Pocket Scrapbooking with Project Life

Cultivate a good life and record it.



project life can save the world.

Stating that Project Life can save the world … maybe that’s a little dramatic. But humor me for just a moment.

There was an article in the New York Times that was published about a month ago. One of our readers/customers brought it to our attention, and for that I am very grateful. It’s called The Stories That Bind Us. I invite you to read it. Really.

I’m not going to pull a bunch of quotes, review the article, or repeat what the author shared. That’s why you need to read it. But I can’t help but feel a strong sense of community among those of us who have this love for documenting life. There’s just something about it, know what I mean? But have you taken the time to really think about WHY it means so much to you and your family?

Many of you have. Many of you have identified exactly what it means to your family – and specifically what Project Life means to you, because of the back-to-basics approach of putting pictures and stories together in a simple, do-able format. We receive testimonials every day from Project Lifers. Some are traditional families living traditional lives. Some are empty-nesters and others are single adults. We even hear from teenagers once in a while! We also hear from cancer survivors. We hear from those who are helping someone with a terminal illness record their life, using Project Life. We hear from those who have struggled in various ways, and they have found that recording the little moments of their life reminds them of how blessed they are.

In context of this New York Times article, I also had a very interesting experience over the weekend. If you follow my picture-sharing on instagram, facebook, or twitter, you may have noticed that we received our 2012 Higgins Family Yearbooks, which I create using the Project Life designs on Shutterfly. It’s something I’ll blog about in more detail soon. I know you have questions – which is great, and I’m excited to share more about this with you.

But here’s what I experienced: I sat the kids down and was totally a dork mom “presenting” the new Family Yearbooks to them (we print a copy for each child). In that moment, and based on their reaction, I realized that they hadn’t really been very familiar with our Family Yearbooks. Their individual scrapbooks that are all about them? Yes. But these Family Yearbooks that show more of them in the context of our family unit – and so many pictures of friends and extended family and the world around us? Nope. They really hadn’t seen them much at all lately and in fact, kind of forgot we had them.

Shame on me. I have been keeping these books on a shelf that has cupboard doors – you know, to keep them nice. To keep them in good shape. We have little friends over all the time so perhaps I didn’t want too many little hands messing up the pages. Who knows. It doesn’t matter. What I learned was what I read in their faces for the next 20 minutes or so, as their noses were practically pressed in the pages of these books. They were glued. They were entertained. They were incredibly reminiscent.

looking at family yearbooks

What they – as young children – don’t necessarily understand right now, is something that we as adults should understand. By having these memories and these stories recorded, children are truly building up their sense of belonging. Their self worth increases. Having journals, photos books, scrapbooks … I don’t care what method you use … can absolutely strengthen the family, which is undeniably the most important unit in society. And with stronger families, we have fewer problems. And that’s how we can save the world.  : )

But seriously – do you feel what I’m feeling? It’s remarkable. Most of you reading this are documenting life in some way. That is awesome. The key for all of us, is to be sure that our families can enjoy this documentation. And this is precisely why Project Life is creating such a movement. We’re all busy. Most of us don’t have time to spent 3 hours a day creating elaborate layouts. Project Life takes so much confusion and guesswork out of the equation and we are honored to be the memory-keeping system of choice for so many.

I have to point out something. I know without a doubt that some of you might have that feeling of guilt. I hate guilt. It’s not cool. Please do not feel guilty if you have not been recording your story or writing in journals or taking lots of pictures or putting pictures and stories together in books. That’s not the point of this post. Please join me in feeling MOTIVATED – not guilty.

I felt incredible motivation after watching my kids pick up their Family Yearbooks over and over and over this weekend. So much that I finished up another year (2009) that was still unfinished. Now 4 copies of that book are on their way too! I feel motivated to get to David’s childhood and my childhood books. And our family history books. And other projects that are all story-telling and life-documenting related projects. Of course it’s not all going to happen at once.

But it’s not going to happen at all – unless you choose to feel motivated. I want to help strengthen the family. I want to ease your burdens. I want to continue hearing your success stories of how you’re cultivating a good life and recording it. Anyone is welcome – at any time – to share how Project Life is helping them.

