Organizing Paper

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Leslie Woolf

I love to organize. I also love paper, from notebook paper to colored cardstock to Patterned Papers. I especially love all the specialty papers available to scrapbookers now. Hence, I have quite the collection of paper at my house. Unfortunately, instead of the photographic memory I ordered when I was born, I ended up with a "If I can't see it, it doesn't exist" brain; I need to have most of my collection of scrapbook supplies out where I can see them so I can remember what I have.


Recently I searched through my huge stack of Patterned Paper for I'm not sure what, and realized I was lost. I had tons of wonderful Patterned Paper that was disorganized. I had invested over $100 in my paper collection and didn't even know what I had. I needed to use my investment and invest more wisely in the future. What you will learn in this article are the easy techniques I employed for sorting and storing Patterned Paper, cardstock and scrap paper. These techniques will allow you to see exactly what papers you have available. This in turn will allow you to get on with your scrapbooking instead of spending precious minutes, or hours, rummaging through your paper piles. These techniques also help in choosing appropriate papers for your layouts.

First, let me share some related observations. Shopping behaviors among scrapbookers fall into two categories. Those in the first category are organized: they go to the scrapbook store with photos for several events in an envelope or folder. They browse the aisles of the store, carefully choosing patterned or specialty paper that match their photos exactly. Next they gather a few printed die cuts or stickers to embellish their pages. They then choose just the right shades of cardstock for each of the layouts-in-progress they are carrying. Finally, they then choose a pen or two to accent their die cuts and to journal on their dark cardstock, and they're set. At the register, their purchases are carefully sorted by theme, ready to be transformed into picture-perfect layouts.

I, however, fell into the second category. Here's an example of my shopping trips before putting my new techniques into practice. I would arrive at the scrapbook store with at least one of my three small children. If it was the one-year-old, she remained on my hip, holding a very sticky sucker to keep her quiet. (She usually chose several papers for me by touching them with her cute little sticky fingers.) I grabbed a basket, and started tossing "cool" or "pretty" papers into it. I got distracted by the die-cut display and chose some shapes I thought I'd use sooner or later. The sparkly papers might catch my eye next, and I'd pick several, just in case. I'd grab a package of assorted cardstock papers, with a lot of pink, because I have three girls (never mind that they almost never wear pink and so it hardly ever matches the photos!). Finally, I'd run to the register when my baby started to scream, and leave the store without the black Zig Writer that was the only necessary thing on my mental list.

If you're always in that first category, you should submit an article, we need people like you! And if you're in the second category, hang on, because you're in for a great adventure! First, I'll tell you how to wade through the rivers of papers you already have. Then I'll lead you across the stepping stones of efficient scrapbook supply shopping. If I did it, so can you.

Note: Set aside 3 - 4 hours for this first project. I did it over a couple of days at a friend's house, with all our kids around. They occupied each other for the most part, and I didn't mind holding the toddler on my lap every once in a while when she needed me.

Here are four easy steps to organize your paper pile.

First, label the manila file folders with color names in rainbow order. Write each name on two folders (one for cardstock and one for Patterned Paper). Rainbow order is white, cream, pink, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, brown, and black. Add more folders if you have another color you know you have a lot of, if you want to further sort your blues or greens, or if you have a lot of holiday or multicolored Patterned Papers, etc.

Second, place one manila folder in each hanging folder.

Third, after your folders are labeled, sort your cardstock into the appropriate manila folders.

Last, sort your Patterned Papers into the coordinating folders as well. Now you should have all your papers (both plain cardstock and patterned) organized by color or theme into manila folders in a hanging file (or two or three files). So, stand up, stretch, and get a big drink of water, you're doing great and the fun part is about to begin!

Here's where you learn those organized shopper skills. Take each piece of Patterned Paper and find one or two coordinating colors of cardstock from your files. If you can't find cardstock to match, put the paper in a sheet protector and place it in Binder #1. This is the binder you will consult the next time you shop to find coordinating cardstock for all those unmatched papers. However, once you have matched a piece of Patterned Paper with enough cardstock for a one- to two-page layout, place that collection into a page protector and put it into Binder #2. Repeat this process with each of your Patterned Papers. I started with the pinks and went through each color folder of Patterned Papers. I filled three 3" D-ring binders, and had another 1" binder full of papers with no cardstock. When you are finished, your binder(s) will be a rainbow display of perfectly matched papers, all ready and waiting for your wonderful photos!

When shopping in the future, every time you add a piece of Patterned Paper to your basket, make sure to add enough coordinating cardstock to mat your photos and/or use as your background so that you're never caught again with paper you can't use. Allowing enough paper for a two-page layout is always a smart way to shop. Also, make sure you have enough of each pattern to complete your future pages, since dye lots of papers change, and papers are discontinued.

Note : If you find yourself in need of discontinued paper or have old paper you no longer need, post the info on the "Buy, Sell, Trade" Bulletin Board.


Now let's address some successful ideas for storing your paper scraps. First, a quick cleanup bin (or drawer) in a scrapbook workplace is a must. The success of this bin comes from the regular sorting of the contents into permanent storage. An effective permanent storage container is a file crate with hanging file folders. Each folder is labeled with tabs in rainbow order (be sure to make one folder for solid colors and one for decorative papers). Scraps can be filed quickly into the appropriate folder. This method works best with scraps larger than 3"x5".

For smaller scrap storage use one-gallon Zip-Loc bags for each color, then file the bags in rainbow order in a file crate or storage container.

Keep your scrap bins close to you as you work, and to have a place to store them when you're not scrapbooking. Look in them often for paper you can use for your matting so that you don't have to cut a new sheet of paper or cardstock needlessly. Part of the fun of scrapbooking is making good use of all your equipment and supplies.

I hope you will feel motivated to go through your paper collection to see what you have and what you need to add to it in order to use it in your scrapbooks. I love all the different papers available, and although I enjoy my rainbow display in my binders, I'd much rather have my precious photos displayed beautifully on those papers, for all my family and friends to enjoy.

TIP: Before you start, consider this: For your Patterned Paper collection and any cardstock you already have, get:
  • 25 manila file folders;
  • 10 to 15 hanging file folders;
  • A hanging file crate or filing cabinet;
  • Sheet protectors (one for each design of Patterned Paper);
  • 3 to 4 (or more) large 3?ring binders to hold your matched papers.

For your paper scraps, choose the following supplies according to the type of storage you desire:

  • 10 to 20 hanging file folders or one-gallon Zip-Loc? bags;
  • Hanging crate or storage container.



Shop all storage and organization at


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