I’ve been doing Project Life since February of this year and I can honestly say that it’s been one of the most rewarding, fun, and satisfying endeavors. The idea of scrapbooking and memory-keeping is one that I’ve been interested in for a long time, and when I had a baby that feeling went into overdrive. The problem was that traditional methods didn’t appeal to me. On one hand the blank slate of a 12×12 page was overwhelming, and on the other a regular photo book didn’t seem like enough – I wanted to be a little more hands-on, but it had to be simple and structured.
Project Life has worked for me. It’s the first real scrapbook I’ve ever kept up with. And I think it could work for you too, no matter what phase of life you’re in. I consider it our family album, but if you are single I don’t think that would matter. I would LOVE to have an album now from back when I was single. The point is to document the everyday details of life that would otherwise get lost and forgotten. They are the bulk of what make up life, after all, and I think we need to celebrate those small moments.
Some of you might be thinking about starting Project Life, and I say do it. I’m a working mom with a toddler and I’ve been able to keep up with it, so you can too. I wanted to share with you my whole process, some tips I’ve discovered along the way, and my plans for next year.
All you really need to complete Project Life is an album, page protectors, a core kit, a pen, and your photos. Keep that in mind if you need it to be simple, simple, simple. This year I did not use a core kit and instead used my own papers – I had a bunch on hand already and I wanted to make it more my own style – but next year I will be using the Seafoam kit because I love it and I want the process to be even simpler.
Some basic products I use are:
- American Crafts cloth D-ring album. I like it a lot, but I think I will buy a Project Life album for next year because I hear they are even better quality.
- Design A page protectors. They are my favorite and what I used for the majority of my spreads.
- We R Memory Keepers 4×4″ photo pockets page protectors. I used these a bunch for inserts.
- Fiskars corner rounder. I chose to round my corners but it’s not necessary.
- Zig millennium black pens.
- Staz-On black ink (requires Staz-On cleaner, but I don’t clean my stamps very often because I use almost exclusively black ink).
I had to figure out a way to work this into my regular life routine if I wanted to keep up with it. I absolutely cannot plan to do any actual work on it during the week. I might end up being able to, but it is not guaranteed that I will have the time or energy.
So during the week I take photos. If you have a bunch to choose from it makes the process a lot easier when you’re putting the spread together. I also take notes in several different ways. I have a 5-year journal that I fill in the basic happenings of the day each night. I have also been writing down at least one good thing that happened each day in Evernote for the past two years. I use the Momento app for all other things. It’s great because it corrals all your social media updates and you can also input private updates. Between these three things I can usually remember anything I want to include.
On Saturday I go through my photos to decide which ones to print. I delete any duds and do any editing I need to do (which is very, very minimal). I also go through my notes and make a list of things I want to include in the spread. I keep a notebook just for this purpose on my craft table. Then on Saturday evening (or Sunday morning) I order my photos – more on this in a minute.
On Sunday I pick up my photos, usually on the way home from church. Then I beg David to take care of Meredith for a couple of hours and I put together my spread. I start by laying out all my photos, rounding the corners, and arranging them. I try to keep them in somewhat chronological order but I don’t always. If there is a photo I especially like I usually put it in the top left pocket on the first page because I think the eye is drawn there.
Tips for printing photos
I use Snapfish to print my photos to a local Walgreen’s. I chose this route because I don’t have a photo printer, they are ready in an hour, it’s not too expensive, and the quality varies by place so I tried a few different places (including another Walgreen’s and a Walmart) and found the best. Another reason I like using Snapfish is because they have a very easy app to use, so I can upload and print my photos straight from my phone.
If you have a photo printer at home that route is extremely convenient, but it’s not cheap when you take into consideration the paper and ink you’ll be using. You could also send off for prints if you want something higher quality. I’ve heard great things about Persnickety Prints.
To print Instagram photos without a home printer I’ve discovered a few options. The first is to use the Diptic app. It creates simple photo collages, and it is also what I use to combine my vertical 3×4 phone photos into one 4×6 photo to have printed. In order to get the option to create 4×6-ratio photos I had to buy an extension for the app, but I think it was only $0.99. To get square photos with Diptic I choose the option that looks like this:
I just leave the small spaces blank and print this as-is. This will give you 3×3 square photos. I did this for awhile but then I got Photoshop Elements so now I just open a 4×6 canvas and place my square photo on it at whatever size I want.
If you don’t have PSE or another photo editing software you can use a free online program like Pixlr, which is what I did for awhile. I opened a 500×750 pixel blank canvas, then opened up my photo, resized it, then pasted onto the blank canvas. It’s not as streamlined a process as PSE, but it works.
What to include when you don’t have enough photos
It’s much easier when you have a lot of photos to choose from, but I frequently don’t have enough. These are the kinds of things I’ll include when that happens:
- Ephemera like ticket stubs or receipts
- Pretty papers from anywhere
- Quotes, either that you find or that you overheard
- Journal a day or a moment in detail
- Free printables (found all over, but especially from the Project Life page)
- List of “currents”
Tips on keeping up to date
For a long time I did weekly spreads. Eventually I found it too difficult to keep up with and I wasn’t taking enough photos anyway, so I made the decision to contain two weeks in each spread. This has worked really well for me, and if a lot happens in a week I have no problem making that its own spread or including an insert. You could even do monthly spreads if you want to start slowly. Remember that anything documented is better than nothing at all.
If you do fall so far behind that you’re overwhelmed, I recommend just jumping back in on the most recent week. It will be fresh in your mind and you’ll get your momentum back. Along the same lines, you don’t have to start this at the beginning of the year. I started on my birthday in February last year and I’m so glad I did.
Work it into your routine. If it’s fun and important to you, make it part of your schedule. If you always relegate it to “spare” time, it’ll never get done. This applies to anything, really.
I have also found it very helpful to blog about it. I am not sure how many people really read those posts, but I think at least a few people enjoy them and it is also a good place to recap life events, so it provides me with a good source of accountability.
Staying inspired is important too, so I follow several blogs of crafty people who do Project Life. A good place to start to look for these is the Project Life creative team, but my favorites are: Elise Blaha Cripe, Ali Edwards, Amy Tan, and Marcy Penner. Elise’s style is my favorite because it’s the simplest, but I love them all. You can also check out my Project Life Pinterest board for specific ideas.
Finally, try to let your perfectionism go! I always think that I could do so much more with my spreads if only I had more time…but I don’t, and I probably never will. My album is pretty simple, and yet when I flip through the pages I feel so satisfied. It is the sum, not the parts, that matters, and as a whole it is really wonderful.
Let me know if you have any other questions, and tell me…who have I convinced to do Project Life next year?? :)