Pocket Scrapbooking with Project Life

Cultivate a good life and record it.



project life – kaitlin o’connell’s creative process

Molly here! One aspect of my job is to oversee our creative team, which is so much fun! Recently I asked a few of them to share their Project Life® process with me and below you will find inspiration from Kailtin O’connell in Victoria, Canada. She’s really gotten her process down to a science and I think you will love what she has to share!

PROJECT LIFE! Guys, I love it. We only met, rather serendipitously, a couple of years ago. In April 2014, I found myself in the storage aisle of my local Michaels browsing for more cubbies to hold my gigantic and growing collection of beloved paper-crafting supplies. You know, all the beautiful papers and stickers that I was happily buying and not actually using to create scrapbooks? Hence needing more storage cubbies? Well, I turned the corner to look at the wire storage options and on the opposite side of the aisle I noticed a sign for something called Project Life. I picked up Heidi Swapp’s Favorite Things Core Kit, turned it over, and thought, “Whoa – what is this?!” A week later, after watching a few YouTube videos and Becky’s CreativeLive course, I found myself at my kitchen table armed with photos and some basic Project Life supplies. I remember the excitement I felt (I still have it). I remember that after only a couple of spreads, I thought, “YES! This is FUN. This is EASY. I’m finally scrapbooking!” I fell for Project Life pretty hard that afternoon, and fast forward to todaywell, the photo above pretty much says it all!

My name is Kaitlin and I am a project lifer! Today I’m happy to share with you a little bit about my process and some of the things I’ve learned along the way.

I think the best thing about the Project Life system is that you can use it however you want. There are no rules, so you can make your process work for you and your life. I don’t use Project Life to scrapbook on a weekly or even monthly basis – in fact, I’m not even working on my 2016 photos! (GASP). Why? Because I’m using this system in a way that works for me. Before I printed any photos, I thought long and hard about what Becky advised in her CreativeLive course: begin with the end in mind. This was honestly the best scrapbooking advice I’ve ever received. It challenged me to balance what is important to me with what is realistic. While it meant making some tough choices, it was also incredibly freeing. I decided that my ideal end in mind is this: a few completely finished albums and lots of crafty fun along the way. Just a few that’s it. This end in mind guides how I use Project Life every time I sit down at my craft table and has transformed my hobby from something that used to overwhelm me into one that is a real joy to spend time on.

Ok, let’s dive into my process.

I’m a retroactive project lifer, currently using physical Project Life products to scrapbook my first batch of photos: 2012-2015. Since I’m working retroactively, I plan my pages around the photos I have – typically events/activities – sprinkled with a few point-in-time/reflection style pages that capture more of the everyday details.

I print my photos in big batches 1-2 times per year. Here’s a bird’s eye view of that process:

  • Write down a chronological list of potential spreads for each year, keeping the end in mind. Consider photos I have, photos others may have, and other point-in-time topics I want to document.
  • Find and collect photos. Take new or missing photographs if needed. Centralize and organize photos into folders by date. Each folder is typically one spread.
  • Review each folder and select favourite photos to print. Be ruthless. Consider photo orientation and size; for example, print favourites at 4×6 size and print lower resolution photos at 3×4 size. Edit in Lightroom only if necessary. Move chosen prints to a subfolder within the folder called “print.”
  • I typically use Persnickety Prints but this can be done using any photo printer. Create new folders for each size, e.g. YY-MM 4×6 prints, YY-MM 3×4 prints, etc. Upload prints into their correct folder and place the order (I prefer glossy, no border).
  • Do a happy dance since I don’t have to do this again for another 6 months! *wink*

Once I have my printed photos, I typically follow the batch process advice that Becky outlined in her CreativeLive course. I do all of the pocketing for several spreads first, then go back and do all of the journaling and embellishing for those spreads. Here’s what works for me:

  • Lay out the prints on my table and arrange. Consider if an insert is needed. Consider the previous spread’s pocket page protector. Move any unused prints to a container marked “Not Using.”
  • With colours and mood in mind, take out a few of my kit “quick stacks” to try out with the photos. Deal through the title cards and choose the winner. Use this title card to guide selection of filler cards and journaling cards, typically from the same kit. Draw from other kits or scrapbook papers if desired.
  • Take out photo pocket page protector(s) from my storage binder. Use the fuse tool to adjust the pockets and/or attach flip pockets if needed.
  • Slip the cards and photos into the pockets, as well as any memorabilia saved for the page. On a Post-It note, record the date and any rough notes about stories or ideas that jumped to mind during this stage. Stick the Post-It on the title card.
  • Put these work-in-progress pages into a 12×12” storage container and repeat for additional spreads.
  • When the container is full, put down the pretty cards (it’s hard, I know) and get to work on the journaling for those work-in-progress pages. Remind myself that while writing is not always my favourite part of the process, the stories are often my favourite part to look back on. Ask others what they remember. Refer back to old text messages and emails. Take time to relive the memory, to reflect, and to feel all the feels. Write.
  • Add a dimensional title to the title card and stamp the date. Add a bit of embellishing just for fun – maybe some washi tape or puffy stickers – not a lot, as I like my photos to be the center of attention.

I don’t typically work on my pages chronologically, but as they are completed I slot them into their correct spot in chronological albums. I don’t really mind if one album holds multiple years or if they start/end on different months.

So that’s my process! I haven’t got everything figured out yet. I’m halfway through an overhaul of how I store and use my memorabilia. I don’t know which colour albums I want to use yet, although I’m pretty sure I’ll stick with 12×12 size pages. I’ve got all my photos automatically syncing to an external hard-drive but not yet to the Cloud. In short, I’m still muddling through and that’s totally OK with me! I’m enjoying figuring it out as I go along, adapting my process as necessary, and celebrating how far I’ve already come in two short years.

Inspiration from Kaitlin


Welcome to my craft room! I’m lucky to have a large desk and lots of natural light. The best part about these pretty white cubbies from Michaels is that I’m finally actively using them these days.


I love that my glass desk gives me enough space to spread out my cards and photos with room left over for frequently used items. I’m the type of person who will forget about any supplies in my stash that aren’t within arm’s reach.


Here they are – my lovely Project Life cards! I store all of my “quick stacks” in this amazing wood organizer from Organize More. Any extras are kept in their original box, stowed away in a cupboard, ready for “stack replenishment” (official terms here, guys).


This layout is one of my favourites, featuring photos from a close friend’s wedding complemented by cards from the Favorite Things Core Kit, Midnight Core Kit, and September Skies Core Kit. Both photo pocket pages are Design W and I snuck in more photos using a Design H insert.


The September Skies Core Kit was perfect for this layout documenting a late summer visit to the Butchart Gardens here in Victoria. I love adding in bits of memorabilia, as I did here with our tickets and garden map. Both pages are Design C and include some fusing with the Photo Fuse Tool.

I hope I’ve given you some ideas that may help you in your own process! Remember: there are no rules. I love to answer questions and share my Project Life tips and photos over on Instagram (@hellolovelylife), so feel free to stop by and say hello!

Kaitlin O’Connell is a part of our 2016 Creative Team using physical product. She currently resides in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.

Connect with Kaitlin :: Instagram


20 Responses

  1. Alison Dunphy says:

    Thanks for the inspiration I’m doing pl app and physical. Still trying to find my groove but you have made me realise yes there are no rules. I’m not doing weekly more events and special days. I did a weekly app spread 2015 but this year not been able. I want to go back and do the years I have loads of photos for and to sort thousands of photos. It’s a huge task and I love reading everyone’s story .

    • Kaitlin says:

      Awesome Alison! Yes, definitely, it is a huge task – I had to go back through hundreds of photos. It was daunting, but as I mentioned, it really helped me to have an end goal in mind first – this helped guide how much time I spent on each year. While it meant that I printed fewer photos from each year, it also meant that I had more time to print photos from other years. Good luck! I’m so happy you were inspired!

  2. Jen says:

    Love! I’m from Victoria too and it was so exciting to see another PLer from here and recognizing the places in your photos! Really gorgeous layouts. Thanks for sharing here and sharing your process.

