boys albums, to only chronologically scrapbooking albums for my sons, to now subject scrapbooking for my sons (sports, church, scouts, christmas), as I just dont have time to do everything. I figure when I am old, maybe I can finish the family albums. And if I dont get them finished, my sons can just look at the pics and say, oh do you remember this?

  • lainehmann

    Brenda, haven’t you heard? Scrapbookers never get old! ;)

  • lainehmann

    I love that you don’t feel guilty- because you shouldn’t! When we are having fun it shows on our pages. :) PS welcome to the blog!

  • lainehmann

    Yay, Betty! Another storyteller is born! :)

  • JeanGS

    Loved this article and the message. Looking forward to the next article on the subject, because I love scrapbooking.

  • Lain Chroust Ehmann

    I’ll have it ready today! Stay tuned! :)

  • Jes Kets

    I love this post so much!!! I print about 55% of the pictures I take… and get to scrap about 20% of those!! But I am not much of a worrier… if I get to them I get to them. I also have to get inspired by the photos. Since 95% of them are of my 3 kids…well when they get crazy it’s hard to scrap about them!! LOL I love them to pieces but they make me nuts!! But when we are having a good day… I can scrap about 3 layouts a day! ~JES

  • Sonja Gortzak-Hughes

    Great post, I have read similar ones and am slowly starting to accept it. Not quite there yet but I can see small changes in my approach and they encourage me. And I like to think that the slow changes might stick better than the ‘cut off’ ones as I have not internalized them before I implemented them.

  • Pingback: Scrapbook Triage: Choosing Which Pages to Create First()

  • Lain Chroust Ehmann

    It is hard to admit/grasp that we have limited time… I hate even thinking about it! Those little steps are PERFECT. Take it a bit at a time, and I agree they will stick! :)

  • Lain Chroust Ehmann

    That’s so funny – sometimes I MAKE myself do a page about someone I’m particularly mad at. It helps “bring back… that LOVING FEELING… whoooaoaoaa LOVING FEELING…” haha! :)

Previous post:

Next post: