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June 8, 2010

Clutter Busting

From time to time, I read a blog by someone else that is so on target that it just knocks me off my feet. Such is frequently the case with articles by creativity consultant and author Christine Kane. A recent article by Christine about clutter made so much sense and was so fitting for this series that I felt I had to include it as one of my weekly entries. Yes, I know she’s talking about throwing stuff out, while I’m talking about saving things for later, but really, we’re both talking about the same thing…how clutter and disorganization drain you of creative energy.

So as you read Christine’s article, think less about throwing things out, and more about actually putting them to use, getting them organized so you can find them, and finding new uses for old stuff. And yes, you really should throw out anything you are only keeping out of guilt. Take a good hard look at the craft supplies you have accumulated, and make that hard decision about what to keep and what to throw out. Only keep the things you really love. That way everything you make will be something you really love, too!

9 Seemingly Logical Reasons We Cling to Clutter
by Christine Kane

"Perfection is not when there is no more to add, but no more to take away."
– Antoine de Saint-Exupery

A retired man once told me he loved going camping with his wife because camping showed her how simple life can be "without all that bloomin' stuff she keeps everywhere!" He's right!

Our lives are meant to be simple. Our intuition and creativity thrive when given freedom and space. Clutter is a disease. Each moment we ignore the reasons we hold on to things we don't want, those things rob us of energy, health, and clarity.
If you're a clutter-clinger, be kind to yourself. Begin with an awareness of your thoughts and excuses. For starters, read over this list to see if you can find YOUR excuse!

Clutter Excuse #1: "I'd be a bad (mean) (horrible) person if I…"
Guilt is heavy gooey energy that convinces us we're bad people if we let go of heirlooms, knick-knacks, unwanted clothing, or unwanted gifts. These items clutter up our lives and keep us in a comfortable – but draining – place. And conveniently, we never have to decide what we actually do want in our environment. We become environmental victims. Often, that spreads out into other parts of our lives too!

Clutter Excuse #2 - "I spent so much on it!"
Do you punish yourself for having made a bad choice by keeping the item around? Or convince yourself that you're going to get your money's worth – even if it drains the hell out of you? You won't. And it will. We've all done stupid things. And we've all had to let them go. Now it's your turn.

Clutter Excuse #3 - "I might need this someday."
I often wonder how many idle telephone cords exist in the world. Way in the back of old desk drawers. Stuffed on closet shelves. They can't be gotten rid of. Why? Because we might need them some day. Evidently, some day - in spite of technological progress - you're going to need that particular grey phone cord that came in the box with a phone you bought in 1989. Throw it out. Now. Same thing goes for: the broken fax machine, switch plates from your first house, and every glass flower vase that came with deliveries.

Clutter Excuse #4 - "I might do this someday."
I know. I know. Someday you'll take those broken pieces of china you've collected and create a beautiful mosaic birdbath. And you'll go through those stacks of magazines and make that collage for your sister's 30th birthday party. (She's 51 now.) Now – I don't mean to deny you your plans and dreams. However, I urge you to consider experiencing the infinite relief that appears when you let old project ideas go. Call your sister and tell her the collage ain't gonna happen. Buy a mosaic birdbath from an artist who makes her living from creating such treasures. And then, make space for what you want to do. Don't fill your space with what you should do.

Clutter Excuse #5 - "I gotta look good to my guests."
CD's. Books. DVD's. Are these items treasured? Or are they simply a prop so your guests will be impressed by your intelligence and diverse tastes? Remember this: we are motivated by two things: Fear or Love. Which of these keeps you clinging to items because of appearances?

Clutter Excuse #6 - "I Don't Know Where It Goes."
When items don't have a home, it's harder to determine whether or not they are clutter. Some things may seem like clutter - like the cute card that your daughter made that floats around from drawer to drawer - but they're not clutter. They're homeless. Once you start defining spaces for items, then it's easier to see when something doesn't fit anywhere and should just get tossed.

Clutter Excuse #7 - "My thoughts don't have any power. Do they?"
Everything has energy. The thoughts you have about the things in your home CREATE energy. If you are surrounded by stuff you keep out of guilt, then your environment holds guilt. If you hang on to stuff given to you by your ex, and you still feel bitter – then there is bitterness in your home. Get it? It's either fueling you, or draining you. Some things might be neutral, of course. But if anything triggers you, then that is your barometer. Let it go.

Clutter Excuse #8 - "But I never wore it!"
See Clutter Excuse #2.

Clutter Excuse #9 - "There's too much stuff!"
Overwhelm can stop us in our tracks. If this article makes you aware that there are lots of items in your life you don't like, then go slow. Schedule small chunks of time each day. It takes time to be clutter-free! But the newfound clarity and lightness are worth it!

