Project Life Made Easier

by | Projects & Processes | 13 comments

Taking what I learned from my 2013 experience with Project Life, I began 2014 with a very strong urge to make a change. However, my starting point was more “not this way” than a clear vision of the future.

It just had to be easier. 

In this post I will share how I deliberately evolved my process and approach to Project Life this year. You’ll see the design choices I’ve been making and my progress to date with a peek into the album.

Project Life Made Easier - 2014 Album Approach

I spent January focusing on taking photos and doing a lot of thinking. It was February before I started working on my cover page, inspired by the transparent pockets I was seeing in galleries and my growing stash of beautiful filler cards.

This is a two-part cover page, with a 6×12 Design H insert followed by the front of a 12×12 Design A page. Creating these pages set the tone for the album as I began to really embrace beautiful cards in pockets with minimal embellishment.

Project Life 2014 - Cover Page

After completing the Before Your Story album I realized how much I enjoyed the look of Project Life products without a lot of additions and layering. I figured out that I could save creative energy for layouts (that have more meaning too) if I spent less time on each individual pocket!

Taking the time to really marinate on my process opened up a new opportunity to make Project Life easier and enjoy scrapbooking even more. I would focus on photos and words in the context of creating simple but eye-catching pages.

Project Life 2014 - Cover Page

After creating these title pages, I placed clear dividers in the album with the intent to come back later and add the category names. This was a mark of my album being set up and me being ready to begin.

Fast forward to this week and I wanted a little more punch to the dividers. I had picked up the Midnight edition dividers and a package of gold Thickers on clearance recently, the perfect pairing for the album.

Want more backstory on the dividers? Click here.

Project Life Made Easier - Library of Memories Category Dividers

Project Life + Library of Memories 2.0

In the interim between then and now, I figured out how I would take what was working well from last year and solve the challenges it also presented. Instead of forcing myself into a structure of pocket pages within each section, I would simplify.

I wondered, what if a monthly approach to Project Life could fit into this album structure? Yes, of course it could.

If you look at how Project Life is approached, it’s a documenting of what’s happening in life right now. This is also what the Things We Do section is all about. And using a monthly interval, I could focus on the meaningful over the minutia.

Thus for each month of 2014 I’m creating a two-page spread that highlights what’s going on in our lives. I’m taking a more traditional approach of adding some photos and memorabilia in the moment, while setting the intention to finish off each spread with more documentation and pretty supplies in one single sitting.

Click here to download month card templates.

Project Life Made Easier - January 2014

February is the only month I’ve finished so far, but I loved the process. Once I made the decision to focus on highlights of our life and having fun creatively, it came together quickly.

More importantly, having a clear chronological home for some of my favorite photos and even some of my favorite products makes it easier to keep up. I can slip a few items into pockets, even when I’m not ready to sit down and finish.

Thinking about Project Life as a design process as much as a documentation process has rekindled my excitement for it. But as I mentioned, that doesn’t mean I’m spending a lot of time on complicated embellishing.

My focus is on the photos, the words (which are often on the photos), and using products in an as-is and minimal way.

Project Life Made Easier - February 2014

Project Life Made Easier - March 2014

Project Life Made Easier - April 2014

Project Life Made Easier - May 2014 with Insert

Last year’s experience taught me that  thinking about categories was too challenging for my brain when I was focused on getting things done. So I didn’t do it. The mental space for Project Life is different than the one for layouts, but a year ago I didn’t know that.

Something about the grids and the very-specific sizing throws me head-first into my left brain, while the blank page and possibility of a layout allows my right brain to take me on a journey. I love both of these experiences, but they are distinct and difficult to do in one sitting.

This made a visual division between pockets and layouts in my album more natural. One part would be full of life right now (breadth), giving me more time and energy to find depth with my layouts.

These will be divided between the Us, People, and Places sections, making these repositories for celebration and reflection.

Project Life Made Easier - Layouts in Album

While I don’t know exactly how my album will look in the end, I’m envisioning something that feels more complete. It will continue to provide a rich thematic context for my stories with category sections, but with more clarity of intent and purpose for me.

This new-for-2014 structure for my Project Life + Library of Memories album boils down to this:

  • Cover pages
  • Things We Do – monthly Project Life spreads
  • All About Us – layouts that highlight personalities and relationships
  • People We Love – layouts that highlight connections and changes
  • Places We Go – hybrid layouts that highlight our adventures*

*As I mentioned in yesterday’s video, I don’t scrapbook about places very often and I totally understand why. Places really need the context of time to become significant. I’ll write more about this in the future, but right now I want to take a retrospective approach to this section. My plan will be to do a set of hybrid place-focused recap pages at the end of the year.

Two More Ways I’m Making Project Life Easier

You’ll notice I’m taking a more graphic approach overall, but I wanted to specifically highlight two key techniques I’m using that create a big impact with ease. In addition to a reliance on the Studio Calico Project Life kits, I’m using larger photos and I’m writing directly on them.

