Another birthday party has come to a close. All our friends have left and the messes are relatively contained. I sit down and flip through my phone and smile (usually lol) at the images captured from the day. I select my hand full of favorites and delete all the duplicates and blurry shots from the day at that moment. As soon as I am done selecting my favorites I upload them to my Shutterfly album for the corresponding year. Just like I love sharing life highlights with our friends on social media, I love sharing memories of my kids and my life in our annual photo albums. Special occasions are easy enough to remember to upload to Shutterfly after the event has commenced, but I am mindful to go through my phone and upload any random favorites as the year goes on as well. Anytime there’s an image I think that I want to share on social media, I share it with myself in Shutterfly first. If I take pictures with my real camera I do the same — upload to Shutterfly right away. Just like taking down the tree is part of the post-holiday routine, so is uploading our pictures to our family album (and spoiler alert: going through the pictures from the holidays and putting them into an album is way more fun than packing up decorations).

People often tell me they have so many pictures they keep wanting to put into albums, but it’s too overwhelming and they haven’t done it. Personally, I wouldn’t suggest starting from the beginning. Don’t worry about the baby books or the wedding album right this second. Start with this year you are currently experiencing. Upload the memories from this year into an album. If you find some time to organize the pages in the album, great, otherwise just dump them into the album collage style and send that bad boy off to the lab to be printed. Then when New Years rolls around, start with that year’s album. I found that as the years passed by and my collection of albums stacked up I was naturally motivated to go back in time and work on albums for years I missed. Because they were several years back there are things I am certain I forgot (which is totally okay!), but adds to my “work on the year you’re in now” stance — because you will remember so much more (and more accurately) as things are happening then you will years down the line. If you stress yourself out over the magnitude of the project, you will have a hard time ever getting around to it. If you start with this year and do annual family albums year after year for the next five years, you still might not have that baby book assembled, but you will have five years of memories at your fingertips (no electricity needed).

I am very frugal and operate on a shoestring budget. That being said, our pictures aren’t the place where I skimp out. It can be tempting to cram everything into that 10-page 8×8 album when the free coupon comes your way, but none of my family albums fit into ten pages. Pay the money for the extra pages, and the size you want, and I promise you years later you will be SO GLAD you did. Since I work on my album throughout the year, it is usually in my cart in January. With it completed I have the luxury of waiting (if I decide to) for a coupon that fits the project I have created to come out, which is so much better than trying to create a project to fit a coupon. I went with the 8×11 sized albums for my family because they are the same size as the yearbooks and stack nicely.

Also — order the memory sleeve! It is a clear pouch that you attach to the back of your album for keepsakes. I keep special recital tickets, school projects, drawings, school pictures, birthday cards, etc back there. It’s a small packet which forces me to be really selective in the items I choose to save. And it gives all those random memories a home.

My general workflow/blueprint is as follows: individual pages for each of the kids’ birthdays, separate pages for the holidays and any family trips we take, a page for the kids’ sports, and a page with our annual family photo session. The rest of the pictures from the year are all just thrown into the book as wordless collages. I next to never change the fonts or colors of the pages because it just seems like more busywork to get lost in and obsess over, but if that is your thing the options are there. One year I wrote a passage for each of the kids about what they were interested in and doing at that particular moment in time. I haven’t found/made time to keep up with this in every album, but love reading back on those pages I did write.

I love our family albums on display in the living room. The kids love flipping through them and reminiscing about old times. When their friends come over they love flipping through the albums to trying and find pictures of themselves. Have fun with it, let the idea of Pinterest perfect go, and make that family photo album!

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