Reflecting on 2013 with Project Life

Almost one year ago, I decided to start documenting my life through a collage of photos and written cards. Since moving to NYC, I've met so many incredible people and experienced so many amazing things. It's sad to think about, but I know I probably won't be living here forever (or experiencing life in this way), so I wanted to have some way of remembering this period of time by. 

Since I'm kind of a sentimental person anyway and am heartbroken to have to throw anything away, I'd tried old-fashioned scrapbooking once or twice before. It always ends up the same: me, staring at huge sheets of pretty patterned paper that I'd carefully spent 30 minutes picking out, and having absolutely no idea where to begin. 

Back in March of last year, I stumbled upon this thing called Project Life, an incredibly simple method of scrapbooking. I was intrigued and immediately ordered what I would need to get started: A binder, a box of pre-designed journaling cards, and pack of sheet protectors. The idea is simple: slap a photo or write some text onto each journaling card, and slip it into the pockets of the sheet protector. Make one spread per week highlighting the things that had happened. Done. 

Now, 11 months later, I'm proud to say that I've successfully kept up, creating one spread per week.The system works! I am no longer a scrap-booking failure! I'm so happy to know that I might be able to look back on all of this 20 or 30 or 40 years later and have so many good memories of life as it is now.

Below is the set of journaling cards I have, and the sheet protectors that fit them. Note that there are two different card sizes; each spread will fit eight 4" x 6" cards and eight 3" x 4" cards. These particular cards are from the Midnight Edition -- one of the many styles/themes you can choose from. 

A couple of thoughts on why I love Project Life: 

Saving Crap. I used to keep all of my little sentimental scraps of papers (concert stubs, little notes from Rob, cards from friends, etc.) in a bag in the back of my closet. Now Project Life lets me organize all of this stuff in a visually beautiful way that's easy to showcase. 

Personal Photos. After I got into the business of wedding photography, almost all of my photos were of other people. I had little incentive to take personal photos anymore. Project Life totally changed that. I take tons more photos now -- of myself, loved ones, and interesting things I see -- even if it's just with my smartphone camera. I've found new style and life in my photography by consistently taking more personal, "just-because" photos.

Printing Photos. Before Project Life, I rarely ever printed my own photos. Now, I send a batch of 30 - 50 photos every month to the printers. I can't tell you how rewarding it is to see physical, tangible prints of your own personal photo. I imagine these prints will only become more precious as time goes on.

Therapeutic. This might sound weird, but working on Project Life every week is incredibly therapeutic for me. It gives me an opportunity to reflect on the past week by looking through photos taken from that week, and writing out some thoughts/memories. It's also just really fun and totally non-tedious, and a great way to relax while still doing something somewhat productive.

As 2013 was coming to a close, I took some time to look back on the year and photographed some of my favorite spreads. I've mixed and matched some shots of half-spreads (square) and full-spreads (rectangular). This half-spread below is one of the first spreads that I was very happy with, aesthetically (yes, it took a whole 6 months of trial and error before I achieved a style/look that I was consistently happy with ;).

Another thing that prompted me to begin Project Life was my 1.5 week to Taiwan to visit extended family, last May. I knew from past experience that I'd come home with a million little scraps of paper as souvenirs of my trip, and this time I wanted something a little nicer than just a plastic bag to keep it all in. The trip, as expected, was magnificent and glorious, and I can only hope that my Project Life spreads will do some justice in remembering the amazing things I saw and experienced. 

Project Life was also great for documenting the many other short trips I took later in the year: Our Labor Day Weekend getaway to Hudson Valley, my "girl's getaway weekend" to Bear Mountain, our trip to Seattle to see my brother's graduation, and more recently, my trip to Lake Tahoe for a work conference. 

I like writing up my thoughts after finishing a book, so I usually create a 4" x 6" card for each book I read. I also take photos and write up recipes that Rob and I have cooked and enjoyed (most of which are from Quinciple :). Postcards also fit perfectly in the 4" x 6" pockets, so I'm always on the hunt for those now, whether it's a souvenir from a trip with cool artwork, or the ones they give out at restaurants, with your bill. 

Sometimes, I do think of Project Life as my a tangible (and private) version of my Instagram or Facebook feed. I like recording cool restaurants that we'd tried for the first time, as well as receipts (I figure it might be interesting to see how much a meal cost when I'm looking back on this 20 years from now :). I also print out client photos to document shoots that I've done -- I'd be lying if I said that my client photos aren't super personal to me!


Our awesome "staycation" during Thanksgiving break.

The winter season: our wedding anniversary -- which we almost forgot about, and Christmas parties!

And finally, moving into the Christmas season, which included: my birthday, and my trip back home to see family in the Pacific Northwest. I love saving all of the cards and nice notes that people have sent me (birthday or not) -- if you've given me something, rest assured that I very lovingly saved it in my Project Life!

And that was 2013. Thank you, Project Life, for helping me remember all of the amazing things that has happened this year. If you're thinking about starting Project Life, I'd be happy to answer any questions you might have about it -- just leave it in the comments below.