3 Ways to Store It: Patterned Paper

So Many Wonderful Passions (closeup)

For years I’ve been recommending scrapbookers organize stuff based on the way they hunt for things. Well, I’ve been refining my own system and this year I’ve hit on one that has revolutionized it all for me in a way that no other organization re-do ever has.

Today I’m excited to share with you my 3-part system for storing patterned paper. I’ve never heard of anyone else who organizes like this so don’t give up on this post if the first two parts of the system seem crazy. The third part will make you feel better and with all three parts together you have every possible way I can think of to organize your paper.

Ready to see how it works?

Part 1 – Store 12×12’s by Mood and Tone
There’s a pretty limited number of emotions and moods. Our patterned papers reflect a good handful of them, both in the colors and in the patterns themselves.

Sort them by mood and put your favorite papers of each mood in the front. When you pull out the photo(s) you want to scrap, ask yourself what the mood is and then go to the patterned papers for that mood.


Paper choice used to be the slowest part of my process after journaling, but now I find my paper within seconds. I keep expecting this to stop working and so far it continues to blow my mind! If you’re skeptical, read what one of the Paperclipping Members said after she watched the related video tutorial I posted to the membership:

Oh my, I think I’m sold. I just reorganized all my papers using this method (I was using by manufacturer before and it was cumbersome to flip through everything every time, but color alone didn’t work for me so I stuck to brand). I feel liberated already. It took me less than an hour (I don’t have too much, maybe 80 full sheets or so) but I think the ease with which it came together indicates something. I started just putting things into piles and at first I had way too many piles, but I started to come up with preliminary categories and tweaking as I went. I found that as I continued I would come upon one or two “ah ha!” pieces that just totally screamed whatever I was trying to say, and then it was easier to put the harder to categorize papers with those obvious ones. I ended up with seven of my own categories that I feel great about.

The real test came when I was done however. I’ve been staring at these two photos on my desk for a couple of weeks now–I wanted to use them with orange and cut part of this truly pretty orange paper with a graphic white pattern. But something was totally off and I was making no progress. I looked at them again tonight after the reorg, and decided they were actually “whimsical/fun” photos and pulled out a large white/orange dot pattern from that folder. There is no comparison, it works now–even though the oranges are basically the same! It just feels better.

Thanks so much, Noell!

PS of course, when my boyfriend asked what I was doing, and I said that was organizing my paper by how it makes me feel, he thought I was crazy. But when he saw how quickly I was done, I think even he was impressed. He is used to seeing me obsess over half-finished organizational schemes for much longer than this took!

Part 2 – Store Scraps Together
All scraps smaller than eight or so inches wide go together in one tray, tin, or other container.

Yes, all of them, together.

Does that idea make you twitch? Well guess what? You will find the most enchanting paper combinations this way — ones you could never have planned, dreamed of, nor found in a store and created by even your favorite designers.

Whenever I go to weed out the scraps I no longer love, serendipity happens. Here are two layouts that have resulted from this…

May 2012 6371

N 38

And just a note — I store most of my screen-printed transparencies along with my paper. They might be made of a different material but most of them function like patterned paper, so I don’t see any reason they should be separated.

Part 3 – Store 6×6 Paper Pads Together
Do this in a way that you can flip through them and easily see the fronts. Mine are in a wooden box.

Obviously, I’m the last to do this, not the first. But it’s a great part of this system because it allows you to hunt for your papers in some of those other ways we all sometimes do:

  • by color
  • by manufacturer

May 2012 6370

This way you won’t be lost if you’re worried about not having your large sheets and your scraps organized by color or manufacturer. Because companies put a sampling of the patterns on the front of the paper pads, you can quickly flip through the pads to see what your options are. Then you can pull from there.

