project photo rescue: kansas edition
Are you in a comfortable spot right now?
Because this is a long one, friends. Today I’m thrilled to share with you the entirety of how everything went down for Project Photo Rescue — our very first one! I say “first” because I’m certain it can’t be the last time I do this. Be sure you catch the end of this post.
WHO: Jennifer Johnson, 37 years of age, single mom to Finn (8) & Lilly (5).
WHAT: Jennifer was the winner of a contest we ran last year and the prize was that I would fly out and spend a few days with her to help with all things memory keeping.
WHEN: February 9 – 11, 2016
WHERE: Olathe, Kansas
WHY: Why not? I have come to realize that 99% of people I know are struggling in some way with their memory keeping. Many people have never started and don’t know where to begin. Many have dabbled, but they’re pretty stumped about the best way to move forward. Even still, there are many who have created lots of scrapbooks but are either letting it slip altogether because they feel overwhelmed or they might even feel like they have “too much” documented. (Is there such a thing?)
My opinion? Everyone could benefit from stepping back, assessing what they really want to accomplish, and making a game plan that is sensible and smart and do-able. And customized for their ambitions and lifestyle. Having a little guidance can be helpful, for sure. The thing is — no two situations are exactly the same. What I’ve done with Jennifer is something I wish I could do with everyone who seeks help in the memory-keeping department. Is this possible? Not in the slightest. So I’m working on a couple different ideas that will hopefully help to make this whole Project Photo Rescue thing come to life a bit more so it can benefit as many people as possible. Again — make it through to the end of this post and you’ll know what I mean by that.
For now? It’s all about Jennifer.
Molly (my project manager) and I arrived to Jennifer’s home on a sunny and cold day in Olathe and were warmly greeted by Jennifer, her mom Jan who flew in from Oregon, and her children Finn and Lilly. After our hugs + hellos + a little getting-to-know-each-other, we got right down to business.
I prepared lots of notes / thoughts / questions for this Project Photo Rescue journey with Jennifer. I was as prepared as I could be, really. Twenty years of working in this industry will do that. And yet I had no idea what to expect. The whole thing felt so “experimental” and yet so incredibly comfortable — almost like this is exactly what I’m supposed to be doing, you know? I felt strongly that the most effective way to help Jennifer was to LISTEN. I knew I’d have plenty to share. But not until I listen – and listen well.
The following questions would help me to identify some key points before we would move forward. I’m including notes from that conversation, but please note that none of these notes are exact quotes from Jennifer’s mouth.
Q: Why are you feeling ready to get a grip on memory keeping?
A: If not now, when? For a while now, Jennifer keeps putting scrapbooking off because it all became so much, so overwhelming. She kept thinking that she’ll have time “later,” once she gets through such-and-such, and so scrapbooking keeps getting put off. Procrastination is easy. She acknowledges that life will always be busy, so she wants to make this happen now or feels like it’s never going to happen.
Q: Why does this matter to you? What’s the point of all this?
A: She wants to do this for Finn and Lilly; she loves watching them look at the albums. Having been through some tough trials (ex. – breast cancer at age 32, divorce not long after going through that, etc.) Jennifer finds that it’s sometimes easy to focus on the hard times as the main theme in her life. Sometimes the tragedies feel like all that’s happened. She wants to remember the good times because they have had — and do have — a lot of really great times. Scrapbooking helps Jennifer to remember so many great moments and memories.
TIP: Identifying your “why” is the very thing that can ground you and keep you motivated as you move forward.
Q: What are your current / past hold ups in memory keeping?
A: Jennifer feels like a lot of her photos are stuck on a computer. It’s time consuming to go through every photo, uploading, printing, etc. She’s not exactly sure how to establish a process that flows so she can get to the actual scrapbooking. When she makes time to scrapbook and finally finds her groove and rhythm, Jennifer feels like that’s when it’s time to pack everything back up, so she hardly feels like she gets anything done. She also feels unsure about what to include and not include sometimes (ex. – pictures of her ex-husband).
TIP: If you have the ability to leave things out (hello, extra table set up in your space) this will save a lot of time in unpacking supplies and packing them back up again. That time adds up fast!
Q: When you think about memory keeping / scrapbooking, what are the feelings that come to mind?
A: As overwhelmed as she has felt lately, she is genuinely excited about picking back up with scrapbooking. Jennifer does not struggle with the actual scrapbooking and in fact, she really enjoys the creativity and expressed that part is really fun for her. She definitely does not want to give up the embellishing and little details in putting pages together. It’s the bigger picture of how to manage what’s not been done and how to move forward that feels daunting to her. She expressed concern that if this (meaning us coming to her house and doing Project Photo Rescue) didn’t help her to get a grip on everything, she feels nervous that nothing will help her.
