Welcome to the Lead Your Best Creative Life interview series! In this series, I feature memory keepers who make time to scrapbook in their busy lives. Each month you will meet a scrapbooker, just like you, and learn how they lead their best creative life.
I hope that this series will help you see that we all our doing our best to scrapbook our memories. It can be hard to prioritize your creative outlets, but you aren’t the only one that struggles with finding time to scrapbook and craft.
This month’s interview is with Kaitlin O’Connell a.k.a. hellolovelylife. If you haven’t checked out her Instagram, then you are missing out. Her pics are gorgeous and she has a ton of great content for Project Life fans and other awesome crafting and scrapbooking pics. Not to mention she was also a Design Team Member for Becky Higgins in 2016.
Read on to learn more about Kaitlin’s scrapbooking and creative process. See how she has honed in her process in just the last 3 short years and how she finds ways to prioritize her own creativity. She knows what works for her and how to work around the hard parts of crafting: motivation, perfectionism, and feeling overwhelmed. I feel like she was looking into my soul as she responded. Also, prepare yourself to find some seriously amazing nuggets of gold in this article – Kaitlin says so many things that I need to play over and over in my brain!
UPDATE JULY 2019: Thank you to the ScrapGals Tiffany and Tracie for letting this interview inspire a wonderful podcast with Kaitlin! I was honored that my words inspired you to interview her and loved hearing more about Kaitlin’s memory keeping process. If you want to check out that podcast, please subscribe to their podcast to support the ScrapGals! Kaitlin is interviewed in episode 277.
How long have you been scrapbooking and why did you start?
My scrap-iversary is April 7, 2015. I know because I was so excited that I took a photo 😉 Up until that point I was just an admirer with a scrapbooks etc. magazine subscription and a ton of photos, memorabilia, and pretty paper supplies piling up to use “one day”. The truth is I found the idea of traditional scrapbooking really intimidating. Then in 2015, while on a break from work, I came across Becky Higgins’ Project Life® beginner course playing for free on CreativeLive.
I watched it non-stop for two days, intermittently yelling down to the boyfriend, “I think I could do this!” As I sat down with my first set of prints and supplies, something inside me just clicked. I remember that initial excitement (I still have it). I remember thinking, “YES! I’m finally scrapbooking!” I fell for pocket pages hard that first day at my kitchen table. Since then, I’ve completed a lot of layouts and tried a few different formats. Some I liked, and some I didn’t, but all were practice and progress and good enough.. and DONE!
I’m so thankful that I was able to find a low-pressure door into scrapbooking. It’s a hobby that fills up my crafty heart and my sentimental heart.
Do you find it difficult to keep up with memory keeping?
Not anymore. I ordered a lot of prints and I bought a lot of supplies in the first two years of my scrapbooking. To use an analogy – I added everything that looked delicious to my scrappy plate, and let’s just say, my eyes were bigger than my stomach. I spent those first years just playing and learning and enjoying my new hobby.
But during those years I also discovered that I am not a fast scrapbooker, and by the end of 2016, that delicious and growing plate was starting to get me down. I knew it was time to change things up. So over a few weeks I started designing a long-term scrappy vision for myself. Here’s what I knew that I didn’t want: to overwhelm myself, to burn out, to have photos trapped on my computer, to have multiple half-finished albums in my house. I also knew that I wouldn’t look at 40+ albums. Here’s what I decided I did want: a few finished albums and lots of crafty fun along the way.
This plan helped me create flexible guidelines that now guide my whole approach. From the number and types of photos I take, to the photos and stories I prioritize, to the number of photos I print, to the projects on my list (and the projects I say “no” to) – everything. Nowadays my plate reflects a scrappy serving size that’s more realistic for me and my appetite (#scrappetite?).
When I consider adding to it, I only add what I can comfortably and leisurely enjoy – and I forget the rest. Because filling up my plate with things that will just sit on there and make me feel overwhelmed, or guilty, or worse – make me not want to scrapbook – is not what I want.
More is not more if it means that I scrapbook less or enjoy it less.
