Tackling Those Unfinished Projects


Over the last couple of months I've been thinking a lot about unfinished projects. Specifically unfinished memory keeping projects.

This year I'm going to make it a priority tackle them and I'm going to share the journey here on my blog.

Here are the steps I'm taking to make this happen:

STEP ONE | Make a conscious choice to make this is a priority this year.

We've set aside three hours per week (a block on Thursday mornings) for me to work through these projects. It doesn't feel like a lot of time, but it's dedicated time to only work on the projects on this list.

STEP TWO | Make a list of all the projects you have unfinished.

Most of my unfinished projects are travel albums. Some of them I started Scrapbook On The Road travel albums while I was on the adventure and others just have photos and stuff and no documentation was done along the way.

Here's what I would like to complete this year:

  • China 2013 Album

  • Paris 2013 Album

  • Ireland 2012 Album

  • Disneyland 2012 Album (see my start here)

  • Italy 2011 Album

  • Italy 2010 Family Album

  • Maui 2010 Album

STEP THREE | Decide which ones are worth finishing and which ones you can let go.

My encouragement to you is to get real about this. Some projects can be let go. Letting go frees you up to focus on the ones that are most important. Another option if you don't want to let go of a project is to change your approach. Instead of a mini-book you might choose to add the photos and words to a Project Life album or simply create a couple of traditional layouts that can be added to an annual album. Remember that there are lots of options and it's okay to change your mind even if you started out in a particular direction.

Be realistic with yourself and your time and your motivation.

STEP FOUR | Make a plan but don't make planning your project. Make completing the projects your project.

So often it's easy to spend all our time planning and not enough time doing. What's your personal procrastination? Shopping for the perfect items? Writing the perfect journaling? Editing your photos? Making decisions about the format or what supplies to use? There are a million and one different ways to procrastinate on these projects or spend all your time planning and then run out of steam.

Each one of us will have a different plan for actually completing these projects. Your plan might be to set aside a couple hours a week or month to devote to these projects that have been on your list for years.

The important part is to have some sort of plan and then make it happen. You can do this. I can do this and I'll share the first part of my plan and my first action steps below.

STEP FIVE | Get to work.

Throughout 2014 I'll share my journey and update you on my process here on my blog.


Here's a look at the specific steps I took this week to get things moving in the right direction:


When you enter my office there's a little room you walk through before you're technically in the office. This is the room that holds the white table which is where we photograph most of our projects. As you can see from the photo above it also includes a blue table (which is on it's way out) with a bunch of baskets and a large rolling baking rack (holding all the trays) that I purchased from a local restaurant supply store a few years back.

I first saw the idea of using a backing rack in one of the last issues of Better Homes & Gardens Scrapbooks Etc magazine. They had set one up in a common area for people to hold projects in-progress. I loved the idea and was able to locate one locally and have it delivered to my house.


When Katie and I started talking about tackling my unfinished projects in 2014 I knew I wanted to utilize these trays in a more intentional way. They've been holding projects and other miscellaneous stuff for the last couple of years with no specific purpose other than storage.


On Thursday we went through all the trays and removed all the random stuff and then assigned a tray to each of my unfinished albums. These trays are 19 inches wide x 26 inches long. We labeled each tray with the project name.

What I love about the trays is that I can simply pull one out and bring it to my work table (or down to the dining room if I wanted to work there) and then just put everything back on the tray to store it away until the next time I'm able to work on it. The trays rock.

Luckily for me most of the stuff for each project (photos, stuff collected while traveling, albums, some products, etc) was all already together. Most of the time I came home from a trip and put everything into a bag and then put it in a pile somewhere in the office. Ah, piles.

Here's what you'll find on each tray at this time:


ITALY 2010 | This is the only trip where all the photos are already printed. A couple years ago I had Katie go through all the photos from this trip (she came on this trip with us) and organize them into envelopes based on themes (vs. a chronological timeline of our adventures). I'm considering putting this trip into a Project Life album because of the sheer number of photos that are all already printed 4x6 and that I didn't start any sort of Scrapbook On The Road album in advance.


