Fitting It All In

In the fall of 2013, I created a series here on my blog all about how to find time for the creative time we all desire.

Here is an archive of all the posts, from beginning to end. Enjoy!



Series Introduction:

"How do you do it?"

"How do you find the time to be creative?"

"You must just scrapbook ALL the time!"

"How do you get anything else done?"

Oh my...

Life IS busy, isn't it?
I am a homeschooling, cooking, cleaning, gardening, knitting, scrapbook loving wife and mother of (soon-to-be) 4 children. Life around here is certainly busy! By the looks of this blog, all I do is scrapbook. 

Wouldn't that be fun?!?! Well, maybe. After all, you have to live life to have something to scrapbook about, right?
Those questions above? I hear them all the time. Almost daily. While I am certainly no expert in time management, I do know what works for me... 

Also, aside from my every day face-to-face interactions, I continue to get many an email regarding just this topic.

With that in mind, I figured it appropriate to do a little series about Fitting It All In.

Take a Look:
(Trouble playing the embedded video? Direct link here: YouTube Link)
I am super excited about this and I hope to see you here soon as we get started. Also, feel free to leave your tips and/or questions as we go along. I would love to hear how you fit in your creative time and any specific conundrums you might have along the lines of this topic! At the end of this series I will compile a "reader tip list" along with a Q&A. So, don't hesitate to chip in!
See you soon as we discuss...

This layout, was lifted/directly inspired by Jill Sprott over at Two Peas in a Bucket. I just love how fitting all the alphas in with the journaling directly mirrors the theme of squeezing creative time into our lives!
Have a great weekend!

What Is Your Reality?


Hello there and happy Friday! Welcome to the Fitting It All In series here at PurpleMailbox. If you missed the Series Introduction, please check it out

So.... how exactly do I fit it all in? Well, I don't.
But, we will get to that. First things first!

Let's talk reality
Oh, boo. Reality can be SO boring. Why are we talking about it? 

Well, because it is a fact of life. We all have our own reality and each of our's will look different. It might be plain and simple, or it might feel like a million things jumbled up...

To truly figure out how to fit it all in, we really do have to face our own reality. 
After all, it is pretty hard to find "extra" time to get crafty when you don't truly know where your time goes!

So.... What is YOUR reality?

See yourself on that list above? Or are you on a completely different page? Whatever your reality is... 
Write it down:
WAIT! Before you dismiss this idea and assume that you know your reality and you don't need to write it down... remember, there is power in putting something in writing!

Just give it a try... jot out a stream of conscious list of what you face on a daily basis. Not what you hope to face or what you want to face, but the ACTUAL reality of what your daily life brings you. Try to take the emotion out of it. Just pure facts.

Jot this down and ponder....
Take several days. Come back to the list again and again. Be specific. You will be glad, I promise!

Having my reality in a factual perspective is a huge piece of how I am able to find the time to be creative.

As you can see from that list above, a big part of my reality is the work I do at home. While that consists of many things, a huge portion of it is homeschooling...
(this layout was scrapped last year for Skissedella)
It truly is the best job I have ever had. But, yes - it is a job. And, that job is a big part of my reality. Just as you will most likely have something on your list that takes up a huge chunk of your time. Don't despair... there is still time within the big chunks! But, let's not get ahead of ourselves...

So, what does all of this list making and pondering have to do with finding time to get crafty? It's a step in the right direction of figuring out how exactly to fit it all in! 

I also happen to be of the mindset that if you are constantly wishing you could just find more time, or have a day off, or get a different job, or have a bigger studio, or, or, or.... WELL, that my friends, is just paralyzing. 

Sure, it is good to have goals - to hope and to dream. 

But, reality is a fact of life and I believe it is important to properly face your current reality in order to move into a place where you can indeed make the most of it.

Are you still with me? I hope so :) 

If you are not convinced, I encourage you to hang in with me here. 

Are you hoping for some actual, practical, this is how I make a layout in 5 minute increments kinda post? Don't worry. We will get there. 

But, in order for that to have the most impact and to be truly helpful, let's humor ourselves with some of this pondering....

So - go make some lists, ponder them.... and have a great weekend!

Also, feel free to leave your tips and/or questions as we go along. I would love to hear how you fit in your creative time and any specific conundrums you might have along the lines of this topic! At the end of this series I will compile a "reader tip list" along with a Q&A. So, don't hesitate to chip in!
More soon... 

The "S" Word:

Hello there and happy Friday! Welcome back to the Fitting It All In series here at PurpleMailbox. If you missed the previous posts, you can check them out here:


Hopefully you have been able to ponder your current reality. Remember, not what you want your reality to be, but what it actually is. 

Great! Now what?

So glad you asked!

Now that we all have our realities jotted down and have hopefully come to terms with them in some way...

Let's talk about that dreaded "S" word...

SCHEDULE
(More information about the calendar shown above can be found here.)

Ack! Yuck! How awful! We creative types can not be bound by such mundane things. How stifling! 
(More information about the layout shown above can be found here.)

And yes, it can be very stifling. But, reality will eventually rear its ugly head and even the most creative master minds have some sort of daily order. So, hear me out..
(More information about the layout shown above can be found here.)

If you go to Pinterest or even Google and search Planner, or FiloFax, or Schedule, or Homekeeping Binder, you will find millions upon millions of beautiful papers to download and print out... decorative ways to order your day. These are not bad. I have succumb to many of them myself. And, if those work for you... REALLY work for you, more power to you! 

But, I have found that all of those lovely forms with blocks of time and such can be rather stifling. Sure, the reality of life is that we function by the tick-tock of a clock. However, my reality has also proven that nothing really ever happens as it should on that piece of paper. And when it doesn't, it is so easy to just throw up our hands and declare defeat!

"I have SO much to do!"
"I don't have enough time!"
"I knew I couldn't get it all done!"
"If only there were 30 hours in a day!"

Sound familiar?

What is a crafty girl to do?

For one, I would like to propose that we throw this idea of a schedule out of the window and instead focus on our

ORDER OF EVENTS...
As you might notice from my order of events up above, this was made using ONLY the items on my list of reality. Notice also that it is very general and non-specific. I haven't yet put in all those fun things I want to fit into my day. Don't worry. We will get there.
(More information about the layout shown above can be found here.)