Jennifer also commented that whenever she scrapbooks, she feels better. It’s therapeutic for her. Scrapbooking keeps her feeling grounded.
Q: What would you like scrapbooking to look like / feel like for you?
A: Jennifer likes the idea of doing some hybrid scrapbooking, meaning using the physical Project Life® products as well as the app, for the purpose of giving her options. As much as she prefers the hands-on and more creative method, she loves the ultimate convenience of making pages quickly and simply in the palm of her hand and would like to tap into that more during months that are particularly crazy so she doesn’t get behind.
Jennifer does not want to get hung up on every little detail. She knows it’s not realistic to remember and preserve it all (and that’s not the point of scrapbooking, anyway). She wants scrapbooking to be fun and peaceful and therapeutic and a stress reliever. She wants to use photos that bring her joy and she wants her pages and albums to be a good representation of their life — from the little everyday moments to the big occasions, the hard times, the good times, funny things the kids say, etc.
TIP: One should be very introspective when asking this question because while someone might want scrapbooking to be fun, another might want it to be therapeutic, while another might be in it for the social aspect, and yet another person might be driven by something entirely different. What we want out of scrapbooking doesn’t have to match anyone else’s goals.
Q: What’s your really big-picture goal in all of this? Nothing too specific yet. Think really long-term like later this year, five years from now, 10 or 20 or 30 years from now. Even years after you’re no longer alive. What do you “see” with your memory keeping?
A: Jennifer would like to have ongoing family albums – one per year – that she always keeps in her home. She would also like for each of her children to have a “box full of albums” when they leave home after childhood (plenty of documentation but not so many albums that the kids wouldn’t want them). She’d like to do an occasional scrapbook once or twice a year that’s fun & different from her regular albums. Jennifer mentioned that she envisions getting rid of the feeling of having to “do it all.” She has a long-term goal of being able to stay as current as possible because she’ll be able to “let go” more.
One thing she acknowledges that we can see will be an effective tool for going forward: deadlines. I think once we have a game plan and even attach some goal dates, she’ll feel really good moving onward and upward!
Q: Who are these scrapbooks for? Yourself? Family? Future generations?
A: They’re for her, for her kids, and future grandchildren and so forth. She was thinking about how she wishes that she had more documentation about her own parents and grandparents. She recently came across some pictures of her grandparents that are just lovely, but she knows nothing about how they met or what they enjoyed doing together, their hobbies or favorite things or anything like that.
TIP: When you envision what you wish you had in a scrapbook about your parents and others who came before you, that can guide you and inspire you as you choose what to document and preserve about your own life.
Q: In thinking about moving forward, do you think that sharing your progress would be something that would help you to stay motivated? Does accountability matter to you? If so, who will you share with and how do you envision that working?
A: Yes! Jennifer admits that deadlines motivate her. If she gives herself deadlines, she definitely feels accountable and is more likely to meet her goals. She likes the idea of sharing on Instagram, particularly because now she has hundreds of new followers because of her exposure through Project Photo Rescue(!). She feels motivated by the idea of sharing pictures regularly on Instagram.
At this point our initial Q&A was complete.
My personal opinion is that several questions should be asked and topics should be discussed before someone just throws out scrapbooking advice to another person. Listening to Jennifer was key for me to understand where she was coming from and what she wanted out of all of this. And some things? She didn’t actually know how she felt about certain aspects until questions were asked. I tried to be very careful about not imposing my personal “solutions” on her, but I also know that hearing what works for other people is often inspiring to me, so we certainly talked through various “options.”
All in all, great discussion. Very insightful.
Now that I had some very solid insights on Jennifer and her situation, her life, her memory-keeping goals, her feelings about all of it … I wanted to move into more of the physcial part of how this would all work in her life. We went upstairs to her home office, where she already had a designated space to store her scrapbooks and supplies and where she actually works on her scrapbooks as well.
In a sense, I would definitely consider this a major head start on Jennifer’s part. We didn’t need to “create” the space; she already had it.
TIP: Not everyone is fortunate enough to have a spare room for scrapbooking, but most hobbyists are able to dedicate at least a wall with a table and some shelving or something. Scrapbooking itself does not need to take up much space at all (with Project Life). If you decidedly collect lots of supplies and embellishments and tools… then yes, you’ll need space. But for this organizational phase of Project Photo Rescue, anyone would definitely need some room to spread out on a temporary basis, even if it means taking over the dining room table for a week.
