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Confessions of a sentimental fool

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opinion Alexandria,Minnesota 56308
Confessions of a sentimental fool
Alexandria Minnesota 225 7th Ave E
P.O. Box 549

Editor’s note: The following is a blog entry for “Ms. Simplicity” that appears on the Echo Press website under Areavoices. It is written by Melissa Schmalenberger, a professional organizer based in Fargo, North Dakota.


Hi, my name is Melissa and I am a sentimental fool when it involves my children. I love the art that they have created over the years. I love the words that they have written. I love the pictures that I have taken of them. But wait…I am a professional organizer, I can’t have this much paper clutter in my life. I need to have systems. I need to purge. I need to be a minimalist.

What is happening is I am having this war within me. My mind is fighting me, telling me to keep all of these memories because I am my family historian, yet wanting to get rid of every bin and tote that is holding these memories. I want to “scrap” all of my scrapbooking supplies and just be done with the space that it takes up in my home.

Granted, we have everything organized and labeled in totes and all of my pictures are in chronological order but being organized isn’t enough. I want to go digital. I want to get rid of the pictures and the art projects. I want to embrace cloud storage and online digital scrapbooking. I didn’t realize how stressed this was making me until I recently attended a scrapbooking retreat with other moms in my position. We all have seniors who are graduating and are faced with cramming 18 years into some sort of order for a party. I know I don’t “have to” have the albums completed, but for me it is a deadline that I want to meet.

I gathered all of my organized bins and totes and headed to the retreat. I was going to get a handle on all of this memorabilia clutter once and for all. I painstakingly went through every art project and written scrap of paper. I was amused and a bit teary eyed but I was determined.

My goal was to fit everything that I wanted to keep in one banker sized box. I would take pictures of the larger items that I wanted to keep and ditch the rest. I would get through that large tote packed with elementary school artwork! I worked hard at it and met my goal. It felt great. It felt liberating. That pain in between my shoulder blades that had been there for three months was gone.

I had a huge pile that was ready to be tossed. But now I am on a goal of taking it even farther. I no longer want to create scrapbooks with paper and scissors and tape runners. I want to click a mouse and retrieve my photos and place them all in a digital scrapbook. I don’t want to haul my SUV full of scrapbooking supplies to retreats anymore. I want to simply take my laptop and find a great Internet connection. But I need to get a few things done first:

1. Finish scanning all of my photos and store them digitally. We have a great start and my husband has a fantastic system of organizing all of the photos. I call him “The Closer” as he can take any organizing idea I have and create the fine details and make sure the project is done to perfection.

2. Sort all memorabilia and make sure that any that I want saved is scanned and saved in an organized fashion. I like to save by year first, then by month, and reference what child it is.

3. Decide if I want to finish any unfinished scrapbooks. This includes the book that I am almost done with for my son’s graduation. I am tempted to stop and just go digital. But more than likely I will finish it and then go back and take the pictures off the pages and scan them and then make a second book that is digital.

4. Dispose of all of my supplies. I have a lot of supplies as when I was at the peak of this hobby I was selling for a direct sales scrapbooking company in order to feed my habit. I am excited to get rid of everything and I already know how I am going to rid myself of these supplies. It is going to be such a freeing experience and it motivated me to get the first three steps done in order to get to this step! I really want to downsize when my youngest graduates from high school.

This is going to be a process as I realize that I have been a great historian of my family. But it is OK as I am committed to this project and if not I have my secret weapon, my husband, The Closer.