Perhaps you don't stay at home and you spend most of your days in an office.
Your order of events might look more like this:

Wake Up
Commute
At Desk
Lunch
At Desk
Commute
Dinner
Bed

Or maybe you only work part time? 
Your oder of events might be more along the lines of this:

Wake Up
Breakfast
Work, Chores, or Errands
Dinner
Bed

The point here is to not get too nitty gritty. Don't create separate orders for separate days. Be general enough that your list will apply to most days. Sure, there are days where everything just gets tossed to the wayside. But, we must not cater to those. Cater to the more typical.

So, go ahead and jot out your order of events, with the approximate time it takes for each event. Are you lucky enough to have a big chunk of your day that is essentially "free time?" If you do, my guess is you aren't reading this series. But, if in fact you are still with me... jot that out on your order of events too. 

Be accurate, but don't turn this into a traditional schedule.

Got that all written out? Great! Now grab a colored pen...
Now, looking VERY thoughtfully at your order of events, think about areas where there is "extra time." Using your colored pen, jot that down with a short explanation. 

Don't assign that time to any particular activity yet. 
Simply make a note that the time is there

As you can see above, I made a note that while I am waiting for my girls to join me for our school time, there is always a good 10-15 minutes of lag time... time when they are grabbing a toy, getting water, or something else that has to happen or the world will cease as we know it. Am I going to use that time staring at the wall? Of course not! Jot those moments down.

Do you spend a large part of your day in a car? While it's not complete free time in the traditional sense, jot down on your list that you have time to "think," or "plan."

Maybe you spend a big part of your day in the gym. Good for you! Jot down that you have time. Yes, you are doing something else, but I am sure you can find time to listen or watch something?

Alrighty!

Now that you have your order of events with colored notes of where you might be able to "fit things in," it's time to ponder...

Ponder how accurate you have been with this list.
Ponder how much time you really do or don't have.
Ponder your priorities.

OH! Priorities! 
That is a big one. 
It deserves it's own post... Stay tuned!

Priorities:

Hello there and happy Friday! Welcome back to the Fitting It All In series here at PurpleMailbox. If you missed the previous posts, you can check them out here:
So, hopefully we are all on the same page here and we have thought a bit about our priorities... 
Go ahead and jot them down. 

A quick note to those non-list people who might be reading this:

You don't have to do this in a list format. Don't let that discourage you. Mind map it. Doodle it. Art journal it. Whatever works. Just put pen or paint to the page and get the thoughts out of your brain...
As you can see from the list above, I tried to keep it simple and broad and I also listed the items in order of importance.
Your list might have some similarities, or it might be vastly different. 
It doesn't matter. 
Your priorities are yours and yours alone. Own them. 
Don't write down what you think Nosey Neighbor Nancy wants your priorities to be, or what your mother thinks they should be. 

Write down what you want them to be! 
As you write your list, you will probably start to notice that you don't always prioritize properly. Well, at least that is what happened to me when I made my list. That's OK! 

Don't get distracted by that and by no means are you allowed to hop on the guilt train

Just write down what you want your priorities to be and stay encouraged that each day begins anew...

Now... Remember that Order of Events from the last post?


Take a look at it and then at your newly made list of priorities. Using your colored pen, go ahead and cross out the priorities that are already a part of that Order of Events:
Then, circle the ones that you need to "find time" for. 

As you can see from my list above, my faith, my children, my home keeping, and my health are all an integral part of my daily order of events. And if I am functioning at a relatively human rate... they will be accomplished.

Now for those that were circled... 
Remember the Order of Events where you jotted down those areas where you could "find time?"
That is exactly where the "extras" can by filled in. I don't know about you, but I find this so freeing!

You see... I won't be able to fit all of my priorities into every single day. However, I know in my order of events exactly where I have a bit of "extra time." This gives me permission to fit in those priorities, that are circled on the list above, as I am able.
  • On many days, it's quality time chatting with my husband.
  • Some days, it might be a power walk.
  • Other days, it might be time in the studio.
  • And every now and then, I might just do something social :)


Now - I know what you are thinking...

You work all the time. After you get home, take care of the family, etc.... you are just whooped.
Ah yes! I think we can all relate to that at some point in our lives.

Here is what I would say - use your "free time" to perhaps engage in something more passive.
  • Watch a craft video.
  • Listen to a Podcast.
  • Plan your next page in your head. (more on that soon :)

This also applies to those moments where your "free time" is only free on a mental level.... commuting, exercising, vacuuming, etc...

Use those moments to mentally multi task!

Or, maybe you do have the time to do something more active and engaging, but you are just too tired and can not seem to find your crafty mojo....
  • Organize some supplies.
  • Clean up your scraps.
  • Edit photos.
  • Browse an online gallery.


Trust me... there are many, many times when I am not actively engaged in making something, but feel I am utilizing my creative energy by engaging my brain in certain tasks, like the ones mentioned above.

But, knowing where I can "find" that time, allows me the freedom to plug in those priorities as I see fit! 

And the freedom to say, "not today."

You see, once you know where your "extra time" lies. You can make use of it however you wish. 

Freedom!
"Ok - that's fabulous Ashli... I have now figured out that I do indeed want to prioritize scrapbooking and I may or may not have a select few 15 minute increments on any given day to get that done." 

"How, dear Ashli, do you suggest I actually make that happen?"

Glad you asked! We will get to that, I promise! 

I will see you soon as we take a slight breather and look at some everyday tips and tricks to have in place that will actually make it possible to be a productive scrapper with just little bits of time.

In the mean time, I encourage you to ponder your list of priorities, make any adjustments you might think of, and get ready to plug them into those extra bits of time!

And remember... feel free to leave your tips and/or questions as we go along. I would love to hear how you fit in your creative time and any specific conundrums you might have along the lines of this topic! At the end of this series I will compile a "reader tip list"along with a Q&A. So, don't hesitate to chip in!

See you soon!

A Do's and Dont's Detour:

Hello there and happy Friday! Welcome back to the Fitting It All In series here at PurpleMailbox. If you missed the previous posts, you can check them out here:

Alrighty! Now that we have taken a very close look at how we are spending our time and where our individual priorities lie, let's take a little detour...

  • A detour to some tips...
  • A detour to some practical suggestions...
  • A detour into some of my do's and don'ts...


