What’s the number one project you want to do but never seem to find time for? Bonus points if it’s overwhelming, expensive (especially if you buy supplies for it even when you’re not doing it), time consuming, or takes up a lot of physical space.
For me, it’s scrapbooking. Or travel art journaling. Or whatever it is I decide to be comfortable calling it. I’m wary of the Midwestern mom scrapbook stereotype, lots of “embellishments” on your “layouts,” even as I wander down the Michael’s rabbit hole just like anyone else.
Inspired by this post, aptly titled “How to Make Things Harder and Do Nothing,” I got to thinking about the round and round I do in my head sometimes. I’m totally guilty of a lot of her examples (particularly “I can’t wash the dishes because the sink is too full of dirty dishes”) but one that really got me thinking again was about all of the pamphlets and ticket stubs and photos galore I have from my travels. Boxes and boxes. I’m a very sentimental person, especially about traveling.
At my grandparents’ house a few months ago, my siblings and I flipped through lots of old scrapbooks kept by my grandpa. Isn’t it funny how scrapbooking has become an almost female-only world? And yet it makes sense that my grandpa, the “collector” of the two, would be the best at keeping track of memories. They were nothing fancy – photos and newspaper clippings stuck to kraft paper pages with ballpoint pen captions. I’m sure they’re super acidic. I’d like to scan them and create Blurb books at some point, but who knows when that will be. But the point is – it didn’t matter. There they were, gathered in one place for the next generation to peruse. It was fun seeing photos from my mom’s 4th birthday, or snapshots taken not long after my grandparents were married. There my grandma was, sitting on the grass and watching a baby boy in a swimsuit and high heels. There my grandpa was, so tall and skinny and handsome. The photos weren’t artistic masterpieces. The layouts weren’t anything fancy, no Cricut cartridges required. But they served their purpose perfectly – a space to keep memories.
I’ve gone through so many cycles with my memory keeping. In January 2004, I took an art history class in London. It was fabulous – mornings spent in London’s amazing museums, listening to an art historian, taking notes, talking about technique and history and symbolism and what art means to all of us. We’d buy postcards of the art on the way out, break for lunch, and spend the afternoons at one tourist destination or another – sometimes Westminster Abbey, sometimes a pub featured in Dickens’ Our Mutual Friend, where we’d have a pint and talk about European longevity, a thrilling concept to Americans used to our own adolescent sense of history. At night we’d alternate between going out – riding around drunk on double decker buses or hitting a pub or a club or something – and staying home, shopping at our neighborhood store and then buying Strongbow ciders to drink back at our flat, where we’d work on our art journals. We had to hand them in at the end of the class, a few days before leaving London, so that Hilary, our teacher, could look through them, leave us sticky note messages, and assign us a class grade.
Since we were under deadline, everything was fresh – we pasted postcards and pamphlets and wrote about our morning and afternoon adventures within days of experiencing them. We had Paperchase (the flagship store on Tottenham Court Road, my very favorite store in the world) as our supply base. And Daler & Rowney for lovely bound journals with just the right kind of not quite white, thick paper. Even now, so many years later, looking through that book brings me great pleasure.
It’s a pleasure I hoped to replicate with my travel journaling and scrapbooking. I knew I wouldn’t always be quite so prompt, but I went to Spain planning on coming home with a nearly completed book. Let me clarify, I went to Spain, TWICE, hoping to come home not with half a suitcase of paper schnipsels and a million digital photos, but with a nearly completed project.
It didn’t happen. Clearly. For different reasons each time.
And so now I’ve moved some of these boxes three times. I’ve bought books and rejected them. I’ve bought other books with removable pages. I’ve purchased a wide variety of acid-free adhesives. I’ve ordered some of the photos printed online, only to be fairly disappointed with the resulting prints. I’ve set up spaces I thought would be dedicated to this project (in many houses, including a couple of house sitting gigs). And still, these photos and mementos are no closer to being organized and laid out the way I’d like them than they were years ago.
Perfectionism is holding me back, making things harder while I’m getting nothing done. I’m weirdly obsessed with getting chronology right, something that gets harder and harder (and honestly, less important!) as the years go on.
What’s my problem?
And as I start taking more and more photos (even if they are noticeably better than photos I took even a couple of years ago), this process gets more complicated. Travel is a passion, when I feel most alive and most aware and appreciative of my surroundings, so it makes sense to try and keep track of those memories, those joyful excursions. But what about the photos I took around my house last week? Aren’t those really just as important in the long run, maybe even more so because they are so quotidian and so simple and real – actually showing what my life is like at this point? What to do about those? I hate to break it to you, but those facebook albums we all spend so much time curating won’t be around for our grandkids to peruse.
Kind of a travesty, right?
I need a plan, a kick in the pants, something to make me just START SOMEWHERE and stop thinking about all of the details, what I could miss, what doesn’t seem quite right.
(it’s also a good time to mention that I started writing this post in March, but decided I needed to add photos. I’m telling you – how to make things harder and do nothing is like my mantra.)