Performer, songwriter, and creativity consultant Christine Kane publishes her 'LiveCreative' weekly ezine with more than 11,000 subscribers. If you want to be the artist of your life and create authentic and lasting success, you can sign up for a FRE*E subscription to LiveCreative at .

May 5, 2010

A Pack Rat's Guide to Getting Organized
Part 3: Picture Perfect

April is over, school will be out in just a few short weeks, and I realized suddenly that I hadn’t done much spring cleaning this year. I used to be a religious spring cleaner. Starting in January each year, I would methodically go through every single file cabinet, desk drawer, closet, pantry, and dresser until I had decluttered everything. The end result was usually a huge pile of trash, a garage sale, and a lot of shredded files.

Over the past few years, life made some sharp turns and I just wasn’t getting the cleaning done like I used to. So a few weeks back we had a little scrapbook garage sale to get rid of some of that old stuff and to make a little money on the side for our September cruise. Christen and I wound up reorganizing a closet, several storage bins, a shed, and all the Crafty Neighbor merchandise we had in stock. Whew! Of course, that meant we had to change the sales on the website (something we’ve been neglecting for a while) and that reminded me about a blog series I had started last year about this time…a series I never quite got around to finishing (can you tell I’m easily distracted?). The blog topic? Spring Cleaning…what else?

Since it’s been a year, I thought it might be nice to revisit the first two articles in the series, and pick up where I left off. So without further adieu, here is Part 3 of “A Pack Rat’s Guide to Getting Organized”, better known as, “A Picture Paints a Thousand Words, but I Can’t Hear Mine Because They’re So Unorganized!” And don’t miss Parts 1 and 2 below!

Picture Perfect

It's a terrible feeling when you finish a beautiful scrapbook page only to suddenly find more pictures or memorabilia that you should have included. I can't count the number of times I've had to rearrange a page or even add another page at the end just to accommodate something that absolutely MUST be included. That's why getting your photos and memorabilia organized is so very important.

Store photos in archival boxes.

As I told you in a previous blog, when I first started scrapbooking, my photos were a mess! They were stored with no rhyme or reason. I'd shoot twenty rolls of film at a NASCAR race, and send the film off to be developed. When it came back, I’d slap it in a shoebox and never give it a second thought. Sometimes the negatives wound up in the same box; sometimes they didn't. Nothing was labeled either.

The problem with this type of organization is that you never really know what you have and what you don’t. I actually did a whole scrapbook page based on photos that I thought were from one year only to find that half of them were from a different year. Wow, was that a mess to straighten out! I had to pull all the "wrong" pictures off the page and find something else to fill the space. I wasn't nearly as happy with the result as I had been the first time around. Even worse was the time my daughter cropped the only existing pictures of a high school dance thinking that I had a duplicate set somewhere as well as the negatives. Unfortunately, it was the only set and someone else had given us the photos, so there were no negatives that we could use to print more.

All photos and negatives should be stored in a cool, dry place, out of direct sunlight and protected from dust and other potentially damaging elements. Sunlight can damage photos faster than just about anything on earth except water. Shoeboxes are not acid-free, so choose an option that won’t leach dangerous chemicals that will damage your photos. Photo storage boxes are available for a very low price at just about any hobby store. They are made of materials that will protect your photo prints from dust, sunlight, and other environmental hazards. Go with the plastic version, and your photos will be at least semi-waterproof. Or take it even a step further and make digital archives of all your photos (see below).
Store your photos on end, not lying flat. Humidity in the air can cause the emulsion layer on film to become sticky. If your photos are stacked flat on top of each other, the weight of the stack may cause your precious photo to stick to the back of the photo on top of it. Once that happens, you will never be able to safely pull them apart.

When choosing a storage option for your photo prints, make sure it meets all these qualifications:

•Is it photo safe? Will it protect my photos from the elements and from damage?
•Will it allow me to sort my photos by date or by subject (or both)?
•Is it stackable or can I expand it/add to it if I acquire more photos?
•Is it attractive? Where will it go in my house? Will it look nice on a shelf or in my closet (and does that matter)?
•Is it accessible? How hard will it be to get to my photos once they are stored properly?

Negatives are important too!

A lot of people ignore their negatives and just throw them in a box somewhere. I confess, I used to be one of those people – until the day that I actually needed one of those negatives and couldn’t find it. You never know when you might need to reprint a photo because the original was damaged or maybe needs a little touch-up. Or what if you just need to reprint your favorite picture in a bigger size? Either way, if you took the picture on film, you’ll need the negative. So be sure to keep your negatives stored safely and in a manner that you can easily retrieve them whenever you need.

