School scrapbooks are on display at most high school graduation parties.  Whether the student, a parent or grandparent made them, you’re likely to find a stack of lovingly-constructed scrapbooks filled with photos, memorabilia and favorite memories.

I’ve helped many nieces and nephews create their school scrapbooks in the final months of their senior years.  I don’t recommend that plan.  For best results, start earlier in the year and give yourself plenty of time for this project.  Better yet, get started a few years early!

Why am I thinking about school scrapbooks?  My oldest son recently started his junior year of high school.  While forcing him to pose for his annual first-day-of-school photo on the front steps, I realized how soon he will be graduating.  I distracted myself from crying by thinking about all the work needed to finish his school scrapbooks!

Here are some tips and ideas for organizing and creating meaningful school scrapbooks:

Plan your school scrapbooks strategy

The first step is deciding how much work you’re willing to do.  Are you creating an album for every year of your student’s school career — kindergarten through senior year?  Or, a scrapbook for elementary years, one for middle school/junior high, and one for high school?  Or are you creating one mega school scrapbook to cover it all?

Choose the approach that works best for your time, budget, and resources.  If you’ve been printing photos and saving memorabilia each year of your student’s life, you could probably create a dozen different books.  On the other hand, if you have few printed photographs and no memorabilia, it will be easier to create one mega school scrapbook.  Don’t feel pressured to do more or create the most.  Not many people have the storage space to handle 13 school scrapbooks for each child!

Another factor: consider how many children you have or will be making scrapbooks for.  We are all so enthusiastic to do projects for the first child, but by the time you get to the third or fourth kid, let’s just say, we don’t always have that same level of energy…  Don’t short-change the younger kids (it really makes some of them mad), pick a plan you can replicate for all of them!

Organize your photos

Now you’ve got a plan.  It’s time to organize your photographs!  This can be incredibly overwhelming.  Smart phones store thousands of photos and few of us regularly sort through them, print the best, and store them for future use.  More likely, you’ve got thousands of photos to choose from.

Based on your album strategy, decide how many photos you want to work with.  Obviously, if you’re creating an album per year of school, you could print a 100 photos or more for every year of school.  If you’re consolidating all of elementary years into one album, you might shoot for 10 to 15 photos per school year.  And if you’re doing one mega album, choose your favorite four to six photos for each year of your student’s school career.  You can add more or takeaway, depending on how it goes.

Organize your printed photographs with a good organization system.  I highly recommend the Creative Memories Power Sort Box or something similar.  These boxes hold up to 1,200 photos and have dividers to help you organize by grade or year.  You’ll quickly see if your album strategy is going to work or if you need to rethink it based on how many photos you have.

Organize your memorabilia

Raise your hand if you have hundreds of pages of drawings, paintings, notes, math problems, essays, awards, programs, spelling tests, etc.  I do.  I couldn’t bear to throw any of those masterpieces away!  But it’s time to make some tough decisions, and start culling through all the memorabilia to find just a few select pieces to include in the scrapbooks.  By the way, my older sister is amazing at enjoying the memorabilia in the moment and then getting rid of it.  If you’re more like her, good for you!  I wish I could do that more.

Choose five memorabilia items for each school year.  Yes, only five!  You can’t scrapbook them all.  Make it a mix of fun, sweet memories and impressive, proud memories.  This is where the Power Sort Box is so handy — put the memorabilia for each year in with the corresponding photos.  Aren’t you feeling organized now?

If you can’t bear to recycle what’s left, do another sort.  Pick 10 more items from each year and store them all together in one tote box.  Label it for your child.  One day when they buy their first house, you can give them this box of treasures.  If they’re like my sister, they’ll throw it out as soon as you leave the driveway.

Plan your layouts

Photos and memorabilia are the heart of school scrapbooks, but it’s fun to show them off with coordinating scrapbook paper, stickers and words.  If you want to scrapbook a lot of pages in one day, I recommend planning your page layouts in advance.   The Creative Memories Power Layouts Kit is an awesome tool for organizing the exact photos, papers, and stickers you want on each page.  You don’t even need the fancy box to plan your layouts, but it does keep everything stored safely in one place.  (I’m not a Creative Memories seller.  I just really like their products!)

When you make all the decisions ahead of time, it makes the actual scrapbooking go so much faster!

Add meaningful details

It’s finally time to finish your scrapbooks.  You’ve done all the hard work, now grab a glass of wine and put your scrapbooks together.  There are two methods for adding meaningful details to your scrapbook pages: 1. Write down details and fun memories as you go, or 2. Wait until the end to add captions and memories.  I’ve done it both ways, it really depends on my mood that day.  If I’m feeling reflective and calm, I’ll usually write descriptive captions for photos as I go.  If I’m on a deadline and trying to get as much finished as possible, I’ll leave the writing for another day.

It takes a lot of space and tools to construct your scrapbook pages.  Give yourself ample room and time to do it.  Invest in some good tools, like paper cutters, scrapbooking tape runners, good glue, precut photo mats, fun stickers and papers, etc.  Scrapbooks are not inexpensive, but one of the few gifts that is meant to last a lifetime or longer.  It’s preserving memories!

Just get started

Projects of this size are best broken down into bite-sized steps.  When you continue to organize and whittle down the work, you can create an amazing school scrapbook no matter how many days are left until the graduation party!  Looking for more heartfelt gift ideas?

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