project life. if you don't know what it is - it's a system developed by becky higgins to take the stress out of scrapbooking. for me, it's a reminder to pick up my camera and capture the everyday. a place to record that crazy thing sam said, or to have alex or ben write down something they did at school that day. it lets me bring in my favorite photos that don't have enough of a story for a scrapbook page, and mix them with drawings and schoolwork and the packaging for our favorite kind of cookies. it tells a story about our lives that my scrapbooks don't, and i believe in it 100%. you can see all of my project life posts here.
i started project life at the beginning of 2011, after seeing what ali edwards was doing with her album. i love this project. my family loves this project. and i love seeing other people get interested in this project. i've had a lot of questions come up about my process and thoughts on putting together my album, and wanted to address them all in one place. so sit down and grab a snack - this is going to be a LONG read. ;)
- organization /storage
shortly after i started project life, i got this storage cube at michael's. i love having a central place for all of my project life stash. albums & page protectors on the top, supplies in the drawer. here's a peek inside the drawer :
i love that i can pull the drawer out and bring it to wherever i'm working. 90% of what i use is in this drawer - i grab my tiny attacher, adhesive, paper trimmer and a couple or rolls of washi tape to round it out. i also consider whatever's out on my desk to be fair game. and if you've seen photos of my desk, you know that tends to be a LOT of product. ;)
- favorite products to use
here's some of the things i consider my "base" products for project life - you'll find them on every week i do :
journaling cards. i bet if you go through your stash, you'll find a zillion. i love the books by smash, and cards from elle's studio, ormolu & bananafish studios. i have some printable designs from paislee press and ormolu that are awesome - and i can print as many as i want! i have some OLD jbs journaling notebooks that work well - i find that every time i go through my room, i find something else i can add to this catagory. and as for the project life grid journaling cards - you need them. they fit in the page protectors, and you can stamp them, mist them, tape them, patterned paper them and make them your own.
washi tape. great for adding a bit of color AND holding things down. all the fun of a patterned paper strip without having to cut or glue. ;)
label stickers & flat embellishments. for dressing up journaling cards, filling in empty spaces or decorating a photo. i don't like to use a lot of bulky embellishments in my album - let's face it, a year's worth of spreads already takes up enough room. ;)
stamps. though i find that i'm either in a stampy mood or not. if i am, i grab one or two sets and use them repeatedly in the weeks i'm working on, rather than digging around for the perfect one. i also tend to stick to one or two ink colors - again, the less decisions i have to make, the faster i'm done!
- kit vs stash
i bought a kit at the beginning of 2011, and it features much more heavily in my early pages than my recent ones. i quickly found that i was much happier with both the process and the finished spread if i added in other things. i am naturally a bits & pieces / eclectic scrapper, so going a much more graphic route was hard for me, and i found it slowed me down. project life is a big undertaking - you have to do it in a way that feels right to YOU.
that said, i'm still a BIG supporter of the kits - especially if one of the styles *fits* you. they are a great value & i think they're a good investment even if you don't intend to use everything in it. i have my eye on the new cobalt kit for next year and will decide when it hits amazon whether or not i'll hit BUY. =) those premade cards are awesome to have on hand when you're short on time! you can click here see all of becky higgin's kits, current and upcoming.
- choosing supplies / colors
life isn't color coordinated. when you've got photos from different days, kids that wear clashing shirts to events (i know, how dare they?!?), keepsakes in a rainbow of colors - well, it gets kind of busy. the bulk of my "core" products are neutrals or soft colors. the extra products i pull in tend to be leftovers from other projects - stuff that i had pulled out because i thought it looked good together. might as well let that planning work for more than one project, right? ;)
- page protectors / albums
for 2011, i have all style A page protectors in american crafts modern albums. i like to keep it simple, and am planning on sticking with style A for next year. while i love some of the other styles, i don't want to get stuck thinking about which style would best fit the week - we'd likely be on to the next week before i settled on one. ;) i rarely have enough 4x6 horizontal photos to fill the big slots, but i've found other options for filling them - a 4x4 photo + journaling card, 2 journaling cards, a collage of smaller photos, or a piece cut from school work or a magazine. if i do pick up another style, it will be f - i love all the extra slots for journaling cards. i have on occasion added other page protectors when i have too much for a week - i use plain 8.5x11 to hold school papers, or divided AC page protectors to hold photos and journaling.
i store my photos in folders by month - and i import them to my computer using adobe lightroom, which renames them with the date at the beginning. this makes it super easy to find what i'm looking for when it's time to start a week. my iphone snaps all automagically go into a folder on my laptop thanks to icloud. LOVE that.