My favorite way to keep my negatives is to store them in archival plastic sleeves in a three ring binder. The sleeves protect the negatives from dust and fingerprints, and I can tuck the binder into a closet or shelf to keep it out of the sun. I have my negatives sorted by date (simple index tabs separate them by year), and I marked each sleeve with a brief summary of the photo contents (Christmas, Birthday, Prom, swimming pool, picnic, etc.). It makes searching for specific pictures a synch; whenever I need to find one, I just flip to the approximate date and I can view the negatives through the plastic sleeve without ever touching them! An inexpensive light box (available at any craft store) and a small magnifying glass help me identify subjects in the photos. A pair of white cotton, lint-free gloves (available at any camera store) allow me to handle the negatives themselves without leaving fingerprints.

The protective envelopes your photos/negatives come in work great, too, if you combine them with a photo-safe storage box in a cool, dry place. However you decide to store your negatives, you’ll want to make sure it:

•Keeps your negatives safe from the elements
•Allows you to sort by date or subject
•Is easily accessible in case you need to retrieve a negative for a reprint.

Get those digital pictures off the camera!

Back up your digital photos to CDs or DVD data disks and give a copy to a friend or family member for safe-keeping. We've all heard stories of people who have all their phone numbers stored on their cell phones and then lose everyone's phone numbers when the phone breaks. Or people with great photos that they never download from their camera and then the camera breaks. Computers break, too. So don't ever rely on one as your only method of storing and preserving your photos. Always back up your photos to at least one other source, be it CDs, DVD data disks, or a simple thumb drive.

My son went on a very expensive but wonderful trip to England with the Boy Scouts for the 2007 World Jamboree. It was the 100th anniversary of the Boy Scouting organization, and he had a great time. I got a lot of great pictures from the event, too--some from him, some from the other attendees, and some from my own camera as the boys went through security at the airport and returned two weeks later through the Customs and Immigration lines. One of my very favorite photos was of one of the boys hugging his mom on his return. Mom was crying, the boy was beaming ear to ear, and everyone was really glad to see each other. I fully intended to email that perfect photo to the boy's mom, so she could remember just how precious that moment was. And then I had a major computer malfunction. I lost everything. I was really fortunate that a lot of my photos had come from other sources, so I was able to replace most of them. And I had posted many of the photos on our troop's website, so I was able to download some low-res copies from there, but not that photo. That picture was gone forever.

The lesson I learned was that everything must be backed up to disks or thumb drives or something. The more places you can store it, the better. And never leave pictures on your camera. I could write a whole blog about reformatting your memory card vs. just deleting pictures you don't want! The bottom line is that you should download all your photos frequently (I do it after every photo shoot), and then reformat that card. Using and reusing a card or memory stick without reformatting is like brushing multiple colors of paint one on top of the other. Eventually it's going to be a big caked-up nasty mess. Reformatting your card helps to ensure that the data is clean and that there are no artifacts left over from previous photos to corrupt your files.

Go digital!

While you're sorting and organizing, make digital archives of your favorite photos. Have you ever heard the dental saying, "Only floss the teeth that you intend to keep"? Well the same thing is true of making digital archives of your film and print photos. Twenty-five years ago, my parent's house burned to the ground, including every family photograph, memento and treasure that I hadn't taken with me when I got married. And even though friends and family members came out of the woodwork to offer copies of their precious photos, much of what was lost were unique, one-of-a-kind snapshots that can never be replaced.

When I got my first scanner, one of the first things I did was start to archive all of my print photos and negatives. It was a very long process (I have literally thousands of photos and hundreds of rolls of film). When I was through with my own photos, I started to scan my mother's as well. The result is a huge collection of photos to choose from when scrapbooking, and I can rest easily knowing that the photos exist in multiple locations, and will never be lost, damaged, or destroyed ever again. Just be sure to back up your archives to CD or DVD data disks, and give copies to friends and family for safe-keeping. I'll cover the techniques for making good digital archives in a future post.

Don't forget to sort the memorabilia

Prize ribbons, participation patches, and test scores are just a few of the non-photo items people often included in scrapbooks. I had tons of little goodies like this stashed here and there in boxes, hope chests, and old photo albums. When I started scrapbooking, I wanted everything together in one place--easy to access when I wanted to work on a particular subject or event.

Some of the same principals apply to storing memorabilia as photos and negatives. Always put your items in archival quality storage and keep it in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight. I have memorabilia stored in basically two places: a hope chest and a file cabinet.

