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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43 thoughts on “What I learned from my first year of Project Life scrapbooking

  1. my other scrapbooking lover friend (danielle from aloveaffairwithpaper) does this all the time and every time she posts her PL book, i’m in awe. just like this one. this is something that i’ve always wanted to do and i started doing that….6 years ago! needless to say, this is another thing that laziness has killed. i really need to get a grip on that.
    kathy@vodka and soda recently posted…let’s talk lady bits.My Profile

    • Yes, I found Danielle through your site and I love her blog! I know her albums are way pretty than mine, but just having this DONE is a major accomplishment for me. (I totally understand the laziness thing!) I say if you want to do it, just start from now going forward, and if you really fall in love with it and want to go back and do earlier photos, it will always be there.
      Sarah recently posted…What I learned from my first year of Project Life scrapbookingMy Profile

  2. Hey Sarah! I’m part of your SITS Tribe for the week and am stopping by to show some comment love! I used to scrapbook when I was in high school and then became side tracked with college and never went back. It was so much fun letting the creative juices flow – sometimes I get an itch to do these again but I don’t even print photos anymore! Yours look lovely though great job! 🙂 Looking forward to connecting with you further! Take Care -Iva
    AwesomelyOZ recently posted…The Irrationality of Irrational AngerMy Profile

  3. I scrapbooked the 9 months of my pregnancy with a mixture of journaling and pictures and also scrapbooked the first year of my daughter’s life. When my husband and I decide to go down memory lane, we pull out this scrapbooks and are filled with laughter and tears. It is a great way to memorialize those milestone moments.
    Rudri Bhatt Patel @ Being Rudri recently posted…Taste As Much As You CanMy Profile

  4. How fun! I have not heard of Project Life before. I’m assuming it’s a company through which you can buy scrapbooking supplies?… Is it direct marketing? I remember Creative Memories and I used to scrapbook using their stuff. Now I just do digital scrapbooks through Shutterfly. I love them! We do a yearbook every year with highlights throughout the year. I still need to do one for 2013 though!!
    Heather recently posted…Monday Listicles: 10 Things I Did This WeekendMy Profile

    • Hi Heather! Thank you for stopping by! I’m so excited to be part of the SITS Tribe thing with you! Project Life is a brand of scrapbooking supplies, but it’s not direct marketing. You can get it at Amazon, Michael’s, etc. Actually I think they also offer digital books through Shutterfly, so if you like the style you could do it digitally, too.

  5. I began using Project Life a few months ago and love it! I am just like you in wanting to keep it simple. I keep seeing these gorgeous pages with all the embellishments but I know myself- I need to keep it simple or I won’t do it. Also, I get my pictures from Snapfish too. If I had to add an errand to the mix, I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t happen!
    Stacey recently posted…There Comes a TimeMy Profile

  6. I can relate to so much of what you’ve posted!!! When I first put together my PL album, I was all over the place with cards and even how I wrote-out notes. I actually re-did my first PL album by sticking with one color scheme per page, like you. And isn’t that the best part about PL? Nothing is permanent!!!

    Seeing others using PL and embellishing beautifully, sometimes I am jealous but I totally relate to what you wrote — the reason I got PL is because it’s simpler, so why complicate it. The most “creative” thing I did was cut-up my son’s artwork into 2×3 or 4×6 sizes so that I could use them in the PL album as just art.

    I find the cut-up corners all around my house too! Haha. Maybe my next album, I won’t even bother. Or, maybe I already told you I may go digital next time and print 12×12 sheets. Though I am not sure since I have an ANCIENT version of Photoshop and I find the 12×12 album a bit too big. I’d rather have a 8×10 album.

    Amen to only printing photos you need! I can’t throw away extra photos either :). This is another reason to go digital. No wasted printed photos.

    LOL Walmart is your “seventh circle of Hell”. And great idea to just not use cards you don’t like! So simple, yet for folks like us, it’s hard to see things go to waste.

    Sorry for the lengthy comment! I just love sharing my PL experience with you!
    lisacng @ expandng.com recently posted…Sleep training a preschooler & an infant (progress report)My Profile

  7. I’ve never heard of Project Life but I’d like to try it. I’ve had all the makings of scrapbooks – I can’t throw a single thing out – it’s bad! And I’ve been meaning to do this for years. I know I’ll get there someday but I imagine I’ll need a little push.
    Tamara recently posted…This Is My Life.My Profile

  8. Project Life is something I’ve been wanting to start doing! I’d say that my hobby right now is reading and spending way too much time decorating my planner with washi tape and stickers. 😉 Excited to have you in my SITS tribe and can’t wait to get to know you better. 🙂
    Brittany recently posted…It’s OkayMy Profile

  9. Love the new blog header!

    I’ve never scrapbooked but I do have hobbies. I enjoy knitting, crochet, and photography. I can also paint but for some reason I haven’t painted for years. The only change I’ve made is that I knit and crochet less than I used to which is really sad!
    Nicole recently posted…Free Printable Owl CalendarMy Profile

    • Why thank you for noticing my new header! Getting involved with SITS is just inspiring me to do all kinds of things like that. I knit less than I used to, too, but after knitting that Christmas stocking at least I know I’ve still got the skillz. =)

