11 Tips for Saving Your Stories in 2011

by Bettyann Schmidt on January 6, 2011

catnav-scrapmoir-active-3Post #64 – Women’s Memoir Writing, ScrapMoir – Matilda Butler and Kendra Bonnett

by Bettyann Schmidt

This new year affords lots of opportunities to save some of your most precious possessions–your memories. It’s not all about scrapbooks and memoirs; there are tips, tricks, and solutions for every mindset and personality. One or more of them will surely work for you.

#1 Organize to Save:

This is my most important tip.  To be able to use your photos with stories, you must have an ongoing system that allows you to put your finger on any picture easily.  Set aside a time to work on your organizing.  Don’t try to do too much at once. 

Regularly get your digitals off your hard drive and order prints.  If you don’t want prints, have them backed up on two storage devices.  I do this quarterly, or at the end of every season.  When I get my prints, I place them in an organizing binder until I put them in scrapbooks.  I also maintain a photo file for prints I just want to save with dividers for categories.  


My Organizational System on the bookshelves where I work. My photo prints go into the black photo binders first. Then into one of my scrapbook albums with the stories, or into my white storage drawers behind the appropriate index tab. Set up a space for your organizing and your story writing. A place where you can store everything and work on a regular basis.

 #2 Broad Categories:

Large boxes and bags, plastic containers, drawers full of photos can be overwhelming to sort and organize.  Use my ”broad categories” solution to start.  It works every time.  You might start dividing your photos up in categories such as “ before I was born,” or “ my childhood.”  Possibly “before my parents were married” and “after they were married, but before I was born.”  Then as these categories start widening and getting growing, narrow them a little more. “Before parents were married” might narrow into “when my mother was in college, when my father was in the army,” etc. Keep narrowing until you have the perfect system for you.

#3 A Year’s Highlights: 

Create “A Year of Memories” for the current year. Even if you have zillions of pictures stored all over your house, concentrate on this one year you are living right now. It will give you such a good feeling and relieve the guilt associated with old photos. Resolve to take at least one picture a month in 2011. A family photo, a particular child or family member, your pet(s), an event such as a birthday or wedding, nature photos, your home, your garden. The possibilities are endless. Then write a short story of this photo or photos. You can use a notebook, an album, a scrapbook. It’s your choice. Label your project “2011.”  Twelve pages with photos and stories at year’s end is an awesome thing!A collage of the family that captures stories of different times in our lives. 


A family collage, showing different stages in all of our lives, stories of our lives

#4 A Memory a Month:

This is like #3 above, but differs in that you will be going back into your memory bank for scenes and stories — vignettes. You can use the months as reminders of events from your past. For instance, September always reminds me of going-back-to-school days and after-the-football-game parties in high school. I grew up in a cold climate, so January reminds me of huge snowfalls, sledding. May, for me, is the May Procession in Catholic school, but it could also be memories of your mother, or spring flowers. Every month pick out a story from your past, and if you have a picture, even better, then write the story of that memory. Keep your stories and pictures in a binder or notebook. If you continue to do this, you may just put a dent in that memoir or family history you’ve been wanting to write.

#5 Page Frames:

I gave my daughter Sherry one of these last Christmas. I purchased a beautiful 12 x 12-inch mahogany frame from Creative Memories for my daughter. You can buy page frames at craft stores too. Then you will create a 12-in scrapbook page and insert it into the frame to be hung on a wall. I used a small assortment of family photos for Sherry’s, me as a child, her grandparents, a photo of her and her sibs when they were children.

A small story of pictures, I like to think of it. This frame had a pocket on the back where you could insert a story card. Sherry can look at this framed scrapbook page every day and remember the story it tells.


An "Everyday Display" frame on my dining room wall. The photos are of Anna Maria Island where we vacationed in 2008. It was a special time in my life. I was in great need of inner healing. The pictures or scrapbook pages can be switched easily on this display.

#6 Tabletop Digi Frames:

This year I gave my same daughter a small digital frame that she can put on her nightstand, as it has an alarm and a calendar. It comes with a picture memory card like you use in digital cameras which also stores music. I put an assortment of photos on the card to get her started, and set the frame to scroll them, one by one. She loved it. Then I thought of something else I can do. Write a short story on a 4×6 index card and snap a picture of it. The frame would “play” the photos and the story cards. This is just another solution to sharing stories and photos as is the Page Frame described above.

#7 Digital Storybooks:

I created a digital scrapbook when they first became popular for a particular year in our family’s current history. It was rewarding, fun, and so quick! Digi scrapbooking is fast compared to physical hands on, though I like both. I’m not too big a fan of the photo books some stores or sites offer that contain no words or stories–just photos. Photos have to have stories in my life. Pictures without stories are no memory at all, especially as we grow older, or the next generation get their hands on them. Save the stories.

You have the option of using a program like Adobe PhotoShop or Creative Memories Storybook Maker, and many others available, to make your own digital album. You can then print it yourself and add the pages to an album or binder, or you can send the pages to a printer and have a bound book created. The world-wide web is rife with resources to accomplish this task. You can proudly display your completed storybook on your coffee table for friends and family. A great way to save memories in 2011.

dig book

dig book3

dig book2
My first digi scrapbook. Jeff in the snow shows through the brown linen cover, and inside creates the book’s title page. One of the layouts inside depicts my father-in-law on his birthday blowing out his three candles–for the past, the present, and the future.


