Memory-keeping, as you can deduce from the word itself, is the art of documenting and preserving memories whether it's about your day to day stories, your daughter's first year of life, your Shih Tzu's doggy adventures or your own travel chronicles.
There are several ways to go about memory-keeping: scrapbooks, photo books, journals. And then there are Youtube vlogs, personal blogs, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat (or Instagram Stories, whichever you prefer, ha!). These days, more and more people are turning to digital mediums for documenting what goes on in their lives because analog memory-keeping has somehow been branded with a reputation for being (1) old-fashioned, (2) time-consuming and (3) reserved for 'crafty' folks.
I guess the people who spread those rumors have never heard of pocket-page memory-keeping.
If you're one of those people, I am so glad you're here. I'm about to change your life. Potentially.
Pocket-page memory-keeping is a modern approach to traditional scrapbooking masterminded by one creative gal by the name of Becky Higgins. She has taken all of the bad rep of scrapbooking (recap: old-fashioned, time-consuming, reserved for 'crafty' folks) and used that information to create a simplified memory-keeping system based on the principle of modularity.
But because we're humans, we like to add layer upon layer of complexity and this has turned the once simple method of pocket-page memory-keeping into an overwhelming ordeal. A lot of new crafters are bombarded with fancy techniques, state-of-the-art tools, and shiny, new products from the get-go. There are a lot more options now compared to when the supposedly simplified method was introduced.
In this blogpost, I will break down for you the basics of pocket-page memory-keeping.
This is a three-part series - which I'm calling the #PocketPageBasics series - where I will go and deep dive into the terminologies, the basic materials that you need in your arsenal, the memory-keeping trifecta of photos + stories + ephemera, the simple and entry-level techniques that you can use to create beautiful layouts and the best advice for someone like you who's just getting into the system of pocket-page memory-keeping.
Here's what you can expect in this series:
- The Tools and Materials That You Really Need to Get Started
- How to Create A Pocket-Page Layout from Start to Finish
- Quick and Simple Memory-Keeping Techniques to Craft Beautiful Pocket-Page Layouts
Oh and by the way, if you don't feel like reading a 3,000-word guide (because that's what this blogpost is), I've compiled and condensed the information into a cheat sheet! You can always reference back into this blogpost when you want more details about a certain section.
What does a pocket-page layout look like anyway?
Here's an example of a pocket-page layout from my own day by day album:
The telltale sign of a pocket-page layout is - you guessed it - the pockets. Each layout from your album is divided into different pockets where you can slip in pretty much anything: photo, patterned paper, ephemera, journaling, etc. This is the key defining feature of pocket-page memory-keeping. The huge blank canvas that we are so used to in scrapbooking (usually, that's 12x12") is replaced by smaller, bite-sized canvasses that you can switch around and reconfigure. You now have the option of telling several stories or tell moments that lead up to a bigger story with just one layout whereas before, each layout is normally focused on a single moment. Another thing: because each pocket can contain an independent story, you can switch things up easily - no commitments. This is why I am obsessed with pocket-page memory-keeping.
You can use this type of memory-keeping for different kinds of albums:
- everyday / day-by-day albums
- travel albums
- birthday albums
- baby books
- wedding albums (and other special occasions)
...just to name a few.
At this point, you must be thinking, "Okay, I like the idea but what if I want bigger photos or my ephemera wouldn't fit into the pockets?"
Well, my friend, you have nothing to worry about. The size and orientation of the pockets can differ and each variation is called a configuration. Most memory-keeping companies such as Project Life or We R Memory Keepers will have their own set of configurations such as the famous Design A from the Project Life brand. You can mix and match different configurations to build an album that reflects your own style. Some like to keep things consistent by using a single configuration for an entire album but others (like me!) love it play things up and challenge myself to try a different configuration.
If you're thinking, "I'm sold! Now, what do I actually need to get started?" Then, the next section will be your shopping list.
I won't make you buy a $200 tool, I promise.
The basic things you need to have to get started
(P.S. If you want to know where I buy all my memory-keeping supplies - both here in the Philippines and internationally - check out this blogpost that I wrote.)
01. A binder / album
A binder or a pocket-page album will house all of your pocket-page layouts. The first decision that you will have to make when starting any pocket-page layout is the album size.
When Becky Higgins created the pocket-page system, the only option available was a 12x12" album. Fortunately for you, there are waaaaay more options today: 12x12", 9x12", 6x12", 6x8", 4x4" and so on.
Each album size usually caters to a specific niche in pocket-page memory-keeping. Let me tell you about the three popular choices:
- 12x12" -- best for documenting day to day life especially if you love the big canvas, document a lot of the memory-keeping trifecta (again: photos, stories, and ephemera) and, this is important, the real estate or shelf space to store this album
- 9x12" -- also great for documenting day to day life if 12x12" is too big of a canvas for you and it's also good for travel albums that cover a lot of places (Europe trip, US cross-country road trip, South East Asia backpacking trip, etc.) P.S. This is the size that I use for my day to day albums.