How do you currently make time for scrapbooking and how often do you scrapbook?
I typically scrapbook at least once a weekend. I usually aim for 2-3 hours in the early afternoon. That block of time gets slotted into my mental calendar with everything else on the list for the week. I really love and look forward to scrapbooking, so it will usually win out over tasks that I can schedule for another time, another day, or skip completely. Let’s be real, I do not vacuum half as often as I scrapbook. But I do try to schedule other priorities during the week or in the evenings. It helps to keep my weekends as free as possible for the fun stuff (family time, friend time, hobby time, etc.).
How has your scrapbooking methods changed since you started?
Since it’s only been a couple of years, I’d say my overall style has not changed drastically. I’m really happy with 12×12 pocket page albums for regular scrapbooking. I like learning and incorporating new techniques along the way – most recently, I’ve been loving using the fuse tool to make custom inserts with 2×2 or 3×3 pockets. Those little photos are so cute! Whenever I start to feel burnt out or like I need a break from my normal routine, I like to do a mini project for a couple of months to try out another format.
These one-off projects are great as gifts or as a way to scrapbook one of those “big” older stories that I may not otherwise get to. So far I’ve tried out both instax and 4×4 pocket albums. I’ve even dipped my toe into traditional scrapbooking with a 6×8 mini for my mom! I’m looking forward to testing out the 9×12 format for a childhood album I’m planning and maybe even the traveler’s notebook format.
Are there any methods, supplies, or strategies you use to scrapbook more efficiently to be able to finish projects?
1) Bare-bones planning. I’m talking skeleton because planning is not my favourite. I have learned that figuring out the shell of my project ahead of time gives me the freedom to fill it in however I like when I actually sit down to scrapbook. The extent of my planning includes figuring out: a) the stories/pages I want to include given my page limit, and b) the photos I want to print for those stories/pages. For example, the album I used for my Puerto Rico vacation only had 40 pockets, or nine full spreads plus the title and end pages. I worked back from there to choose my stories and photos. Once the prints arrived, all that was left to do was the fun stuff!
2) For-my-own-good limits. As far as scrappy “side” projects go, I do not start more than one at a time. I also keep their serving size enjoyable (#scrappetite). It’s unlikely that I would have ever started (much less finished) my 2008 Puerto Rico vacation if I hadn’t limited the scope of that project to a 40-pocket mini instax album. It doesn’t have it all, but it does have all my very favourites, and I’m in love with the finished album.
3) Downtime. When I finish a side project, or even a spread that felt “big” you know the ones that you feel pressure to “do justice”. (Maybe that’s just me?) Well, after those, I give myself a free pass to work on some lighter pages or to re-organize something in my craft room. After scrapbooking my Disneyland vacation, I was all about scrapbooking “Lego date night 2014” or “Canada day 2017”. Because low-pressure pretty paper and stickers plus words for the win, am I right?
4) Tools. Yes – undeniable. One thing I learned the hard way as a beginner is that certain tools can definitely cut down on the time and effort it takes to scrapbook. I fought (and lost) the battle with double-sided tape for longer than I care to admit before I discovered roller adhesive (#mindblown). And yes, the perfectionist in me forged ahead with the ruler/scissors option until I bought my Dahle guillotine trimmer (#lifechanging). I could go on… I mean, pocket pages sang to my #allthephotos #afraidoftheblankpage soul. And the fuse tool gifted me my, “no pocket? no problem!” mindset. I think my only advice here is that there are definitely tools out there that make scrapbooking easier, faster, or more fun. If you can figure out the things that slow you down or frustrate you, see if there is a tool that can make your scrap-life easier.
What is your biggest challenge in scrapbooking right now?
Let’s just say if I could have any scrappy superpower, it would be the ability to snap my fingers and have my photo prints appear on my desk. Magically selected, edited, organized by date, and (even more magically) backed up in three places. Getting my photos ready to scrapbook is easily my least favourite step in the process. It’s a challenge to motivate myself to stay on top of it. One way I work around this is to work on my photos in large batches a couple of times a year. By dedicating a whole weekend to it, I get in the zone and I don’t lose any time stopping and starting. I also give myself a deadline for when I’m going to place my order. Knowing when I’ll be done helps keep me motivated to push through and get as much done as possible.