All 3 Parts Working Together
With this 3-part system in place you can now look for papers in all of the possible ways I can think of, not just one:

  1. by mood
  2. by serendipitous scrap accidents
  3. by color
  4. by manufacturer

Paperclipping Members who want to launch a study of topics related to this — organization, mixing and matching patterned papers, and scrapbooking with scraps or by mood through via design principles — can watch these video tutorials:

  • 209 – How to Mix Patterns
  • 192 – Organize Patterned Paper by Design Principles
  • 190 – The Whole Process
  • 172 – Making Backgrounds Out of Scraps
  • 158 – Scrapbooking with Scraps
  • 151 – Embellish with Clusters of Scraps
  • 141 – Organization Tips
  • 119 – Expand a Color Palette
  • 105 – How to Have Endless Ideas
  • 98 – Design Language for Crazy
  • 85 – A Tour of My Scraproom
  • 59 – Mixing Patterned Paper

I also go into a lot of detail about patterns and moods in my design course, Design Your Story from The Ground Up.

Want to know more about a Paperclipping Membership? Click here!

  • I love this topic– I loved this video when you first released it– but I have to say what I lvoe the most is the list of “related topics” at the end. LOVE. Keep up the great work Noell!

  • Thank you! I’ve been getting a lot of feedback from members that love these related video lists. There are so so many videos for the members now and it just seemed helpful. Plus, since it’s best to go back and watch the videos again after having tried the concepts a few times, I liked the idea of giving members a reason to re-watch within the context of a topic concentration. :)

  • KatieK.

    As I read this affirmation post of your paper org. method, I kept thinking of how I keep getting pulled  to certain papers over others – its most likely the mood/emotion they are presenting and I’m feeling from them that keeps me going to them. I don’t know if I would reorganize all my paper this way but I could trial it with a small batch that I have put aside just for my personal use (vs paper I have for work projects). And nothing ventured, nothing gained – right?!

    Re: huge library of videos – they are so helpful. I was trying to explain the design principle to a teen who is helping me with some projects this summer and then I stopped myself and just went to my computer member site of videos and sat with her as we watched the triangle principle videos together (#1 and the latest #194) pausing every so often to point out in more detail how a layout we were doing incorporated the various principles of design. This process will help me understand and incorporate what I’m learning from the videos/website ‘cuz I am turning around and having to demonstrate them(what I’ve learned) to someone else. Win-win for everybody.

  • Laura Kelly

    Well, I now feel like I’ve done something right. Although my papers  weren’t labeled by moods, I realized that is how I had them organized. It just felt right. I’ve always filed the other two exactly like you. Sometimes instincts worl!  :)

  • Laura Kelly

    Well, I now feel like I’ve done something right. Although my papers weren’t labeled by moods, I realized that is how I had them organized. It just felt right. I’ve always filed the other two exactly like you. Sometimes instincts works! :)

  • Marina Delgado

    I am caught up with all the paperclipping episodes! Woohoo! I became a member sometime last year and have been slowly watching all the videos. Great stuff. I just love your perspective Noell! This was another great one and has really inspired me to try looking at paper as a way to contribute to my storytelling. Thanks!

  • Well, that’s really interesting! I’m so curious to know how you WERE labeling them, even if it was just in your mind. And yeah, I think instinct is huge. We often ignore instinct and instead do what everybody else is saying to do. Learning to trust and follow your instinct is a huge part of creativity, so good job there! :)

  • Gina Anderson

    Thanks Noell.  I’ve recently bought a ton of new paper at some clear out sales at local stores and this will be a great way to organize it.  What do you put your scraps in – a basket so they sort of mix & match or a flat box? 

    Also – loved the recent video on visual triangles.  I’m really trying to improve the way my pages look (so I’m more happy with them) and this was a big help.  It’s amazing how learning some basics of design principles helps so much.  It’s nice to go with your instinct but sometimes I don’t actually know why something doesn’t look right to me. 

  • Lynne

    I love this and tell my scrapbook students to go by mood all the time. Mine is even more simple, maybe. I finally realized that I almost NEVER scrap a full sheet of patterned paper. I took tall, colorful storage drawers, cut up 90% of my patterend paper into 6, 9, 8, 4, or 3 inches x12 and store them by color. Then i put cardstock scraps in the drawers too. And you are so very right. The best color combos appear. They are awesome lightbulb moments.
    Another trick I did for me is to place this tall drawer set by my work table. The full sheets of cardstock are in a space across the room. I must really need a full sheet of paper to go get it. I scramble thru the other ones (by mood and color feel) then go get some base paper.
    Awesome post. Thanks.

