Pocket Scrapbooking with Project Life

Cultivate a good life and record it.



documenting the build of our home

After more than 12 years of owning a specific piece of dirt, our family has finally embarked on the journey of building a custom home — something that David and I have dreamed of doing together for the majority of our nearly 22 year marriage. We’re not even calling it our “dream home” because … hello. That’s WAY too much pressure. (I’m serious.)

As a documenter I have naturally put some thought into how I want to approach the documentation of this massive year-long project and of course I want to share these bits of inspiration with you guys! Some of you might even be in a similar home-building situation (or some other type of similar project) — now or in the near future. Please be sure to chime in with your insights. I would LOVE to hear what you have done so we can continue to inspire each other!

Keep reading for some thoughts on how we’re documenting, the types of story-telling pictures and video we’re taking, and even some ways we’re keeping track of our ideas for the project. The over-riding theme in all of my documenting ties back to this: BEGIN WITH THE END IN MIND. It’s something I talk about a lot in memory keeping, and this is no exception.

dedicated instagram account

On our business social media accounts (@BeckyHigginsLLC), I will share an occasional update of how the building is going for those who are curious, but that is certainly not what you come to our social sharing for so you won’t see constant / frequent updates. Plus, as much as I put out there in public, I equally value our privacy and don’t need every detail of our family’s life and home to be freely available for anyone to see. I appreciate that you respect that as well.

All that said, I set up a private Instagram account for the building of our home, with a very, very specific plan in mind. My vision has a bi-fold purpose.

1) Beginning with the end in mind, I know that I can print out a little series of Chatbooks. They’ll automatically print & send me a book when I’ve filled 60 pages, so that’s really fun. I’m not worried about how many little Chatbooks we end up with because this is just FUN! I doubt the kids will want their own copies of the @HigginsBuild books, but if they ever did, it’ll be super easy and relatively inexpensive to order additional copies. I’ve been sharing regular and detailed updates on this Instagram account to document the progress knowing that these little 6×6 books will be so fun to have for our family. That’s the main purpose. It’s for us, and perhaps our posterity will enjoy it someday as well!

2) Knowing that some of our friends and family are interested in following along with the progress, we’re allowing just a handful of people who are close to us to have access to that account. That saves me from sharing email or text updates. And when I say this is a private account, I really do mean it. So when you try to follow and don’t get “accepted” . . . don’t take it personally. I am protecting our privacy.

house build pictures as part of our family yearbooks

If you’re not already familiar with how I do our usual documenting / scrapbooking of family pictures and memories, it’s worth your time to check out my “How I documented 2015 and why I’m doing it again in 2016” blog post. And then check out the more recent follow-up to that: “Becky’s memory-keeping resolutions for 2017”.

So here’s the deal. This building a home thing? It’s a big deal. We’re over the moon excited about the opportunity and feel tremendously blessed that we are able to do this. But our whole life doesn’t revolve around the house. It’s an integral and important and very special part of our family’s story, but the house isn’t our centerpiece, so to speak. Our lives are dynamic and full and there are lots of things going on between sports and school and work and church and friends and family and travel and all the simple, ordinary moments between it all.

This page was completed with the Project Life App and it happens to be the “Week 14” page, which is one of the 52+ pages that will go in our 2017 Family Yearbook, which will be printed as a photo book through the app at the end of the year. I love this method SO much.

When it comes to “scrapbooking” the process, my choice is to include an occasional progress shot in our family yearbook (weekly pages) just as I would include anything else going on. You can see in that page above what a typical weekly page looks like in our 2017 family yearbook and you will notice that there’s just one house-related picture among the others. It will not be the thing that consumes ALL the pages, and I don’t plan to create a dedicated “scrapbook” for the project. That’s what the Chatbooks are for.  ; )


To see pictures of dirt and lumber and light fixtures is one thing, but I’m interested in the stories that make up the EXPERIENCE of building a home. To illustrate what I’m talking about, here are a handful of pictures. A hundred percent of them are taken with my iPhone. I’m currently using the iPhone 7 Plus.

David and I have been meeting regularly with our builder during the design phase and even now that construction has begun. I’m often sitting in those meetings with my phone always close by and it’s just so easy to pick it up, snap a picture of what’s going on, and stay focused all the while. I love the rubber band around Kory’s wrist from having pulled it from our rolled up plans but not wanting to lose it. Details.

