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Project Life: Six Months In

Project Life is a memory keeping system developed by Becky Higgins.  Using divided page protectors you are encouraged to capture the mundane bits and pieces of life day-by-day.

To read my previous posts on Project Life, please visit these links:

I'm just shy of six months into the monumental task of recording daily life week-by-week.  

And I thought I'd share some thoughts on the process.

I love this project.

I don't always love the doing.  I'll be the first to admit that there are times when it feels like a pain in the butt and just another thing on the "to do" list.  But I cannot tell you how much joy I get looking back at the weeks gone by.  And along those lines I have a confession to make: While I'm not one of those people who makes people look at the stuff I make, I have been pushing my Project Life album on everyone who expresses even the teeny tiniest bit of interest.  

Project Life is scrapbooking in its most essential form.

At its heart, I believe that scrapbooking is about telling stories with photos and words.  All the artistry and all the pretty embellishments and all the design principles and all that stuff -- well, that's just the icing on the cake.  I can get my artistic fix in a number of different mediums.  It's the storytelling that keeps me coming back to scrapbooking.  And Project Life creates a way in which my memories don't have to be pretty.  My Project Life binder is a home for programs, greeting cards, business cards, menus, labels, ticket stubs -- all the things I want to keep but don't know how to make into "art."  Plus my life is full of ugly photos.  You know, the photos are a bit blurry or the background is a mess or it's a photo of food or whatever the issue is that is making it hard to scrapbook.  But I want to remember those moments and Project Life helps me do that.

Project Life is what you make it.

I've heard a number of people say their lives are boring and there's no way they'd have enough to fill a two-page spread each week.  To those people I say: you are wrong.  All of our lives seem boring because they're our lives.  My life is super boring.  But I choose to celebrate it anyway.  

I remember reading a study on happiness.  A random selection of people was divided into two groups: a control group who did nothing differently and a gratitude group.  The gratitude group was instructed that every single day they were to write down five things they were grateful for.  At the end of a month the gratitude group was significantly happier than the control group even though they had started at the same level of happiness.  Why?  Because focusing on the good things in your life makes you feel happier.  And I have to assume that the converse is true as well: dwelling on the negatives only makes you feel sadder.

So, I choose to find the things in my boring life that I'm grateful for, that excite me, that make me laugh, and that express who I am.  Those are the bits of my life captured in my Project Life album.  I do still tell some of the negative stories -- but I lock them up in an envelope.  Or I choose to take a positive spin on them such as "here's what happened" and "here's what I learned from it."

Don't ever let yourself get behind.

Getting behind almost killed this project for me.  I went out of town for two weeks and somehow ended up needing to catch up with three or four weeks and I just didn't want to do it.  Did. Not. Want. To. Do. Any of it.  I thought about just skipping the weeks -- a totally valid choice -- but in the end, the perfectionist in me just had to get it done.  It was awful.  I mean I'm not likening it to walking over glass or anything like that, but it was definitely forced arting.  And since I usually art for the joy of arting, it was hard.  I have vowed to never let myself get behind again.  I now see that I should have brought some journaling cards with me or picked photos and mapped out the layouts, instead of waiting to get home to do all that.

This project requires a major commitment.

I sort of laugh out loud when people say that Project Life is a quicker way to scrapbook.  I suppose in some ways it is.  I can tell fourteen different stories or maybe even more than that in a single Project Life spread.  And while it takes a few hours, that's less time than it would take for me to put together fourteen layouts.  That said, it still takes quite a while to choose photos, edit photos, print photos, and then create each mini collage for the page protectors.  And it's relentless.  Just when you've finished one week, the next week is upon you.  I think it's worth it, but I don't downplay the commitment when people ask me about whether or not they should take up the project.  It's definitely several hours of time each and every week.

I see the wisdom of having a system.

When I first started this project I couldn't imagine why anyone would plan out their spreads.  It seemed like a lot of extra work.  However, when I was in crisis from being away and needing to catch up, planning simplified everything and made it so much easier to get done.  Now I think I have it down to a science.  I sketch whatever the page protector formation looks like for this week (I like to switch up the configurations.  I don't stick to any one style.) and then I go through my photos on the computer and indicate on the sketch what photo will go where.  This helps a lot when I'm trying to decide what size to print the photos at.  I also include the dates on my sketch because when I put together each card it makes it easier for me to date everything because my mind is a sieve and I can never remember.

My stash is getting used!

I find all sorts of adorable embellishments, fun stamps, and cute patterned paper making its way into the pockets of my album.  This is stuff that I've been stockpiling and am finally using!  I mean I have used more stickers in the last month than I have in the last 3 years.  It's amazing and awesome.

This project also consumes an amazing amount of photo paper and adhesive.  And I can't print journaling cards fast enough to keep up with my own demand.  But isn't that kind of wonderful? 

Yes, this project can be creative.

Despite the fact that we're all starting with the same page protectors, I do believe that there's a lot of opportunity for creativity and personalization.  I have enjoyed stamping, stenciling, and layering together each card for each pocket.  And I think they reflect my personal style.  I've also taken great joy in designing my own Project Life cards.  And that's the point.  Whatever your style, you can absolutely make Project Life work for you!

It's okay to take it easy.  

Some weeks are going to be full of photos and journaling and embellishments and all sorts of stuff.  Other weeks it's as much as I can do to simply print the photos and slip them into the page protectors.  Recently my Mom took a spin through my Project Life album and I cringed when she got to the weeks where I had gone super simple and not even added any journaling to the photos.  When she was done, I asked her about those weeks and she told me that she couldn't distinguish between them and the others.  To her, the storytelling was still there.  This convinced me that there is no "harm" in taking it easy some weeks.  Hooray!

My Favorite Project Life Supplies:

If you have any questions about how I do Project Life I'd love to hear them!  And if you have some great tips on how you're conquering Project Life, please leave those in the comments section too!

Thanks for stopping by!