  • I have my patterned paper ‘sort of’ organized by this method, as well, but I really think I need to go for it ‘all the way’ now, after reading this post! By ‘sort of,’ I mean I have a folder for ‘vintage-feeling’ paper, and then the rest is still separated by manufacturer… I think I need to go the rest of the way with it! (Did you share somewhere what your different ‘moods’ are, and I missed it?? I think that’s always the sticking point for me whenever I organize, trying to categorize the patterns / colors into whatever categories I come up with…  I think that’s why I seem to always fall back on sorting by the manufacturer.

  • I love that! Thank you!!

  • I think it’s a great idea to trial this organization method with your favorite papers before you fully commit to all of them if you have a lot.
    It’s awesome hearing how you’re going back and using the videos that way! Thank you!

  • Until recently I had my scraps in a tray about 2 inches deep. I decided I needed that tray for my Project Life stuff so I now have the scraps in a large-size tin. It’s 12 inches long and about 9 inches or so wide.

  • I shared most of the moods I’m using in the tutorial — Paperclipping 192. I’m sure the moods list will evolve slightly over time. If you’re a member you can go watch that. I also share more details on the moods and associations we have to different types of patterns in my Design Your Story from the Ground Up course.
    Good luck with your reorg!

  • Jencowles1024

    I just watched the “perfect pearls” video and LOVED it! I didn’t have a clue what they did, and your demonstration made it look so easy! During my lunch hour today I hopped online and ordered some and can’t wait to give them a try!

    I’ve only been a member for a couple of days but I’m already thrilled that I took the leap and joined. Your videos are incredible quality, and the content is clear and concise. Several times I’ve found myself wondering about some aspect of your tutorial, and it’s like you’ve anticipated it because you answer it within a few seconds.

    Thanks so much for the inspiration!

  • That’s awesome! Thank you for your membership and for letting me know how you’re enjoying it so far! At my core I’m a question-asker and I think that’s why I anticipated your questions — I always conscious of every aspect I’d want to know about something. Makes it hard for me to keep things brief, though! :)

  • I have to comment on your “Settler’s” addiction– my husband and I are addicted too! You guys should come to Ohio and we can have a ruthless game of Catan ;)

    That page is one of my favorites of yours too! I love the colors and the way the letter stickers “pop” too! ;)

  • Gab

    Great article, thanks Noell

  • Noell, I’ve never thought about organizing my paper by mood or feeling before and while I LOVE the idea it completely scares me. I’m the type to keep all things in a collection together, and then after that by seasonal or topic theme and then after that random pattern paper and solid cardstock. I’m trying to rethink things as I need to redo my space so this might be just the trick. Question…do you also pull apart 12×12 paper pads or do you keep them together like the 6×6’s?

  • Guest

    My comment keeps disappearing so I’m not sure if you’ve seen my question or not. Do you also separate 12×12 paper pads or do you keep them together like the 6×6 ones? This idea blows my mind but I am intrigued by the possibilities…and a little scared. I store by collection, then topic theme, then random pattern go together and solid cardstock go together. I love my style but could also see a need to stretch to next level with paper mixing.

  • I keep the pads/collections together for a while — basically, for as long as I’m actively using them and am excited about them. Probably between 6month to a year. Then I pull out all the papers I still really love and make new kits out of some of it (see my recent videos on this in the Member’s Library). Then I take the remaining papers and sort them according to mood/feeling. I do have a few papers sorted into other things, like journal papers if it’s lined, and creams (because I use cream a lot). I’m considering sorting some into colors, too.
    I like to have lots of options to choose from, because we forage for papers in different ways — sometimes we need a specific color, other times a specific feeling etc.

  • I’m glad to hear that. I have bitten the bullet and moved all my cratft stuff into the dining area as ive realized i enjoy scrapping in the middle of the action. I can multitask much better that way. It has challenged me to rethink my organization but as much as i want to i have not been able to split collections up…yet. The idea of keeping them together for a little while is perfect. Do you have a tour of your new scraproom? I watched video 85.

  • Not yet b/c Izzy and I decided to switch places a couple weeks ago. We hope to start that move this week, but I’m not sure we will actually be able to do it yet with Easter coming up. I definitely want to share the scrap room once I’m moved in and have bought some tables (I’ve been working on the floor — which is a good thing b/c the dimensions of my new space is totally different from the one I’m currently in).