You see, I have found that in order to "find time" and then actually make good use of it, it requires having some things set in place, knowing what I need to do and when I will do it, and also what I don't need to do.

So... here is a run down of some of my do's and don'ts!
(Let me say first, that the following list is all very personal and I am merely sharing what works for me. Just because it works for me, doesn't mean it will work for you... so have a peek and ponder what do's and don'ts you may be able to implement for yourself :)

What DON'T I Do?

I Don't Do All of the Chores:
That's right! At a young age, my children are taught that it takes a family effort to live as a family. I really could write a whole separate series on this topic alone and some of our philosophies. But, for now, I will leave it simple. 

Use your time together as a family wisely. 
Work together.
Run errands together.
Cook Together.
Learn Together.

This way, when all of the work is done, free time means free time for EVERYONE! YAY!

We Watch Very Little TV:
See that lovely little black box hanging on my wall? It doesn't get turned on all that often. Sure, we have our favorite shows. But, we don't have cable or satellite. With our channel options limited, we often turn to the internet to watch shows we enjoy, or we simply just don't watch them. It really is amazing what you can accomplish when the glowing box isn't glowing :)

I Don't Do Facebook:
GASP! WHAT? How do you stay connected? Oh my! 
LOL. Trust me, it's ok. I still have friends, and yes... they still bother to email or text me. Sure, I probably don't know what they had for breakfast, but I am ok with that :)

In all seriousness, we made a decision as a family a long time ago, that we would not join Facebook, and we have just stayed with that. We are not against Facebook or social media in general (in fact I am on Instagram and Twitter), we just want to avoid the distraction and the many rabbit trails that a platform like Facebook can invite.

I Don't Go Out Very Much:
You might have noticed from my last post in this series that socializing was at the bottom of my priority list. HA! This is certainly not the case for everyone, but it is amazing how much more you can get done when you just stay home.

I Try to Avoid the Magazine/Pinterest Trap:
I stopped subscribing and/or buying home decor magazines years ago. 

Is there anything wrong with them? Well... not at face value. 

But, I have found that the more I am bombarded with images of the ideal home, the perfectly organized space, the trendy new colors, the best way to arrange your small space, etc... etc.... Well, it makes my brain busy...

Busy with ideas...
Busy with new-found to do lists...
Busy thinking that everything I have needs to be improved upon...

When my brain is busy, I become busy. Running around to find the perfect new organizing bin, picking up paint chips to repaint the dresser, etc... etc...

Sure, I like to decorate, I like to redo a room from time to time and I enjoy finding new things for my home. The key is to not make it a constant in my life. I don't want home decor to become part of my daily order of events.

And, of course... Pinterest is the modern equivalent of this. Yes, I am on Pinterest. But, I don't have a decor board. No, there is nothing wrong with that. 

Like I said, I have just found that for me... constantly seeking something new or better in the items that surround me is just needless self-induced busyness.

You get the idea.

Being content with what I have and not constantly looking to acquire new things or to improve upon what is already just fine, helps me "find time" because I am not spending it elsewhere.

I Don't Go Shopping:
First and foremost, I don't like to shop (unless I am shopping for craft supplies). The idea of combing through racks and racks to find the perfect shirt is dreadful to me. So, I simply don't do it. I buy most things, other than groceries, online. HUGE timesaver when I am not running all over town looking for something.

I Don't Talk On the Phone:
Another thing I have never really liked to do. I don't have the best hearing, so half the time I can't hear what the other person is saying. Also, I would really just prefer to get together with you if there is a lot to say. Luckily, most of my close friends live in the same town :) For those long distance people, texting and messaging has been lovely... not to mention Skype and Facetime.

So....

What On Earth DO I DO?

I Do Have a Chore List:
I have specific days each week that I tackle certain chores. For example, I clean the bathrooms on Mondays. So, if the bathroom looks a little disheveled on Saturday and I really want to go get scrappy, I am not worried about it because I know that I will clean it on Monday. See? Permission to leave the bathroom alone and head to the studio! Having this schedule in place and sticking to it, takes the guilt out of those lovely tasks.

I Do Get Plenty Of Sleep:
This is huge for me! If I don't have at least 7 or 8 hours, I can't think straight. And, if I can't think straight, I can't make the best use of my time.

I Do Keep All of My Supplies Out:
Seriously, If I did not have all of my goodies out and easy to grab at a moment's notice, I would not get nearly as much crafting squeezed in. 
I do know that I am VERY fortunate to have a space that I can do this in. I know this is not reality for a lot of you. If that is the case, think outside the box!

  • Maybe you are working on a page and can't decide what embellies to put on it? Set it on top of your dresser with several choices and noodle it each time you walk by.
  • Have a partially finished page but have to put it up and walk away from it? Take a picture of it on your phone and pull it up when you have a free moment to reflect on what else you would like to do with it.
  • Don't have time to make a whole page? Grab a stencil, some mist, and some cardstock. Spritz away and leave those background pages on a free surface in your house. Hang them on the fridge if you have to. Just seeing and pondering work in progress can keep your creative brain going.


I Do Keep a Very Small Stash:
What you see above is the entirety of my washi, my stamps, my flair, and my mists. Not only is this easy on your wallet, but it keeps the decision process to a minimum when working on a page and thus cuts down on your time.
I also try to limit myself. The drawer above is full of alphas and sticker sheets. If I have more than I can flip through while creating one page, I have too many. I don't allow myself to buy more. This can be REALLY hard with all of the new goodies that are constantly coming out, but, once again... it speeds up my creative process tremendously!
That photo above? All the paper I own. With the acrylic dividers removed I am pretty sure the stack wouldn't exceed 2-3 inches in depth. Once again, limited choices make for faster scrapping!

I Do Limit My Computer Time:
Oh yes, this is one I struggle with for sure. But, I try to be good and not get sucked into the many rabbit trails that are out there on the world wide web. I only open my computer in the early morning and late evening. It does help to keep me from getting distracted!

I Do Meal Plan and Use My Crock Pot:
Yes, indeed! When dinner is started at breakfast and cooking all day, I have that much more time to do other fun things! Plus, it means I am not slaving away over a stove for an hour before supper time. Huzzah!

So, there you have it... a detour into some of my personal Do's and Don'ts.

Will all of this work for everyone? Of course not! But, hopefully this will encourage you to think about some things that you can implement in your life to help you find some of that precious time and to make room for crafting!

