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 Mazatl├ín 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 muchstuff 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 thingwithout 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!