- shooting while out and about
some of my favorite moments take place away from home. for me, having a camera on me nearly all the time (in the form of my iphone) plays a HUGE part in my project life album. even if you don't have a point and shoot of some sort that you can easily tuck into your purse, i think it's still important to make taking your camera with you a priority on a regular basis - even if it's just once a week. i've become pretty comfortable whipping out my camera in just about any situation, but i do my best to capture a few photos and then put it away so i can enjoy what's happening.
- camera pics / phone pics
i use a LOT of phone pics in my project life album. it's always with me. it's less obtrusive than hauling out the dSLR. it makes it easier for me to snap & forget it rather than worrying about getting just the right shot. that said, i do my best to remember that it can't completely replace my camera, and to remind myself to pick up the dSLR and shoot a few things around the house each week. these mediums both lend themselves to a different way of capturing images, and i love having both in my book.
- printing / sizes
i print at home, on an epson artisan 800. i use lightroom to collage different sized pics onto a 4x6 photosheet and print - you can do the same in picasa, which is free. i print once a week, so you could definitely do something similar if you were ordering prints. if you upload a 4x6 canvas with smaller photos on it, just make sure to look for the option NOT to resize / crop when you order online!
i tend to print my photos in the same sizes each week - it speeds things up for me. phone photos get printed at 2x2 and put onto journaling cards, or at 4x4 to go into the photo slots. camera photos get printed at 4x6, 4x4 or 2.75x3.75 (to fit the journaling slots). i'll talk more about how i decide what size to print later.
EPHEMERA / NOTE TAKING :
- organization / storage
every week, i grab an 8.5x11 page protector and label it w/ a bit of washi tape and the dates. everything that catches my eye that week - school papers, kid drawings, wrappers / packaging, cool stuff from the mail - goes into the page protector. i also tend to throw in scraps of patterned paper from projects that i've worked on, so it's all in one place. if i've printed any photos during the week, i add them in here as well.
- how i decide what to keep
during the week, i don't edit at all. anything i think i might want to use goes into the page protector for the week. once i start working, i go through and pull out the most important bits - the ones that really tell a story. if i have room left over, i start picking through the other ephemera. if not, it either goes into recycling or gets moved to another week if it's something that isn't date sensitive. it's hard to leave things out, but i find that as i cycle through the weeks, i end up using a better range of items this way. i don't need a spelling test EVERY week. ;)
- keeping notes on the week
right now, i'm using an app for my ipad called clibe to keep all of my notes. it's a journal style app, and i can access my notebooks online. love. i just keep a running list of what we did each day, to jog my memory. if i know i know i'm going to be crazy busy and not be able to document the week right away, i include more detail. before i found this app, i just kept notes on various bits of paper and tucked them into my weekly page protector - i still do this with kid quotes and some longer stories.
KEEPING / CATCHING UP :
- how i find the time to work on this
to be honest - i don't HAVE time to do project life. i doubt that most of us do. i have three kids. i have a husband. i work from home. i'm involved at the boys' schools. i have a list of house projects a mile long, cleaning that needs to happen, dishes that need to be done, deadlines to meet, etc etc etc. and yes - there are some weeks when something has to give, and project life is what goes untouched. but since the end of june, when i really found my stride with this project, i have only 3 weeks unrecorded. i MAKE time. i steal time. i wish i had a magic answer on finding the time to keep up with project life - but all i can tell you is to make the most of the little moments that find you. print photos while you wait for someone to call you back. write a few journaling cards while your kids are playing. sort through your ephemera while you wait in the school pick up line. it adds up.
- working daily vs weekly
i work on my album a week at a time. i'm not doing it from a photo a day approach, so it's a lot easier for me to work on it once i have the week behind me and can see the big picture. i find that it takes me around 2 hours to complete a week, including selecting and printing photos. some weeks i can't make up my mind about anything and it takes longer, some weeks i whip through it even faster. i *prefer* to do it all in one day, but that doesn't always happen. if i have to work on it in bits and pieces, i either leave it out on my floor or slip everything into the page protectors so i can put the album away and pull it back out when i have time.
- falling behind / catching up
i have unfinished weeks. more than i'd like. but i said when i started this that even if it was "project every other week" i'd still have more recorded than if i didn't do it at all. when i start falling behind, i find it's easiest to pick up with the most current week. the memories are fresher, i'm more excited about the photos. it gets me pumped back up & on track with the project - and from there, i can fill in the earlier weeks when i get a chance.
THE PROCESS :
- sit down to print photos. every week i dread this part. every week it's no big deal and done in 10-15 minutes. you'd think i'd learn. ;) i scan through all of my photos from the week and my notes about what we did, and start deciding what sizes to print.
- once my photos are printed, i cut them apart and write the day on them. immediately. nothing slows me down like having to go back to the computer to figure out what day something was from.