The hope chest is for larger items that are too big or too bulky for scrapbooking. Some of the more delicate items are further packed in plastic boxes and wrapped in archival quality tissue paper. Check with organization stores like The Container Store or your local dry cleaner for this paper. If you don’t have a hope chest, there are various styles of plastic boxes and totes that will work just as well.

Anything that I think I might want to use in a scrapbook goes into my file cabinet. There I have used hanging file folders to sort school papers, certificates, larger photo prints, awards, ribbons, and anything else that might fit. My own files are sorted by person and then further divided by topic. For instance, I have a file for my mother and father. Behind that I have a file for their wedding and another for their 40th anniversary a few years back. For my children, I have a general folder for each of them, plus additional folders for school organizations, individual sports, birthdays, report cards, artwork and compositions, etc. Obviously, some things apply to more than one person. For that reason, I have also added a few other folders for things like Christmas, pets, pressed flowers from my garden, etc. Keeping all these items together in one file cabinet makes it easy to just grab a subject file and start scrapbooking—no more hunting around for that Honor Roll certificate that I put in a “safe place”.

Well, that’s all for this week. I hope I’ve helped you get a little bit closer to your ideal of organization and if not, then at least you’ll have a good place to start. Just remember to go slowly, set small goals, and work on a little bit at a time. Next week, we’ll talk about clutter and the excuses we get trapped into.

Cindy Murray
Crafty Neighbor

Repost from May 27, 2009

A Pack Rat's Guide to Getting Organized
Part 2:  All's Well That's Planned Well

I've often heard my husband use an expression he refers to as "The Seven P's—Perfect Prior Planning Prevents Piss-Poor Performance. Basically, he's saying that when we plan ahead and know what we're doing before we tackle big projects, we'll have better results. It's true. It's always the things we don't plan for that wind up causing problems! Organizing a room is no different than planning a banquet or building a house—you have to decide what you want to accomplish before you can start any work. Otherwise, you'll waste a lot of time thinking and rethinking everything after the fact.

The best place to start when getting organized is to think about how you want to use the room. Is it *just* for scrapbooking, or do you plan to do other crafts as well? My room also serves as a sometimes dance studio where my daughter and I practice belly dancing. Because of this, I have to have large amounts of open space. I also do a lot of other crafts like sewing, crochet, and of course I store some of the supplies for our Crafty Neighbor products. If you need to share a room with the rest of the family, it might mean keeping some supplies out of reach of children. Knowing how you plan to use the room is a big step in designing the perfect space for your needs. Once you know what your needs are, you can start planning how to deal with them.

Break it into smaller projects/set small goals

Sometimes getting organized can be overwhelming. A big mistake people often make is in only seeing the big picture. You may know what you want, but getting there can be a scary process. The key is to not think of your room as a whole, but instead to break it into smaller projects. Tackle one small job at a time and make it work. Don’t waste time and energy worrying about the rest of it.

For a craft room, you might want to work on a single area, like cleaning up a specific corner of the room or simply organizing one shelf. If you want to break it down even smaller than that, you could sort all your scrapbook paper or organize all your knitting yarn. The key is to work on only one thing at a time. When you get it the way you want it, then you can move on to another project or area of the room.

Deciding where to start was pretty obvious for me; I started where I had the biggest "emergency"—with my photos. The photo bug bit me at a young age. I just love having pictures of all my favorite memories, and so I take pictures of everything. Lots of pictures. Rolls and rolls and rolls of pictures. I take pictures faster than I can scrapbook! As a result, I had a lifetime of photographs stuffed into every conceivable place. Pictures were glued into construction paper scrapbooks; pictures were slapped into "magnetic" photo albums—I even had pictures stored in shoeboxes! And we won't even talk about what happened to all my digital photos! Unfortunately, when it came time to make a scrapbook page with those pictures, I could never find the ones I wanted!

In my next installment, we'll talk about some different ways to safely store photos and negatives along with the importance of digital archives and the care and treatment of other kinds of memorabilia. Until then, start thinking about what you want to accomplish, make your plans, and remember to break it down into smaller, more manageable tasks.

Cindy Murray
Crafty Neighbor

Repost from April 8, 2009

A Pack Rat's Guide to Getting Organized

Just the other day, I was asked by one of my husband's coworkers to send her some photos of my craft room. Apparently, another coworker was trying to set up a room of her own, and she needed some ideas. You'd think I would be honored by the request, but actually, I was a little embarrassed. For you see, what had once been a spacious den with ample room for 6-8 croppers looked more like the infamous closet that you’ve seen on TV. You know, the one that bursts forth, spilling its contents on some poor, unsuspecting soul who happened to have the poor judgment to open the door. Except my junk wasn't tennis rackets and soccer balls -- it was craft supplies.

