Operation Clean Slate: Week 3 – Simplify and Modify

It’s Thanksgiving week and so this week is a great reminder of the chaos of life that made us fall behind on our projects in the first place. Ramping up for holiday activities may also be making you ask yourself: “What made me think I can finish anything this time of year?”

Week 3 of Operation Clean Slate is here to help! The trick of week 3 of Operation Clean Slate is to simplify and modify your project to get it to completion.

When we originally started out on our projects, we probably had big complicated plans in our heads. We imagined every detail completed to perfection. We were dreaming big! We’re artists, after all, right?

But I’m here to say that perfection and complexity are not always a good thing, especially if they keep you from completing a project. Which would you rather have – a half completed pile of complicated perfection, or something special that is completed? If you said the completed project, then you are on board with week 3 of Operation Clean Slate!


The first thing to consider altering to move toward completion faster is the scope and design of the project’s concept. Can you reduce the physical size of the project – fewer pages, for instance? Can you scale back the number of photos that you intend to use, or their physical size? Anything you can minimize in size and number will make the journey to completion faster.

In my Project Life album, I am doing this by giving myself permission to not have to do a page every week like the kit is designed for. For a wedding album, the solution might be to use a series of highlight pages instead of a full layout of every single “event” (first dance, first kiss, etc) from the wedding. For a vacation album, perhaps a single highlight page (or double page layout) for each day, interspersed with a couple layouts that pay special attention to favorite moments from that day.

In other words…be realistic about what you can accomplish as far as volume and tailor the project to that, instead of setting yourself up for failure with a massive unrealistic project scope.


Once you’ve scaled down the size of the project, take a look at how ambitious your design plans are and see if you can simplify them. This doesn’t mean that you have to abandon your signature style and go with a simple style, however, if that isn’t your thing. Instead, look for hidden ways that you’ve made the project more difficult for yourself – by planning to use stamping techniques that require multiple steps or drying time, or hand cutting design elements, or hand stitching designs.

Instead, try to rely on basic tools and techniques such as pre-made embellishments, a quick stamp and heat emboss, your sewing machine or a Sew Easy tool for quick stitching, die cutting from patterned papers, or inking edges. Remember that the longer you spend on a single element, the harder that it will be get to get your entire project done. It doesn’t have to look like it was fast to do – as long as it was!

I’m simplifying my Project Life album by cutting back several things I am doing. I’m limiting the use of photo overlays, which require opening my photo in Photoshop Elements and then exporting it for printing after applying the overlay – way more time consuming than just doing a straight print of a photo. I’m also scaling back my plans for creating embellishment blocks for the album to fill in where I don’t have enough photos. I plan to use much simpler blocks of patterned paper, with a few pre-made embellishments, instead of the complicated stamping techniques that I had envisioned using. I also am going to use my collection of quote stamps as “quick fill” blocks on the Project Life grid design journaling cards – a quick stamp and I’m done!

Next week, I’ll be back to talk about streamlining production of the project you’re trying to complete as December rapidly approaches and our self-imposed completion deadline starts to seem closer!

So…how are you simplifying and modifying your project? Are you making progress towards completion?

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11 Responses to Operation Clean Slate: Week 3 – Simplify and Modify

  1. Allie.Duckienz November 22, 2011 at 1:51 am #

    I am loving this series. I would love it if you linked back to relevant previous article though, it would save a lot of time. I want to go back and check previous steps and a link would be a lot quicker than using the search function or finding it again on Reader. 😀

    • Peg in CO November 22, 2011 at 1:08 pm #

      Nancy has tagged all the items in this series with Operation Clean Slate so maybe that will work for your needs. See the tag at the very bottom of the article.

  2. LindaBabe November 22, 2011 at 5:20 am #

    Loving this series! I was SO overwhelmed by the shoebox full of photos I printed for my Spain/Transatlantic cruise trip – I couldn’t even START.

    I decided to punch holes in my hand written journal notes pages and put them in the scrapbook between divided pages with the photos slipped in, instead of typing the notes into journaling blocks to put on scrapped pages. There’ll be A FEW scrapped pages but NOT the 50 sides there could have been.

  3. Kathy H November 22, 2011 at 6:51 am #

    Great article, Nancy. I’ve always been a “clean and simple” scrapper but I do get in ruts of using the same style layouts time after time and it gets boring, so then I’m not inspired and I find myself setting things aside. Or my photos are less than stellar of the entire event and then being uninspired I set them aside. But I decided a while back that not every event had to be scrapped, yet I still struggled with thinkiing I had to scrap the majority of the photos I’d taken in one single event. Now you’ve given me exactly the push I have needed…I can just do “highlights” of an event! Yay, I feel the mojo coming back:)

  4. Rita Barakat November 22, 2011 at 9:31 am #

    Very good article – I love this series, thanks for doing it!

  5. Lisa November 22, 2011 at 10:16 am #

    Thanks so much for this series, Nancy! I decided to complete my Week in the Life album from this summer and I’ve already gotten some great progress on it. I had actually finished all the layouts digitally a couple months ago, but hadn’t printed them. Since then I went through and proofed all of them, and uploaded the 4×6 photos I need for the divided page protectors in my album. I also finished up one memorabilia collage for which I had all the “stuff” saved in a pile. Now I just need to upload the 8.5×11 pages and 8×8 pages to be printed and all I’ll have to do is assemble! Yay! I’m so pleased with the progress I’ve made on this and look forward to flipping through my first FINISHED week in the life album (after attempting the project twice before). Thanks again!

  6. WhamBamPam November 22, 2011 at 11:31 am #

    This series is really hitting the spot. Thanks Nancy.

  7. Vicki J November 22, 2011 at 4:11 pm #

    Love this series!

  8. KathyinMN November 23, 2011 at 8:20 pm #

    Dang woman! This is a VERY helpful series. Gives me a ton to think about, especially as I start project life in 2012. Thanks!

  9. Gab November 24, 2011 at 4:57 am #

    Great post, thanks Nancy!

  10. Helen November 28, 2011 at 4:07 pm #

    Loved these articles!! Got inspired to finish my summer vacation album. It really didn’t take that much time to finish it & now I can work on my December Daily!!


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