At this point I asked Jennifer to gather every scrapbook she’s ever made (complete or incomplete) and bring them all to this “memory-keeping home base” area that has been designated. She said they were all already there. Great! Except I knew from my own experience that there was a possibility she may have forgotten about a few that were elsewhere in the house. “Are you sure?” I asked.
Oh yeeeaaah. That’s right. There are some albums in the basement!
It’s funny, really. Before we did the physical assessment phase of this, Jennifer guessed that she had probably made about 10 or so albums. Jennifer checked the basement where she found a full storage tote worth of scrapbooks that were stored away! This is the benefit to bringing ALL scrapbooks into one place during this “assessment phase.” Non-scrapbookers don’t have this issue, but scrapbookers? Well… I think many of us have more than we think! Some of those albums might get tucked away. Know how many albums Jennifer had? Thirty-two.
Not 10 — but 32! Awesome.
Jen has some Creative Memories albums, some Project Life albums, a couple albums inspired by Ali Edwards (Week in the Life, December Daily), and a few other different scrapbooks. Her albums range in color and style and size. She has more 12×12 than any other size. Many of her albums are complete. Many are NOT complete. And that became a burning question at this point: Will she go back and finish those that are not complete? If so, what’s her approach going to be? If not, can she be okay with that? These are some things we would soon be talking through.
On with the physical assessment. And by the way, we did make a list of every album / project.
We did a quick flip-through of every single album to assess what she has already documented. I invited her to vocalize her thoughts (positive, negative, anything in between) as she glanced at each album. It was certainly insightful as to what she loved and what she would probably do differently now. We didn’t look at every page but just a handful of pages in each album.
On that note: Jennifer is very grateful for those scrapbooks she has made, when she made them! For example, she would definitely not feel the desire to make a scrapbook of her wedding now (because that ended in divorce), but because her ex-husband IS a part of her family’s story, she is glad to have done that in the past — especially for her children.
One more thing to assess: Digital files and assets. Turns out we have another head-start because Jennifer has all of her digital photos organized on her computer, categorized by year and sub-categorized by month and event. She does have a box full of CDs / DVDs that she’ll need to go through and be sure they get organized with the rest.
TIP: Dropbox is an excellent option for digital file storage / organization / backup and you can read more about that here.
Day one was full of assessment — emotional and physical assessment — but the whole chunk took just 2.5 hours, which didn’t seem too crazy.
I gave Jennifer a homework assignment: Snuggle with the kids and look through scrapbooks that she has already worked on … aaaaand process everything we had talked about so far. I was certainly going to be processing as well. There was plenty to think about, but nothing that we discussed to this point was shocking in the slightest. A lot of Jen’s struggles in memory keeping are actually very, very relatable. There are a million hangups and roadblocks that keep people from memory keeping. Jen was definitely determined to persevere. I felt determined to help her navigate through the chaos and bring some order to all of this — first in her heart and in her mind, and then of course — in a way that results in an actual game plan that yields results that make Jen feel completely satisfied.
Day two kicked off with more Q&A, but this time it was really an assessment of Jennifer’s thoughts and feelings now that she had time to process a bit more. We spent about 45 minutes doing this (we even did a live video broadcast of the conversation via Periscope; that video found here is also now on YouTube).
Q: Now that you’ve looked through your scrapbooks, what are your thoughts? Be honest about the feelings that are stirred up — positive, negative, all of it.
A: Her most prominent thought was that she feels that she hasn’t been actually getting her scrapbooks out to look at with her children nearly enough. She’s feeling the resolve to do that more often. Also, something that pleasantly surprised her is that looking back at some of the older albums with her ex-husband in the pictures was not as difficult as she thought it might be.
Q: What matters? What doesn’t matter?
A: Jennifer felt like exact dates just don’t matter to her, but knowing approximately when things happened is nice. Coming across “factual” stuff, like papers from the kids’ doctor appointments with their growth stats seemed almost silly because who cares? And yet she does like saving those things, so she’s a bit torn about how to move forward with that. Her biggest thing was asking herself a question while browsing through albums — Do I feel something when I look back? She wants to feel love and connection and happiness and reflection, so thinking about it this way motivates her to move forward in that direction.
Q: What do you like? What don’t you like?
A: Jen actually recognizes that she truly values completed albums and has a strong urge to have completion with those albums that are not yet done. She doesn’t like incomplete projects, but she has many of them. She recognizes that in order to stay on top of scrapbooking the way she wants to, she’ll need to let go of perfectionism and just do it. Perfect is the enemy of done.
Q: What’s missing in your documentation?