- 6x8" -- this size is perfect for documenting a specific theme such as travel albums, "Disney" album, Christmas albums, etc. Some people also use this for their day to day albums. P.S. This is the size that I use for my travel albums.
There are a lot of factors that goes into deciding which album size to go with. Consider the number of photos that you want to include in your album, the space that you have in your home (think three years into the future when you have more than one albums - will it still fit in your space?) and most importantly, if you can keep up with this size consistently. (How to consistently keep up with your pocket-page albums is a topic for another day. Let me know in the comments if you want me to write a blogpost on my system + planning sheets that I use to make this happen.)
Honestly, this is one of the bigger expenses that you'll have to make when you start pocket-page memory-keeping. Album prices can range from $20 - $40 depending on the size and material. My recommendation is to go with the faux leather ones or cloth albums as they are more durable over time. Chipboard albums are cheaper and have really cool designs BUT they wear and tear sooooo easily. My old chipboard album barely lasted 1.5 years before the spin gave up completely. I have since switched to faux leather and cloth albums.
Albums that I've used and highly recommend:
- Project Life faux leather 12x12" album* ($29.99)
- We R Memory Keepers faux leather 12x12" album* ($17.80)
- Studio Calico faux leather 9x12" album ($31.99)
- Project Life faux leather 6x8" album* ($13.10)
Here's a tip for you: don't buy multiple albums when you're just starting out. Why? Couple of reasons: (1) you might want to switch album sizes after trying it one for a while and (2) take advantage of sales! You can always just store your layouts in a single album (even though they're meant to be stored in separate albums) while you're waiting for a sweet buy-one-take-one deal.
That's it! That's all you need to know about albums for now. Let's move on to something more important...
02. Pocket-page Protectors
I told you, in a few paragraphs above, that the key defining feature of pocket-page memory-keeping is the pockets. I mean, that's why it's called 'pocket-page memory-keeping,' right?
Pocket-page protectors are plastic sleeves that are usually divided into pockets of different sizes. This is where all your memory-keeping trifecta goes in! The sleeves have binder holes on the left side that usually differs in number depending on the brand. There are also several different configurations for the size and orientation of the pockets.
Usually, the size and brand of the album will inform the pocket-page protector that you need to get. Some albums have six rings, some have four, and some have three. Of course, if you're using a 6x8" album, you're not going to want to purchase a 12x12" page protector.
Quick commercial break // This has been in the works for about a year and a half already... I'm launching an e-course on analog travel memory-keeping! I am PASSIONATE about introducing a better way to relive your travel experiences (yes, I am throwin' some slight shade on social media...), a way where you can TANGIBLY flip through the stories of your past adventures.
This course - Craft Your Travel Story - isn't launching until May 2017 BUT I want to help you get started with travel memory-keeping while you wait excitedly ;) This is why I created this FREE comprehensive five-day e-mail course, The Travel-keeper Bootcamp!
In this bootcamp, I will be sharing very practical + actionable tips, intentional systems and methods to help you document the details your travel experiences, take photos that accurately tell your stories, and gather ephemera as your "hard evidence." This bootcamp will prepare you a lot when it comes to finally creating your analog travel album.
You can join this bootcamp - did I mention that it's completely free? - by clicking here and signing up on that page or just leaving your name + e-mail below:
Paper is a verrrry huge category; I can probably write an entire blogpost about it. But for now, I'll introduce you to the common types of paper that you'll use in pocket-page memory-keeping.
Pocket Cards or journaling cards are pre-designed cards that are made to fit into the pockets of your albums. These are pre-cut into the usual sizes: 3x4", 4x6" and some of the common square sizes.
The next one might be familiar to you - patterned paper. These are just paper printed with different patterns and designs and these are thicker than regular paper. You can cut it up to slip into your pockets (similar to making your own pocket cards) or use it to decorate your photos.
If you already have a decent amount of pocket cards, you really won't need patterned paper that much. I personally don't use a lot of patterned paper since I find that the designs I have with pocket cards are sufficient.
Lastly, cardstock also comes in handy in pocket-page memory-keeping. Cardstock is a plain paper that is thicker than your regular copy paper. It can also come in a variety of colors. You can use cardstocks to print your own designs of pocket cards or any design that you've downloaded / purchased from the internet.
04. Writing Tools + Office Supplies
The last few basic things that you need are writing tools and a couple of office supplies. You can be as fancy or as simple as you want here but in general, the items that I reach for are (1) pens, (2) a sharp pair of scissors, (3) a glue runner and (4) a stapler.
For pens, I would suggest that you go for a pen that you're comfortable writing with. You can get pens with varying weights. I think pens are really personal so it's up to you to experiment which ones you like best. Here are a couple of ideas to get you started:
- fine tip Sharpie pen* -- this works well on glossy photos too!