  3. Monique says:

    Kaitlin – what a great explanation!!!! I love to hear about other people’s process!! And, it’s nice to see others who also love PL! Thanks for sharing.

    • Kaitlin says:

      Aw Monique, you’re so sweet, thank you! I love hearing about other people’s process as well and seeing all the different ways that people use (and love) PL! It was really fun to write this post. This hobby is just so awesome and the community is so encouraging/inspirational.

  4. Nena says:

    I’d never thought of printing some of my pictures at 3×4 size. It would take a little more planning but I could utilize the different protector configurations better. What is a fuse tool, and how is it used?

    • Kaitlin says:

      Hey Nena!

      Yeah, the 3×4 photos are very cute. I usually have to do this because I seem to always have a mix of landscape + portrait shots that I want to include on the same layout. You could even trim 4×6 prints to fit 3×4, which I have done for some prints I already had.

      The fuse tool allows you to melt the plastic protectors to create whatever size pockets you like and/or attach two plastic sheets together. Here is a video Becky’s team made about it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5v_wYC6c_BA

      And here is a video of my fuse tool tips I shared a week ago: https://www.instagram.com/p/BJVwhJNBHa0/?taken-by=hellolovelylife

      Thanks for the comment!

  5. Stephanie says:

    Thank you so much for that post!! I am currently doing all of my own and my sister’s scrapping. I keep pretty up to date on my own stuff and my sister (and her families) trips, but her kids albums….I haven’t even started. I had to buy a huge external HD for all the photos. There’s over 23, 000….no exaggeration. Sometimes, I don’t even know where to start…so I don’t start at all.

    I keep saying I’m going to do a mix of PL pages and 12×12, but just sorting through the photos is daunting to me. I keep them sorted by year and then by month, but separate for each child (she has two kids).

    Thank you for your take on this. It was a great read and very helpful.

    • Kaitlin says:

      Thank you for the kind words Stephanie! Wow – that sounds amazing – what a special thing you are doing for your sister and her family! I totally get what you’re saying about the photos part – it can definitely feel overwhelming. I have a whole box that I still need to scan, and I don’t even want to know how many digital photos I still have to sort through (over 300 GB!). I’m so glad if you found anything helpful. Happy PL’ing!

  6. Melissa says:

    This is hands down my most favorite post! Please keep this going as a series! I loved to read about her process and see her scrapbook area! I found a few new products and organizers to try!!

    • Kaitlin says:

      Thanks Melissa, you are so sweet! I’m so happy that you enjoyed it and found some fun things to check out!

  7. Lacy says:

    Thanks for the tips! What are your “quick stacks” though?

  8. Farrah says:

    Oh my gosh … I feel totally free after reading this!!! For some reason I was stuck on the idea of the “weekly” spread of Project Life and once I got behind it was too daunting to go back and organize my photos by the week so I just stopped doing it. But I now realize that I don’t care if my photos are in exact chronological order. I just need to get them printed and thrown into pages and put into an album. Thanks for the reminder and inspiration! :)

    • Kaitlin says:

      Yay!! I’m so glad Farrah! Definitely experiment (and change your mind a few times) to find whatever makes it fun for you. Thanks for the kind comment, it made my day! :)

  9. chiara says:

    omg! I love your instagram, and now I love also this post about your process video!
    I have started PL on december 2015, for documenting the first year of my baby, having as end in mind to have the album completed for his first birthday (2 feb 2016), so in less than 2 months i have processed 1 year of pictures of a baby (if there are moms here know how many pic a new mum can take of a baby….!), luckly (really?) my son was not a sleepy baby so I had a lot of wake nights ;)
    now I have 3 albums completed, starting this evening the 4!
    and is all about my baby, and of course our family. I follow a chronological order, and my work flow is to print every 3 months, and in the next 3 months do PL, and so on.
    starting PL was one of the best things I have done, I love to sit at my desk, look at cards, embellishment, stickers… PL gave my the opportunity to conjugate my two favourite things: my sons and photography. thank you Kaitlin for your lovely instagram and for this post, your are always a great inspiration to me. (ciao from Italy)

  10. jennifer olson says:

    can you give me a list of all your project life kits send it to my email