I know I only lightly touched on each on of these Do's and Don'ts... so, feel free to ask specific questions if you have any :)

See you next time as we look at a real-time start to finish and see how exactly I create. 

I will give you a hint... I hardly ever get to sit down and do a page from start to finish. It is usually done in about 10 different increments of 5 minutes at a time. Join me as we take a look at how that works.

See you soon!

Putting That Time to Good Use:

Hello there and happy Friday! Welcome back to the Fitting It All In series here at PurpleMailbox. If you missed the previous posts, you can check them out here:
So, I think that has you all wondering... how do we put all of this into practice and actually make something?

Now that we have identified where we might be able to carve out a few moments here and there throughout our busy days, how exactly do we turn those snippets of time into some real creating... with an actual finished product?

For this post to make the most sense, please be sure you have read the previous posts in this series (linked up above).

All caught up? Great! Let's take a look...

Here is how we will do this... see my phone below? I am going to set the stopwatch every time I hit the studio to work on my next page. I promise, I am not looking at the clock and I am certainly not trying to beat it. This is an actual, true life account, of how I often create...

Here we go!

STEP 1

3 pm, Monday, November 11
  • Children are having "quiet rest time." (what is that? it is a mandatory 1 1/2 hours that they are required to sit quietly in their room and look at books. This has never been negotiable in our house. Believe me... some days, I LIVE for this time :)

WHAT DID I GET DONE?

  • Chose my photos and possible papers. (I keep most of my photos printed and in a box so that I am not spending time printing a picture in order to scrap it.)
Speaking of photos... my dear bloggy friend, Nirupama, has some amazing ideas and examples on how exactly to capture all of those moments when life is speeding by... and.... she has graciously agreed to share them here, next week!

HOW LONG DID IT TAKE?

  • 4 minutes and 12 seconds
After this, I set about "scrapping in my head." This is how I get the majority of my layouts done. What exactly do I mean? Well, after choosing my photos and papers, I have several ideas whirling around in my head of possible compositions and techniques that might work with my elements and my story. I generally try to have these worked out in my head before I get back to my studio. That way, when I am back to tangible creative time, it is super productive. And, between each step, I continue on "scrapping in my head."

STEP 2

3:40 pm, Monday, November 11
  • Children are doing their afternoon tidy-up

WHAT DID I GET DONE?

  • Noodled around some possible designs with my patterned paper selections
  • Pulled embellishments

HOW LONG DID IT TAKE?

  • 4 minutes and 56 seconds


STEP 3

6:10 pm, Monday, November 11
  • Daddy giving kids a bath

WHAT DID I GET DONE?

  • Photos cut out
  • Frames cut from patterned paper
  • Basic composition laid out to ponder... other than the background paper, nothing is glued down yet

HOW LONG DID IT TAKE?

  • 16 minutes and 48 seconds

STEP 4

4:16 pm, Tuesday, November 12
  • Children playing in the backyard

WHAT DID I GET DONE?

  • Background paint stenciled on and left to dry

HOW LONG DID IT TAKE?

  • 2 minutes and 23 seconds
  
STEP 5

10:00 am, Wednesday, November 13
  • Children making beds and completing chores (my chores are done... perhaps one day the kids will realize that if they focus and get their job done quickly, then they will have time to play like mommy does :)

WHAT DID I GET DONE?

  • Background finished with mist and doodles
  • Layers added behind photos
  • Photos and twine glued down
  • Paint added to camera embellishment

HOW LONG DID IT TAKE?

  • 16 minutes and 12 seconds
  
STEP 6

3:00 pm, Wednesday, November 13
  • Children having "quiet rest time"

WHAT DID I GET DONE?

  • Twine stapled down
  • Journaling added
  • Mist drops applied
  • Brads added
  • Pop dots placed around under certain elements
  • Final page photographed

HOW LONG DID IT TAKE?

  • 18 minutes and 33 seconds
And there we have a layout completed in 6 separate increments of time. 
For a grand total of....

  • 63 minutes and 4 seconds

Now, how likely is it that I could have carved out just over an hour of time during those busy days? Not likely. Sure, there are other days where that is possible. But, not on these particular days. And what you saw above is exactly how I manage to fit scrapbooking in, even when my life is busy!
 How awesome is that?
You see, once I have identified those "free moments" and have a good understanding of my priorities, I am free to choose which priority gets attention during those snippets of time. On these days, I mostly chose scrapbooking... and a bit of gardening too :)
Now, go grab a few minutes of your "free time" and get creative!

Please join us next week as Nirupama shares some of her tips on fitting photography into your busy life, as we continue in this series.

And remember... feel free to leave your tips and/or questions as we go along. I would love to hear how you fit in your creative time and any specific conundrums you might have along the lines of this topic! At the end of this series I will compile a "reader tip list"along with a Q&A. So, don't hesitate to chip in!

See you soon!

Get Those Photos Taken: (with special guest, Nirupama)

Hello there and happy Friday! Welcome back to the Fitting It All In series here at PurpleMailbox. If you missed the previous posts, you can check them out here:
So far, we have taken a look at our schedules, examined our priorities, set the plan in place and put the time to good use. But, this is all assuming we actually have photos at the ready to scrapbook! 

How on earth are we supposed to make sure we remember to take photographs so that we have them to scrapbook?

Please welcome the VERY talented Nirupama. I am so thrilled that she has agreed to share with us how she manages to fit photography into her busy schedule!

Take a look...
________________________________________________________________________

I don't know about you, but I am loving Ashli's series on Fitting it All In. I love how her mind is constantly working on new things. I have loved all of her series... like her Creative Journey and her new newsletter. She is always thinking!


And this new Fitting It All In series has really gotten me thinking too. 


I stay at home with my children. But, between pre-school, driving to activities, and regular errands there just aren't that many hours in the day. 

I love her perspective on using that in-between time to get things done. 

And her idea of cleaning together is huge! I'd much rather spend nap time doing something creative instead of doing laundry, especially when I get to call my daughter Cinderella while she helps load the washer.

It also got me thinking about other things I need to carve out time for as part of this whole creative process. 

I do regular layouts in addition to weekly Project Life. Sometimes the spreads just flow and other times I sit down and realize I have taken no pictures all week. We spend a lot of time in the car now, driving back and forth...not exactly conducive to picture taking! I realized I needed to step it up. 

