Project Life Tuesday: 20 FAQs

by jessicaturner on February 4, 2014

The Mom Creative
Welcome to Project Life Tuesday 2014! If you are new to The Mom Creative, welcome. I hope you will stay awhile. I’m Jessica – wife to Matthew, mom to Elias, a silly and spirited five-year-old, and Adeline, a spunky two-year-old. I’m also a marketing professional, savvy deal finder, photo lover and memory keeper trying to juggle it all.

Each Tuesday, I typically share my most recent spread as well as host a linky for readers to link up their pictures/layouts. This week, instead of showing a bunch of layouts, I am answering YOUR Project Life questions. These questions were submitted here on the blog, on Facebook and via email. This post is LONG, but hopefully it helps give you a bit more perspective about my favorite form of memory keeping and how I approach it. I did a post like this at the beginning of last year, so some of it may sound familiar. :)

What exactly is Project Life?
This video does a great job of explaining Project Life.

How much does Project Life cost?

Let’s break it down:

  • core kit: $29.99
  • Big pack of page protectors $29.99
  • Journaling pens: $5.99 (you’ll need at least two to get you through the year)
  • Photos – 365 4×6 prints: $70 (This could vary greatly if you print at home, take advantage of printing deals, incorporate larger prints in your album, etc.)
  • Album- $19.99 (though these always go 50% off at local scrapbook stores)

Total cost: $155.96, or $2.99 per week – Now this is the bare minimum, of course. You will incur additional costs for buying a variety of page protectors for your stash, adding additional embellishments (unless you have them already), etc. You can certainly save some money if you buy the digital kit and then print your own cards, but honestly, the time and ink of doing that makes it seem like it would be a wash, in my opinion. You can also find many Project Life products at craft stores like Michaels and Hobby Lobby and use coupons to save 40%-50% per component, making it more like $125.

Personally, I think $125-$156 for something that is going to be passed down to generations AND IS FUN is totally worth it. Scrapbooking has never been a super cheap hobby ($1 for a single piece of cardstock?! $5.99 for thickers?!), but it is one that has changed my perspective on how I view the world, and for that I am so thankful.

One reader cited that to do Project Life digitally and then print the book, it cost her $135. So, I would say it is pretty equal, especially when you figure that you can get print deals + albums at Michaels for around $10. (For another break down of the digital cost of Project Life, check out Sheri’s post.)

What kit are you using this year?

This is the first year I am making the conscious decision to not use just one kit. In 2013 I started the year using Seafoam, then switched to Jade, then really found myself mixing kits by the end of the year. I used the Honey kit for my date cards for my 2014 album and plan to use a mix of cards throughout the year.

I have bought several partial kits from this Project Life Shop & Swap Facebook group. This is a great and cost effective way to get a small portion of a kit.

Do you have a station set up so you can leave it all out?

I am so thankful that in our home, I have a craft room where I am able to leave everything out. That said, it is over our garage so it has been FREEZING in there  this winter (even with a space heater), so I have been working more at our dining room table this winter.

How do you organize your Project Life cards?

I use these plastic dividers that are meant for the Raskog cart from Ikea. I like being able to easily flip through my cards and the divider keeps them nice and neat. (I don’t like leaving the cards in the boxes that they come in because they are not easy to flip through.)

Becky Higgins is also releasing a Project Life storage tote this year, with a cover, which looks like it will hold many more cards than the Ikea holder.

When you do a mass print when you are behind how do you print the different sizes, do you plan the layouts of each one you are behind on and then print?

Yes, I plan out the layouts and then print multiple weeks at one time. It is so gratifying to get those photos in the album that I insert all of them at one time, and then go back and do the journaling.

I plan my layouts by making very simple sketches of my layouts, the page protectors I am going to use, etc

Do you edit all your photos?

If you mean color correct, etc. no, not usually. I just don’t have the time. If you mean edit to format for my album (ie: crop to 3×4, 6×12, etc.) then yes. I use Photoshop Elements for all my editing.

What is the best way to organize the pictures that you want to print from a week?

This is what works for me. In addition to saving my photos in a folder for the year, I have a folder on my drive labeled Project Life.

In it, there are folders for each year (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014)

In each year there is a folder for each week. (ie: Week 1: January 1-5; Week 2: Jan. 6-12. I include week labels in front of the date so that they line up chronologically)

In each week I copy all the photos I want to use.

I then create a print folder and a used folder.