A: She noticed that she has always been heavy on the pictures (which is awesome) but relatively light on the journaling. She feels that she wants to do better about including the stories, specifically implementing more things that the kids say and such.
Q: What style of scrapbooking (or approach) is feeling like a good fit for you?
A: She really loves Project Life — particularly the physical product. Slipping her photos and journaling cards into pockets is feeling way more do-able than the traditional way of scrapbooking where every page you’re starting from scratch and you’re not even sure where to begin or how to lay out your pictures. That said, she brought up the Project Life App again, confirming that she’s really excited to use that during busier seasons when doing working on tangible pages feels straight-up overwhelming. She also really loves her Week in the Life and December Daily projects as a creative project that she can dive into a couple times a year.
Q: Reflect on how you FELT scrapbooking at different times. Completed pages are nice, but it’s also the experience of scrapbooking that matters. Do you remember feeling stressed or are those fun memories for you?
A: The memories that come back to her include feeling happy and reflective as she has worked on pages, but also — she has really fond memories scrapbooking with her friends. The social aspect of scrapbooking has been such a meaningful part of her hobby and she’s feeling motivated to make that more of a regular and consistent thing in her life. (Plus, hello. We got to spend some time with her friends and it’s such a beautiful thing. Women need women, people. I got all sorts of sentimental thinking back to my scrapbooking-with-friends days in the past. Such fun memories — seriously.)
Q: How many scrapbooks do you WANT? Does that matter? Does that not matter?
A: She’s really liking the idea of having one album per year that would be the family yearbook, and as she thought more about the whole “sending the kids with a box full of albums” idea… she likes the idea of having about 6 albums per child that would cover their entire childhood. This will really help her to pare down and be selective, while still resulting in a fantastic sampling of memories within those 6 albums.
Q: How does it make sense to approach memory keeping in a way that will bring you JOY and not making you feel overwhelmed?
A: Definitely not setting expectations too high. The goals she is setting now are feeling realistic and do-able. The “big deal” shift in her approach is instead of feeling like every scrapbook page has to be creative, she’s really going to be okay with being really simple when she needs to be. Project Life makes that possible because there will be times that she can literally slip photos and cards into pockets and not cut or glue a single thing, not add one embellishment… and it will still look terrific. She knows this but wants to actually embrace the idea more often — especially for going back and catching up on the incomplete albums.
The Emotional Assessment was pretty much complete at this point. Other things would undoubtedly come up as we move on, and it was definitely time to move on.
CREATING A PLAN
This is where things start getting very real. This is one more stage of talking before we push up our sleeves and get to work. Below are the questions I asked Jennifer, but her actual final write-up-of-a-game plan is at the very bottom of this post.
Q: Where will be your grand central station for all things memory-keeping (storage and work)?
A: Home office. Already established.
Q: Do adjustments need to be made to create an atmosphere that is conducive to your lifestyle and desired experience?
A: Probably, yes. She needs more table top space to spread out her piles and have more room to work, so we’ll get a long table for the one wall that has space for that. Also, we noticed that the location of things in her office was a bit mixed and if we tightened up a bit on the compartmentalization she might feel more productive and seamless in her workflow.
Q: What scrapbooks do you want to make?
A: A yearly family album, a Week in the Life album (also yearly), a December Daily album (also yearly), and six albums per child that span their entire childhood.
Q: Are there any albums that you feel like you need to go back and finish?
A: Yep. All that are incomplete… she wants to finish them.
Q: Are there any albums that you feel like you need to go back and re-do?
A: No. (Good girl! Thank goodness!)
Q: What do you feel motivated to work on first? What are you MOST excited about NOW?
A: Setting up her 2016 Project Life family album and being sure that’s established and she can work on it weekly and stay up-to-date all year long. Otherwise, it’s her family albums (going back and finishing those that are not finished) that Jennifer is the most excited about.
TIP: Work first on what you’re most excited about and that will be the key to building the momentum. If you love it and you can’t wait to work on it, then you’ll absolutely make it a priority and it will happen. Which means you’ll feel all the feelings of “scrapbooking success” which means you’ll be propelling yourself into more success. So yeah, start with what you really want to work on. Don’t just “start current and work backwards” because you heard that advice once upon a time. That seems to be common advice in this hobby. While it can work for some, it’s not the best plan for everyone. Again — it’s important that each person has a customized plan for them.
Q: Will you scrapbook with others? How will that work?
