My Tumultuous Love Affair with Project Life

This will be my third year of documenting our lives with Project Life.

For those of you unfamiliar with this memory-keeping system, it’s a scrapbook that generally follows a chronological approach and uses page protectors with pockets to hold photos, memorabilia, journaling cards, and other decorative things. Becky Higgins is the superwoman behind the system, and you can find out more on her site.

I’ve been down the scrapbooking rabbit hole once before, spent a TON of money on supplies I never used, and completed maybe a dozen pages over the course of a couple of years. It just didn’t work for me. I ended up selling a gigantic tote of supplies at my parents’ yard sale many years ago and washed my hands of the entire hobby.

And then I discovered Project Life in the fall of 2012 when I was pregnant with Natalie.

I was intrigued. You mean…you don’t have to make a 12×12 page with a single picture on it? You don’t have to be an amazing artist and creative wunderkind? Is it really that simple?

I didn’t want to devote any space in our then-apartment to supplies, so I decided to go digital and make my pages completely on the computer (I adore The Lilypad for digital supplies). I started making pages to document my pregnancy, and couldn’t WAIT for the new year so I could “officially” start my album.


Pages from the first two months of my pregnancy — click to enlarge. I JUST realized that I typed “blog” instead of “blob” on the journaling card in the far left corner. Crap.

Like many Project Lifers, I used a weekly approach (typically a 2-page spread per week). And then quickly crashed and burned, for a couple of reasons: 1) I had the world’s crappiest camera on my phone and could really only take decent pictures on my BIG camera, which I rarely wanted to take out; and 2) we just didn’t do enough things to justify weekly documentation.

We had no kids at the time, and you can only fill your album with so many pictures of your cats before it starts to get really, really repetitive.

I started combining multiple weeks into a single spread, and that worked much better. I still had very few photos, though, and that made me sad. I also realized that I wasn’t working on the scrapbook very often, since the last thing I wanted to do after I got home from work (where I sat at a computer for 8 hours) was sit in front of a computer for hours and scrapbook.

I was still excited about the idea of Project Life, since I LOVED the pages I’d actually completed, but I was having serious problems with the execution. From January until about March I managed to stay pretty current, but March through June was completely empty.

The job I had at the time offered an amazing benefit: if you have the sick time available, you can take two weeks of it before your due date. I said HECK YES. I was completely convinced, however, that the baby would come early, possibly even before 38 weeks, so I didn’t know how much time I’d have at home. Turns out it was three weeks. Oops.

During that time I made a list of things that I could do to keep myself busy, since heavily pregnant lady + hoooouuuuurs of uninterrupted free time = WAY too much time to overanalyze every twinge and convince yourself you’re going into labor. “Catch up on Project Life” was at the top of the list.

I considered all my options and decided that I needed my catch-up time to be simple, quick, and no-fuss. So I waddled to Michael’s armed with several coupons and purchased a pack of page protectors (affiliate link) and a core kit. I did absolutely NOTHING fancy. I printed my photos at home, hand wrote all my journaling, and used only cards from the core kit. And in three days I was completely caught up.

vacation week14Not the greatest photos but you can see how simple it is. No frills. And most importantly: DONE!

Shockingly enough, I managed to stay caught up for almost a full month after Natalie was born. Don’t ask me how because I don’t even remember doing it. Seriously. And then the wheels fell off again and I didn’t touch the scrapbook until January 2013, when I jumped into action and, once again, caught up on three months in about a week.

The thought of breaking up those three months by week was completely overwhelming, so I grouped all the photos by month and called it a day. I felt so free and I haven’t been tempted to go back to weekly spreads since then. When I get all twitchy about stuff like that I think to myself, are my kids going to care that I only wrote “this happened in September” instead of “this happened on September 22?” Doubtful. I’m working on taking a longer view of the scrapbook and that makes it easier to not sweat the small stuff.

My new plan for 2014 was to continue with monthly spreads, which went…ok. I fell into a regular pattern of only scrapbooking every 2-3 months and catching up on two months at a time. Which isn’t the worst thing in the world, but I forget a CRAZY amount of stuff if I don’t write it down IMMEDIATELY. I’d like to blame it on Natalie but that’s just how the human brain works.

In July I subscribed to the Studio Calico Project Life kit. I’d seen some amazing scrapbook pages being put together with these kits and thought it might be motivational for me.

Aaaaand nope. Turns out I’m just a hoarder. I did no more scrapbooking from July – December than I did in the first half of the year. I actually did less. *womp womp* So I had less done on my book and now I was accumulating supplies that I wasn’t actually using. And I was getting stressed out about spending money every month on supplies that were just sitting in boxes. No bueno.

I cancelled my subscription after I got my December box. No more kits for me. I have PLENTY of cool stuff and I need to use it.

I still have a lot of catching up to do, but I’m determined to start fresh this year and catch up on the missing parts of 2013 as I can. And two years into this type of scrapbooking, I’ve learned a lot about what works for me and what doesn’t.


I’ve been thinking a lot about a plan for 2015 and I think I have some solid guidelines in place. But that’s for the next post!


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  1. Project Life: 2013 Wrap-Up | Happy Helmraths - February 9, 2015

    […] things first: I LOVE PROJECT LIFE (more background on that here). I’m still working on my pages for January of this year, and on catching up with my 2014 […]

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