Photos that I am going to use as is in 6×4 or 4×6 size, I place in the print folder immediately. Edited photos (ie: pages that are two 3×4 photos on a 6×4 template) also go in the print folder.

The original photos go in the used folder.

When I have completed this, I then upload everything in the print folder to my photo developer.


Is it better to print from home or via another source?

Man, this is a tough question. 2012 was the first year I had a photo printer at home. I used it to print the majority of my photos for Project Life. Without question, I don’t think I would have stayed on top of my album as much as I did, nor would I have had the diversity of photo sizes in my album. (2012 was my fourth year doing Project Life and it was the FIRST TIME I completed my album. I am confident this would not have happened had I not had a photo printer.)

That said, it is more expensive to print from home. In 2013, I decided to use my printer only to print odd-sized photos and printed all 4x6s at Walgreens. This helped me save money on printer ink and also saved time because I would often print several weeks worth of photos at once.

So you have to figure out if the additional cost is worth it. Cost is going to vary based on your printer and the kind of ink it requires.

How long does a layout takes you and how you tackle —if you break it into steps or do it in one chunk?

I would say a layout – from selecting photos all the way to my finished spread takes me 3 hours. Most weeks, I break it into two chunks. The first chunk is for planning my layout, selecting photos, uploading, printing, etc. The second chunk is when I actually do the layout, the journaling cards, embellishments, etc.

What extras do you include in your Project Life album?

I love to include tickets from events, my kids’ artwork and special cards. For a list of 100 extras you can add to your Project Life album download this free printable list I created last year. It will surely spark your creativity.

Does an entire year fit in one album?

Each D-ring album will hold about 50-60 page protectors. Because my weekly spreads often included multiple page protectors, I break my year into three albums (January -April, May – August, September – December).

What page protectors do you use most frequently?

Design A and Design F are my favorite 12×12 pages.

I also love the 6 x 12 Page Protectors and the Design J.

Is there hope for me if I get behind in the whole process? Any way to be organized enough not to get behind?

Yes, there is hope if you get behind. My keys to success:

  • Staying on top of my photos. Download them to your computer. Organize them by week. The biggest time suck for me is that part, so if you can at least do that, catching up isn’t so hard.
  • Take notes of your weeks – during or after the week has happened. I find that when I am behind, it so helpful to go back to a little journal I keep just for Project Life to see notes I wrote from the week. The notes are very simple – “Safety week at school. Adeline diagnosed with RSV” etc. These little memory jogs make for a more personal, engaging album.
  • If possible, block out a large chunk of time to catch up. I got to be several months behind and was able to catch up because I blocked out several 2-3 hour sessions where I could work on my album.
  • Participate in my weekly Project Life Tuesday link-up. The accountability of that weekly link-up has been a huge motivation for me to stay on track.

Would love to know what you do with vacations, birthdays, etc.? Do you just do a few pics and make a separate album (PL?) (photobooks?) or do you just add tons of Inserts ?

I do both. I add my favorite photos to my Project Life album and I also make a photo book. (I typically make photo books for vacations and the kids birthdays.)

Here are my Project Life pages from our vacation to Hilton Head and here is the photo book I made from the same trip (using the Clementine Project Life kit on Shutterfly).

Do you have any tips/tricks/suggestions for adding retroactive PL into the mix. This is my 2nd year, but I’d love to attempt going backwards to at least 2006!

In my experience, I think it is better to put aside your current album for a week or two and focus on another year during those weeks. I did this with my college album one weekend last year. I took apart four “sticky” albums and put all the photos into on Project Life album. It was so gratifying and easy. You can see the album here. (I’ll admit, I have yet to do the journaling. Maybe I should take my own advice, huh?)

Do you have any digital tips for Project Life?

I have never done a digital Project Life album, so can’t be much help there. I recommend Jessica Sprague’s website for digital tips.

Can Project Life replace a baby book?

I see my Project Life family album as something totally separate from a baby book. With the way I do it, I could not see one replacing the other (though when we only had Elias, there were A LOT of weeks that were just cute pictures of him. The way I do Project Life (and the most common approach, I think) is to document our family’s week, every week. Photos range from piles of laundry to the kids in the sandbox.

A baby album is really the place for recording all those sweet milestones and special firsts. I like the idea of that being stand-alone. (I still have plans to complete Adeline’s first year album using a Project Life Baby Kit and will be sure to share it here on the blog!)