A: Mostly on her own, but yes — she would like to get together with her friends quarterly. Because a big hangup for her is the packing-up aspect, she will offer to host the gatherings at her house. Another thing we discussed is that instead of just scrapbooking “whatever” on those nights when there are “social distractions,” Jennifer will be prepared for productivity ahead of time. We talked about “batching” her workflow. Instead of creating entire layouts, she may already have slipped the photos into pockets so that when it’s time for scrapbooking with her friends, she is only choosing which Project Life cards will be slipped into pockets and embellishing them if she wants.
TIP: When you “batch” like this, it’s easier to get on a roll with your work flow because your mind set is more focused and less scattered. For example, if Jennifer is only thinking about the “fun / decorative” part of her pages, then she actually doesn’t have to use quite so much brain power in figuring out which pictures to use which allows her to be able to chat away with her friends and still be productive.
TIP: I encourage people to NOT do any journaling when you’re in a social atmosphere. You can do all of the journaling in one sitting and will be able to focus much better on what you’re writing when you’re not involved in conversation at the same time. Our brains struggle when we try to multitask. It usually doesn’t end up well.
Q: Where will the albums being stored / displayed?
A: The majority of her albums will remain on the shelf in her home office. A few of the older ones that she really doesn’t care to have “in her face” all the time (ex. – her wedding album) will go back to the basement. Not tucked away in a storage tote, but accessible to the kids in their little play area down there. She did mention that even though all of the albums are accessible, the fact that the kids never seem to pull them off the shelf brings on some feelings of uncertainty. I suggested that she has a designated “scrapbook spot” downstairs in the family room. At any given time, one of the scrapbooks is out and open, which simply invites the kids to turn the pages and enjoy the preserved memories. Jennifer could rotate out the albums once a week or twice a month or whatever.
NOTE: Just sharing this thought with Jennifer motivated me to do this in my own home! Our scrapbooks should be enjoyed for sure!
Q: Album size and color?
A: With the exception of a couple themed albums she creates, Jennifer would like to keep all of her albums 12×12. While they do feel large, that size is so practical in how the pocket scrapbooking system works and they do hold a lot, so that feels like the best size for her goals. Album color will not matter to her. She likes the uniform look of same colors for the family albums, but she also likes variety. She’s not going to worry about that decision right now. Down the road she can always decide to switch up her albums.
TIP: Every little decision does not need to be made at at one time. It’s okay if it takes days, weeks, months, or even years to decide about certain aspects.
Q: Physcial or digital or app? What method feels right for you?
A: 90% physical product. 10% app. No digital. I’m making up those percentages, but you get the idea. This is based on our earlier discussions about being a little hybrid in her approach.
TIP: Molly chimed in to share with Jennifer that when she goes on trips, she makes those travel scrapbook pages with the app so she can do them entirely while traveling. Most of you may know that that’s totally my approach as well. The ability to scrapbook entirely in the palm of your hand means that you can return from a trip and not have any to-do’s in terms of printing photos or scrapbooking. It’s all done before you can even get unpacked! Order prints (of the completed pages) right in the app and the shipment shows up at your front door just days later. Kinda dreamy. Those prints (12×12 or 8×8 – whatever you choose) slip right into page protectors (not divided pocket pages).
Shown here are two Project Life scrapbook pages that Jen has made (before we came). One is using the physical product (left), one is a print she made with – and ordered through – the Project Life App (right). Both are 12×12. Any and all scrapbook pages can be mixed and matched within an album because guess what? It’s still a scrapbook. It’s okay to mix things up! I am proud of her for making decisions like this that give her more confidence in moving forward and keeping up with her goals. #HybridForTheWin
Q: Let’s make a plan for journaling. Which voice will you use?
A: Jennifer will use 1st person journaling in the family scrapbooks and 2nd person journaling in the kids’ albums. This means that it’s always her voice, her perspective. She’s not putting words in her kids’ mouths. In the family albums she is writing about the kids (knowing that the ultimate “audience” for these books might be more broad someday) and in the kids’ albums she is writing to the kids.
TIP: There are no rules in scrapbooking. There have never been and there never should be. That said, it’s nice to think through details like this so if you want to make certain decisions like this now, it saves you time and hassle later. No wrestling with decisions. No wondering. You just go! You’ve already decided! And guess what? If you change your mind… the earth does not stop spinning. It’s all good.
Q: Will you actively look for scrapbooking inspiration? Why or why not? If so, where and how often?
A: Jennifer doesn’t feel the need to set aside time to look for inspiration. She is inspired by choosing to follow certain people / brands on Instagram and that’s sufficient for her. Besides my own sharing, she loves following some of our Project Life Creative Team gals. She also mentioned that the actual Project Life pre-designed cards are actually inspiring to her! What a compliment to our fantastic designers!