Okay, so it wasn't that bad, but from the perspective of an over-achieving, obsessive-compulsive neat freak, the room just didn't work for me any more. Crochet supplies were mixed in with the beads, and scrapbook paper was stored in three different places! It wasn't very organized, and it certainly wasn't conducive to getting anything done. There was no workspace left, and I couldn't even invite other people to join me unless I moved everything around. Whenever I needed something, I had to hunt in several different places before I found what I was looking for (if I ever found it), and several times, I purchased something only to discover I already had one stashed in some out of the way place.

How did my studio get so messy? Was it the dozen or so different, and apparently unrelated, crafts, each with their own unique set of supplies and storage needs? Or was it the "I'll put this away later" syndrome that always seems to sneak up on me when I get really busy? Maybe it was the fact that I absolutely MUST have the latest and greatest new tool, gadget, or kit for whatever craft-du-jour I happen to be enthralled with at the time.

Whatever caused my out-of-control mess, I had to tidy it up before I could present it to anyone. Unfortunately, my mess didn't just happen over-night, and it wasn't going to go away that quickly, either. It was going to take some deep cleaning, some REAL organization, and some realistic expectations on to how I want my room to function for me. So rather than just tidying the place up a bit (which I did before I took the pictures for the co-worker), I'm working on a plan to make my crop room into the dream room I've always wanted, starting from the ground up. After all, it is April, and this is the time when we normally turn to our closets and start some of that serious Spring Cleaning.

So in honor of Spring Cleaners everywhere, I'll be spending the next few weeks sharing some of the great organization ideas I've discovered over the years. I'll take a look at some of the techniques shown on such TV shows as "Clean Sweep" and "Oprah Winfrey", and I'll use them to turn my cluttered up mess into the craft room of my dreams. I'll be posting some pictures of my room as we go, and I encourage you to share some of your tips as well.

So get ready, get set, let’s CLEAN!

Cindy Murray
Crafty Neighbor

April 7, 2010

Creativity Lessons I Learned from Basketball
by Christine Kane

Okay. I know.

I'm not supposed to do sports. After all, we creative types are more about reveling in the smell of crayons, the angle of moonlight on the river, and the beauty of the ocean at sunrise.

Not the obnoxious sound of the buzzer, or screaming at the coach to use a time-out, or shouting in glee as a three-pointer swishes through the hoop.

And yet, I'm in love with the Carolina Tarheels. And it's not because I know basketball or what a screen is. It's because I love the process, the stories, the passion - and yes, the similarities between basketball and being creative.

Here are seven unexpected Creativity lessons I've Learned from Basketball...

1: Systems and Habits. Not Feelings and Reactions

In his book Playing for Keeps: Michael Jordan and the World He Made , David Halberstam devotes two chapters to Dean Smith's Carolina basketball program. He describes the team's daily practices with pure awe.

First because of how quiet they are. And he writes, "The next thing was how brilliantly and carefully organized it was, with a schedule posted each day that outlined how each minute of practice would be used."

In other words, no one is waiting to decide whether or not they "feel like it." The system was in place before the practice began. There was a schedule.

The creative-types I coach are always amazed at their productivity levels when we create a schedule for their weekly practices. They no longer spend their time reacting to their days with emotion and drama.

2: Get a Coach

Here's where athletes get it right. They get coaches. From the start, they have coaches and mentors. Lots of them. No athlete in his right mind doesn't have a coach.

Yes, it'd be nice if the coaching model were built into the creative life. But this is where we can BE the change we're looking for. For now, we'll have to learn to invest in ourselves enough to hire coaches, ask for mentors and create a support system that doesn't turn us into strung-out loners.

3: Success Brings Critics

You can search the web and find all kinds of nasty articles, blogs, and television snippets whose sole purpose is to trash teams, players, coaches, and fans.

Creative types sometimes try to play a game of "not making people upset." They contort themselves into limiting boxes in hopes that no one will notice them shine.

It's pointless. Snarky people are everywhere. They pick apart successful people because they don't know how to do it themselves. Keep your focus on your work in the world, and let the snarky people ruin their own lives with their negative vibes.

4:Have fun with ALL of it

Michael Jordan tells a story of Coach Dean Smith in the final seconds of the championship game against Georgetown. Carolina was down by one point. During his time out, Smith outlined the play, and then paused and looked up at his players and asked, "Isn't this fun?"