I love to tell a story, but photographs are where I draw my main creative inspiration from. With the year winding down, it is easy to run out of steam. Let's not let that happen!

Here are some tips for being intentional with photography...

Keep Your Camera With You
Bring your camera on outings! Having a good camera phone is great, but if you are lugging around your regular camera you will be that much more likely to use it.

Get In Front of the Lens
Don't be shy! Ask others to hold the camera. 

I love these shots Ryan took of me at brunch one day. While the story of brunch isn't that exciting, we haven't done any maternity photos as of yet, so these picts will work well to tell plenty of other stories! 

All I had to do was edit out all the powdered sugar stains from my skirt...



Look for Clean Backgrounds
Nothing ruins a nice set of photos like seeing a bunch of random people or things in the background. It is distracting and I don't like it. I'm not likely to scrap what I don't like. Luckily, there are a few ways to deal with this...

When you are out and about, look for areas with lots of greenery, and line up your shots with that in the background. 

Or, frame the shot appropriately, avoiding trash cans or unwanted signage. Do whatever it takes to get a nice neutral background!

If all else fails, you can always just hold your camera up and shoot down ward. Photos don't have to be of feet alone, you can get some great perspective shots that way.

Yes, you can be the only people in your Disney shots too!

Shoot When Its Clean
At home, pulling out the camera after the annual (I mean, er weekly), cleaning is a great way to get some clutter-free shots. Plus, the kids always seem to play better when their toys are picked up. These are the moments I love to capture anyway. I got this tip from Anandi at the Papercraft Lab and I just love it:

"After you tidy up for the day/week/fortnight/whatever make a point to get the camera out and take around the house pics."

Mini Photo Shoots
Professional photo shoots are amazing investments for a family to have. It is a great excuse to get dressed and try a little harder. But, these are not always in the budget or schedule. We have not had any professional family portraits in years! But, that doesn't mean we don't do photo shoots. We just do them ourselves and keep it low key!

Sometimes they are planned and I dress the kids up a little (and myself, let's face it - I'm much more likely to get in the picture if I feel good about how I look...nothing wrong with that!).
Often times, I set up the self-timer and balance the camera on our stroller or a sturdy ledge before jumping in the photo!

Other times, it is just a right time/right place situation. When pumpkin season first started we took a ton of photos outside of the grocery store. They actually turned out better than our real pumpkin patch photos, so I just went with it!






No real story here, but having a pumpkin page every year is a tradition for me and I like to keep it going.

Use Different Times of Day and Different Light
Step back from your routine and take pics at different times of the day. Try to pick a different time of day for a few days in a row and see what you get. I do this a lot for my Day and Week in the Life albums. The light may not be that perfect mid-day sun, but things look different and are therefore worth noting. This picture of Nandini has no natural light to it, but I'm glad I got it!

Graphic designer Pink Ronnie really does a fabulous job with this. Her photos show (gasp!) shadows as well as light. So inspiring.

Those In-Between Times and Embracing the Selfie
Waiting...you know...school pick up times, after school classes, dance etc. is a great time to take some pictures, random, silly or posed.






We were waiting for Avinash's dance class to be over here. Nothing special, but she is smiling and letting me hold her, which is a feat in and of itself. SO glad I decided to use some of the time to play with my camera!

More Random Tips
When you garden, keep the camera close. Gardening is one chore that is very conducive to photos. Decorating is as well, which I bet you are doing a lot of this time of year!

Self timer shots...set these up while cooking or crafting together to capture the action, while staying in the shot yourself.

These tips are also fun to remember if you are working on a daily project like Week in the Life or the upcoming December Daily, but really, they apply year-round as well!

So, I encourage you to grab your camera, shoot the unexpected, and change up your perspective. You will be glad you did!
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Nirupama, thank you SO much!

I just love each and every one of these tips! I think my favorite has to be the "hold your camera up high and see what happens"idea. Genius! And, that photo you managed to get while doing that at Disney? Priceless!!!

Plus, I need to remember to utilize my camera's self-time feature. That is such a great idea. Now, I just have to figure out how to set it. HA!

I hope you all enjoyed these tips as much as I do. And, if you don't follow Nirupama's blog already, please do. As you can see from this post, she is very talented and consistently inspiring!

Thanks for joining us today! Please join me again next week as we take a look at how to fit blogging, in addition to crafting, into your busy schedule...

See you soon!

So You Want to Blog Too?

Hello there and happy Friday! Welcome back to the Fitting It All In series here at PurpleMailbox. If you missed the previous posts, you can check them out here:
I have loved getting all of your comments and questions as we move along in this series. I am working on putting a post with all of your tips and questions compiled. In the meantime, Cheryl, asked a question that I thought was worthy of it's own post...

How Do You Find Time to Blog?

Sure, it's one thing to make something, but to photograph it, upload the pictures, write about it, etc, etc... Well, that must just take some super human time management, right?

Nah. It's not too hard. In fact, before I started my blog, I took Shimelle's Blogging for Scrapbookers Course. It was priceless! It really took the mystery out of this whole blogging thing for me. 

But, before we get to that, let's take a step back...

Why Do You Want to Blog?

Cheryl didn't ask me this question, but I think it is an important one to answer. If you are also a blogger, I encourage you to think about this as well. 

You see, there are many reasons one might want to be a craft blogger. There are no wrong reasons. However, knowing your specific reasons will help keep you on track and focused as you forge ahead in the great big blogosphere.
So, why do I personally want to blog?
Well, there are several reasons...

To Share and Be Encouraged
When I first started scrapbooking, I would show my pages to my very willing and patient family. They would give the appropriate thumbs up, but never once did I hear them say "Wow, I just love your clustering!" or, "I love the way you used that stencil." Well, as luck would have it... I get that kind of feedback on the world wide web. Huzzah! 

To Participate in a Community 
There really is just something to be said about being a part of a community of people that have the same scrapbooking obsession as I do.

It Teaches Me
You know that old saying? That the teacher often learns more than the students? Well, I don't consider myself a teacher of any sort here on ye ole' blog. But, I do find that writing out my thoughts about my creative process really does teach me and helps me to see things in a different way... ways I might not see if I were merely posting my work to an online gallery. I am able to dig deeper here on the blog.