TIP: Be careful with this one, friends. The reason I asked Jennifer the question and wanted to bring it up is because I think a lot of “scrapbookers” go aimlessly looking for inspiration and that’s where it ends. They browse. They feel intimidated by all that they see. And guess what? They’re actually not really scrapbooking much at all. Scrolling doesn’t preserve the memories. Actually making pages is what will get it done.
Q: Let’s talk about deadlines. What do you want to establish that feels realistic?
A: Once a week — Mondays, specifically — will be Jennifer’s scrapbook days. Once she starts chipping away on a regular basis like this, she’ll be able to figure out how long it’ll take her to get a certain number of pages done in a day and that will help her to determine how fast her “catching up on incomplete albums” can happen so she’s mostly focused just on her current memory keeping.
Q: How do you plan to share your progress, which you have said will be another motivator for you… something to add a feeling of accountability?
A: She really does like the idea of sharing on Instagram and that’s what she’ll do! You can keep up with her progress by following @JenJohnson2 on Instagram.
TIP: Public sharing isn’t for everyone, but sharing in some way can absolutely be helpful and motivating for scrapbookers to stick with their goals. Determine if you’ll be sharing your pages with friends or family when they’re completed, or … whatever works for you!
ORGANIZING & PREPARING JENNIFER’S SPACE
Take a sip of your favorite beverage or grab your favorite snack because we are not even close to being done yet. This is where it gets really good because now we’re done with assessment, we’re done with making all the big decisions, and we’re ready to work! At this point, I’ve decided that there will be absolutely no scrapbooking that takes place while we’re in town. In order for Jennifer to be set up for success, we needed to focus on just that — the set up! As I scanned her home office and thought about compartmentalizing her stuff, it all just made sense to me and of course I made sure that it would make sense for her. It doesn’t really matter what I think. Everything has to be Jennifer’s decision / approval or I’ve failed her completely.
The plan: We are compartmentalizing! All work stuff in a designated area. All albums together on the same shelf unit. All scrapbooking / crafting supplies in the closet. As with most organizational projects, you have to make things messy in order to bring order to the chaos. And by the way, chaos isn’t even the right word for Jennifer’s situation. She’s far more organized than most people — but certainly it all felt like chaos in her mind.
NOTE: In order to keep this blog post from turning into a complete chapter book, I’m going to hold back and not share every little “tip” that came from this phase of the experience. There were many, and I did share them on Instagram so you can find them by searching the hashtag #ProjectPhotoRescue. *wink*
The first thing we did was determine Jennifer’s zones. All of her work stuff would go on the shelf to the left of her desk. What she had wasn’t quite big enough, so Molly and I would pick up a new one at IKEA (at this point, we were drumming up a little list). All of her albums (complete, incomplete, and completely empty) would go on her shelf that she got at Target. This is viewable from the hallway. All of her scrapbooking, crafting, and other DIY supplies would go in the closet. All of her to-be-scrapbooked stuff (photos, artwork, school papers, memorabilia) would go on the long table that we would also be picking up.
Great! Everything has an assigned location! Now it was time to move everything, which did take some time for sure.
My guideline for getting all of the “stuff” in one place (and we didn’t yet have a table) was to not get distracted by the stuff, to not think about whether some items should be purged yet, to not think about dates or order or whose stuff it is. We were focused on one thing and one thing only: bringing it all to one place. And this right here… this was our place.
Over in the zone of albums, we used sticky notes to temporarily label the albums since most of them were not identified. I had a vision of them all being labeled and we were able to accomplish that before we left. But first — sticky notes for quick labeling, which helped us to also place the albums in chronological order that made sense to Jennifer.
Can I go off-track for just a moment to say something seemingly unrelated? Jennifer is blessed with the most wonderful mother! Jan was a dream and the way she was completely wrapped up in her role as grandma with Finn and Lilly was pretty much one of the very sweetest and most inspiring things that Molly and I have witnessed. Everyone needs a mama / grandma like this! Love you Jan!
On to IKEA!
Molly and I raced through IKEA on the night of day two. And by “race” I mean we had to put our blinders on and not get sucked into everything that we wanted to browse because… because it’s IKEA, people. Eye candy. Retail therapy. A bit of a happy place, if you ask us. We were there on a mission. For Jennifer. With a list in hand. And we found everything we needed.
This brings us to day three! The final day! Knowing that we didn’t really know what to expect to happen out of this experience was the best way to be mentally prepared for whatever may come. And what came about is that we spent pretty much all of the third day in very intense organizational mode.
