Since January, I've been capturing our world through photos + words using Project Life.
I love it.
When I posted the above photo on Instagram last week, a friend commented that she was so behind in documenting her family photos. And I wrote back, "Just start now." I wrote this because I have been in that place of waiting. How can I start printing out photos from this week if I still have so many of Ellie's baby photos trapped in the computer? But if I waited, I would never hold these photos in my hand. So finally, I just dove in.
My friend's words prompted me to write this post because I really want to share why Project Life is working for me.
The big reason: There aren't any rules.
(If you are new to Project Life and don't really know what I'm talking about, head over here to Becky Higgins' site and watch this short video and then come back. I'll still be here.)
As I play with paper + photos + a few stamps + ink, I am letting go of ALL the rules that people might make up for themselves with Project Life. Here's what I mean:
a glimpse at my studio table in action
I didn't feel like I got into my groove with Project Life until late summer. Up until then, I was mostly using products from the original Amber Project Life kit I had purchased in early 2011, but I wasn't loving it. I like this kit, but I wanted more variety and simpler, plainer options. And as I started using Instagram more, a lot of the photos I wanted to use were square, but I didn't have a way to print them.
And then deeply inspired by the approaches both Ali and Elise use, I drilled down to a very simple look and added a few more pieces to my toolbox:
I bought the Clementine core kit when it became available because those colors are more me. (And I can't wait for the new Seafoam kit!)
I bought the grid cards in both sizes + the plain white cards. They are simple and easy to use and don't distract from the photos.
I started using Postal Pix to print 4x4 Instagram photos (then using these two types of 4x4 pocket protectors).
I started using stamps from Elise and Pam Garrison (these are the stamps you see throughout my layouts) and they are giving me a more unified look that I like. They are also great prompts for me (and you know I love prompts). Honestly, I am kind of obsessed with their stamps. Check them out if you journal, art journal, or use Smash books. Awesome women. Awesome products.
I started using mostly blue and black ink for stamps, my writing, and letter stickers to keep the look more consistent.
I moved everything into two black binders because I like how they look on the bookshelf.
I started using my typewriter because it just makes me happy.
And I let go of needing any kind of perfection. For example:
- I don't worry about how many days are in a week. Sometimes a layout is from Monday - Sunday, sometimes it is Sunday to Sunday. The me of one year from now and five years from now does not care about how many days are represented in a layout. I go with how many pictures I have and the stories I want to tell.
- I don't love my handwriting, but I love reading my mom's writing, my grandmother's writing, so I am writing a lot because it is easy. I struggle with using digital elements and even though I love how they look so clean, the learning curve to figure it out is too much for me. When I want to include longer stories that are right from my blog, I'll just put them into a Word document at the right size and print on cardstock and trim to fit.
- I don't try to tell a story from each day. If I do, that's great. But this never crosses my mind.
- I tell the stories I want to tell. Sometimes there isn't a photo that goes with the story. I write it out anyway.
- If I'm stuck for a story, I look to Facebook posts and Tweets and Instagram and my blog.
- When I get behind, I sometimes just lump weeks together into one or several layouts without worrying about what order the photos are in and just put a general date at the beginning of that section of layouts. Crazy! I know! Here is what I mean: When we visited my mom and Steve in April, we were gone for three weeks and had quite a few photos from our adventures that I wanted to include. And I found myself about five weeks behind in Project Life. I didn't want to get into the details of what day we did what and instead just wanted to get those photos off of my computer and into the album. I just put one general date card for the entire month of April and put the photos in where they made sense. It was easy and totally okay with me.
- I don't let holes in the layout stop me from moving forward. There are a few blank spots where things are missing but I've just put notes in so I can back at some point.
- Sometimes it is all about me. There are a lot of photos of Ellie in this album, and a lot of photos of Ellie and Jon because I am usually behind the camera. I'm totally okay with this. But I'm including myself too. The week covering the Unearth Retreat is all about me. This will probably happen again as I continue using Project Life. And when looking at the big picture, it makes sense because I am the one putting the album together and thinking "in stories."
- I let Ellie help me. She loves looking through Project Life.* And she often wants to "help" when we are in my studio. Helping might mean she sits on my lap and helps me stamp journal cards. Sometime it means I give her a blank white card and she draws on it (or decorates it with stickers) and I stamp it with the date and add it in.
- I share the real stuff. This might mean a raw self-portrait or a photo of our kitchen in all its messy glory. This might mean I tuck some writing behind a photo to be found later. I want this album to capture what is real. It isn't gritty by any means and there are a lot of happy photos of Ellie, but I want to share the tough stuff too.
Other things that work for me:
- I have several baskets on my studio table that hold my Project Life journal cards and the other elements I use. Having them out in the open and ready to use helps me to just get the stories onto paper.
- When I have less than 10 photos to print at a time, I'm using my Cannon Selphy. More than 10 though, I'm uploading them to Walgreens and Jon picks them up on his way home from work.
*This piece of Ellie loving to look through Project Life, this is what keeps me going with this project. She likes to look through it over and over again telling me the stories she sees in the pages. She points out the things that she used when she was "Baby Ellie" and names her Grandparents and her Uncle Matt and Kelly and talks about the time we played with the blue ball with her aunt and uncle in Wisconsin. It is awesome.
And I do this because I remember when I was a little one and how I used to look through the albums my mom had filled with photos from days when I was "Baby Elizabeth" and then suddenly "Big Sister Elizabeth" and I know that I will look through these albums in that same way and gather the stories to me again.