It’s really no secret that I’m a little obsessed with my Project Life. I haven’t missed a week yet this year, and I’m even starting (slowly) to use the format for 2011 as well (more on that here). I love that using a weekly format has brought a documentation of my family’s lives that’s deeper than any other scrapbooking method I try. I love that family and friends see things about it on the web and ask to see it when they come over (no one’s ever really looked at my scrapbooks before this). I love that friends and family are more willing to step in front of the camera because they want to be in it. I love that Jake and Eliza make/bring me stuff to put in it. But even though it’s in-depth and awesome, one of the things I love most is how little time I spend on it.
One of Jake’s Mom’s friends was over on Sunday and I was working on it. She looked through it and said, “You’re a stay-at-home mom, right?” (I never know how to answer that question. Sort of?) She asked that because the project seems like it must take forever. But it doesn’t. Writing the weekly blog posts about it takes longer than actually doing it.
One of the best things about this project is that it can be whatever you want it to be. You can also do it however you want. What works for me is designating one nap time a week to the project. I sometimes split it into two sessions, doing the computer parts one day and the paper parts the next, but most weeks: one naptime. That’s it. My weeks run Sunday to Saturday in the book, and I usually wait until the following Monday or Tuesday to work on a weekly spread all at once. Here’s how I squeeze Project Life into a few hours each week:
The first step for me is always photo gathering. At the end of the week, I upload all of the photos from our camera that aren’t already on the computer. I also upload all of the photos from Jake’s and my phones using a USB cable. Sometimes I forget to copy over the photos from Jake’s phone before he goes to work, so I grab his Instagrams from here.
After I have all of the photos in our 2012 iPhoto library, I browse through for the keepers. I look at my little calendar widget on the computer if I forget what dates I’m supposed to be working with.
I start pulling my favorite photos from the week into a folder. I usually end up with about 30-50, more or less, by the time I’m through. This example is on the low end of the range.
Then I move the photos around. If there’s an event for the week, I group those together. I might search for common themes. Sometimes I try to lay out the photos pretty much chronologically. Sometimes I separate out a photo that has a larger story behind it for an insert. These groups are how I start to decide how to layout my pages.
I use math to figure out how to squeeze in all of the photos I want. I make little messy sketches on scratch paper (usually the white space on a grocery list). Sometimes they’re more detailed and I put the image name of each photo in the spots, sometimes they’re general with just little notes, like the one above. I think about what designs of page protectors I have available, and try to decide what layout will work best for the number of photos/ orientation of the photos.
Next I edit all of the photos. I don’t spend much time on that. I usually use Auto Color and Auto Tone on the photos to correct the color issues, and I might brighten up the Exposure a bit. Then I start making picture packages, trying to fit as many photos as I can on each piece of photo paper.
I print the photos on my HP Photosmart 7510 from home on Office Max Professional photo paper. I print off some of the photos on 4×6 paper and some of them on 8.5×11. I print and edit at the same time. While I’m printing one batch, I’ll be editing, resizing, and creating a picture package for another. I sometimes make hybrid pages, so this is the time I’ll add text or digital paper and embellishments for those.
Then it’s off to the paper part. I usually have to clear off Jake’s and my shared work desk before I start. I drag the Project Life supplies out of our pantry in our kitchen.
A side note about where I work: Jake’s and my shared office is on our first floor, in what is meant to be the living room. The living room is in what should be the dining room, and we eat in what was called the breakfast room. Because how many places do you need to be able to eat, really? Having my work/craft space in the middle of the action in our house allows me to add finishing touches for a few minutes here and there while the kids play if I need to.
I love our desk. It’s an architect’s table from my great-grandpa’s old office. The long, skinny drawer is always open while I work and holds my most used tools, so I don’t have to spend time searching for them. Above is the left side of the drawer.
That’s the right.
And page protectors are stored in the back.
To get started I grab the pocket designs that I’ll be working with, get out the book, crop the photos, and grab any memorabilia I want to fit in.
I lay out the photos according to my sketch.
Then I dig into my scrap box. I always go here before grabbing a new sheet of paper (unless I’m in a REALLY big hurry: then I use 6×6 paper pads). I try to grab the first things I think will work and don’t spend too much time looking for the perfect paper.
I start cutting paper down moving it around behind photos until I feel the page is balanced. I usually pull color schemes from my photos, but go with neutrals if there’s a lot of clashing going on. I try to make sure that I choose paper that I can write on if I need journaling. I like to try to think of the whole weekly spread as one layout, and I work to try to make the whole thing feel balanced.
I often hide weird shapes cut from my scraps behind photos. Sometimes scrap paper doesn’t seem usable, but the backs of my layouts always show some funky shape. And you’d never know if I didn’t tell you.
I also try to use up scraps as much as possible. I keep them in a little bowl for easy access. I also use them for journaling strips.
After I feel like I’ve got the paper part worked out, I start adhering and corner rounding. I have a “trash bowl” on my desk that I recycle frequently, and I punch over it so there aren’t little cut off corners everywhere.
I bring on embellishments, letter stickers, and journaling last. I love writing in the negative space in photos or using label stickers for journaling. I’m running low on labels, so I’m going to start making my own with stamps, as I did for my Florida Minibook. I really try to just grab what’s near me, make the layout feel balanced, and work to NOT OVERTHINK IT. And then it’s done.
After it’s all said and done, I go outside and photograph my layouts. Our whole yard is in shade, but I still have to photograph it on the porch to prevent glare on the glossy protectors. Because our lens is a “prime lens” with no zoom, I have to stand really far away over the album on the ground to get the whole thing in the frame. People driving by probably think I’m crazy. (That’s our film camera, in the photo, because we can’t use our real camera to take pictures of me taking pictures.) Then I’m off to upload, edit, and blog about it!
*Most of the example photos here are from Week 28, if you want to see the finished product.
What’s your Project Life process?
This week, in addition to our regularly scheduled programming, we’re bringing you a little series on getting it done. We have lives full to the brim: our days are filled with parenting, spousing, money making, blogging, cooking, reading, programming, coding, making, crafting, writing, adventuring, listening, watching, playing, laughing, living… it seems like too much to fit into 24 hours. And we’ve been asked more than a few times how we do it all. So this week, we’re going to tell you. These aren’t tips or tricks, but just us honestly spilling how we get everything that we do done (though hopefully some of this will give you all a few ideas).