When I told you I’d whittled my keepsakes down to just one box, I left out a minor detail: I still have thirty scrapbooks, and that’s just the pre-wedding collection.
I’ve always been the queen of pictures. I was the annoying one (and often the only one) with a camera, taking pictures everywhere I went and being sure to get a shot of each person I was with. My in-laws joke that they didn’t have any family pictures before I came along.
Pre-kids, there was a lot of time to scrapbook. I had oodles of card stock, tools for cutting special shapes, and a treasure trove of embellishments. I loved to cut, paste, and lay out my designs by hand. Then Shutterfly came along and made everything easier (and much slimmer!). I could drag and drop my pictures, choose different layouts, backgrounds, and borders with just a few clicks, and press “order”.
But even in the age of digital scrapbooking, it still takes time. As much as I love it, I’m ready to admit that organizing my pictures, deciding which ones to include, (feeling guilty about the ones I don’t include), and choosing the right borders and captions adds unnecessary stress to my life.
When I felt overwhelmed with laundry, I got rid of half my clothes. When I felt overwhelmed with scrapbooking, I decided to take fewer pictures. I tested my idea on a three-week road trip last summer. I like to call it “One and Done”. I took just one picture to represent each place or event, and ended up with a total of 100. This might sound like a lot, but those 21 days were jampacked with adventure, and the old me would have taken 500 pictures on a one-week trip. When I was choosing pictures for my album, the work was already done. I didn’t have to decide which picture from Saguaro National Park to include, because there was only one. I was happy with the results, and now it’s a rule I live by.
We got rid of truckloads when we recently minimized the attic, but my photo books are dear to my heart (even if some are incriminating!), and I kept them all. I know how important it is to give my children the same gift. I know they will appreciate having pictures of their childhood like I do. And I know I can effectively document their lives without being excessive or stressing myself out.
Taking fewer pictures was supposed to lighten my workload, which it has. But it’s also given me an unexpected gift: When I stopped worrying about capturing every moment, I started to really experience those moments. I enjoy where I am, what I see, and who I’m with. I appreciate what’s happening around me. And if it feels right, One and Done.
My youngest son turned three today. We joined him at school for his birthday circle, where he and his teacher walked around a candle (the sun) three times, stopping after each revolution so we could describe his milestones. He stepped slowly, a globe in his hands, trying to keep his smile small. After the ceremony, he threw his arms around his brother. Then it was on to Bill’s Wheels to buy him a Penny board. He tried it out in the parking lot, padded up like a hockey player, in an oversized shirt the shop gave him because it was his birthday. He held his arms out wide, carefully pushing himself along, and this time his smile was big. We went to Hula’s for mac and cheese and a tropical juice (in a real cup, sipped with our own glass straw). Then we walked to The Penny for ice cream (gotta go here after you buy a Penny board!). We took home two pints of raspberry sorbet in our own jar for his weekend party (which the scooper thought was awesome, by the way). Our day ended with skateboarding practice in the driveway, more mac and cheese from Gaga, and bulk peanut butter cups. We all held hands around the table as we sang “Happy Birthday” to our three-year-old. As I watched his bright eyes and happy face, my smile was huge, and my heart was full. Today, I took one picture.