It. Was. Awesome.
You know what really, really, really helps? Having a small tribe! Jennifer has amazing friends and even made a new real-life friend! She and Juli Jones have known about each other through our Instagram community and since Juli lives so close, we invited her to join us! Such a party. And you know what? Now Juli is going to be a part of Jennifer’s quarterly scrapbooking group.
Man, I love this community. And I love Jennifer’s friends (one of those friends, Jenn, is not shown here – bummer!)
Now understanding that many hands make light work, it makes sense that everything else I’m sharing all happened in this last day and it all overlapped each other. Different people were working on different things at different times. Can all of this be done by one person? Of course! It would just take more time. But it’s all do-able when you break it down step-by-step.
So… here’s how it all went down on day three!
We assembled the long IKEA table in Jennifer’s home office first so Jennifer and I could attack her little mountain of memorabilia while other projects were going on.
We moved all the stuff away from the wall, put the table in place, and now we could begin sorting.
Based on Jennifer’s specific album goals, there would be 3 main piles on the table for this first phase of sorting. One for Finn, one for Lilly, one for family. We labeled a sticky note for each, placed it on the table as spread out as we could, and … started sorting!
This sorting part can’t really be done by a bunch of other people very effectively. Jennifer is really the one who knows the when / what / who of all the pictures and memorabilia. But even having one other person to help with that (me) is still helpful because many things were obvious enough as to which pile they’d go in.
Once everything was sorted, it was time for the next phase: sub-sorting! I encouraged Jennifer to get to the point where she’s focusing on just one project, so it makes the most sense (mentally and from a standpoint of needing work space) that we pack away Finn’s and Lilly’s piles now. Why? Because she’s choosing to pick up with family albums — finishing those that are incomplete — before she dives into the kids’ albums. So we want to clear their stuff away for now.
We don’t want these things to go completely out-of-sight-out-of-mind and we know there will be times that Jennifer or the kids might need to put their finger on something, so we’ll keep the totes in the office, under the work table. Moving a big pile of chaos into a large tote would take some time because we want to handle everything carefully. And yet this is something that does not have to be done by Jennifer because there is no order to this. So Jennifer’s friend Jenn could do this. Perfect.
TIP: Speaking of keeping things accessible, I recommend that everything is placed vertically, however possible. Why? Even though Jennifer’s not worried about getting to this stuff for a while, should they need to put their finger on something in a moment’s notice, imagine how much easier it will be when stuff is not stacked in a gigantic pile inside of a deep tote!
Once Finn’s and Lilly’s totes were loaded and labeled and stashed away under the table, now we could use that entire table for sorting all of Jennifer’s family stuff. She wants to do things chronologically, so what made the most sense was to label the little spots by year. Sticky notes to the rescue! We went back to 2003 and the sub-sorting began!
Again, this is where assistance from friends comes in handy. They know Jennifer and her history and her kids so they really were able to help figure out where a lot of it goes.
It’s worth noting that this is where we left her sorting / organization. Jennifer doesn’t want to pack away the years (which we did talk about as an option) because if it’s out, it’s a constant reminder that she wants to keep her motivated in plugging right along.
Meanwhile… furniture was being built in another room.
We’re pretty stoked about this $79 shelf from IKEA. So clean and classic and lovely. This went to the left of Jennifer’s desk, which you’ll remember is her designated zone for work stuff (she is a distributor for Young Living).
Notice those 3 potted plants at the top? That’s a little signature detail straight from our home office in Arizona. We have this same trio of IKEA pots in the reception area and so it was fun to leave the touch in Jennifer’s home office. I hope she feels a little hug from our whole team every time she sees those. : )
Moving over to the shelf of albums (which Jennifer got from Target, and she has painted boards on each shelf). Molly and Juli worked on getting them all labeled. This can be done in so many ways (Photoshop, Word, or Pages, etc.). Jennifer no longer needs to take an album off her shelf and look inside to figure out what’s in there when she is working on some scrapbook pages. All of her albums are now labeled.
For those albums that didn’t have a built-in label on the spine, we came up with something that could be temporary or permanent… but it’s definitely cuter than a sticky note. Clips purchased at Office Max.
I began chipping away at the closet. This is Jennifer’s designated zone for supplies, materials, tools, DIY stuff, etc. I would definitely say she was already very organized, but I just wanted to polish up a few things to make it even easier for her to put her finger on what she wants, when she wants it.
Picked these up at IKEA as well and seriously? We’re obsessed. They’re called KUGGIS and yes, they come with lids. My plan with these was to help get her supplies organized by “type.” A type or category of embellishments goes in each.