While it’s a little awkward to cut across a face (my own or my daughter’s), I love how I can span a photo across multiple pockets and do it at home on my 4×6 printer! It’s simply a matter of cropping a photo into the appropriate number of 4×6 images.

I simply love this and see why my friend Jess does it so often.

Project Life Made Easier - Multi-Pocket Photo Enlargement

The other thing I’m doing is journaling directly on my photos. I’m using an American Crafts Precision Pen, another one of my favorite pens for scrapbooking. It glides effortlessly across the glossy Epson paper I use and dries instantly.

It’s actually become quite addictive to write on photos, as the strokes of the pen are so much easier than on any other surface. I’m not sure why I didn’t do this sooner!

Project Life Made Easier - Example of Journaling on a Photo

In some ways I feel like I’m finally getting underway on 2014, but I’m not too worried. Scrapbooking the recent past offers the opportunity to begin seeing the context of your stories and share perspective on their meaning.

I’m excited to continue experimenting with this evolved approach to Project Life and already feel like I’ve made it easier for myself. I’m happy to answer any questions you may have in the comments!


Project Life Week continues tomorrow with my three-step recipe for simplifying and customizing Project Life and pocket page scrapbooking.

Did you find this post helpful?

We believe simple is not how your page looks, but how your scrapbooking hobby works. We have a free workshop called SPARKED and it is the best way to learn more about Simple Scrapper and start creating consistently.


  1. Ami Pilon

    Jennifer, Love this post. It is a statement of pretty much what my process has been, going from a photo a day to monthly pages with full scrapping pages added in here and there. I love the idea of placing them in their own categories. It was bothering me when I inserted a large layout and wasn’t comfortable about the back being empty. With the sectioning it will seem more a planned part of the albums and chronological in that they are a part of the yearly album. That was the piece of understanding my puzzle that I had missing. Thank you.

  2. Marina D-K

    Love love love seeing your adjusted format. This sounds like a great way to do an annual album! Thank you for sharing your amazing insight this week!

  3. Cheri Stine

    Jennifer, I just loved seeing your album format! For the first time, it made sense to me how I could combine project life and traditional layouts. I’ve been struggling with a way to continue a chronological approach while still focusing on doing “inspired scrapping” . I felt as if I was missing out on the fun of all the neat Project Life products yet my attempts to do hybrid albums was not pleasing to me. I didn’t like the feel of the “floppy” PL pages intermixed with the more solid traditional 12 x 12 layouts. You solved it! Now what I’m struggling with is this: do i go back and play catch up with January through April or start my “new and improved” way in mid-year? it feels kinda silly to be even thinking about something that in the big scheme of life doesn’t really matter, but I would appreciate your thoughts sometime. I feel as if i share a lot of your left brain/right brain tendencies to want order within the creative process. Thanks for all you do to explain and share your approach to this great hobby!

    • Jennifer Wilson

      I suggest choosing eight 4×6 photos to represent each month. Then add eight journaling cards, with some of them being related filler cards, to each spread. Keep it super simple.

  4. Susan Reid

    I wanted to try pocket pages in 2014 for grandchildren albums to reduce the bulk. Based on an earlier article you had written, I had decided mine would be organized with monthly pages in one section, a section on sports, and one on school, to start with at least. I have the supplies but haven’t started. I get confused by choices of pocket pages, the direction and sizes of the pockets, give up and put it away. Your articles have been extremely helpful. I think I may be ready to try again.

    • Jennifer Wilson

      One way to make the selection process easier is to use only 4×6 photos and only 3×4 journaling cards. The end result is still just as attractive!

  5. Patty Provot

    WOW! Do I love the changes you have made to your Poject Life approach! This makes it happen for me. I see the story and love the look. I have not wanted to go this route because I cannot turn off the need to make things pretty. I was interpreting Project Life as “just get it done” and that is not my philosophy about scrapbooking. I do not have any issues with “keep it simple”, but I still need to add that creative spirit that make my pages uniquely mine (even wnen I steal…oops, borrow, a layout idea). I see Jennifer in your Project Life pages now.

    • Jennifer Wilson

      Thanks so much Patty. I hope you’re inspired to find YOU in yours too!

  6. Jess

    Dude – Thanks for the shout out 🙂

    I am finally catching up on my blog reading after a week of prepping our house to sell. I am so loving your series. So cool to see how your process has evolved. And I love your midnight dividers and gold thickers….AMAZING!

    PS – when did Emily Jane grow up? She looks like such a big girl in her white skirt!

    • Jennifer Wilson

      I know, it’s crazy!

  7. Nancy

    Stacy Julian has definitely rubbed off on you! Love that woman’s approach to scrapbooking!

  8. Elmi

    Loved this article, it’s exactly what I needed to read after getting stuck with my own PL Album & the full layouts conundrum 😊

    one small (big?) problem: I’m 8 years late to the party, and none of the images are currently showing (ie. loading) on the page. Could you please fix that? Thanks a bunch!

    • Jennifer Wilson

      Thanks for the heads up. I’ll see what we can do.


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