Friday, January 4, 2013

Thoughts on Project Life, one year in

Background: 

In 2009, I tried to do whatever that first version was - the version Creating Keepsakes sold in very limited supply and eventually made available as a free printable download for the many, many people who couldn't purchase the kit.

I started on March 1. I thought it would be the perfect year to document. At that point, I was just under five months away from getting married and moving from North Dakota to Atlanta. Documenting the move, the wedding, and our newlywed life seemed like a great way to fill up an album.

By March 15th, I had lost interest. I took pictures of my keys, my books, my magazines, everything...but I was living alone for a few more months, and the idea of continuing this project even that long seemed crazy. I toyed with re-starting it on our wedding day with our wedding and honeymoon photos, but when we came back to Atlanta, life was too unsettled for any regular scrapbooking. I think it was nearly three months before I scrapbooked anything again, and that was only because I was invited to a crop by a group I had found online.

I toyed with the idea of trying again in 2010. By then, we were newlyweds living in Atlanta, and I had more interest in documenting the pre-kids years of our lives. Trevor was around more, we were traveling more...but I didn't really like the plain, simple versions available at the time. I decided it wasn't the project for me, even though I loved the idea.

Same story with 2011.

But 2012 was different. During 2011, I started seeing lots of great stuff pop up on blogs. These awesome Project Life albums incorporated other items that elevated it from simply 7 photos + 7 journaling cards + a title card for each week. People were using items from their stash instead of the pre-printed core kits, and they weren't taking a photo every day. Some people combined a few weeks or even a full month on their layouts, making the project seem more manageable than it had before.

Process:

I jumped in head first. In December 2011, I went through my paper stash and chose a number of patterned papers that would work well as journaling cards, and I sliced them into 3x4 inch rectangles for journaling. I pulled out anything else I thought would work. I pulled out my slotted page protectors that would work well enough until I could get the official Project Life page protectors.

I did really well for the first few weeks. My focus was on just getting it done. I usually sent a week's worth of photos to CVS or Target and tried to complete the full week in one sitting. This worked pretty well until February came around. At that point, life got busy. We went to Chicago. My mom and grandma came to visit, and ten days later, I started a long-term sub job that lasted from the end of February to the middle of April. It's okay, I told myself. I'll catch up over the summer.

But I didn't.

I was busy going to weddings, bridal showers, and bachelorette parties from April 21 to September 15. There were four weddings, two bridal showers, a bachelorette party, four or five house guests, and a horrible six week bout of laryngitis caused by allergies. I was sick, tired, and just worn out. I am only now catching up with the summer months.

What Worked:


  • The weekly layout format is definitely my favorite. If I combined weeks, I feel like I was cramming too much into it. I'd rather keep each week separate and fill the extra slots with decorative elements, even if it's just a piece of pretty cardstock.
  • Making time to work on it each week. One evening a week is really all that's needed. I just need to give myself permission to take that one night a week, no matter what.
  • Using the Project Life page protectors. These were so much easier to use than the ones I bought from Hobby Lobby that didn't have the slots for the smaller journaling cards.
  • Giving myself permission to miss a day of photos. I don't need to take a photo of something inconsequential, like a pen or to-do list, if nothing happened that day. Seriously. My kids aren't going to care in 50 years that I had a favorite note pad that I used for six months in 2013. 
  • Letting myself combine weeks (even though it isn't my favorite approach) definitely helped me get it done.
  • Using bigger journaling cards to show what happened when there weren't photos. Sometimes, a journaling card detailing our travel itinerary was a better indication of what we did that day than a photo of the airport or an airplane or our luggage could ever be. 
  • Project Life grid cards. These little cards were a serious life saver some weeks because they can be horizontal or vertical, they are easy to embellish, and they are the perfect size for the slots in the Project Life page protectors. 
  • Studio Calico kits. The coordinated papers, decorative tapes, smaller embellishments, die cuts, and stamps usually found their way into my Project Life album pretty quickly. I am really excited that I got a subscription to their Project Life kit, though, because I really miss being able to use my kits for making regular scrapbook layouts!


What didn't work:

  • The page protectors from Hobby Lobby. Ugh. They were too wide for the Project Life cards I ordered in February, so those cards slid around a ton. I ended up switching to all Project Life page protectors once they arrived with the grid cards because they fit together so well.
  • My pre-cut, homemade journaling cards didn't fit the smaller pockets in the Project Life page protectors! I didn't know until they arrived that the pockets are slightly narrower than three inches, so I actually cut my journaling cards to 2 7/8" by 4" now. 
  • Trying to do a month's worth in one sitting. Yes, I tried it, and no, it doesn't work well at all. The same goes for ordering a month's worth of prints at once.
  • Letting myself get behind.
  • Letting myself skip taking pictures for more than a couple days.
  • Mixing up page protector sizes. This is something I want to work on this year. I like the idea of mixing them, but it creates a problem for the following week because you lock yourself into using a certain format when you mix up the page protectors. Design A is definitely my favorite, but design G found its way into my scrapbook a lot, too. Not so much the other designs - likely because they are so different and are so hard to work with a week later. 

Goals for 2013:

  • Take more photos.
  • Stay on track. If I get off track, move ahead to the current week and work back when I get the chance.
  • Experiment with print sizes, Instagram prints, iPhone prints, and screen captures.
  • Use my Silhouette to create more custom, flat embellishments.
  • Use my sewing machine! It's been in a box for literally years because I just have it for sewing on paper. I need to use it or get rid of it.

What worked for you in 2012? What would you do differently in 2013? Do you have any other questions about Project Life? I'm planning to do this as a series, posting a few lengthy posts throughout January about how I approach Project Life, and I'd love to include your feedback.

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