#8 Memorabilia Matters:

Do you have certificates, old report cards, greeting cards, census pages and other old documents, aged pages of recipes, newspaper clippings, deeds, old car titles, medals, awards, blue ribbons? We collect so much of this over our lifetimes, but how do we use it to save the stories?

Frames will hold most all of these items singly, but a collage of some of them will make a striking display on your walls. And you will be reminded of a colorful past. One of my friends has a quilt made from her husband’s old tee-shirts. That’s cool. Another has a display frame for a pair of toddler size crutches from her husband’s childhood placed criss-crossed in the frame. I’ve seen old house keys displayed. My husband has his father’s American flag from the army in a triangular frame displayed on our bookshelf wall. A selection of your children’s best art looks attractive when placed in matted frames.

I’ve recently gathered some documents from Ancestry.com I want to display along with a vintage print of Cincinnati, my hometown.

All of these displays tell stories. Remember you can write story cards for each item and place behind the frames, or include a nice story card as part of a collage.


My messy memorabilia PowerSort box which occasionally I tidy up. As the items come in, they go right to this box, so at least I know where to look for them.

#9 Daily Stories:

One of my favorite ways to keep notes and remember what I need to is an altered “life notebook.” I like to dress up this daily memory grabber and keep it close throughout the day. Into it I scribble phone calls, recipes, dates to remember, lists of all kinds, a photo every now and then, maybe even a drawing with colored pencils, pictures from magazines, plans for everything–gardens, home decorating, holidays, weekly menus. I’ve been doing this my entire adult life. I tend to move my life notebook with me in the house, from the nightstand in my bedroom, to the living room coffeetable, to the kitchen bar or countertop. It’s a receptacle for everything that pops into my head, when it pops–not later when I can’t remember, or something I see on TV, or something in a phone call. A funny thing one of my grandkids say. When one fills up, I get another. You can go through your notebooks later to know what you were doing at any time in your life..

I also have three journals I use. One is a composition book with a cover of beautiful green silk with an embroidered butterfly that was a recent gift. I use this for capturing my everyday. I can write as much as I want in here. There are no boxes or single pages that fence me in.

The next is my Writer’s Notebook, which is a plain black 8 x 10 leatherette with unlined, crisp white pages. I sketch out my writing projects here, copy quotes, comment on books I read, record research, I like the plain black cover. It doesn’t distract me and, oddly so, maybe like an empty mind, sparks creativity.

The third is a very recent Christmas gift from my grandson Daniel. A “One-Spirit Book of Days: 2011.” I got many wonderful gifts, but this one filled me with wonder. I couldn’t wait for the quiet opportunity late that night, in my bed propped on my pillows, to wander through this 8-1/2×11-inch spiral bound treasure. It’s in the custom of a two-page-per-week planner and lists quotes each week as well as energy-awakening and self-reflective readings. New-year starters are included at the beginning for planning a designed-for-you year. Thanks, Daniel!

Use as many journals or notebooks as you want. Use a planner if that’s right for you with pages for reflection and notetaking and dreams and goals. The operative word is WRITE. These notebooks and journals ignite your soul’s writing fire.



My altered notebook, where I scribble notes, phone numbers, online passwords, lists, directions, and add a few decorative touches to make life interesting

#10 Computer-Wise:

A lot of people prefer journaling and writing on a keyboard. I do both. In addition to my three journals and my notebook, my scrapbook albums, I also use “Life Journal for Writers.” One of the assets of this software that I like is the built-in database. Life Journal for Writers will keep track of your manuscripts including submissions and the status of each one. It includes a timeline, which is useful. You can choose to store your manuscripts into genres for neatness. It’s like a big filing cabinet with a keyboard.

I prefer writing my memoir with this software program, though I use Microsoft Word for other writing. I like keeping track of the memories and the scenes, and it’s easy to do research on historical events on the web and save my notes. Everything is automatically dated. There are some other bells and whistles, and you can do a web search on Life Journal and give it a test drive. There are other programs on the market, but this is the one I use for this aspect of saving the stories and writing.

#11 Social Networking:

This is a relatively new approach to saving stories, but an easy one because you don’t really have to do any work. It’s already done for you, and you can corral it all in whenever you’re ready. I’m talking about Facebook and to a lesser extent Twitter. These online networking sites have grown by gigantic proportions in the last few years. If all you do is post a status report on your “wall” once a day, by the end of the year, you’ve got a running score of your life. For this reason, it helps to study what sort of posts you want to log. With the end in mind, you can make a choice of what to write on your wall, which will read as a timeline of your life.

Try going back to your own archives on these network sites and printing out a year of status reports. You’ve no doubt uploaded the photos too on Facebook. You’ve got a scrapbook just for the printing which you can edit to suit you.

This year, 2011, make a resolution to be aware of this possibility and craft your status updates with this in mind. Even the people and things you “like” tell a story about you. Use this social way of connecting to tell an interesting and descriptive story to a captive audience.

Bettyann Schmidt
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Kendra Bonnett January 7, 2011 at

These are great ideas, Bettyann. You really have a knack for making collecting, capturing and displaying a lifetime of memories fun.

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