I remember this when I'm frustrated at my writing, when I'm overwhelmed with ideas, when I begin to think I should've gone to law school. Creativity is all about loving the unknown , being able to look at it, and then ask yourself, "Isn't this fun?" Because you KNOW it is!

5: Three-Pointers Can't Make Up for Steady Performance

There are times when one team makes a run and suddenly leads by 9 points. The other team, in total panic, will try to make a quick come-back by rushing down the court and randomly shooting three-pointers.
That's because three-pointers are a seemingly quick way to get back on track. If they're doing it from desperation, it rarely works. That's because they've stopped playing to win - and now they're playing not to lose.

Creative types are often holding out for the "big thing." The Record Deal. The Gallery Opening. Being on Oprah. Something - anything - to rescue them. They're running around trying to get the three-pointers. But it rarely works.

Nothing works like consistent, solid, steady forward movement. That way, when the three-pointers happen, they're just icing on the cake.

6: Passion is passion. (Swear words and all.)

I always crack up when the camera hits a coach after a bad call just as he's belting out a stream of profanity so articulate that even the blind can read his lips.

It's a part of the passion. Don't be afraid of yours!

7: Keep Shooting

In the last weeks of the 2009 tournament, Tarheel player Danny Green missed some baskets.

Well, no, that's not true. He missed every basket he shot. Three pointers, two pointers, lay-ups.

The media went nuts. Everyone was wondering what was wrong. All kinds of drama and speculation.

Coach Roy Williams' advice to Danny?

"Keep shooting."

And he did.

Within a few games, he was back on track.

Sometimes we're off our game. The words don't come. The passion is gone. We're tired. Life bums us out.

In those times, you can decide it's all over, you're washed up, nothing is worth doing anymore. Or you can take Roy's advice and keep shooting. --

Performer, songwriter, and creativity consultant Christine Kane publishes her 'LiveCreative' weekly ezine with more than 11,000 subscribers. If you want to be the artist of your life and create authentic and lasting success, you can sign up for a FRE*E subscription to LiveCreative at .

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Finding the Time to Crop

I was recently bemoaning the lack of time I spend scrapbooking these days, and I wondered to myself, what has changed and what can I do about it? It’s not that I’ve lost interest in scrapbooking; in fact, it’s quite the opposite. If anything, I love this hobby even more than when I first started. I’d be scrapbooking all the time if I could get away with it! And it’s not money, because although my budget has forced me to cut back spending towards my favorite hobby these days, I’ve also gotten a lot smarter about my spending. No more buying of patterned paper just because it was pretty or because I might some day use it, and online printing services have brought cost of photos down to under 10¢ a print. So the only thing that I can think of is where I crop.

In my early days of scrapbooking, back before the XXL and the Cropper Hopper rolling cart, before I filled up five (yes 5!) Cropper Hopper Embellishment Organizers, before the binders full of QuicKutz and the totes full of Stickles and stamps, I used to sit at my kitchen table in the evenings and work on my pages. In fact, I had so few supplies that I could pull up a TV-tray in front of the television and work from there. And then I started shopping. Even after I’d bought a few things, I could still get most of my supplies into a Crop-in-Style Navigator and eventually an XXL. I was still portable.

My neighbor, Stephanie (Crafty Neighbors, you know!) and I would take turns dragging our carts down the driveway to each other’s houses and we really loved toting our stuff to the local scrapbook stores (LSS) so we could talk to the store employees about the latest and greatest techniques, gizmos, and gadgets. We started out with a Krispy Kremes and Starbucks Crop at the LSS every Thursday at 10:00 A.M. We’d stay until we’d have to leave to pick up my son from school or until guilt forced us into going home to cook dinner for our families. We’d also hit one or two Friday or Saturday night crops a month or drop in on a store for some free crop time. We met a lot of friends that way, and there were always other people around when I cropped. In fact, I rarely cropped at home any more.

I was a lot more productive in those days, too. Since I was cropping all the time, I guess the creative juices were always flowing. We’d be at a crop when midnight would roll around, and we wouldn’t want to stop to go home. Sometimes, if we couldn’t talk the store into staying open a little later, we’d bring our stuff back to the house just to set it all up again and work some more! It wasn’t unheard of to get 8, 10, or even 12 pages done in a night. These days, I’m lucky if I can finish two. We recently had a three-day weekend, and I planned to spend most of it scrapbooking. I was so excited because I thought I might finally finish doing up all the pictures of our trip to Mazatlán from a few years back. Nope. It just wasn’t in the cards. In the end, I wound up doing two pages – just two pages!

