Friday, January 27, 2012

Project Life : what I've learned during my first month

As a Project Life newbie, I really didn't know what to expect as far as how much this album and this project was going to mean to me. Almost fours weeks down, and wow, I love it! I know everyone's experience is different (especially if you are like me and new to this system) but I have really enjoyed it and it is simpler than I thought it was going to be. As I've lurked around on the message boards + galleries on the internet, I know there are people out there that are having the opposite feelings. I know I did several weeks ago, before I even got started. They are overwhelmed, they have too many photos, not enough photos, too many photos of one child versus the others, they hate their handwriting, their printer broke, they can't keep up, and on and on. I know we are not all in the same boat, but I wanted to share with you how I, a 30-something stay-at-home mom to 2 under 4 who is brand-new to the Project Life format, am making this work, and loving it. Sorry to the veterans out there that may find this redundant, but if you are having a rough time maybe this will give someone out there a little extra push to keep going or change it up a bit. This is what's working for me :

TIP #1 : STAY ORGANIZED : One of my favorite words, ha! Seriously though, the things that have helped me get my weekly layouts completed within a few days of the weeks end are :
1. Having a planner to keep all of my notes in. I'm using a MyBook Planner that was sent to me as a thank you from Big Picture Classes and I love the format. Each week is on one page with plenty of lines to jot down notes each day. I also like that it has the number of the week at the top.
2. Using a page planner for each weekly layout. I love both Marcy Penner's (she made them for every page protector design!) + Robyn Meierotto's. I write my notes in pencil + I don't have any rhyme or reason as to where certain pictures go. I just use these page planners to keep track of how many 4x6 and/or 3x4 slots I have left to fill. I don't figure out where they will go in the album until I'm putting it all together.
3. Having a place to store my extra bits + ephemera. I keep my album on a shelf close to my scrap space, open to the current week with a page planner on top. Below the album are narrow slots where I keep the box top + bottom from the big pack of Design A page protectors. In one I keep my ephemera :
I've kept stuff in there from past weeks, just in case I need a filler later, but I will definitely have to stay on top of regularly purging it. In the other, I keep a stack of page planners, this printable 100 Bits of Life page from The Mom Creative, Liz's template for printing on 3x4 journaling cards and printouts of some other downloads I've gotten online this month :
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4. I was beginning to acquire a lot of digital templates, journaling cards and other downloads that were Project Life related. Before they got too out of control, I started making some folders on my computer so I could find what I needed quickly (and hopefully not forget I had it in the first place!). I'll be sharing the contents below.
5. Something else I did after reading about it on the Studio Calico Project Life message board, was to put all of my page protectors (except the Design A ones that are already in my Project Life album) in one scrapbook/binder. Brilliant, right? I had been keeping mine upright in a basket between some thick chipboard to keep it from bending. This was not the best way to store it, or the easiest way to see what I had. Putting all of my page protectors in an empty scrapbook that I already had took all of 10 minutes and now I love that I can just open it up and quickly find the size or style protector I am looking for - which I expect to happen almost weekly if I am adding an additional page or insert. And clearly, I shouldn't need anymore for a while - except I do plan on getting the Design G page protectors when they are back in stock. :)

1. My One Little Word this year is 'less' and part of that meant less worrying about what other people are doing. I adore message boards + online galleries + blogs as much as the next scrapbooker but I quickly learned that when the amount of time I spend looking at other people's work exceeds the time I'm spending on working on my own stuff - that's not good. Now, I have a handful of blogs I read regularly and when I'm in the mood for more, I either search Pinterest (keywords : Project Life) or Twitter (#projectlife). Becky Higgins is great about sharing her finds on Facebook and Twitter and her creative team is a fantastic source of inspiration too.

2. I won't always have an equal number of photos and stories for Morgan + Parker each week. Some weeks are going to be bigger/more memorable for one of them or the other. What I am going to strive for is overall balance throughout the year/album and make sure I am telling the big stories, as well as those little everyday, I-probably-would-have-forgotten-that-moment-next week-if-I-didn't-write-it-down stories.

3. Work on my album when I can, even if it's just 15 minutes at a time. As these first few weeks have gone by, I find myself working in spurts, on the current week. My weeks are Monday-Sunday and so far, I've been loosely filling in the page planner on Friday evenings so I have a good idea of what to expect for the weekend. "Who is missing from this week?" is usually the big question. In one sitting I might note the file number of the photos I want to print, or journal on a few cards, or print photos and lay them out to dry, or rearrange the photos + cards on the page protector. A little work goes a long way and what I've learned is I usually don't want to stop once I get going! :) That shouldn't be a surprise. Then when it's finished, I love looking at it + reading all the notes. Then that turns in to looking back at the past weeks again. So fun!