Personal Accountability
Let's be honest. When I have a deadline, even if it is self-imposed, I just stay on top of things more. I am much less likely to put a layout to the side and stop working on it if I know that I have planned it for a post.

Opportunity
I didn't start out with a notion of perceived success. In fact, I made it a personal choice not to pursue anything and to really just focus on my blog and doing my thing. However, I would be remiss if I didn't mention that this blog has opened some amazing doors of opportunity in the creative world that I have been blessed to be a part of.

Reflection
It is truly amazing to be able to pull up a post and quickly access what I was doing creatively at any given time. It offers perspective and room for growth. Priceless.
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Alrighty. Now that we have covered that... 
I think it is important to define how you want your blog to be. Or in other words...

What is the Mission of Your Blog?

While this is somewhat similar to the above mentioned items, let's take it a bit deeper. 

It is important to really define what you want your blog to be and how you want to operate it in order to successfully fit it into your "free time."

What does this mean for me? 

I want my blog to be...

About the creative process
I want more than the "look what I made" type of posts. I have no problem reading those, and follow several bloggers that post in that style. However, for me to stay motivated to post, I need to go beyond that. 

Real
Creativity is such a journey. A journey full of successes and failures alike. I want my blog to show that. I think it is so interesting to read about or see pictures of another scrapbookers struggles. It makes them real. I want to be real too. I think we can all learn from that. I know I do. 

Full of photos
Let's face it, most people "look" and blogs as opposed to "reading" them. Hey, I do that! We are all busy and sometimes we only have a couple of minutes to check out a post. (If that is you today, and you stumbled across this incredibly wordy post, chances are you are no longer reading. But, if you are still with me...my apologies!) 

The more photos there are and the more the blocks of text are broken up with images, the more likely we are to come away with some sort of new idea or inspiration. 

As a side note, doesn't it crack you up when someone leaves a comment that is in some way a dead giveaway that they didn't read a word of your post? LOL! I am sure I have been guilty of that a time or two as well :)

Simple and Pretty
Of course, this is somewhat subjective. But, I want my blog to be easy to read, easy to look at, and easy to navigate. I want the pictures to fill the width of the column. I want the graphics clean. That is totally a personal choice, but it's good to know where you stand on that as you go about building your blog.

Fun 
YES! This is super important to me. I want to have fun with my posts. I want to enjoy doing it. I don't want it to be a chore. This certainly applies to the above mentioned ideas as well. If I am not entertained, my readers are most definitely not going to be either.

Purposeful
I try really hard not to post "just because I should." I want each post to be full of content, and if it's not... it should be directing you to another place that has such content. In fact, if I am out of ideas, or haven't made anything worthy of it's own post, chances are it might be quiet here for a few days. For me, that is totally ok. 

The bottom line? Make your blog what YOU want it to be and what YOU will enjoy. You are much less likely to leave it by the wayside if you have a passion for it.

What About the Technical Side?
Ah yes, that is a huge reality of blogging. How do I handle that? I have systems and ways of doing things. Let's take a look...

Photographing the process
This is so fun for me. It is important that it is fun, because that is what makes it easy and not a chore. I simply keep my camera next to my craft table and can pick it up and shoot anything I am working on. Easy.

I also photograph my projects as soon as they are done. If it is dark out, I do it the next day. If I have a build-up of projects to photograph, it is that much less likely to happen.

Photo editing
Sure, it's one thing to photograph the process, but what about managing all of those pictures and getting them into a cohesive blog post? In a word... batches. That's right. I tend to wait until I have several posts worth of pictures on my camera. I then download them all into iPhoto. I immediately delete what isn't good, edit what is, and export them to a folder that is the title of the future post. When I sit down to write, this makes things SO much easier!
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OK! We have our "why." We have our "mission." And we have our "techy talk."
Now, are you wondering how exactly I make time for all of that?
Let's take a look...

When Do You Blog?

During my "free time"
You guessed it! I manage to fit my blogging into my schedule much like I do my tangible creative time

But, there is one important clarification to be made. I don't fit those little bits of time in on the actual computer. I use The Brain. HA! No really, The Brain is what I call my planner and it's where I keep my notes for my posts. So, if I have a brilliant idea, but only a few moments... I am certainly not going to waste that time turning on the computer, starting a new post, etc. Instead, I am just going to head to The Brain and jot down my notes. Easy!

When it is a priority
Ah yes, the priority word again. But, hey... it's true. In fact, I am writing this as my husband is putting the kids to bed. Could I be in the studio crafting? Sure. But, I know I want this post to go up tonight and it is just not realistic for me to do both. I enjoy both the tangible crafting and the blogging, so it's not hard for me to choose one over the other when necessary. 

And, trust me, if I wasn't in the mood to write this, or I started to write this and it wasn't going well... I would stop. This is a hobby for me. I want it to be fun. If I did indeed decide to set it aside and head to the studio instead, I would pick it back up tomorrow. Prioritize and persevere, my friends!
2-3 time a week
I don't want to commit to more. Sometimes it happens, but I don't want my readers to expect it. Also, as a reader of other blogs, I tend to find it overwhelming when a blogger posts daily. In this busy life, it can just be too much to keep up with. I try to post on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, with the posts going live the night before. 

That leaves me writing a post on Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday nights. If I don't have enough content, or am super busy, I combine my Wednesday and Friday posts into one post that will go up for Thursday. I try REALLY hard to never blog on the weekends. Sometimes it has to happen due to a specific project or commitment, but I generally try to avoid it.
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One last thing...

What About All of That Social Media?
It's pretty much common sense that if you want to have a blog that is an active part of the scrapbooking community, you have to promote yourself. Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Message Boards, Commenting on other bloggers.... The list goes on.

How on earth do I get all of that in?

I don't do it all. I don't do Facebook. I tend to only use my Twitter account as a vehicle for my Instagram posts. I read message boards, but don't usually comment. I try to comment on my favorite blogs, but often respond in other ways... such as pinning the work or linking back to it in some way.

So if you consider all of that mentioned above, that leaves me mostly on Instagram. I manage to get that in when I am at a traffic light, waiting in a line, waiting for the dish water to get hot, microwaving something... you get the idea :)

Just squeeze it in. If you can't get to it, don't stress it. The internet will wait, I promise.
_______________________________________________________________________

And there we have it! All the ways I manage to get this whole blogging thing done.
(This layout, seen in detail throughout this post, was directly inspired by Wilna's Art Class 2 over at Two Peas In a Bucket. It is most amazing! More on that in my next post.)

