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Operation Clean Slate: Week 2 – Identifying Road Blocks

In week one of Operation Clean Slate, you compiled a list of the projects from 2011 that you are behind on. Then you picked one to work on completing before 2011 is over. And you started work by gathering all your supplies together.

But there’s a hitch in the plan. One you probably don’t realize is there.

Why haven’t you finished this project already? I’ll bet in the time you’ve been working on your Operation Clean Slate project (whatever it is) you’ve finished many other things. So why haven’t you completed this project?

We’re going to figure out why.

Take a good hard look at your project. So what is holding you back? Are you short on content? Are you trying to force yourself to work with supplies that aren’t right for you? Are you pushing yourself to do complex techniques that you really don’t want to do? Once you figure out what the road blocks are, you can figure out how to get around them! (Because doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is, after all, the definition of insanity – right?)

Here’s what I realized was holding me back on my project…and how I solved it.

My 2011 Project Life album is my Operation Clean Slate project. I started out the year with great intentions – but then fell behind very quickly. I’ve sat down this week and tried to identify my road blocks in the project – and it turned out that process dovetailed nicely with the “gather your supplies” part of step 1.

The first road block I realized is holding me back is that I don’t have enough pictures to use Project Life the way it is designed – one two page layout per week. That was making me procrastinate about working on it because I really didn’t know what to do about that. Already when I started I had realized that I take pictures in spurts so I had given myself “permission” to do four layouts a month but not do them weekly. Instead I decided I’d do some that were event oriented and some that covered a time period.

But then as the year went on I quickly realized that even that flexibility wasn’t going to work for some months. In some months I’ve taken less than 50 photos! And I don’t really have memorabilia collected to fill space with since I’m not good at collecting memorabilia from day to day life. Procrastination on my Project Life set in because I really didn’t know how to deal with this problem of too much space and too little content. I’m going to have to solve that issue if I actually want to start to progress now on my Project Life.

Once I realized that was an important part of what was holding me back, I spent some time this past week going over the completed part of my album and the photos in my Lightroom catalog. And I came to an important conclusion: I would rather have a few completed pages in my album than pressure myself to do a lot and end up with none.

So I’ve given myself permission to do as many or as few pages as I need for the photos that I have and want to use. If that means that a month only gets a single spread, then fine. If that means it gets six…then it will get six. I will no longer tie myself to artificial goals of how many I “should” have for a month. If my binder ends up half empty, then maybe I’ll start using it for Project Life 2012 as well and just put more than a single year in it.

I’ve also decided, to help solve this problem, that filler is not a bad thing. I’ve given myself permission to fill empty slots with decorative blocks of patterned paper, stamps, and embellishments if I don’t have enough photos, journaling, and memorabilia to fill the space. After all, it’s scrapbooking! What’s wrong with some decoration?

But this wasn’t my only problem. I also realized that it was taking me forever to print my photos because I was having trouble making them fit in the standard Project Life pages. I take a lot of vertical (portrait) images and the standard protectors in the 2011 kit are designed to highlight horizontal photos. The challenge of shoehorning my photos into that layout, and the slow pace of work that resulted, was discouraging me from progressing with the project. It wasn’t fun – it was a chore. So I procrastinated.

Fortunately, since I bought my kit, Becky Higgins has released a solution for frustrated Project Lifers like me: new configurations of page protectors!  I’ve now got packages of the Design B, Design D, and Design F page protectors, that all feature vertical photos to various degrees:

Problem solved! Look what I’ve been able to do with them already…it was amazing how much easier this spread has been to put together since I didn’t have to make such hard decisions about the pictures.


This came together insanely fast compared to my earlier layouts. I’m so encouraged now that I can make progress on the album finally – all because I stepped back and figured out what the things were that were acting as obstacles to me in the project. And then I figured out how to remove those barriers.

So this week…take a look at your chosen project for Operation Clean Slate. Consider: Why wasn’t this done already? Something more than time was holding you back. What was it? Find that barrier…and then figure out how to dismantle it!

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11 Responses to Operation Clean Slate: Week 2 – Identifying Road Blocks

  1. Shannan November 15, 2011 at 12:50 am #

    That looks great Nancy. This is my second year of Project Life and I am keeping up but it’s not easy. One tip I have for filling up the little slots is using internet images of things that you are enjoying right now – a movie poster, a TV show poster, a book cover etc. I love having these visual reminders of what I was into at the time.

  2. Debra November 15, 2011 at 1:44 am #

    Hi Nancy,

    I use Project Life too, but not the way it was intended. Like you, I take pictures in bursts, so I just stick the photos in when I take them and don’t worry about weekly layouts. I bought some of Becky’s new page protectors as well. She has a lot of new options now – they’re good. I add fillers too – decoration is good! Everything is good!