  10. This will be my 3rd year doing this and I’ve changed from the 12×12 format to the handbook size. I also do it monthly now instead of weekly because that didn’t work for me either. I found myself taking random photos just to fill the spaces & I didn’t like that. I try to keep a planner from Target that I bought filled with little notes for the days I want to record because I’m not good at writing out journaling cards immediately. My goal this year is to just keep up somewhat. I ended up doing the entire 2013 album in like 2 weeks of very long days at the end of Nov & Dec. But to also keep it simple and fun. I can’t help but compare myself to other scrapbookers sometimes and it’s just silly. We each have our own unique styles, amount of time, and supplies (or lack of). Loved reading about the lessons you learned. And can’t wait to see this year’s album. XO
    Danielle recently posted…A Paper Craft With Eeny – Monthly Goals Desk StandMy Profile

    • I saw that you’re a knitter — me too! I have a lot of different interests too, but it kind of tends to be cyclical… knitting in the winter, then other things as the mood strikes me. I’m looking forward to connecting with you this week through the SITS Tribe!

  11. This was so much fun to read. I decided on a digital scrapbook/photo album again this year. I’m doing it more PL-style than what I did last year – which was a photo a day. This year it’s going to be looser – by the week versus daily. I’m doing it in Shutterfly. I’d like to do a proper PL album but I’m just not ready to take the plunge yet.

    I love seeing how your album evolved and how you settled in as the year went on. I aways wondered how the corners of photos got so perfectly rounded 🙂
    Shana Norris recently posted…10 Weekly Goals.My Profile

    • You know… I think Project Life has a deal with Shutterfly, if you search around in the photo book options you just might find it! I have considered switching to digital, actually, but I got such a good deal on this album that I decided to go paper for another year. I really hate the “little bits of paper everywhere” aspect of paper scrapbooking.
      Sarah recently posted…Humpday ConfessionsMy Profile

  12. What a cool progression to see!! I’ve seen something similar with my knitting over the years. I started off very haphazard, knitting anything and everything that caught my fancy, in whatever yarn I liked at the time, whether or not it suited the project. This is how I ended up with alpaca socks…that were washed and dried, and subsequently fit my 3 year old!! Hello, from your SITS blog tribe! 🙂
    Kristin recently posted…My commuteMy Profile

    • Are you a knitter? Me too! I think you’re right, in all crafting there is a learning curve (even sticking pre-printed cards in plastic sleeves, for crying out loud!) and it’s pretty fun to look back and see where you’ve come.
      Hello right back at you! I am really enjoying this tribe-building challenge and getting to know all you ladies better!
      Sarah recently posted…Humpday ConfessionsMy Profile

  13. I adore albums! My mom used to make so many albums of all of our family travels, etc and I am so happy she did because I don’t remember doing 1/2 of the things she put in albums – except, clearly we DID IT! ha! I wish I were older when we did so I could appreciate those memories, however- I certainly appreciate these books and look at them every year during the holidays!
    GiGi Eats recently posted…Banish Your Kryptonite!My Profile

    • That’s definitely one of the things that keeps me going when I get frustrated or feel like I don’t have time to keep up with these photo albums — I know they will be SO fun to look back on in a few years!
      Sarah recently posted…Humpday ConfessionsMy Profile

  14. I scrapbooked for years, but I don’t anymore. I have so many supplies and paper just sitting there – it’s a shame. Project Life looks so easy, though – I will have to check it out. And btw – do you use Ebates.com to shop online? You get cash back on purchases from tons of online stores, and Snapfish gives ten percent cash back. I have a referral widget on my sidebar if you’re interested (or just go there on your own) – you should check it out!
    Dana recently posted…My outside heartsMy Profile

    • It’s super easy. If you already have a bunch of scrapbooking supplies you can add a little bit here and there and really make it look great, too. I’ve actually never used ebates — but it sounds like I should! Thanks for the tip.

  15. Oh! You’ve made me so happy with this report. I’ve been seeing a lot of talk about Project Life scrapbooking, and I’m thinking this may be the format for me. I need something super low-key, but the point is that I feel I need *something* since I’m one of those people who never prints out their pictures. As in: Not in the last 4 years. As in: I’m doing well to take a darn picture! Your album is really coming along great, by the way.
    Meg recently posted…WhateverMy Profile

    • It’s pretty fun! If I were you, I’d maybe just start out with a mini-album of a vacation or something, and see if you like it before you buy all the supplies for a full album.

  16. Stopping in from SITS. So impressed you made it through and complete a year of PL! I’ve been scrapbooking most of my life and PL gives me an anxiety attack. LOL There are just so many options for such a “simple” thing and I already feel like I’m behind enough on albums in progress. *sigh* Anyhow, kudos to you for giving it a whirl and finding a system that works. Your pages look great!
    Sarah @ 2paws Designs recently posted…Disney All-Star Music: Resort FunMy Profile

    • Thanks! There were definitely some times during the year when I had to sit down and power through a couple of months at a time to stay caught up. I can definitely see how you could get overwhelmed trying to make a PL album “perfect” just like those famous bloggers do — but I finally came to peace with my crappy iPhone photos, chicken-scratchy handwriting, etc. After all, this is my life that I’m documenting, not theirs! Thank you so much for stopping by, Sarah!
      Sarah recently posted…Freezer Meal Workshop and Wildtree giveawayMy Profile

  17. I’m struggling to find my rhythm with the whole Project Life thing. I love the idea, but I’m not implementing very well. I am going to take your suggestions and see if I can have better luck getting into a groove.

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