People. It takes a village of lots of talented people to build a house and David and I are depending on many others to do their best at their respective specialty. Our builder and friend, Kory, is probably the most integral person in this whole thing. I want to be sure he shows up in the documentation from time to time and yes, he knew what he was getting into building a house for the Higgins.  ; ) He knows what’s up.

Part of our experience so far is that just about every time we stop by the lot to check on things we run into friends, meet new neighbors, or otherwise find ourselves mingling with people. It’s so much fun, and part of the memory-rich experience this is already. This was one of my favorite moments when kids seemed to come out of nowhere to climb “Mt. Crew” (Crew named it as soon as excavation started) and before the safety fence went up.

There are days I just set up the camping chairs and watch while catching up on texts or reading or whatever. I already feel at home in this spot and we haven’t even started pouring concrete! This phase will hardly last because it’s nearly summer and here in Arizona, you just don’t spend a lot of time outside in the summer unless you’re in a pool.

Speaking of that sun . . . I realized how much sun exposure I was getting just with my daily stops at the lot, so I invested $15 in this cute hat from Target. I also kind of love that I’ve taken this selfie with all the dirt and caution tape behind me. It shows perspective as the main documenter of this project, which will be increasingly meaningful many years from now when someone comes across our Chatbooks.

Speaking of people involved, I don’t plan to photograph every contractor along the way, but we kicked things off with a gentlemen who’s legendary. Mark is passionate about excavation and moving dirt. He knows his stuff and he’s proud of his work and he should be. And . . . he’s a part of our story. We’ve enjoyed many conversations with him about far more than moving dirt.

Even though there are still glitches, I do love that I can get pictures like this with the portrait mode on my iPhone 7 Plus. Our resident animal lover Claire, wanted to show Pippa what was going on at the lot after we picked her up from her grooming appointment.


I’m also grabbing quick video clips along the way and I’m keeping all of these backed up in Dropbox along with all our other video. All of our videos are organized by year and within each year are sub folders — not by month but by subject matter. Holidays, trips, visitors, special occasions, everyday random family stuff. That sort of thing. Well, in 2017 there’s a sub folder called “House Build” and that’s where I’ll keep all of the video clips of this project for this year. Pretty straight forward.

At the end of the project, I envision a short video montage that shows the entire thing — start to finish. That’ll be fun to put together.

drone footage

It’s also worth mentioning that drone footage is brilliant for building a home! David picked up this drone for our family for Christmas and we’re all LOVING it. But there’s certainly a learning curve to fly that thing and I’m honestly intimidated by it. I’m leaving the role of drone pilot to David, and it’s a great excuse to have him involved in the documenting too, since I tend to take over on that aspect of our life.  ; )

idea gathering

As much as I wish we had ALL the ideas in ONE consolidated place, we’re doing a couple different things and it works for us. Beginning with the end in mind, I imagine all of this will be deleted when the project is complete. There doesn’t seem to be value to keeping them beyond that, from what I can tell.

1) Houzz. This app is great and David and I browse pictures of anything specific (and you can narrow down your search to a specific room or style or whatever). We save all the pictures that we like into organized categories and make notes on specific things we love. Our builder has access to this so it helps everyone and we totally stay on the same page throughout the process.

2) iCloud shared folder. When David or I see something elsewhere (Instagram or online or even a picture we might snap of a building material or landscaping idea that we see while driving around . . . that sort of thing), we have a shared iCloud folder that we both add to and make notes as needed. It’s so easy to do all of this from our phones and keep all the ideas in one place that aren’t necessarily found in the Houzz app.

So there you go! That’s where we are and what we’re doing and how I’m approaching the documentation of building a house and creating a home. Now please do share with me what you’ve done or other ideas that come to mind!


20 Responses

  1. Karlee says:

    Sounds dreamy and busy 😉

  2. Sally says:

    This is fantastic. We bought land in March and have chosen a floor plan, we’re now onto specific colour choices. I’ve got to remember to keep the end in mind as I post colour ideas to Instagram as you’re right, I may not want all of them in the final book/s.