What kind of camera/gear do you use?

We are fortunate to have two SLRS – a Canon 40D and a Canon EOS Rebel T3i .

The lenses we use most often are a Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 and a Canon EF-S 10-22mm .

We also take a lot of photos with our iPhones.

Why Project Life over traditional scrapbooking?

I was a traditional scrapbooker for years. I love the process of starting with a bunch of products and creating a beautiful layout + telling a story. That said, I always felt behind. I never felt like enough of my photos got into albums. I would spend 2 hours often on only documenting a few photos or one event.

Project Life enables me to document many more stories, get many my photos in albums and share a more complete picture of our family’s life. The kits are beautiful and versatile and the system really works for my busy life.

I truly believe that Project Life has changed my memory keeping life.

WHEW! Kudos to you if you made it through that post. :)

What additional questions do you have? And if you have Project Life pages to share, please link up below!

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Cerise February 4, 2014 at 12:11 pm

What an awesome post! Really REALLY need that storage unit from Becky Higgins when it comes out.
I am living proof that it’s okay if you fall behind. I just posted my weeks 8 and 9 from last year…I’m more caught up than that, but seriously not concerned about it not getting done and I’m already WAY ahead compared to when I was working 2012!


Jackie February 4, 2014 at 1:35 pm

Great post, very, very helpful–thank you!! Was wondering if you wouldn’t mind doing a step by step video on how you organize your photos that you print? You answered it very well but I would love a video. :)


jessicaturner February 4, 2014 at 1:43 pm

I’ll add this to a list of possible future posts, but I can’t promise I will. Video tutorials like that really aren’t my sweet spot. 😉


MamaBear February 4, 2014 at 1:43 pm

While I prefer digital versions of photobooks, I still enjoy reading your project life posts and get tips about memory keeping in general. I keep a daily journal (in a planner from Target so nothing fancy) with daily activities, thoughts, and funny things the kids did that I plan to put into a book alongside a collection of phone photos from that month. Blogging has taken a backseat this past couple of years while I keep busy with the professional side of bookmaking so this is my way of keeping up with personal memory keeping without a ton of thought when it comes to putting a book together. One added bonus is I feel safer writing about things that I wouldn’t normally blog about (locations, names of schools etc) so those elements are lost in the name of internet safety.

Thank you for all you do to encourage memory keeping! As you know it’s a passion of mine too :)


Jessica February 4, 2014 at 3:45 pm

Using project life as a baby book is a great way to capture baby’s first year. I used the digital version of project life but I have a beautiful baby book that captured all of my son’s first year. I love it. It is definitely a separate album from the family album but it was an easy way to capture all of the memories.


Katie February 4, 2014 at 8:49 pm

Wow Jessica, that is a great FAQ! I can tell you put a lot of thought into making it a resource for anyone considering PL. Also, so glad to see your linky back up. Looking forward to seeing your pages this year.


Amanda Goodwin February 5, 2014 at 2:24 pm

Jessica, great post! I pinned it!

Also, that FB group says it’s by invite only. Do you mind inviting me? I sent you a FB friend request in case you need to be friends to add me. I can’t wait – this is a great idea, I ALWAYS have extras I would love to give to someone who can use :)


Lisa Wilkinson February 5, 2014 at 9:20 pm

I just hopped to every blog linked up! wow! what an inspiring couple of hours! I wanted to say that I love your questions and answers and want to do that soon, too! Thank you for the link up and inspiration! hugs, Lisa


jessicaturner February 6, 2014 at 10:13 am

So glad you were inspired.


Patty February 6, 2014 at 6:53 pm

I have been doing lot research on Project Life have yet to take the plunge. Would you have any suggestions on how to use Project Life for backlogs of photos namely 50 plus years?
Thank you for all you share on your blog.


jessicaturner February 7, 2014 at 5:59 am

My only advice would be that you have to start somewhere. Don’t think of it as 50 years worth of photos. Start with a stack or a box of a few years at a time. Buy some page protectors and just start putting photos in. Then add your journaling cards after your photos are in. It will go faster than you think!


Patty February 7, 2014 at 6:13 am

Thank you for your reply. Would you have a suggestion as to what kit would work well with older photos?


jessicaturner February 11, 2014 at 5:19 am

Yes, the heritage kit.


Cody Doll February 12, 2014 at 10:35 am

This is what I need. All the questions that I have been thinking answered. Maybe one day when I have the money I will be able to start.


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