- Favorite scrapbooking tool or product? Impossible choice! I’d have to give it to the fuse tool, with my guillotine trimmer a close second. I never could have predicted that melting plastic to make homes for my memories would be my jam, but apparently it is!
- Current inspiration that gets your creative juices flowing? I love watching finished project flip-throughs on YouTube. I especially love seeing projects that are really different than mine in format, technique, aesthetic, etc. – they usually spark feelings or ideas that motivate me to get in my craft room.
- Favorite scrapbooking guru? Heidi Swapp is pretty much #lifegoals. I could watch her make anything and be inspired.
- Your go-to crafting method or design? All pockets, all the time. All shapes and sizes! That said, I don’t think about the actual pocket logistics until the end. I always lay out the photos and cards how I want them first, and then make the pockets work later. Because trust me, the beauty of pocket pages is that you can always make the pockets work.
- Something new you’ve recently discovered in the scrapbooking or crafting world? Altered books! e.g. gutting and re-binding old books to hold pretty paper supplies and other goodness. I’ve watched a few tutorials on YouTube and I am majorly drooling. I’m working on my first one which I’m going to fill with notes I’ve taken from several books by the same author. Kind of like a pretty book report.
Share a recent project that you made – we would love to see!
The more my style changes, the more it stays the same. This page features the “Favorite Things” Project Life core kit. It’s the first one I ever bought and still one of my favourites. It was perfect for documenting this oh-so-summer lake weekend full of sunscreen, sand castles, and cold melty snacks. The prints are from Persnickety Prints, my go-to for all my prints thanks to their amazing colour, quality, and customer service.
Any last thoughts for our crafty friends out there who are struggling to prioritize their scrapbooking and creative time?
I wish I could help all crafty friends struggling with this! How each of us chooses to spend our time and energy is such an individual choice, and there is no right or wrong there – it just is. We’re all doing our best. One thing that has helped me spend more time scrapbooking has been thinking about the reasons I wasn’t doing it. Making a list helps me see which things I have the ability to change.
So far, three of my reasons have been: feeling overwhelmed, feeling unmotivated, and feeling like things had to be perfect (I’m looking at you, stamps). Any one of these can really suck the fun out of this hobby. Each one has – at some point or another – led me to choose spending time outside my craft room just to avoid those negative feelings. I’ve already talked about the changes I’ve made to feel less overwhelmed, so I’ll focus on the other two.
For motivation, I use a trick that is based on this awesome quote I came across online:
“Now is the operative word. Everything you put in your way is just a method of putting off the hour when you could actually be doing your dream. You don’t need endless time and perfect conditions. Do it now. Do it today. Do it for twenty minutes, and watch your heart start beating.” – Barbara Sher
Isn’t that so great? I love it. My trick is that I make myself go scrapbook for 10 minutes, with a permission slip to stop after 10 minutes. It works because I rarely want to stop once I get going. I mostly just need a push to put down my phone, grab a tea, and head to my craft room.
As for perfectionism (sigh) – I’m sorry but I don’t have a quick trick. The only thing that works for me is loosening my death grip on “should” while I’m scrapbooking. Plus trying to notice that I am usually happy with imperfect pages. It’s hard to resist the temptation for a do-over when I stamp my date crooked or if I mess up my journaling. But, the more I resist, the more pages I complete and the better I feel.
I hope I’ve given you some ideas that may help you! I love to chat scrapbooking, so if you’d like to share your own thoughts on anything I’ve said, or if you have any questions, please leave a comment below or over on my instagram.
Thanks again to Kaitlin for being a part of this series! Seriously, please tell me you didn’t just come away with at least 5 different things to take to heart. I know I relate back to almost everything she has said and have experienced these same thoughts and feelings, too! Please leave us a comment and let us know what you learned from Kaitlin – we’d love to hear!
If you are interested in participating in the interview series, please contact me here!
See you next month – until then, lead your best creative life today!