Collecting Memories

Don't just pack away your holiday photos and keepsakes. Have fun preserving and displaying them with style.

Sarah Jernigan
Collecting Memories

Organizing personal mementos is just that--personal. Everyone has an individual way of doing it. You may be like Donna and Christy Savage, sisters-in-law who enjoy going on getaway weekends where they spend their time filling scrapbooks with colorful, creative pages. Or you might be someone who prefers a simple collection of photos that may or may not wind up in an album.

Regardless of your method, gathering photographs and sentimental reminders is one way to share meaningful moments with your family for years to come. Special albums are beautiful when displayed in bookcases and on coffee tables and bring a personal touch to your decor. The point is just to start compiling your memories in some form.

Here are several different methods for preserving keepsakes. From full-tilt, crop-till-you-drop scrapbooking (one of the most vital components of the arts and crafts industry) to a unique idea from a Southern Living photographer, the following suggestions will inspire you to indulge in this rewarding pastime. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then photo and keepsake albums can be the novel that tops any best-seller list.

Scrapbook Savvy
"I didn't have a hobby before I had children, but now I do," says Christy Savage, an orthodontist and mother of two. She and her sister-in-law Donna are prime examples of parents who've found pure joy from creating scrapbooks with all the trimmings. "I started scrapbooking to help me remember all the moments of my children's lives," says Donna, who has two little ones and another on the way.

These women cut, glue, label, and organize the photographs of their children's milestones, family vacations, and special holidays in beautifully crafted albums. Colorful papers, sassy stickers, die-cut letters, and personalized comments about each occasion fill every page.

Christy points out that you can be as creative as you want, without worrying about right or wrong. "Everyone has their own style," she says. "The presentation is for you and your family." She and Donna enjoy spending time together discussing the way a page looks, sharing supplies, and getting away for weekends to work on their books.

"This is a rewarding hobby because it's so productive," says Christy. "I've made an investment in both time and money, and I have so much to show for it. My children will be able to reflect on each milestone and family memory for many years to come."

Getting Started
Both Christy and Donna began their hobby when expecting their first children. For them, keeping track of a baby's first step or first word was easy inspiration, but really anything worth preserving deserves an album or keepsake container.

Don't be intimidated by the process. "Anyone can make a scrapbook, whether you begin with an original idea or start with a premade page," says Donna. There are many products now available to help get you on the right track.

"All you need are the basic tools," says Christy. These include archival glue (which helps preserve photos longer when mounted to album pages), scissors, some sort of scrapbook with acid-free paper, and, of course, the photographs. Such supplies are easy to find in one of the many aisles devoted to the hobby at arts and crafts stores.

The Next Step
Once you've got the photos organized in some manner, then all you have to do is place them in the book. You'll find that grouping and labeling items is fun because you relive the memories as you go. And with additional supplies such as paper frames, colorfully designed papers, and die-cut letters, you will be surprised at how quickly your inner artist comes alive.

Scrapbooking isn't just for people with children. Think of one of your favorite pastimes or a great trip you recently took, and use that as a guide for starting a book of mementos.

A Pocket Full of Memories
Here's the perfect way to gather different types of keepsakes, such as children's art and photographs. Using several pieces of scrap fabric, we made three pockets to hold a variety of items. The main pocket is large enough for a standard photo album. It's crafted like a pillow, with one side left open so the book slides in easily.

The second pocket is sewn on top of the main one. It's the perfect size for children's holiday crafts or other artwork. The third pocket is just right for photographs. Bind the whole thing with ribbon tied in a bow, and you have everything organized in one place.

Keeping It Together
Items such as menus, area maps, and ticket stubs are perfect ingredients for a trip scrapbook. Choose a good-looking album that has pages for photos and room to write labels for each picture. A three-ring binder with top-loading envelopes also works well.

Punch holes into envelopes so they fit in the binder, and label them with the places visited. Once photos and mementos are organized, place them in the envelopes until time comes to create a scrapbook.

Holiday Card Keepsake
I save my holiday cards year after year, cherishing those that include photographs of friends and family. This year I decided to create something for keeping them organized and intact.

The solution was an accordion-style binder crafted from heavy-duty art paper and cardboard. This handy creation works well because items can be attached to both sides, and the binder can be constructed to accommodate as many pictures as I like.

I made mine to suit the average holiday card, which is typically 5 x 7 inches. The pages, folded accordion style, are sandwiched between covers made from cardboard and construction paper. Keepsakes are attached with archival mounting tape and photo corners. Once full, the pages and covers are pressed together and held in place with a ribbon. A fabric pouch was made for storing the binder.

Photo Fun
Anyone who knows Southern Living Senior Homes Photographer Jean Allsopp knows she's nostalgic when it comes to photographs. Her collection of old family pictures is priceless, proving the value of sharing these keepsakes from generation to generation.

When working on this story with me, she was inspired to create a keepsake container, one that would aid in organizing photos while showcasing an artful collage of images at the same time. The result is a galvanized container découpaged with copies of some of Jean's favorite family photos and phrases. Now each time she has a roll of film developed, she places the images in glassine envelopes, which are then kept in the container until she puts them in a photo album. It's a keepsake and organizer all in one.