<< projectlife@beckyhiggins.com >>

I’ll close by quoting the closing line of the New York Times article that seriously, I think you should read:

“The bottom line: if you want a happier family, create, refine and retell the story of your family’s positive moments and your ability to bounce back from the difficult ones. That act alone may increase the odds that your family will thrive for many generations to come.”



33 Responses

  1. Sue Alley says:

    I agree completely!

  2. Lis says:

    LOVE this Becky! I couldn’t agree more! I love watching my kids devour previous Project Life albums and photo books and it really is priceless! Thanks for all you do to help simplify the process! :)

  3. Alexandra says:

    Really Motivating, thanks Becky. I´ll keep on continueing documenting my life, even as a single adult ;-) Just love to document all the little things happening in my life.

  4. Tina S. says:

    What a perfect way to sum up what you have started with Project Life. I remember going through all my family’s photo albums from back when I was growing up and reminiscing. Now in this digital photo age, some of that documenting has been lost. Photos sit on computers or discs or USB drives and not “documented.” I am one of those people. Until my niece told me about Project Life. I picked up my first kit on HSN in March (what an awesome steal of a deal!) and now can’t wait to get going on my first album to document life. I wasn’t ever into making those perfect laid out scrapbooks and always had that guilty feeling of not being creative enough. Project Life takes that guilt out of it. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  5. Jolynn K says:

    I haven’t had time to really pull something together until now for my kids. I used PL to document my daughter’s pregnancy book for her. I’ve also been doing two baby books for my grandson. One for my daughter to fill out from her perspective and one for me to do from mine. My daughter loves this as she’s busy with the little one, but still has his precious moments documented at her fingertips to journal about while it’s still fresh. Thank you for your Project Life kits!

  6. Wendy Orme says:

    I read the article and thought it was awesome! I had never thought about it all quite in that way…family unity is SO important! Thanks for posting this!

  7. charlotte says:

    Thank you so much for posting this and the link to the New York Time article. I needed it.

    We are a family of 6, with 4 kids 5 and under. M oldest has been struggling with social development, and as a parent, I have struggling with how to help him, and how to help him feel important, We are living in a new home, and I started by decorating some walls with the kids art and photos of them, to show them they are important in this house and to us.

    About two weeks ago, Eli (5 years old) started doodling on my PL 4×6 cards. We talked about scrapbooks and how I will save his art for his book, but he said he wanted to save it, in HIS scrapbook. I ordered him a mini album (on sale) right away, and let him pick out the color as he kept making art for his book. When it arrived, he was so excited to open the box, and immediately started popping his saved treasures into his book. He now has a drawer in the kitchen with a box of supplies and photos that I give him or that he asks that I print for him. Dad has printed screen shots of the video game he plays with Dad. On some nights after the littler kids go to bed, he works on his book while I work on mine side by side.

    Scrapbooks, stories, photos, have helped my son and I bond, and helped him to be more secure in himself. Thank you for your posts, encouragement, and for sharing Project life with all of us and our families.

  8. Karen S. says:

    I agree with this wholeheartedly. Building resilience is the key to a happy life. As a school counselor, I know that if I can teach that to children, I have done them an incredible service. I am a fan of narrative therapy or reframing stories and I think this is how we change lives. I had a serious cancer scare several years back and the important thing for me was that I told my story for my children, their children, etc. Becky Higgins, what you do is important!

  9. Amber says:

    I just made my first Project Life purchase. I have used your baby kits in the past for my two kids, and now that baby #3 is almost here I knew I had to try the baby version of project life. I’m so excited to again document this first year for my baby and can’t wait to try out project life.

  10. Melinda Higgins says:


    here’s to changing the world! One picture, one journal card at a time… :)

  11. Heidi says:

    Yay! I posted that article on your Facebook wall. Not sure if someone else brought it to your attention, too, but I totally just squealed to my husband that thought I made it onto your blog! lol

    I loved the NYTimes article, and the experience you shared about your family yearbook further motivates me to get to work. I started Project Life last year and fell woefully behind. Picked it up again this year and am again behind, but not quite so far, and I keep plugging away at it. It’s nice to know it’s not just fun for me – it’s a healthy investment into our entire family.