It’s not that I’m slow. I don’t spend a lot of time bent over the page, daydreaming and trying to figure out what to do to it. I do a lot of power planning. Basically, I do all the design work for a lot of pages at once, in anticipation of what I might want to work on next. Then I gather up all the supplies and keep them all together in Cropper Hopper Page Planners. That way, I have everything ready, so that when it’s time to actually crop, everything I need is right there and it goes down on the page so quickly and easily – even for a page that’s really elaborately embellished. So I’m not wasting a lot of time trying to figure out what to do or whether I have the supplies to do it.

A few years ago, we bought a new house (don’t worry, Stephanie and I still live close enough to be neighbors). My new house had a big sunroom/den that I thought would be perfect for my crop studio. It was full of light, had beautiful hardwood floors, plenty of room for tables, and it opened right onto the kitchen. At first, it was a scrapbooker’s dream come true. Stephanie and I started hosting crop parties here at the house. It was cheaper than doing the crops at the LSS, and we didn’t have to stop at midnight. But over time, everyone started collecting more and more product, and it got harder and harder to tote. And our kids were growing up, too. We couldn’t just leave them at home with Dad for a few hours. We were spending our weekends at dance recitals, swim meets, and football games. After a while, people just quit coming to the crops. And we weren’t going out to crops any more, either. We had acquired so much stuff that it just wasn’t fun to tote it around any more!

I realized one day that I wasn’t getting any pages done any more. And I really did miss the time I got to spend with my pictures and my pretty paper. I started getting behind. My son was going into high school, and I still hadn’t finished his elementary and junior high albums! So I decided I needed to go back to working on my pages at home, whether anyone else came to crop or not. I resolved to sit down for one hour every night and work on a page. It worked for a while. It was a great stress-reliever at the end of the day, and I was actually getting some work done. But then I noticed that I didn’t even have time for that. I’d get started on a page and it would take me a week to finish it. I figured, at this rate, I was going to be dead and buried before I finished the 3rd grade! No matter what I did, I just could not get anything done!

I’ve been thinking about it for a while now. I blamed it on a lot of things. I was too busy. I work better when I’m with a group of scrappers. I’m spending all my time working on Crafty Neighbor products. But it just didn’t make sense, because I’m really not that much busier than I was a few years ago when we cropped every weekend and came back home to huddle around my kitchen table. And then I finally figured it out--I think the problem is my house! My dream crop room has become the bane of my scrapbooking existence. The space that was supposed to boost my productivity and inspire my magnum opus is now cramping my style! The big, airy, light-filled room that opens into my kitchen has become Grand Central Station!

At first, I loved the fact that I could be in my room without being alone. My family was right there in the kitchen, passing by my room on the way to the fridge, stopping to talk for a moment while I put adhesive on the back of that picture of Christen in her prom dress. I could be doing my thing without isolating myself from the family, and I didn’t have to feel guilty about abandoning my family to pursue my own selfish interests. And let’s face it, we all feel a bit selfish when we spend time on our own pursuits – that comes with the title “Mom”! But what I’ve come to realize is that the open-door means Mom is still here, being…well, you know…Mom. So if I take a break for some “me” time, I’m not really getting any me time out of it at all. How could I? After all, there’s nothing to stop my teenager from coming in and saying, "Mom....", and off I go to help him find whatever he’s lost or to give his friend on the phone directions to our house. If I were at the scrapbook store, he'd just have to figure it out for himself. Right?

So, if every time I plan some time to sit down with my new stack of Basic Grey or my Crafters Workshop stencils and life finds a way of interrupting me, then what’s the answer? Do I pare down my supplies to a more totable tote? Do I drive for miles and miles just to attend a 5-hour crop party in the next town? Do the Crafty Neighbors need to buy a building and invest in one of those Crop Clubs so we can do scrap parties every weekend? Do I build a wall and lock the door to get some one-on-one time with my stamp pads? I don’t know. But if I find a way to spend more time scrappin’, I’m hoping I’ll be so busy cropping that I won’t have time to blog here and tell you about it!

Cindy Murray
Crafty Neighbor

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Great American Scrapbook Convention

You’ve heard the expression, “A day late and a dollar short,” right? Well that just about sums up the situation after spending three days at the Great American Scrapbook Convention in Arlington, Texas last week. The Crafty Neighbors were at GASC all three days (maybe you saw us there in our matching t-shirts?). We passed out lots of free product and met lots of vendors and storeowners. We were especially excited to make contact with some potential suppliers of new products and to arrange a retail deal with Susie from Scrappin’ Goodtime in Corsicana. Susie bought out our entire stock of Album Spacers to sell in her store there.