This bin (below) has all of Jennifer’s tools / punches. Another has all of her stamps. Another has everything she uses for her December Daily books. Another for miscellaneous embellishments. You get the idea.
There were some supplies that needed a little more detailed organization, such as the stash of Project Life Photo Pocket Pages. Molly got to work on that in the other room. Our goal was to make it easier for Jennifer to find the pages she’s looking for, faster and easier. We ended up with a binder that has mostly odd-shaped pages and these are all organized with the Project Life Scrapbook Dividers, now labeled with each type of page. There are also a couple of 12×12 plastic organizers (from Michaels) full of other pages, which is labeled like everything else now.
This is the state of her closet how we left it:
It’s worth mentioning that the shelf right in the middle has a whole bunch of Project Life Core Kits and various card collections. A great solution for organizing those is in a tote made by Close to My Heart. We ordered a couple more of those so Jennifer can have all of her cards organized in the same organizational units.
More of the room…
Yep, we did fill a few trash bags and yep, Jennifer does have a large box of supplies / albums that she will be donating.
All of Jennifer’s photo CDs, DVDs, memory cards, and hard drives are all together now. When she is ready, she will pop every one of these into her computer and be sure that they are all backed up. We talked about Dropbox very briefly but didn’t have time to dive in deep. It will be very easy for her to go to dropbox.com and learn how to get set up with that though. It’s my favorite way to store, organize, share, and have my photos backed up. We have a detailed blog post about that too.
We rounded out our three days with a little re-cap and impromptu conversation right there in the middle of her floor.
Something I left Jennifer with is my willingness to be in her back pocket through this journey. If she ever has a question, she can email or call me and I’m happy to help her. Now that I know pretty much everything there is to know about her memory-keeping situation, there will be hardly any need to explain anything and I am happy to share my insights when she’s stuck.
This brings us full circle to the beginning of this whole Project Photo Rescue experience. Because I asked a lot of questions and fully assessed everything, I now feel equipped to help Jennifer in a very personalized way. But you know what? I have a feeling she won’t need much help. She is all set up. She is organized. She has a game plan. And she is very motivated. There’s no doubt in my mind Jennifer will be successful in her efforts. Will she hit dry spots? Probably. Will she get so busy with life sometimes that she has to miss some Mondays or some months of scrapbooking altogether? Sure. That’s called real life. Not the end of the world. Real. Life. And when that happens, she’ll be able to pick right back up where she left off — when she’s ready.
REFLECTING ON THE EXPERIENCE
After 2.5 days with Jennifer and her little tribe in Kansas, and not knowing entirely what to expect or how everything was going to pan out, I can safely say – mission accomplished! [ video re-cap ]
I can hardly contain my gratitude for this experience. We learned. We were stretched. We figured things out. We served. We laughed. And we LOVED every bit of it. Project Photo Rescue was more than a contest. It was no coincidence that Jennifer Johnson in Olathe, Kansas was the winner of the contest. She is one of the finest human beings I have ever met and it was our honor to serve her.
Also, I am grateful that God blessed me with the gumption to do something completely different than anything I have ever done before.
This experiment is what I needed, personally and professionally, right now. I prayed a lot about it, actually. In the spirit of total transparency, I called my parents the day I was heading to Kansas and as soon as my mom answered the phone, I lost it. I had to assure her straightaway that everything was okay, and fact it was a super happy cry. But I was for real a blubbering mess that did not make any sense at all. I don’t ever cry that way. Except over the phone with my parents when I feel so strongly about something, or when I am deeply struggling with opposition, or when I am on the brink of something special. Losing my composure for a few minutes is what I needed to get that out of my system.
This is so not the end of Project Photo Rescue.
This cannot and will not be the last time we do this. Did you catch my video explaining how all of this has been swimming around in my head for a while? I didn’t come out and say it right then, but I have a vision of filming this experience the next time(s) I do this. Seeing glimpses on Instagram is one thing. Reading this blog post? Sure, that can be helpful. But to actually watch video footage of everything unfold? This is what has been in my head and in my heart for quite some time now. I don’t know when or how… but I’ve got goals to bring all of this to life in a way that can help more people.
And I’m not afraid to try.
NOTE: We are working on compiling all my questions into a PDF that you can download and use and share and all that good stuff. We just need a little time, so stay tuned and if you’re following my social media and blog, you’ll know as soon as that becomes available.
JENNIFER’S GAME PLAN
For the sake of having all of the components of Jennifer’s game plan in one place… I typed this up to share with Jennifer, but I’ll also share that here, in case someone else finds it helpful in some way.