  12. J3SS1C4 says:

    This is an awesome post! It is so true, as well! I don’t currently have kids, but I love having photos around for the memories and the connections they reflect. I encourage all my family to share photos more, but it’s mostly rubbed off on my sister and one of my cousins, who share my love of photos and memories. On a happy note, my cousin is 10, and performing her first big show here next month, so I’ve just ordered her a Cherry mini album and the Mayfield as a congratulations present, since she loves my PL album and has been begging her Mum for her own album :-)

  13. Jacquie says:

    Hi Becky,

    I just finished reading the book that the article comes from! It is a good book on a variety of parenting subjects and that was a great chapter!

    A question for you and your readers…how do you manage the overwhelming task of getting back into scrapbooking after 10 years? Our third child just turned 10 yesterday and it was about the time that she was born that all scrapbooking for me stopped. Never the picture taking, though, I have 30,000 of those just on the computer alone! And tons more pictures in boxes from before everything went digital. But where to start? All I have is so far is…up to age 4 for our 16 year old, up to age 2 for our 14 year old and nothing for the 10 or 8 year old. I have so many albums I want to do, wedding, vacation, sports, family, etc. It is so much to do and think about. It has bothered me for years that I haven’t accomplished anything for these…life just has a way of taking over and this gets pushed aside year after year. I don’t even know that I remember all the stories of the past 10 years or so…Sigh.

    What are the things you all do? What is your organization? How do you find the time? I have some project life stuff, but also lots of other scrapbooking stuff from my early years. I want to use it all and not waste all that I purchased years ago. Has anyone done a mix of project life and regular pages in a book? I also want to keep the costs down. So much to pay for these days as the kids get older…

    Please help and thanks for the kick in the pants to get this started because it is SO important!

    • I have the same issue so I’m tackling it by creating the digital PL albums for the years gone by and doing physical albums for the present and future.

    • Jeanal says:

      Start small, like with a vacation. Then start getting this years pictures into an album it will help from feeling even further behind. Then I would start organizing pic into groups for albums. Then as you time start putting them into albums. Then go back and scrapbook pages if you want. After I got my pics into albums I found that was enough for me . I had planned to add scrapbook pages but not sure i will now. I love just having my pics into albums and so do my kids! Don’ t worry about having enough to journal just write about what you remember. Something is better than nothing. Once you get started it gets less overwhelming.

    • charlotte says:

      I am getting caught up with my 5 yo (oldest) stuff first, I sorted the photos in the computer and just printed them out. Luck thing about digital is the date stamp on the back. I figure that he is not in need of 18 albums about himself, so I try to be selective with the photos. I figure as he gets older, he will have more events to have pics of.
      Would the older kids want to get involved? You could print the photos and get some childhood kits. or just journal cards and mini albums.
      I think getting started os the hardest part. Good luck!

  14. Shari says:

    It is true. I have been struggling for a long time with my identity, self worth, etc. I had been in counseling for eighteen months and nothing seemed to be helping. On January 1st I started a picture a day. I didn’t think much of it or how it was going to change my life. During the month of January it was really hard but now I love it. I have come to realize that I have a pretty awesome life. The little details that make my life are unique to me and that makes me who I am. I have come to love the people in my life more and realize the amount of people that are there for me. I should have forgone counseling and just documented my life! On hard days I go look at the pictures I have and I am instantly filled with gratitude for who I am and the life I am living.

    I went the easy way out and created a private blog and keep it on there so that I can easily upload pictures and at the end of the year just print it out. If I would have done it other ways, I think I would have been too overwhelmed. I highly recommend this to anyone.

  15. Marie says:

    I totally agree with you. No matter the way we make it (and I’ve struggled for a long time with that), but today I feel so relieved (thank you Project Life!). I have many projects in my head (to do my Project Life (ie on my childhood), to do a Project Life on my family, etc.).
    It is funny because I just prepared a post on that (it will be on my blog on Wednesday morning if you’re interested, but sorry it will be in french): I am mother of a 2-year-old girl, and during her first months I was sure that I wanted to create a photobook (or some kind of) for her but I didn’t know how to make it and I felt lost and overwhelmed. Then I discovered Project Life and knew that this was THE solution (at least for me). Today, I’m so happy to say that I made it!!! Yes! Her Project Life is almost updated (only 4 months are missing, but it won’t take that much time to make it, I know that). And I feel so happy when I see her looking at her album pages. I know that she’s only 2, so she doesn’t understand what memories are (and how important they are) but I’m pretty sure that she will be when she’s older and I’m pretty sure she will be thankful for these albums I’m making for her. And I think that one of the best rewards I can receive for that is when my husband (who is not interested in scrapbooking AT ALL!) looks at our family Project Life or my daughter’s one and tells me “what you make is really cool!”. When he and my daughter both look at the albums with a big smile on their face, they really make my day ! :-)
    So thank you so much Becky (and your incredible team)!