- American Crafts precision pen 0.3*
- MUJI pens
For scissors, it's best to have one that is small but has a really sharp blade. If you want to cut precise shapes and have smooth edges, you'll definitely need it. If you're not too picky, then a standard pair will do. To take things up a notch, you can get a trimmer to cut up photos or paper with precision (in terms of size) especially if you need to crop a photo to a specific size to fit the pockets. Here are some products that I've tried and loved:
This next item here is something that I can't do memory-keeping without. I love it so much. Glue runners have completely changed my life. In the past, using glue and paste made the whole process messy but with glue runners, you're only dispensing the exact amount of adhesive that you need. Genius. Here are my favorite glue runners:
- Kokuyo Dotliner adhesive* -- this is the one I've been using for years now
- Scotch Advanced Tape Glider*
Lastly, I always use staplers to keep bulkier elements in place such as thick business cards and wood veneer. You can definitely use the regular office supply stapler but what I love to use is this re-imagined stapler called the Tiny Attacher*. This stapler uses mini staple wires and because of the ergonomic design, it's easier to staple thicker paper with it.
The Memory-keeping Trifecta
I've been mentioning the memory-keeping trifecta since the beginning of this post and finally, I'm going to talk about it in detail.
There are different ways to telling your stories in your albums. It's up to you to decide which one works best for a specific layout:
- Photo captions -- just a short snippet that describes a photo or an ephemera (name of the restaurant you went to, what this ticket was for, etc.)
- Listicles / bulleted points -- this format is useful for adding te
- Longform / story --
Another thing to consider is whether or not you're using your own handwriting or if you're going to go the typewritten route. Handwritten stories are great for that personal and unique touch; it's also a good as an additional design element to your layouts. Typewritten stories are great for when you want to write something in longform because you are able to correct any spelling / grammar / flow errors.
Photos will probably make up more than 70% of your album so it's, y'know, kind of important. Before I go into detail here, I want you to remember this famous saying (with a slight change):
The best camera is the one that you have with you and the one that you actually know how to use.
It's useless to have a top-of-the-line dSLR when you have no clue how to use it. It's pointless when you stop documenting moments just because you don't have your "good camera" with you. Always take that shot. It may be grainy, the lighting may not be the best but you know what? Documenting the moment is what matters.
Now that we've agreed on that, I'll talk about the three things that we're normally concerned about when it comes to photos: (1) photo size, (2) matte or glossy photo finish, and (3) printing at home vs. printing outside.
You can do this in two ways:
- pick the size of the photos first and let that dictate the page protector configuration or,
- decide on the configuration first and that will inform you if the size that you'll need to print your photo in.
I don't stress out too much about this but normally, if I really wanted the photo to be of a certain size, then I prioritize that over the configuration of the page protector. If I can't be bothered, I usually print it to fit the configuration that I wanted to use.
Matte vs. Glossy Finish
Printing in matte is great for when you want less glare on your photos and if you want a subtle texture to your photo. Printing with glossy paper will produce a more vibrant photo but it will also invite a lot of glare and fingerprints. In terms of embellishing, there are inks (for stamps and for pens) that are suited for each finish so it really just boils down to preference.
Printing at Home vs. Printing in a Photo Center
Printing at home will give you more control over the sizes and will allow you to print in smaller batches (or even just one photo!). You also have more control over the color of the photo since you can adjust the color settings of your printer and the program that you use to print with. Choosing a good printer is important since this will affect the photo quality.
Printing in a photo center tends to be more cost-effective (take advantage of the deals!) and works best for when you're printing a big batch of images. A photo center will usually pre-cut your photos as well so that's one less thing for you to worry about.
I personally print at home because there aren't any good photo center / service near where I live but online, you can check out Persnickety Prints (most people love the quality but have had issues with their website app) or Shutterfly (apparently they have a 101 print promo where you can order 101 photos and just pay for shipping). I haven't personally tried any of those sites though since shipping to the Philippines is usually expensive.
Ephemera is any keepsake that you have from the story that you're trying to tell. It can be a sticker from an event, the packaging of a snack, a postage stamp, ticket stubs... ANYTHING. Out of the three, I'm more excited about incorporating ephemera into my albums. I view ephemera as the "evidence" of any story that I'm trying to tell and as an added design element.
I keep a small drawer in my desk to park any ephemera that I come across throughout the week. When I work on my layouts, I always check if I kept any ephemera that's relevant to the story. I don't always use all the ephemera that I keep and at that point, all leftovers go to the bin. (No need to hoard since I know that I was able to document the story in my album.)
And you made it to the end! I hope this guide helped clear some misconceptions that you have about pocket-page memory-keeping and inspired you to start documenting your day to day life in this format. If you're thinking, "Uhm Pam? You just told me what I needed to prepare. I actually want to know how to start my album..." Hold your horses, my friend! The second part of this series - How to Create A Pocket-Page Layout from Start to Finish - is coming up next ;)
Okay, I'm so done talking for now. It's YOUR turn: what pocket-page or memory-keeping, in general, myths have you heard in the past?
P.S. Don't forget to grab a copy of the free checklist: