Project Life (or How I Scrapbook My Real Life)

I have been an avid scrapbooker for years.

In fact, I still have my original high school photo albums. You know which ones I mean. The magnetic kind with the fading 70's Kodak Instamatic photos with the captions typed out on a real typewriter. The ones we later found out are the very worst thing you can do to photographs because of the high acid content but were too conflicted to actually dismantle because how cute is it to still have something created by your teenage self?

Exhibit A:

Photo Album from 1971

When I started blogging five and a half years ago, it was primarily a vehicle for telling my stories and sharing my photos. An online scrapbook, if you will. Sometimes those captured stories made it into my physical scrapbooks, but many didn't. Yet it's still an efficient way for me to document my family's life and adventures.

As my blogging evolved, I realized that I still wanted some of those stories documented the old-fashioned way, in a physical album that can sit on my coffee table. But I had now moved on to doing everything digitally. While I'm a huge fan of all things digital, I found it a little pathetic to have to pull out a computer to share my photos. I know we all do it, but frankly, I thought it was a little lame. Especially considering all the cool home printing technology that exists in 2012.

Not all, but many, of our photos should be printed and the stories behind them told. And I don't think those stories are all necessarily best shared on this blog or on Facebook, yet I still wanted to document our lives. Not for mass-consumption, but just for us. What to do?

Last year I started something called Project Life which is the brainchild of the lovely and talented Becky Higgins. She created a system of page protectors, title and journaling cards in the yummiest colors. The project design was so easy and flexible and customizable that I managed to capture our entire year in a week-by-week format almost effortlessly.

The album size is 12 x 12. The 4 x 6 slots are perfect for the printed photos and the pre-printed title cards. The 2.75 x 3.75 filler cards are ideal to make quick notes about the photos or for printing the vertical iPhone photos or for adding receipts and other ephemera.

Project Life 2011

For years I have taken photos every day either with my big, digital Olympus camera or more recently with my iPhone. And because Project Life is so idiot-proof, I have a finished album from 2011 that pretty much captures everything we did last year. A FINISHED ALBUM, people. I know. Shut up.

Each week got it's own two-page spread. The week that I got my iPhone 4 last year happened to be the same week that Jonathan attended his first formal dance. I love this project because it puts the events of my life into a real timeline perspective. And I don't feel like I'm missing anything.

Project Life 2011 dance

Some singular events got a few pages of their own. This was from when the boys went on their Hawk Walk Adventure which I blogged about, so the journaling is just the printed blog post. (I also burned those videos to a dvd which is also contained in the book. Genius, right?)

Project Life 2011 Hawk Walk

The different sized page protectors are fun to insert when I want to add more photos or tell more of the story. I love this photo of my boys and it makes a nice "surprise" on the back of the journaling.

Project Life 2011 Hawk Walk part 2

The rule book has gone out the window when you scrapbook in this format. And I love it.

I was so thrilled with the project that I couldnt wait for 2012 to get started on Project Life 2012. (These title pages were a direct scrap-lift from Design Genius, Cathy Zielski.)

Project Life Title Page

Project Life 2nd Title Page

The coolest thing for me is that I've managed to keep up with it week after week. *takes bow*

(We're now on Week 12 of 2012 in case anyone was interested, but that's not important right now.) This year I'm doing a hybrid version. My journaling and title cards are created using Photoshop CS5.

Project Life 2012 week one

I'm pretty fearless about adding extra pages when I want to include more photos or tell more of the stories.

Project Life 2012 week one 2

I'm using the Clementine Edition Full Collection available through Jessica Sprague.

I make it a point to make notes all week using the Day One app for iPhone (again, thanks to Cathy Z. for the tip), which is like a mini-diary.

Project Life 2012 week 2

I sort my photos in Smart Albums (using iPhoto) by week, and I then decide which photos to print. Sometimes I take photos of text messages or engaging Facebook exchanges as documentation.

Project Life 2012 week 3

Because of Project Life I've become much more intentional about the photos I take. I remember to document my real life for my own pleasure and posterity.

Instead of creating an entire scrapbook for my document-worthy trip to Nashville, I'm just adding multiple pages and adding the ephemera into the pockets. This is the only thing I'm "behind" on. But I'm completely un-stressed about it and really enjoying the picking and choosing of the photos and telling the stories I want to.

In my extraordinarily ordinary life there are shopping trips and regular pedicures. There is laundry and lots of dirty dishes. I read the news on my iPad with my morning coffee and I interact with friends via my smart phone and on Facebook or Twitter. My mom visits every few weeks and I put regular meals on the table.

Project Life 2012 Week 6

Even on Facebook, the status updates eventually get lost. The photo albums buried. The "why" of what's happening in my life regularly gets trumped by the "what."

I "do lunch" with friends and we often go see live shows. I'm in the throes of decorating my newly painted kitchen. My husband and I occasionally manage to get away. Our kids do things that make us proud.

Project Life 2012 week 6 part 2

I collect quotes that inspire me and I go on a big grocery shopping trip to Costco every two weeks. In between the "big stuff," like birthdays and holidays, my real life goes on day by day. Week by week.

My real life is full of the rich and complex and crazy and happy and sometimes even sad and overwhelming events that make up, well.....a real life.

Project Life 2012 week 6 detail

Project Life has made me pay attention to the beauty in my everyday moments.

I found this very inspiring quote a while back on Gretchen Rubin's The Happiness Project blog. (Yes, I included it in my scrapbook!)

It reads like this:

"The days are long, but the years are short."

Having lost a lot of my childhood when we left Cuba, I'm extremely passionate about documenting my life now. It's why I blog. It's why I am so serious about this project.

I encourage you to jump in to Project Life at any time. No, this isn't a paid endorsement.

It's just a really good idea.


Project Life, created by Becky Higgins, is a flexible, easy-to-use, highly customizable way to save your memories in a fun, stress-free way. Learn more about getting started with Project Life by clicking here.