So how are we a day late and a dollar short? Well, basically, we spent all our money on some really good deals (who can resist QuicKutz fonts for $40? or Stickles at buy 4 get 1 free?). And as for being a day late, well, it’s a lot of work putting away all that stuff. I mean, we gotta hide it so our husbands don’t see it, right?

Seriously, though, we learned a lot of techniques and came up with so many ideas for new products that we just can’t wait to show you. Some of our new products will be showing up on the website immediately, and some will come in the following weeks. Needless to say, you should check back often. Some of these items are one-of-a-kind-never-to-be-seen-again, and there’s going to be new stuff added almost daily (or at least we hope!).

We hope you like what you see, and please leave us some feedback. We’d like to know what you like and don’t like about our site, what kinds of products you’d like to see, and just about anything else you’d like to share with us!

Cindy Murray
Crafty Neighbor

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

How Do You Scrap

How do you scrap? Are you an event scrapper, or a concept scrapper? Do you work chronologically, or do you just pick random pictures? Are you working on the past or the present? One scrapbook at a time, or many? Traditional or digital? What comes first, the picture or the idea?

I'm mostly an event scrapper, but I'm really a combination of a lot of things. My earliest scrapbooks were construction paper and magnetic photo albums where I stuck all my precious keepsakes from my high school years. Those eventually evolved into baby books for my children, and collections of memorabilia from the various rock bands my husband and I played in. Even my genealogy research was more akin to a scrapbook than files! So rather than pages filled with philosophical wanderings, mine have always been about who, what, when, where, and how.

As a pack rat and wannabe photographer, it was only natural that I turned to scrapbooking. I think I got it from my mother. She had this wonderful trunk full of treasures like my first lock of hair, macaroni artwork that my sister had made, and even her own construction paper scrapbook that she had filled with newspaper and magazine clippings of her favorite bands. So when I started amassing things like Gene Simmon's guitar pick and the 1st Place ribbon I won at the VICA convention, I wanted to put them somewhere that I could look at them frequently, and maybe even show them off.

Fast forward to the present day and the digital age, where Photoshop reigns supreme, and the Megapixel is the queen. I still scrap events. Mainly because I have so many pictures, and I am so far behind that I still have years and years of old photographs to stick down on paper. And the stack just keeps getting worse! With a very busy son in high school (you know, one of those kids who thinks they have to do EVERYTHING!), I don't even have time to do this week's events, much less all the other events from the past 15 years!

I look at all the magazines with all the lovely concept pages about favorite things, love, and nature, and I wonder, do these ladies get to spend so much more time scrapbooking that they've already finished all the Christmases, birthdays, and high school graduations? Or did they just give up trying to document all the Easters, dance recitals, and garden parties? I have pictures from family vacations that could fill a single book! There's no way I could ditch 20 great pictures of the orchestra concert in favor of just one close-up of my son in his tux! And how will I ever remember my daughter's first birthday with out a picture of the cake before and after she stuck her whole hand down into it?

I get bored easily, too. So I hate just working on one album at a time. Don't get me wrong, I love my kids. But if I have to look at one more picture from the Boy Scout National Jamboree, I'll puke! I wound up with over 40 pages from that single two-week event, and by the time it was finished, I was dying for something new to work on. Something that had nothing to do with Boy Scouts! So for that reason, I'm always working on several things all at once. I have a neat file system where I keep proposed pages. I have several pages all planned out in various categories: Boy Scouts, my son's school days, my daughter's school days, my own childhood, current family events, old family events, etc. That way I always have something interesting to work on. Some of it I do chronologically, like the Boy Scout pages, simply because they have to go in the album in a certain order, and I don't want any blank pages that I wouldn't be able to fill. Others, like my children's and family events, I do in whatever order pleases me, however inspiration strikes. For these albums, a blank page here and there just means that I'll have to make one of those wonderfully inspired philosophical pages one of these days when I'm done with all the events. I can't wait!

Of course, I have to thank my lucky stars for all the technology that's made it easy for me to stay organized enough to scrap all my cherished memories. A good flatbed scanner and Photoshop have enabled me to completely archive not only my photos, but my mother's as well. And on more than one occasion, it's saved a photographic disaster from the waste bin. I use my computer to find pictures of random things I never thought to take a picture of when I was younger, like the house of my best friend or my favorite Barbie doll. It's also great for printing out titles and doing special effects. I've even done at least one purely digital page (see the Reader Gallery!). So for me, digital storage is a total lifesaver. That way, when I am inspired by a beautiful layout in a magazine, I can go straight to the photos and do up an amazing page. Or better yet, maybe I'll just finish this big pile of Cub Scout pictures first....

Cindy Murray
Crafty Neighbor