As the year progressed, I’d found myself really behind with Project Life. I heard people be embarrassed for being a few weeks behind and I scoffed a bit inwardly. A few weeks?! I knew I was more like a few months behind. I’d charged in with enthusiasm at the beginning of the year but as the year progressed that enthusiasm fell away like the rest of my unloved new year’s resolutions.
However, I like the idea of Project Life. I like what it represents. I may not have children to either fill it or to reflect on past years with, but maybe someday someone, either a niece or nephew or maybe even a vintage store shopper, will find it and see what life was like for one woman living in Los Angeles in 2013. Having that view into the past has been really inspirational for me personally and I want to help ensure that will be there for future generations. The love of that idea is what kept me lingering on it and wishing I was doing better rather than just giving up and tossing it all out in a huff.
Thankfully, I went to the Studio Calico boards for help. These boards are, without a doubt, one of the nicest places on the internet. Perhaps I’ve been jaded by the almost twenty years I’ve been online, but everyone I’ve run into there thus far has been nothing but kind and supportive. I came to them feeling lost and a little broken and pretty damn boring. They responded not only with advice but their own struggles. Since writing that forum post, I’ve taken some of the advice and added a bit of my own. I now feel like I’ve gotten to a really sustainable place with Project Life. I’m excited when I take the opportunity to sit down and I don’t feel chained to it anymore. This is a new feeling and so I thought I’d condense what I’d learned in the hopes it would help someone else.
So here are my four tips for making Project Life work for you:
1) Have and use ONLY what you want.
When first talking my frustrations over with my husband, he mentioned that maybe the reason I was struggling to feel satisfied with the look was because I hadn’t updated my supplies as I’d updated my style. He was right. I was using a Blush core kit from Becky Higgins and trying to mix in my Studio Calico boxes. This was creating a serious problem in a couple of ways. First, I’d loved the Blush kit when I bought it, but I’m moving away from the poppy pastels and girly patterns. On top of that, I’m horrible at matching colors, tones and patterns (for now. I’m getting better with practice!) so trying to add my SC kits, especially with the stronger Blush cards, was creating more struggle than was necessary.
So, I spent some time on the official Project Life website, headed over to Michaels and picked myself up a Kraft core kit and this cute red with white polka dot binder (which is, apparently, a Michaels exclusive!) Now that I have it, I keep the core kit and binder on the corner of my crafting table and it’s ready to go when I am. I’m limiting myself to the core kit for now so the overwhelm and frustration of finding “the right card” is significantly reduced. I’ll add the coordinating color cardstock next payday since that’s more matching I can trust.
You don’t need to do what I did to use this tip. If you have a good stash of stuff, take the time and sort through it to create your own kit! If you’re struggling to find the card you want like I was, stick to that kit and only it for awhile. Choice overload is a real thing and minimizing it will help you feel less overwhelmed and get more done!
2) Get rid of the idea of “x page(s) per week/month/etc.”
Instead of creating “week of” cards and trying to fill a spread, I’ve started putting whatever I’ve got into pockets and date stamping everything. I’d started date stamping at some point before I started this new adventure in Project Life (I honestly don’t remember when or why!) and I carried it over into this style. It’s been the thing that really killed the need for standardizing my spreads to a certain time frame. I don’t need the cards to tell me what week something happened if all I need to do is flip the card over to find that out.
3) Create a Memory Box.
I had an extra 4×6 card box after organizing my other PL cards and so I converted it into a memory box. I’ve dropped pictures and memorabilia in there so I can have it all in one place when I sit down for Project Life time. If you have trouble recalling for later journaling, I’d add a post-it with some quick thoughts to help you jog your memory when you’re ready to write. Also, keep everything. I need to get better about keeping stuff to include in my binder. I went out for Korean BBQ with some friends recently and I’m kicking myself for not stealing the chopstick wrapper. I get the impulse to scrap the weirdest things but it’s that kind of stuff that you’ll wish you had when you sit down, either to jog your memories of an event or just to include in your projects.
4) Don’t Let the Pockets Hold You Back.
I used to feel constrained by the pockets. Layouts had to look a certain way because I enjoyed the consistency of using the same design. Photos had to be oriented just so or else they wouldn’t fit. It was just another layer of frustration for this newbie! Luckily, I got wise and realized, “Hey! I have all sorts of page protectors! That means I can make things look all sorts of ways!”
Often I’d find myself really struggling to document multi-photo events. I’d try making a full two page spread, but usually found myself short by a pocket or three. Now, rather than trying to fit all of my events into the Project Life layout, I’ve been creating full sized 12×12 pages for some of them. I did this recently with the picture I found of Ruby and I and the resulting page is something I treasure. After this first success, I’m going back through my older Project Life spreads and asking, “Is this better for Project Life or a scrap page?” When I decide to go bigger, these 12×12 pages look so much better and I can enjoy it fondly rather than thinking, “I wish I’d had enough to fill it without having to pad it with junk…” And, as with everything else, once I’m done, I’ll date stamp it, put it in the binder and check it off the list! That always makes me feel better!
Another option, which I won’t include as a full tip, is to change size away from the standard 12×12. At one point, I’d considered switching, maybe to an 8.5×11 or the smaller Studio Calico Handbook. I decided to keep the 12×12 size mostly because I have about a ton of the 12×12 page protectors in all sorts of different configurations. It also allows me to include 12×12 scrapbook pages as well as 31 Things, some of my One Little Word stuff, etc. in the same binder. So now, anything that’s not digital or sent to someone goes in the binder with a date stamp. The date stamp makes it feel like there’s a continuity and record keeping without the strictness and the 12×12 size keeps it flexible enough for me to feel good about it. Nothing falls through the cracks and everything’s in one place. It feels good.
Now, you’re probably thinking to yourself, “Carolee, seriously… you wouldn’t need these tips if you’d just relax and see that you’re on a path and learning…” and you’d be absolutely right! I’d become really attached to doing it the prescribed way that all the creative teams do it. I’d seen the work of people who create these fantastic cohesive pages (Geralyn Sy is my PL idol!) and wanted the same beauty in my book. I thought this meant it would have to look just like theirs and using the same approach. I felt that if I didn’t that somehow made it invalid or me a lazy or boring person. Shifting my thoughts around it and letting myself look at it more loosely allowed me to find a way to make it work for me. Now, I can look at my layouts with a smile, seeing the memories and precious people in my life reflected in my way.
So maybe that’s my biggest tip of all: Let go of your preconceived Project Life notions. Once you do, sit with things you love and see what bubbles to the surface. Maybe your book will never look like Ali Edwards’ but that’s because you’re not her. You’re you and darn it, that’s OK. In fact, it’s awesome. Keep being you… or maybe, if you can, a unicorn.
I’d love for you to share what you’ve learned in your own Project Life journey. Please share any tips you have in the comments below on keeping the Project Life train on the rails 🙂 I’d be grateful to hear them! Have a great day!
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