The Great Album Swap-a-roo

Cathy ZielskeScrapbooking26 Comments

It all started a few years back when my friend Ali remodeled her office.

Seeing her albums all lined up in one, glorious uniform color made me swoon. A number of years back, I decided on a direction for my scrapbooks. I have always used 3-ring binders, but I decided to do what my other friend, Stacy, was doing and bought these fun canvas and chipboard binders from American Crafts. And as much as I liked them at the time, I’ve recently started craving a simpler presentation.

Hello basic black album. | the great album swap-a-roo
I know. It may seem wasteful. I mean, I’ve already got an album system, right? But there is no written rule in scrapbooking that says, “Thou shalt not change mind midstream.” Right now, migrating all pages to basic black pleather albums feels like the right move.

My albums are not out on display…yet. They currently reside inside my scrap cabinet.

The albums take up two shelves and they are set up the Stacy Julian way: All About Us, People We Love, Places We Go, and then All About each member of my family. I also have two albums each for Cole and Aidan that are from before I started this approach, plus one family album, plus a host of other albums.

Oh yeah, and three 12 x 12 albums full of, well, 12 x 12 pages that are from the very early years or from assignments for various projects I’ve done.*

You remember my cabinet, right? | the great album swap-a-roo
I had this sucker custom built to fit this weird cubby space back in 2006. The doors close so when need be, you don’t need to be staring at scrapbooks all day. I store many of my smaller projects here, as well. (Three volumes of December Daily can be see in the upper shelf.)

So that’s an ongoing project, the Great Album Swap-a-roo. I’m going to donate my older binders to Cole’s school if they want them. The album covers are chipboard and I would think creative high school kids could find some way to have fun with that. My plan is to order two albums a month until they’re all swapped.

My long term storage plan? One day, far in the future, I will buy a beautiful cabinet for my living room (something like this, or this), and the beautiful black binders will be tucked safely and visibly behind glass for all to enjoy.

Oh, and my photo albums will go there too. (You can read about that still-in-progress project here.)

That’s the scoop from album organization land.


*I’m an 8.5 x 11 scrapbooker. I only do 12 x 12s for three reasons: 1) For classes or workshops I’m teaching, as needed, 2) For assignments or articles I’m writing for Scrapbook & Cards Today magazine, and 3) When I am forced to do so for any other reason. When I decided to do 8.5 x 11s as my main page size back in 2002, I felt like I could stop trying to do something that just didn’t fit with me and my creative mojo. That, and I don’t have a ton of space for my albums. 8.5 x 11 albums are smaller. It’s a win on every level.

Cathy ZielskeThe Great Album Swap-a-roo

26 Comments on “The Great Album Swap-a-roo”

  1. #1

    Oh how I wish you would do 30 posts on this topic. I have a chronic case of analysis paralysis when it comes to organization and it keeps me from scrapping at all since I don’t have a plan for the end in mind. I get so caught up in – what goes in family album vs each family member album? What goes in baby book vs scrapped in an album? If you do a mini for a vacation and it is separated from the chrono system, do you also put a single layout there to remind you when that trip was? Pregnancy belly shots – baby album, family album, me album? I could go on an on. Seriously. I know I have issues but this takes the fun out of scrapping for me and meanwhile I just move supplies around and organize to stave off the scrap guilt.

    1. #1.1
      Cathy Zielske

      These are all great questions and i’m telling you: Stacy Julian’s Photo Freedom book all the way!

      Both kids have a baby scrapbook. The ONLY pages in there are from when they were under 1 year and all of those pages were done retroactively. I didn’t scrapbook when they were babies.

      Everything else goes into their respective albums. If it’s a road trip or vacation, it goes into Places We Go (sadly, very little in that one.) I do not make a distinction any more for mini albums. I have too many albums as it is, and so… I have gotten very good at saying, “I’m good! I don’t need to make an extra project.”

      Unless it’s a little album like December Daily or 30 Days of Thankful. Those are little projects I really enjoy, so those are my smaller albums.

      A pregnancy belly shot, for example, would go into an All About Cathy album. Because it’s my belly. 🙂

      Hope that helps! I plan to do more posts like this as the album swap out gets closer to done.

      1. #1.1.1

        I do have SJs book and should revisit it, I even took the class! It made so much sense at the time but in practice I struggle. I remember her saying follow her process exactly at first and modify to fit your needs later. I think I’m customizing too early. Downstairs I go to find the book! Thanks as always!!

    2. #1.2

      teal—when reading your comment i could have sworn you took over my computer and were commenting as me. you worded it so well and it is exactly my situation. i own stacy julian’s photo freedom book and took her library of memories class but never put the system into practice because of the not knowing the end game of which scrapbook size etc. so instead i just keep collecting supplies and buying bigger storage pieces to fit more supplies and keep moving them around. but no more procrastinating! i am going to print some photos today and if nothing else put them in pocket pages and at least start on my long overdue documenting the memories of my family…i sure as hell have all the supplies to do it…wish me luck! cathy thanks for always being here to inspire me —i don’t say thank you to you nearly often enough!!

  2. #2

    Nice! I have the Stacy Julian’s set up as well. I’ll have to see how your new albums shape up and then make a decision.

  3. #3

    Where do your project life pages go? I’ve started to do 8×8 for special stuff and 8.5×11″ for project life (so in the minority for PL on this size…) – but am constantly rethinking how to organize everything as the years go on.