Thanks again for such a great question, Cheryl! All of the other tips and questions I have received will be compiled into a post for next week, as we wrap up this series. So, if you have anything to add, please send it my way!

See you soon!

Tips, Questions, and a Wrap-Up
Alrighty!  That, my friends, brings me to our official wrap-up of this series. And, what better way to do it than with a post full of reader tips, along with a Q&A?

I have loved each and every comment throughout this series and all of the helpful tips shared as well. Without further ado....

Here they are...

Reader Tips:

Ashley Horton says:

I think we find time for what we are passionate about. Some people are passionate about sports, cooking, fishing, reading, traveling, tv...and they find or make time for those things in their life. We all have some down time in our lives at some point during the day, and it's what we choose to do with it. There are other interests that I also enjoy and I know I can't squeeze all of those in, plus my daily job as a stay at home mom and homeschool teacher, so I rotate and manage what I do on different days. And, I have also found, that if I need some me time, that the world isn't going to explode if the dishes don't make it in the dishwasher one day or all of the clothes in the laundry basket don't get washed!! :)
Maura has this to add:

Some days I just have to choose to play over doing other things, so I have learned along the way that things don't need to be perfect in my home. If someone else is driving, I use that time to check out stuff on the net, Pinterest, etc. some days it is just getting in 10-15 minutes, or maybe painting something so it will dry overnight. We just need our own play time!!

And...

It is really good to take stock of what you do every once in awhile. I often fit in 10 or 15 minutes when I can't do more just to keep my creativity going. It might be painting something to let it dry overnight, but then i don't have to wait later on it. I fit more creative time in during the weekends, and when I go to a crop. I find it helps me to have a chunk of time to work in. Other times, I choose to read a book or watch a show with my husband, or get together with friends. I guess what it all boils down to, is when I make creativity a priority in my life, that is when I do it! Thanks for sharing your ideas on this. i always love what you come up with!!
Rebecca offers this:

Lists are good, I do make lists A LOT! I actually set time aside on Friday nights (if I can keep my eyes open) and Saturday nights for my craft time with LOTS of coffee :) Sometimes I'm up until the wee hours, but when I'm doing what I love, I don't even realize the time. On Sundays it is our family day so I craft when I can get a chance, a little here and there. During the week is tough but this is the time to make my dream list of what I want to accomplish for the times I can get a quick minute to sew, glue, paint, or cut in.

Mary Jo has this insight:

I think it's all about priorities truthfully.
But life doesn't always allow us to do what we want.
I wanted so badly to scrapbook last week, but my daughter was sick.
It just had to wait.
Aeryn had this fabulous idea:

I've found that timing myself while making a card or scrapbook layout has helped keep my ADHD brain from drifting. I'm very competitive so I'm wanting to beat the previous time every time I create a new project.
Michelle gets going with sketches:

I've been trying to use the most of my small increments of time, too, though sometimes I struggle with starting up where I left off. Sometimes when I can't think of that initial idea of how to start a page, I'll use a sketch if I don't have the time to play around. It helps to have a general idea of where to lay things out, and then I usually change it up once the foundations are set!

I just love each and every one of these! So many creative idea, thanks everyone!

Now, how about some Q&A?Question:
I think my biggest struggle is GUILT. I do try to fit it all in job, house, COOKING, family, activities, fitness, commuting two hours a day. BUT wow sometimes, ha... a lot of times I don't want to do ANY of it and just create. How do you sort out the guilt factor?

Answer:
I schedule in the "have-to's." I have a specific day each week that I do the laundry, the mopping, the vacuuming, etc. That way, when I notice a dirty floor and it's not Friday, I don't worry about it. Why? Well, I know that on Friday that will get done. This is all within reason, of course. I do have kids, and pets, and well - messes happen. Sometimes BIG messes. So, if I need to, I will clean before the designated day. However, the "I am vacuuming because it is a good idea to keep up with that" sort of cleaning happens on it's designated day. Knowing that there is a time that I will get to it, takes the guilt out of it for me.

Question:
Free time is pretty much the bulk of my time. Married, no kids, disabled, blah blah blah. My priority list is high on the creative, but how do you *schedule* creative. Writing is very high up there, but I never seem to find the time. How do I schedule this in without feeling forced into something so organic? I have severe ADHD so I feel that I'm just not taking advantage of the "blessing" that I've been given of staying home all the time.

Answer:
The first thing that comes to mind, is to put your creative time in your "schedule" during those times of the day that you generally feel most inclined to do it. And - since you are blessed to stay home and have a more open schedule... you could even put the creative time in your order of events several times a day. This doesn't mean you have to actually use it, but at least having it in there might give you more "permission" to go ahead and do it. And, since you love writing, you could prioritize that first.

For instance...
Breakfast
Creative Time
Random chores, etc
Lunch
Creative Time
Errands
Dinner

Of course, I have no idea if the above list fits your lifestyle at all... lol, but - perhaps it could be a good jumping off point.

You also mentioned ADHD... perhaps a large block of time wouldn't work best for you? Maybe you could try writing or creating in smaller blocks of time scattered throughout the day?

Or perhaps you could do more multi-tasking. For instance... while you are waiting for water to boil, you could do some writing, or create a base for a card? 
Question:
How do you deal with the "too tired, don't feel like it, i'll do it tomorrow"... do you ever force yourself to be creative? I know you can't force ideas and inspiration, but do you ever find that you're forcing yourself to sit down and do something creative - or to at least start something?

That seems to be my biggest issue... I have entirely too much going on that's non-negotiable ... Work, housekeeping, pets, expecting a baby, schoolwork, etc... My biggest complaint is that when I do get the time, i'm "insert excuse here" - whatever that might be. How do you deal with that?

Answer:
The short answer to your question is.... yes! I "force" myself quiet a bit, but only because once I get over the initial hump of not feeling like it, I usually get in a groove and if I don't and am hating every minute, I stop. Many times if I don't feel like it and just can not get into it, but want to so bad, I will do something more passive... watch a craft video, organize a supply, etc. 

I often find that spending just a short amount of time on a "passive" activity can spark something in me that has me wanting to run to the studio!