  16. AndreaJ says:

    Thank you for your post and the link to the article – it was eye-opening. My heart sank when the father said, “Our family’s falling apart.” My mother passed away over three years ago and I’m starting to realize she was the glue that held our family together. This is all definitely food for thought about how to re-energize and strengthen the family unit, especially, in my case, the extended family unit.

  17. Sarah says:

    I can so relate. This past Christmas, on a whim, I created a little 8×8 shutterfly book for my 2 YO. We live far away from all family and I wanted to have a little book for him to remember faces and names, etc. Oh my goodness, its been 4 months and he still looks at this book almost daily and so do his bigger brothers.

    I will have to make ones for his brothers too! Thanks for sharing and putting into words, what I was feeling.

  18. Shelly says:

    I think this is so true, but here’s the silly little thing I struggle with: part of telling the family story is sharing things the kids don’t always know yet. For example, in one of the yearbooks I told a story about how my daughter reconciled the Santas in the photos looking different each year in such a way that she could still “believe.” It was an important story because 1) it was cute; 2) it showed the power of her imagination; and 3) it was an example of her unwavering belief in magic. But, I can’t “let” her read that yet. On the other hand, I did NOT want to leave it out. Back when I did paper scrapping, I could hide things like this in a folded journal card, which later I could just unfold permanently. But when I order books from Shutterfly. . . . they’re just “done.” Ideas?

  19. Lida says:

    I am not a Becky H, AliE, CathyZ scrapbooker or all the other PLers, but I really want to be. Yes, I have purchased many, many PL kits and minibooks. This past Sunday, my tween and I decided to smash book a page in our smash books (which we have yet to do!). I have 1000s of our 2011 Yellowstone photos I needed to get into some type of organization.

    So I asked my tween if she would like a mini book to put some photos together and I pulled out my newly unopened Jade kit and within 2 hours, we had something to look at. Though they are far from complete, we had something we are going back to fill in with the journaling cards. Yes, there are lots of holes in the protectors but they will get filled.

    Of course, her mini travel book turned out great!

    Even my husband looked over our shoulders to see what we have done.
    Yes, I want to capture everything but it takes a real commitment. At least, we have something to look back on.

    No, I doubt if I will ever capture it all but I am enjoying the journey.

    I have 2011 and 2012 incomplete PLs but my girls definitely look at them from time to time.

    • Amy B says:

      I hope you can let go of “capturing it all.” Any and all stories you can record will be a blessing to your family!

  20. Tara B says:

    There is SO much that I could say in response to your post today (all good stuff!) But for now, I’ll just say that, as I was reading, I kept nodding my head and thinking “yep, yes, uh-huh, etc.”

    Yes. Yes. Yes. That is all.

  21. Stephanie says:

    I somewhat agree with the poster above. There is so much I could say in response to the post. But, unfortunately, it’s all bad stuff. I will suffice it to say(and leave at that cause I don’t want to be mean)that the title and the gist of the article rubbed me the wrong way. Especially the part about guilt. This post, in my opinion, did more to cause guilt then it did to take it away. I can feel guilty enough on my own, without help from anyone else. Scrapbooking is just a money grab and one more way for society to make us feel like we are inadequate. I was a die hard scrapper, but after reading this, I’ve woken up and smelled the coffee, and I’m finished.

    • Amy B says:

      The thing I love about the article is that it doesn’t mention scrapbooking! Developing the family narrative is about sharing the stories (and creating the memories) whether you do it through a scrapbook, or you do it telling stories around the dinner table or fireplace. I remember all the little trips we took when I was a kid and all the things we shared on those drives. We have some pictures from them, but my mom didn’t journal about it all. It is lodged in my memory.