    1. #3.1
      Cathy Zielske

      They go into 12 x 12 binders that are in another small, overflowing cabinet. I think that is why i decided to go digital last year and this year: no more room for 12 x 12 albums.

  4. #5

    Hi Cathy,
    I was also inspired by Ali’s album organization and have started this same process. I love the simple idea of purchasing 2 albums a month until complete. Each of my kids have a different color, family albums are black and I’m toying with the idea of making our vacation albums yet another color. I love the spine design you have used for your kid’s books. Where can I find that to purchase?

    1. #5.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Jennifer, I don’t have that set up yet in a for sale format. But I could just make a freebie to share here! Sound good? It would not have the same font, but I can find something similar. I’ll design it for the We R Memory Keepers albums specifically.

      1. #5.1.1

        That would be great! I have a ton of albums, but I’m lucky in that I have a finished basement with plenty of room for Kallax/Expedit shelves to hold 12×12 albums. I usually just stamp on the piece of chipboard that comes in the bracket thingy on the spine of the WRMK albums, but sometimes one is missing or I mangle it trying to get it out of the holder. I’d love to have them be consistent!

  5. #6

    Love the new album look. Do you- or anyone else- know what the name of those little metal things where the name goes are called? I have three shelves of the old Creative Memories albums. I would like to add these to the spine for identification. I have searched online and can only find big ones.

    1. #6.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Hmmm. Book plates? No… that’s not it. Man, it’s on the tip of my tongue. Back in the olden days, Making Memories used to sell them.

      1. #6.1.1

        Staples used to sell them with the Martha Stewart album stuff – they came in multiple sizes. I never can remember what they call them, so just searched for Martha Stewart!

  6. #7
    Angela Hath...

    I guess I’m on your wavelength, because I just decided to switch album colors too — I started with pink, but now that I have almost a dozen, it’s getting pretty girly up in here. I also wanted black, only to discover that American Crafts has discontinued EVERY 8.5×11 album, including the modern and the cloth (which is what all my pink ones are). Sure hope they come up with a replacement. Also: my LSS can’t get the We R 8.5×11 albums from their distributor any more, so you might want to stock up….
    Sincerely, a fellow short-end-of-the-stick 8.5×11 scrapper. 😉

    1. #7.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Yes, that tends to happen in our size. I’m hoping the basic black stays around. Ergo, I need to order another couple today. 🙂

  7. #8

    Another 8.5×11 scrapper here and because different companies over the years have discontinued this size, our albums are multi-colored. One thing I was able to do though was re-arrange the pages in my albums so I would have like colored albums for each different year (2001 is white, 2002 is red, 2003 is blue, etc…) I have continued that trend for our 12×12 project life books (last year they were brown, the year before blue and this year patterned.)

    For organization, I keep ours in chronological order although I don’t scrap in chron order. Finished layouts get put into the books where they go in order. I only do mini books of trips we take (in PL Mini albums) and usually a single layout representing the trip for in the chronological book. I stocked up on PL mini albums when they were on sale so I would have enough to go back and scrap previous trips. We do Week in the Life (all in pink Simple Stories album) and last year we did 30 days of thankful (Simple stories album). We also have 4 “Stories of Home” albums (green Simple Stories albums) and these are all about our house – and the things we do with the house – major changes, improvements, etc… We don’t do December Daily but instead we have 2 books that hold just Christmas/December pictures. (Book 1 is 2004-1012 and book 2 is 2013-2020) My bonus son has a 8 books (Creative Memories Pic-Folio albums) beginning with the first year he came into my life (he was 8. He is now 19). His books are a work in progress, they stay at our house and will be given to him as part of his wedding gift someday when he meets the person he will marry. He knows that plan and loves it and he often drop boxes me photos for in his books that he would like to still have when he gets older (he lives in another state from us). I did a high School book for him with pictures of his friends from high School and that was his graduation gift last year. His mom does not scrapbook or take many pictures, so he at least has half of his growing up years with the books I am working on for him. Our shelves in the office/scraproom and family room are a mix of color and 4 different sized albums and we are finally OK with that.

  8. #9

    I have a tonne of 8×11 layouts without an album as I too fell in love with the AC chipboard albums and now can’t find them in the UK. Without albums I didn’t really see the point in doing any pages so haven’t scrapped for a few years.
    In an effort to refind my mojo I cleaned up my craft room and found 3 8×8 albums which I plan to use for a month a page review that will hopefully kick start my love for papercraft and make me use my stash!
    I’m not fussed about album colour or make all long as they are looked at 🙂

    1. #9.1
      Missus Wookie

      I remember when you made that switch and I thinking, ‘oh that is so nice – all the same colour albums….’ and then I remembered that I did that and didn’t like it 😆 Isn’t it funny how we change our minds? I always like seeing your cabinet, it is so helpful to see that not everyone has a wonderfully decorated and furnished studio to work in, lack of space is why I do so much digi and have been going that way more and more. Just have to decide what to do with all the pretties I’ve bought.

      Caroline – I get my 12×12 and 8.5 x 11 AC albums from and there are several UK sites that sell them as well. You can occasionally get them at Hobbycraft too. But definitely use up those old 8×8 albums first!

  9. #10

    Please do make a freeby of the spine formatting. I am having so much trouble making labels for my books I would love to use yours as a place to start.

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