Also, having some sort of accountability has been really helpful to me. Being on design teams and having the blog has been a great sort of motivation. Those deadlines, self-imposed or otherwise, are certainly a good dose of healthy motivation! :)

Question:
How do you fit in time for and manage online classes? You know, the videos and pdf's... the projects... do you generally do all the "assignments" for an online class or just the ones to speak to you?

Answer:
It depends, on a lot, really. It depends on the instructor, the website that the class is offered through, what I hope to get out of the class, etc...

Let's dive a little deeper into that...

When I am considering whether or not to enroll in a class, I am considering many factors:

How much do I enjoy the instructor's work? 
I am more inclined to purchase a class from an instructor who's work I find inspiring. That being said, there are plenty of instructors out there who's style isn't anywhere near mine, but I happen to know that they are very skilled at delivering inspiration and I will be inspired regardless. The flip side of this is there are several instructors who's work I LOVE, but perhaps their style of teaching doesn't speak to me as much. If the content looks awesome and there are plenty of videos, I will take the class. But, I know that I will more than likely just look at the material and not participate as much.

What is the level of involvement the instructor will have?
This is a personal thing, but I have found that I am much more inclined to actively participate in a class when the instructor does as well. I am paying for their insight and their "time" in a sense and if I know they will be there, then so will I.

Is there an easy to use forum where students can and will interact with one another?
Just like I mentioned above, if the instructor is active, the students usually are. When the students are active, the energy of the class is just stronger and lends itself to more motivated participation on my part.

Are there assignments or is it more inspiration driven?
I am more likely to participate with every little detail of a class if it is presented as an "assignment." I find it motivating. This is a totally personal thing as well, but it's good to know yourself and know what you will respond to. This doesn't mean I will dismiss a course without assignments. But, I tend to approach them differently. For instance, I recently signed up for a workshop that is more inspiration driven and less focused on specific assignments. I watched all of the videos at once and then let the information simmer around the ole brain for a while. Once I had a good handle on all of it, I created a couple of layouts that were inspired by the content from the course.

Are there videos?
I am not going to sign up for a class that doesn't have videos. Period. That's just me. If there aren't videos, I am not going to be motivated to dive in.

Is it self-paced or live?
If it is self-paced, I am much less likely to complete the class, or to even make any projects based on the class. I am totally ok with that, though. In fact, I have indeed purchased plenty of self-paced classes knowing that I am simply buying video content. 

What about the PDF's?
I'll be honest... I hardly ever read them. I will open them and look at the pictures, but I rarely read them in their entirety. I know that has to be so annoying to the instructors that put SO much time and effort into a beautiful PDF. But for me, the videos, message boards, and email prompts that go with the class are usually plenty for me.

Once I have chosen a class and I know how I am going to approach it, I simply fit it in the same way I do all my other crafting. 

So... to sum it all up, know what will work best for you and choose your classes to fit in those parameters.

Question:
You mentioned that you have your photos already printed and in a box for scrapping. How often do you print them? I tend to use sketches or scrap-lift a basic layout I spot online. So, by the time I start thinking about using pics from an event, the "thrill" is gone when it comes to running to the store, printing them in different sizes, etc. I'd really like to hear more about your photo printing process.

Answer:
When I download my photos, I sort them immediately. I delete what I don't want, then I sort the rest into files. One of the files is a "to print." Once I have 50-60 photos in my "to print" file, I upload them to persnicketyprints.com and place an order. I order mostly 4x6. If I have multiple photos of an event and know for a fact that I want them smaller in order to scrap, I go ahead and order them smaller. However, I tend to not have my pages planned out that far in advance. So, I order 4x6 knowing that I can possibly trim them down, if need be.

Once the prints arrive, I have a box that is divided up by my scrapbook album titles... one for each child, one for family, one for me, etc... The photos get filed in their appropriate section. Easy!

I did treat myself to an Epson Picturemate last year for when I am in a pinch and want a photo at a moment's notice or really need a picture smaller.

Question:
I am so fascinated by all of the tips and ideas you have presented through your series. The only thing is... I just don't work that way. I am not sure how realistic any of this is to implement in my life. Do you have any tips on adapting this to those of us that just can't manage to work in small increments of time?

Answer:
I think the best way to look at this is to make the most of what you have available to you. Perhaps you just can't get into doing a layout in little bits of time, but you know that you can grab a few hours on Friday night, like our reader tip above? I would try working out a list of ideas or downloading some sketches during the week so that when you do have your chunk of time, you are able to make the most of it. Another thing to think about is the fact that some scrapping is better than none at all. So, while it may not be ideal, fitting it in is better than not engaging at all in something you are passionate about.

Question:
You mentioned that you keep your stash small and that, in and of itself, helps you to cut down on the time it takes you to create. On a practical level, how do you resist all of that buying temptation, choose just what you know you will use, and put it to good use as you create?

Answer:
Know your style. Knowing what you like and what you will use helps tremendously when making purchases. For instance, I LOVE all of those pretty cork embellishments. But, for some reason, I struggle to get them on a page. So, I don't buy them.

Choose paper over embellishments. Oh, that is SO hard! But, most of the patterned papers in a collection can be cut down to create your own page accents without breaking the bank. Plus embellies can be hard to store and sort through, thus taking up valuable crafting time.

Give yourself a waiting period. You know the drill. New items arrive in the shop at your favorite online store. You quickly begin checking it all out and fall in love with every single thing. Especially the embellishments. They are SO cute, after all. Every item makes it into your cart. I do this ALL.THE.TIME! Hey - don't judge... it's fun. Here is the key. DON'T buy it right away. Wait. 12 hours, 24, or more. Chances are, you will find that you "need" those things less and less. But what if they sell out? Yes, that does happen. However, they will make more paper, I promise :)

Use what you buy. It sounds simple, but if you are buying more than you scrapbook, then stop buying. If I have had a paper in my stash for a few months and haven't considered using it... I either know that I over bought or perhaps misjudged my style when purchasing the paper. Buy it, use it, enjoy it!

Whew! 

That's a wrap!

What's with all the random detail shots? You know I can't have a post with this many words and NOT include pictures! HA! And, I tried to make them relevant in some way. Sort of :)

Thanks so much for joining me as we journeyed through this series. Here's to making the most of our time and getting our craft on as much as possible!

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