What I learned from my first year of Project Life scrapbooking

PL first year
After doing no scrapbooking for several years, in late 2011 and very 2012 I started seeing people posting pictures of “Project Life” albums, which looked very organized and stylish, not your typical shabby-chic scrapbooking style.  I wanted to give it a try, so I bought an album, page protectors, and a “core kit” which is a package of color-coordinated cards that fit into the pockets of the page protectors (which are all 4×6 or 2×3 inches).
Pattern overload, much?

One of my first pages.  Pattern overload, much? Welcome to crazytown.  But can you really blame me? I was in my first trimester of pregnancy, we were in the middle of remodeling our house, and my husband went to Honduras for a week.

 When I first started out, it felt a lot like writing on the first page of a new journal… I didn’t know exactly what I wanted it to look like, and there were a LOT of core kit cards to choose from.  It was a little overwhelming, and this is reflected in my first several pages.  I was all over the place as far as colors, patterns, etc.  I wasn’t in the habit of taking a zillion pictures of everyday stuff, so I struggled to fill up the blank spaces.   I was also very unsure what types of things I wanted to capture on the journaling cards.  As I look back at my first few pages, I see a really random assortment of things — quotes, Bible verses, snippets of cute things my son said, and lists of activities we’d done that week.
The crazy mix of patterns continues...but at least everything is sort of Valentine's Day themed.

February. The crazy mix of patterns continues…but at least everything is sort of Valentine’s Day themed.

The great thing about PL is that it really is designed to be a simple system, but of course, there are bloggers out there who have been scrapbooking for years, have tons of stamps, punches, and other embellishments that make the pages look amazing.  As much as I’d love that, it’s just not me.  I don’t have the time to spend, nor the money to acquire all those items, and the simplicity of the system was the whole reason I was drawn to it.  Adding all that stuff was just complicating it and, frankly, kind of stressing me out.  I did purchase one round punch that is large enough to write a few words on (although I didn’t use it that much) and a corner rounder, to make the corners of the photos match the rounded corners of the cards from the core kit.  I like the look of the rounded corners, and it doesn’t take long, but I find those little corner scraps everywhere in my house after working on the album for a while.
Now we are into March (see my leprechaun beard?) and the pages are starting to get a bit more cohesive.

Now we are into March (see my leprechaun beard for St. Pat’s Day?) and the pages are starting to get a bit more cohesive.

 As I went through the year, I simplified my process a lot, choosing just one card design per page, eschewing embellishments, and working on about a month’s worth of pages at a time. Traditional PL albums give a full spread (two pages facing each other) to each week.  I ended up cutting that down to just one page per week, with the flexibility to expand onto additional pages for special events that had a lot of photos, like birthday parties, visiting family out of town, family photo shoots, etc.

April. See how all the cards match now?  Much better.

Getting photos printed proved to be a big hurdle for me, especially when I decided that the most convenient place to print & pick them up (Walgreen’s) was not giving me very high quality photos.  The color quality on photos from Wal-Mart was much better, but I dread the crowds and hassle of going there, so I would end up getting backlogged.  Towards the end of the year I settled on printing photos and creating album pages about a month at a time.  This worked pretty well for me time-wise, since it doesn’t take much time at all to round the photo corners, slip them in slots, and add a few cards with short explanations of what we did that week.
Even in weeks when I didn't take that many photos,

Even in weeks when I didn’t take that many photos, I eventually got more comfortable just using some cards as filler and using others to document what was going on that week.

Things I want to change for my 2014 album:
Only print what I need.  A problem I had repeatedly throughout the year was printing way more pictures than I really needed.  I’m not sure how to solve that problem, but paying to print pictures then having half the stack of photos left to clutter up my house (they’re so hard to just throw away!) has become quite a pet peeve of mine!  I think the best solution may be to eliminate bad photos much earlier on in the process, before they ever get printed.  (Either delete them or be a lot choosier about what I upload to snapfish)
Order my photos directly from Snapfish.  Yeah, it takes a little longer, but I’m already working several weeks behind.  The prices are better, the quality is equivalent, and it eliminates a trip to Wal-Mart, which is my seventh circle of hell.
Write memories from the week as I go.  I know I forget little things by using the once-a-month approach, and I’m too lazy to keep a journal of stuff I want to remember. Between facebook, twitter, and my blog, I can usually recreate a pretty good picture of what we were doing in any given week, but sometimes it ends up taking way longer than it should.  I think I’m going to start writing the journaling cards as I go each week, then filling in with photos every month.
Don’t use cards that I don’t like.  My Olive core kit (the one I used in 2013) had a bunch of different blue & green cards that I loved, and some pink & orange cards that I didn’t love as much.  I was worried I would run out of my favorites, so I spaced them out over the year, mixing in the pink & orange ones occasionally.  I now know that the PL kits are very generous with the cards, so I’m just going to use the ones I like and not worry about running out.
So, that’s the download from my brain on Project Life at the moment.  Do you have a hobby?  How has your approach to it changed over time and with more experience?

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