December 28, 2017

Thoughts on Project Life

At the beginning of last year I decided that I would get back to making Project Life pages.  I thought that I'd share how that all worked out, along with some of the things I learned along the way.

What worked:
Being flexible about the timeline. I don't make weekly or even monthly spreads - I just fill the pockets and tell stories, and if a two page spread covers three weeks or just one event, I'm happy.  My idea is that an entire Project Life album should be an overall representation of my life - I don't need to document something every day or cover every single thing that happens to me in the course of a year.  I'll be honest - sometimes it takes a little finagling to get the photos to "end" in the right pocket configuration.  But again, I'm flexible - it doesn't bother me to add in or take out a photo to make things work.  For example, if I have a photo of my garden in summer, I don't care whether it appears right next to the photo that I took right before it chronologically.  As long as it ends up in with my summer stories, it's all good to me.

Using photo flips.  They are the perfect solution when I have more photos than pockets or when I need just a little extra space for journaling.

Working in batches.  It ended up being easier for me to print photos and work on several spreads in one sitting.  Devoting an afternoon or maybe two to putting the spreads together gets me in a rhythm that helps me finish pages quickly.

Using digital stamps.  This was something new for me and I enjoy using the Letterglow app to add digital stamps and even journaling onto photos.  While I still love stamping and adding other physical embellishments to my photos, it's nice to change things up every now and then.  When I use the digital stamps, I'll use them on an entire spread to get a consistent look.

What sort of worked:
Working with the past year.  My initial plan was to make a 2016 Project Life album so that I could have an entire year of photos at my disposal.  I did a couple of months' worth of 2016 but in the end, I was more inspired working with current photos.  And I actually completed almost all of 2017, so that's why I'm filing this in the "sort of worked" category. 

Starting with a kit.  I pulled a variety of supplies together before I started and expected to use up what I pulled and then replenish what I needed.  I still think this is a good approach because having too many options really slows me down, but I found there were times when I either got a little tired of what I had set aside or I had something specific that I wanted to use that wasn't in my little kit.  I had better luck making up smaller kits to use with specific groups of photos.  I still have a good portion of that original kit and I'm not sure whether I want to break it up and start over or keep trying to use it.  

Photo organization and printing.  I had the best of intentions to edit, delete and print photos on a regular basis and that worked for about the first month or so.  Then it became less of a priority to me and I would just prepare photos in batches right before I knew I would be working on my spreads.  I did eventually find a routine that worked for me when I wanted to order photos: I set up a specific Project Life folder on my phone and added the photos I thought I would use.  I'd then edit them and add journaling and digital stamps to some.  Next I'd use the Print to Size app to get them into the sizes that I wanted and upload the photos that were "ready" to Walgreen's for printing.  I know that some people don't care for the quality of photos from Walgreen's but I am very happy with the results I get from one of my local stores.  I'll occasionally print photos on my Selphy but I get the majority of my photos printed at Walgreen's.

What didn't work:
While I hoped to have a dedicated spot to leave the album out to be able to work on it regularly, that just didn't happen. It's still something I am working for though so maybe I'll have better luck with it this year.

What I've learned:
I have gotten much more selective about photos.  I've learned to think about the composition and the framing, intentionally setting them up with white space for journaling, digital stamps or embellishments.  I also remember to take more horizontal photos for those 4x6 pockets.

I've added smaller inserts because I like the way they break up the run of 12x12 pages.  For example, this year I have 9x9 baseball card holder-like inserts for a day trip to New York City, a special birthday celebration,  a day-in-the-life documentation and for a couple of regular spreads.  

I take far more photos than I document but for me, it's better to have them and not use them than to be looking for a photo that I didn't take.  In keeping with what I mentioned above, as long as my project gives a nice overall view of my life, I'm happy.  

What's next:
I plan to continue with Project Life in 2018, hopefully refining my process even further.  Traditional layouts will always be my first love but there's also plenty of room in my heart for capturing everyday details in little pockets.


  1. Thanks for sharing your process. I love PL, but I also love creating layouts. I'm curious, how do you store your layouts? With PL or in a separate album?

  2. Hi Carrie! (I'm having issues responding directly to your comment - I hope you check back and see this.) I store my layouts in a separate album. Someday I plan to go through and organize my layouts into albums by categories (gardening, quotes, walking, etc.) but the thought of that right now is stressing me out a little because it's definitely going to be quite the undertaking. When I finally do that, I want to see if there's a way to add some of the layouts in with my Project Life albums but I'm not sure if that will work.

  3. Susan, great post. My experience has been much the same this year, the first time I have actually completed a PL for an entire year. I was working with a weekly format (just half a 12 x 12 page, expanded for trips or special holidays) and I sometimes fudged on whether a weekend's activities were the week before or the week after. For 2018 I think I follow your more loosely configured chronological order, not caring about devoting a particular amount of space to rigid time frames. I also started with a kit of cards, and have too many of those leftover. But without those, I know I would have never finished the year. For 2018, I will also try making up a kit of embellishments, in 2017 I used up mostly odds and ends. I found having a separate PL area in my studio did work for me.

    It might be nice to start a thread in the Community to see how everyone else's PL wrapped up for 2017.

  4. How do you attach your flip ups? Mine always look crummy with washi tape

  5. Thanks, Susan. I've tried adding the layouts to my PL in the appropriate month and am leaving them for now, but am not sure I'll leave them there. I love scrapping out of order, but I like storing layouts in chrono order so I can find them easier. No great solution, I suppose. I'd love to see a post from you on how you choose to do a longer story/layout vs adding the pics to PL. I love your layout style-thank you for sharing.

  6. Stephanie - I just use either a tape runner or red line tape. Most of the time you can't see it because of the photo or PL card underneath. And even if it can be seen, it's not too noticeable and doesn't bother me at all.

  7. Thanks Carrie! That topic is actually on my list of ideas to cover here so hopefully it will show up soon.

  8. What an inspiring post with tips on PL. I am so behind but I love the stuff I have done so that keeps me wanting to work on the album(s). I need to get better at narrowing down photos. That stalls me every time.
    I also will be checking out Liberty Donuts in Newport when I'm there for a girls' weekend in February. Sounds amazing!

    1. Liberty Donuts were delicious - have fun on your girls' weekend!