4. I've decided not to take the 'photo-a-day' approach. Instead, I am choosing the best photos, stories + everyday moments that round out our week. On that note, I hope to include longer stories and/or inserts each week, but I'm not going to force it either. And I need to find ways of getting ME in the pictures too. That's never easy, but I'm working on it.

5. I'm working on not being overly concerned about matching colors / patterns / themes. I actually really like the hodge podge look of my album so far and I think that will lead to less stress about how it looks (or should look) in the end.

6. Be inspired by the stories people are telling, not necessarily the products or creative techniques they are using. On a similar note, I really loved this quote from Ali Edwards first Creative Lifts newsletter : "It's easy to spend your "practice" time researching, reading, looking at images online, getting lost in other people's work and inspiration, etc. While I think there's definitely some value in that process, for me the real value is in actually doing/making/writing/photographing/etc. Don't spend all your practice time watching other people's practice." If that isn't spot-on for me right now, I don't know what is. If you'd like to subscribe to her (free) weekly newsletter, sign up here. It's fantastic!


If you are doing Project Life and have done any internet searches lately, you have probably noticed how many designers + scrapbookers are making journaling cards and other Project Life goodies. And many of them are FREE! This list is just a portion of what is out there, but what I have decided to add to my own stash, on top of the Turquoise Core Kit :
Phew, okay, last but not least, if you are looking for an online community to stroll around, Becky has a (free) classroom at Big Picture Classes and Studio Calico has a Project Life message board + gallery. Lisa Truesdell (gluestickgirl) has a free year-long (and amazing) class at Two Peas that just started a couple weeks ago called 2012 : Captured. She has had so many great Project Life tips both in this class and on her blog! Also, Jessica from The Mom Creative has been doing a Project Life feature on Tuesdays where you can link your previous week's layout. Last I checked, this past Tuesday had over 120 links! So even if you aren't looking to link up your own project, it is undoubtedly chock full of inspiration + ideas.

So newbies, how are YOU doing this first month? Anything you've learned about the process? Or yourself? Is Project Life better or worse than you expected? Veterans, feel free to chime in with your own tips! I would love to hear them!

If you are not familiar with Project Life, click here. All of my 2012 Project Life posts can be found here.


  1. I love it so far! I'm so glad you 'forced' me to do it ;)
    Thanks for letting us see inside your process. Your work is an inspiration, and makes me want to scrap more.
    ps. I also love the hodge podge look of the way this is turning out. I'm not worrying too much about pattern, etc. Some of my journaling cards are too small, but that's ok!

  2. So many great tips and resources, Nicole!

  3. Holy smokes, woman! That was one FULL post :) Thanks for all of the resources. I've been working on mine. Lots of great stuff. Thanks for the virtual support and inspiration!

  4. Thanks for all the resources! I also like the "work on it when you can" tip. I decided to keep mine out downstairs so when I'm down there maybe I can do a journalling card or two. My next step is to print out some journalling cards! =)

  5. This has been so interesting, I've made a note if this post so I can revisit it. Thank you

  6. WOW this is great! i'm a newbie to Project Life, i just received my project life kit and still working on getting started. i think whats overwhelming for me is getting my pictures printed, i dont' have a good printer at home yet, so i'm trying to find a grove on uploading photos to walmart or walgreens, been looking into persnickety. i guess its just the sizes that throws me off, it be nice to fit some pics in the 3x4 slots or create 6x12 layout, i recently got Photoshop CS6, gift from my brother, so i've been playing w/ layouts and templates, but again comes back to actually getting those printed. same w/ printing freebies. not a lot of post on printing process i guess its just assumed they are printed at home or ordered. but like you said i just need to DO and stop reading up on so many post! this was a great post, thanks for looking out for the newbies!

    1. Hi Monica! I still feel like I'm learning the ins and outs of Photoshop but I know enough to get by. :) Liz at Paislee Press has a fantastic free template that I linked to in this post that you can size down two 3x4 photos onto one 4x6. There is a video link on her post too. I love using this template to fill one 4x6 pocket or to cut it in half and use in the 3x4 pockets. Then you can just upload them as usual to wherever you choose to print your 4x6 photos. Also, I think most people print their journaling cards at home on plain white cardstock.

      It took me a long time to get into a routine with printing photos and planning it all out each week so don't be too hard on yourself. :) Start slow and do what works for YOU! Have fun and good luck!

  7. Your post is sooooo helpful! I'm so glad I found your blog (through Pinterest) and I'll be following along. I've just ordered my first project life kit (in Amber) and am desperate for it to arrive and to get started. You've given me some great planning and resource ideas :-)