- when i work on a week, i fill the 4x6 spots first. i use them for my bigger photos and more important stories. once i have those recorded, i start filling in the empty spots with my ephemera and smaller photos. i do a lot of shuffling around at this point in time - trying to get a good balance of photos and stories and stuff and making sure everything and everyONE is covered for the week. for the week shown here, i had WAY too much to fit into my two pages, so i took 2 seperate stories (sam getting his cast off & what we all did on friday) and set them aside. once i finished the rest of the week, i recorded them using an additional page protector.
- after everything is arranged & accounted for, i fill in the week. i love this part - writing the journaling, dressing up the journaling cards, bringing it all together. this is where all of the fun supplies come in - you can see that for this week, i repeated the same accent colors to help bring it together.
GENERAL TIPS :
- help! i have too much / not enough to fill my week - what now?
there are times when i've come to the end of the week and realize - oh man. i've got three phone snaps and one photo taken with my camera and i didn't save anything. ACK. here are some of my favorite places to dig up filler material :
facebook / twitter. yours. your spouse's. your kids. your friends. you might find photos, song lyrics, hilarious quotes, a happening you totally forgot about.
the recycling bin. the packaging from your kid's favorite snack. a cool magazine cover. a menu from a take out place. yet another math worksheet. there might be something awesome in there that you recycled without even thinking about it.
take a few photos. i won't tell. ;) maybe this is the time to take a couple photos and tell the story of your morning routine / your family's favorite recipe / the hoodie your son won't take off / what your daughter's bedroom floor looks like / your favorite framed print.
screenshots. capture websites your family visits frequently. your favorite online shops. an email from a friend.
ask your family. they might have a fun story from the week, or photos they took with their phone or camera.
the news. add in local and world events. sports scores from your favorite team. an article that caught your eye.
check your calendar. whether it's electronic or paper based, i'm guessing you probably have something to keep track of appointments, pick up times and dates. copy that for the week and add it to your album.
and on the flipside - we all have the weeks where TOO MANY things happened. holidays, special occasions and trips tend to leave you with a zillion photos and stories to tell. so how are you going to fit it into your weekly spread?
focus on the special event. the everyday is... well, routine. leave out all but the most important parts so you have lots of room for photos and stories from the event.
plan to scrap the special event instead. i do plenty of tradition scrapbooking along with project life, so many times i feel comfortable putting just a photo and a couple details into my PL album, since i know i'll tell the story more completely on a scrapbook page.
add another page protector. if you simply can't leave anything out, add an 8.5x11 or divided page protector so you have more room to tell the story.
- involving your family
this one is HUGE for me. i love it when my family contributes to my album. my boys are pretty good about bringing my things and asking if i want them for my book, but i constantly have to remind myself to involve them MORE. have them write a journaling card. give them a camera. ask for their take on an event. my husband and my bigs spend a lot of their awake hours away from home (and ME) - if i don't ask them what happened, i'm not getting our whole story. my boys moan and groan a little when i hand them a journaling card and tell them to write something, but they always come up with something awesome.
- doing PL & a december daily
i *am* planning to take on a december daily, on top of project life. i'm still not 100% sure how it will work. as of now, i'm thinking that my daily won't necessarily be *daily*, and will focus on our holiday events & stories. some of those will likely make it into PL in an abbreviated form, but i'll keep that more for the everyday. i'll share more thoughts as we get into december and i see how it will work!
- will it work if i don't have kids at home?
absolutely. if you're worried you won't have enough to fill a "week" - make each side it's own week. do a month overview. the beauty of project life is that you can adapt it to work for your lifestyle - whatever that might be. even if you aren't chasing kids, you still have stories to tell.
- shortcuts and time savers
stamp journaling cards ahead of time. i saw this idea on twitter a few weeks back (if it was you who posted it, or you know who did, please let me know! i can't find it again) last night i had 15 odd minutes so i grabbed my stamps and some plain journaling cards and went to town. i can't wait to use them.
download your photos on a regular basis. there's nothing worse than sitting down to print and realizing your photos aren't even on your computer!
pre-cut patterned paper scraps. 4x6in and 2.75x3.75in. then all you need to do is grab it and pop it into a pocket.
find a routine. using the same photo sizes, the same supplies, working in the same way - it will all help you get into a groove and make the weeks come together faster.
don't overthink it. some weeks you'll have a lot to say, some will be mostly photos. in the end, it will all work together to tell the whole story.
okay.. i realize that was a TON of info. and it's all based on what works for ME and my album. take what resonates with you, leave the rest. ;) if you have a question about anything i covered here, please don't hesitate to leave me a comment or email me, and i'll do my best to give you an answer!!
if you're on the fence about taking on project life... i urge you to give it a try. order a few page protectors and the grid journaling cards and see what happens. you may find a way to make it work for your life.