  3. Rhonda says:

    Wow! This is such a beautiful post! Thank you! And I had to comment on your son with that spinner! What are those things and why are they so popular? We were in NYC for the weekend and my daughter just HAD to buy one of those from a street vendor. Amazing how the teenager “trends” dominate from coast to coast.
    Hugs from Rhonda in Frederick MD

  4. Jamie says:

    We recently completed the building process! I did try to document every new phase. After the house was framed, I went through certain areas of the house and wrote our favorite bible verses on the wood studs. And I of course took pics of that since it is now covered up with drywall and paint! :) I would share a picture but I can’t figure out how to include one here lol! ;)

  5. Jenahlee says:

    Thanks for sharing! We’ve been renovating for quite some time and I did a terrible job of documenting! If we ever take the plunge and build I will definitely use some of these ideas m!

  6. Kristin Vinson (Tina' s cousin) says:

    Congrats on the new house! Any way I can get a bunch of that excavated dirt????

  7. So excited for you guys! I’m sure your house will be gorgeous! I can lay claim to two of the boys in that group photo;) Looking forward to meeting you one of these days you’re at your site.

  8. Patti says:

    Our neighbors were building across from us. I took a picture every day from the same spot. I printed them out, punched a hole in the corner and put them on a metal ring. You can flip through and see the house being built. It made a great house warming gift.

  9. Sara says:

    I am so excited for you with the home building. I really like the fact you created a separate Instagram for it so you can use chatbooks more easily. My husband and I are in the process of selling our home and may end up building if we don’t find a house we love so seeing how your documenting is inspirational!

    • Rebekah says:

      I love the idea of using chatbook for documentong specific projects and have a couple in mind myself, but I want to do custom books so the project is confined to one book. What made you choose a series ofmver this option?

  10. Hi Becky – I used Project Life to document how we renovated our house. We bought it from a wonderful couple that had not touch it since it was built in 1954. Everything was original – so we did a major update. I did this with the intention of giving it to whoever buys it from us one day. It is fun to pass the history of the house on.

    I hope you and your family have a great building experience. !

  11. Alison says:

    Hi – just wanted to leave you a little tip that you can upload your own photos/links to Houzz in your project folders. In case you want it all in one centralized place. =) I’m pretty sure you should be able to upload all the ones from your iCloud shared folder.

  12. I love, love, love this idea. We are about to embark on building a new custom home. I’m so excited that I now have a great way to document it all.
    Thanks you so much!!

  13. Lorraine says:

    During the 46 years we have been married, we have moved around a lot and I thought it would be fun to document our homes and vacation homes. I started by doing traditional scrapbooking but think the remaining part of the album will be done with the PL app. Thanks Becky for making it easier for me to complete this album.

  14. Kimberli Bean says:

    Thanks for this post!! We will hopefully start building our forever home this fall & I love to see ideas about how the best way to document it is!! Congratulations on starting this process, I can’t wait to see your progress along the way!!

  15. Denise Stillman says:

    We thought it was fun to always take a picture from the same spot any time we visited the site to show the changes! Maybe these can be combined into a video or something – we just loved to see PROGRESS.

  16. Deirdre says:

    Love this—and will be running with the idea of a shared iCloud folder for our own landscaping project!

    Have you seen the 1secondaday app? Elise Cripe shared a lot about it last year and it makes creating a long-term video project super easy off your phone. They have the one-second option but they also have a custom option too. My kids loved our final result:)

  17. Ashley Combs says:

    Thank you for the ideas! We break ground (supposedly…lol) tomorrow and I am looking for ways to make this fun!

  18. Ruth in OZ says:

    Great ideas here Becky – we are currently building on 5 acres and this build (as with our last over 18 years ago) we started taking pictures of where the front door will be (which is an estimate before you break ground) and then every few weeks that construction is under way. We have missed a bit of the brickwork going up photos due to being away with a work commitment, but will resume that this week. We then continued the photos through the first year as the garden took shape and then planned to do one each year in the same spot. With our last time, this was a great look back as when we moved in the children were 16 15 and 11 and by the time we stopped they were 26 25 and 21 and the youngest had gone from being by my side to barely fitting under the verandah as he grew to 6’8″ in height.

  19. Susie says:

    I’m so computer illiterate but with “the end in mind”, my future self will be able to do all these things you suggest. But for starters; I have an Instagram account that I use for private personal use. How do I make a separate account for a specific use like you did for your house build? Do I need to provide another email address? And how do I easily toggle from one account to the other from the phone? I might need a quick “how to”! Thanks for all of your ideas. I need to put my app to use. For your yearbooks; what size will you be printing your book? All my Shutterfly books are 8×10 but the app looks like it is for square printing? You are amazing!