    • Stephanie says:

      That is my point exactly… it’s not about scrapbooking… but Becky took it and ran with it and made it about her and her project life… and that’s not what it is about at all… it’s about creating a family and sharing joys and sorrows, and if you choose not to do it in a scrapbook, then more power to you!

  22. Joyce says:

    After the horrific events of yesterday I went to bed trying to figure out how I can keep my three amazing kids grounded to family values for a lifetime. I thought I scrapbooked because it was fun and a great time to spend with my friends. I love my photos like I love my family. I woke this morning knowing that I can’t change the world my kids will be bringing their children into, but I can make sure that my kids know and understand the value of family, friends and community. I just read your article and it all came together for me. I am not only scrapbooking for my kids to have wonderful photo memories but to help them always come back to their family in a time of need, a time of joy and a time of want. Having their family memories in their own home (someday) is my mission. Sadly, if people choose to give up scarpbooking after reading your post then perhaps they were never scrapbooking for the right reasons. It has never been about money and elaborate pages among my scrapbooking friends. I think I may scrapbook with a few of the most frugal scrapbookers around- said with pride! All of whom have created beautiful works of love for their families.

    • Stephanie says:

      I was scrapping for the right reasons… to share my story….

      I just think that I’d rather be helping to make the story rather then losing precious time scrapping…

      I just felt a holier then thou attitude in the article, and it really turned me off… it is about money and nothing else… :(

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  24. Rachel says:

    It’s amazing how things just come together in your mind from several things at once. Yesterday my husband and I did the first session of The Marriage Course. We’ve had a really hard time since our first child was born almost two years ago. It’s joyful but relentless being a parent and we’re still not getting much sleep. The thing that really encouraged me during the Course was talking about the challenges we’ve faced and worked through as a couple. (I made a list ;D ) It really put the struggles we’re facing now into context and reminded me that we have a track record of overcoming difficulties together.

    Last November I started my Project Life album. I’m working monthly, and the first month I did was 30 Days of Thankfulness. I made brief notes each day of things to be thankful for. Some of them have a corresponding photo. The discipline of reflecting on my blessings was a real encouragement. I did become more thankful! (I’m not American; we don’t have a Thanksgiving celebration here. I think it’s a very good tradition!)

    That quote really resonates with me, so I’m definitely going to go read that article. Thanks for the exhortation Becky :)

    • Rachel says:

      So I read that article (and bookmarked it!) and it helped me with another thing! I was wondering how to approach the difficult times we face, with Project Life. I usually only record the good times with my regular (digital) scrapbooking, but Project Life is more like a diary than a highlights reel, so I didn’t want to just ignore the hard times. At the same time, it felt strange to journal about them as I don’t particularly want to dwell on the negative or make a big deal out of hard things. I had kind of resolved to use the bi-fold cards to make entries about more serious or sad times, as I didn’t want a ‘fake’ album filled with just the lighthearted moments, as important as those are. Yet, I really want a positive album which inspires thankfulness. And I want others to be able to flip through it without feeling that they’re invading our privacy.

      This article really helped. I can record the good and the bad, and BOTH will be an encouragement. Especially if I take the time to process some of the hard things, reflect on them and how we coped, and use that as another ‘positive’. Some things might not see a resolution in a few weeks or months, and rather than being a discouragement, that will be an example to my child (or whoever else has a good read of it) of our perseverance, prayer and resilience. It will also help me to articulate what’s a struggle and record answers to prayer.

      I have noticed that many PL pages I see online are from “picture perfect families” where the worst that happens is a cold or a broken arm. At first that put me off, but I decided eventually that I would have a go even though we’re not perfect :D (And I’m sure that’s not the case at all, whether people journal about their challenges or not. It’s up to each person how they approach PL. I just didn’t want to do it that way.)

  25. Maggie says:

    I would LOVE a peek into your process of creating your Yearbooks through Shutterfly. I would really like to do these for the past few years that I didn’t scrapbook and my pictures all live inside my computer, where no one can enjoy them. What good is that?

    Thank you for all that you do and most importantly, for the wonderful outlook that you have and encouragement that you give all of us.