    One thing I’m loving at the moment is slipping old photos in with new ones (in my Project Life albums). For example – you showed photos of you and Bridget (sorry if I got the spelling wrong) at Disneyland – do you have an old one of you and Mike there that you could slip in too? Or one of you at Disneyland as a kid if you went. Maybe up in all those boxes in your cupboard? I heard you mention that on the Paperclipping Roundtable :o)

    I had some rellies (Australian speak for relatives) over for dinner recently and took some photos. When it came to put them in my album, I added two from the 80s too. They were taken at a family dinner when I was about ten. Old and new – pretty fun and I love the contrast.

    I know you said you were inspired to pull down some of your eighties photos to see what you could do with them – maybe this is one way you could ease yourself into the process of including them in your albums. I love looking through my albums and seeing current pictures with old ones – so much so that I’m going to nick some more off my mum’s computer, so I can include them too.

    Just wanted to mention!

    All the best with your Project Life – doesn’t matter how its done, it’s all worth it, hey?

    Debra from Australia

    • Cathie November 15, 2011 at 8:44 am #

      Love the idea of combining old and new photos in Project Life. It’s something I’m planning on doing with my December Daily this year for days that get skipped over. I’ve even gathered up some Christmas pics and put them with my DD so I’m ready to go.

      Also, I just started Project Life yesterday so this article is very timely. I’ll definitely keep all these suggestions in mind as I go forward. Thanks for the inspiration.

  3. Terrie November 15, 2011 at 6:38 am #

    Nancy, very good article! I also started out really well on my project life but soon fizzled. I didn’t even know about the different page protectors out. Also I like your idea of just working on it as you can and if it has more than one year, that is okay!! Something is better than nothing! Thanks for sharing your struggles and your way to your solution!

  4. Kathy H November 15, 2011 at 7:12 am #

    Thank you for this series, Nancy! I seem to get “road blocked” more and more these days and have walked away from a layout for weeks on end. I realized as I was reading this article that one of the most serious roadblocks for me is using colors I don’t like. For instance, I’m trying to finish my dd’s baby shower (from 2009!) but her colors were deep brown and bright, almost hot pink. I love the brown but hate the bright pink (really any shade of pink is a hard color for me to use) but since it was her one of her fav colors I’ve felt compelled to use it and not owning any card stock in that color I bought several sheets…I know! right? what was I thinking?!! Day after day I look at this layout and just cannot bring myself to finish it. Okay so now I’ve figured out my road block, what is a good solution? Turn all the photos black and white? Just seems like a blah way to treat a baby shower layout.

    • Laura November 15, 2011 at 10:16 am #

      Maybe ditch the pink cardstock (figuring you’ll get enough pink from the photos) and choose another color that you do like? (I love green and pink, but I might be nuts. :-) ) Or use the brown primarily for the background and make embellishments from the pink? (Maybe you wouldn’t dislike it so much in smaller bits?)

    • Nancy Nally November 15, 2011 at 10:24 am #

      I agree with Laura about the pink. Just ditch it and find another way to bring it in as an accent maybe. What about using the brown as a neutral and then using a patterned paper that has pink in it as an accent – but maybe a lighter version of the same tone that was used for the shower? So there is still a touch of pink but it doesn’t scream PINK! Or like Laura said, you could use some pink accents – but make them a lighter version of the same pink so they aren’t so overwhelming. Or use little touches of pink – do things like use white flowers, but ink the edges of the petals white, for instance.

  5. Terri Torrez November 15, 2011 at 11:05 am #

    Great article. I had exactly the same issue with Week in the Llife this year. One day we drove back from vacation and one day we had food poisoning. Neither of those days warranted a 2-page spread plus 2 baseball card pages of journaling , pics and memorabilia. Even adding in some routine stuff it just wasn’t enough, so I ditched some pages.

  6. Susan November 15, 2011 at 1:41 pm #

    Thank you for these articles. I finished two layouts that had been sitting in my craft area for weeks. It feels so good to get it done, that I want to keep going. My biggest roadblock is finding time, with three kids. I mostly craft at night after they go to bed, and sometimes I’ll get interrupted by the littlest one. It may be many, many days before I have the energy or time to get back to what I started. By that time, I’ve likely found anothe project that I’m more excited about, so I start on that. My goal is going to finish two half-started projects before embarking on a new one. First up are thankful mini albums from 2009 and 2010 (I might even prep 2011 while I have everything out). Thanks again for the great articles!

  7. Vicki J November 15, 2011 at 5:14 pm #

    Nancy- thanks so much for the push I need to finish up some lingering projects.

    Glad you were able to come to terms with your PL album. I started mine at the beginning of the year embracing a no fuss no muss attitude.. some months its a two page spread some months its 4 two page spreads.. I go with the flow and figure something is better than nothing!

  8. Gab November 20, 2011 at 3:18 am #

    Great post, thanks Nancy!

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