ITALY 2011 | This was my first Scrapmap adventure and I did great collecting stuff along the way. I have Instax photos but no other photos printed yet. This album has a kit to go along with it (the one I brought for the people who came on the trip) so I'll likely be using those supplies to bring the album together.


DISNEYLAND 2012 | You can read my recent post about starting the process for this album here.


IRELAND 2012 | My second travel adventure with Scrapmap. I actually did a bit more scrapbooking while we were traveling on this trip, but still nothing near done with no photos printed.


PARIS 2012 | For Paris I took along my own little set of supplies (including my Epson printer) but ended up doing very little (which I was totally fine with). No photos printed yet except for the Instax images. Inside the bigger bag were the supplies I brought along with me. Inside the album are all the pieces of paper and such I picked up along the way.


CHINA 2013 | Again, lots of stuff collected on the way. No photos printed. I can't wait to work with the photos from this trip.

The only one from my list that's missing is our family trip to Maui in 2010. I need to go back and take a look at what photos I have from that trip and figure out how I want to tackle it. It's the only one that I don't have anything from - no plane tickets, notes, etc.


As we were getting each project on it's own tray we made a couple of assessments:

  1. Did I have a format already in place/what album was I planning to use?

  2. Did I have any photos printed?

This was really more for my general information. Most already have albums that go along with them and I'm planning to continue using what I started with for each of those trips.

As I write this up today I actually feel really excited about tackling these projects. Having a plan in place and some time set aside feels good.


After your figure out your own list of projects you'd like to finish this year the next question will be which one to tackle first. I'm planning to do mine one at a time vs. batching my steps such as printing all the photos for all the projects at one time which would be something I'd consider if I didn't print at home.

Next week I'm going to decide which project to begin. Most likely I'll start with whichever one I feel most excited about on Thursday (the day I've set aside to work on these projects) and go from there!

Ready, set, go!

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91 thoughts

  1. Judi says…

    I so need to tackle my unfinished projects too. I might make this one of my actions for OLW -- thanks for the push to make this happen.

    Reply 0 Replies
  2. Michellejeanne says…

    You are in my head Ali!

    Of course my best friend and my sister will laugh at me because finishing my travel albums has been on my list for years, but it really is so much easier to sit down and finish a few 'recent" pages when I have a little time. And any time I have in the car on trip to sketch out/plan pages is usually spent reading out loud or talking - so I don't feel bad.

    However, this year my OLW is Clear, and that includes clearing out those bags of ephemera and travel books etc. from the piles semi-hidden next to my scrap desk (see? totally in my head) and get these things from hanging over my head!

    My plan: work on the shorter albums first when I have time at my scrap desk, because progress is exciting. Then, bring my computer and travel journal with to my daughters 2 hours volleyball practices, stay (instead of driving back and forth and cleaning or doing laundry), and edit/sketch photos of some larger, unfinished projects. Volleyball only lasts for another month so it is reasonable!

    My list:
    Because of You album (CKC 4 years ago - half finished, pages sketched out)

    Boston 2010 - just me for a conference, sightseeing. quick and fun!

    Hawaii 2006 - Maui (Oahu finished). My 8 year old was 18 months!

    Omaha Zoo 2013

    Yellowstone 2003 - 2/3rds finished, only two kids! whoa.

    2012 - Canada/Maine

    2011 - Iowa to Crater lake (Snowy Mtn. Pass, packing and evacuating a flooding campsite in the middle of the night, Salt Lake swimming, Crater Lake, Redwoods, Mt. St. Helens, Drive through Glacier in one day, Devils/Tower/Rushmore)

    2008 Mesa Verde-Arches-Canyonlands-Black Canyon camp trip. Easy to do in sections

    2008 New York (nephews) Wedding - flower girls, lots of sightseeing. sections!

    St. Louis Spring Break 2012 - zoo, museum, picnic, art park. whoa.

    Fairy Album (we routinely point out fairy clearings, doors, amphitheaters when hiking - I think I just need to do this WITH my girls, and maybe make each a small album instead of one larger album.

    Reply 1 Reply
    1. Michellejeanne says…

      and... I have let go of several half finished DD's and a Thankful album. As much as I LOVE them, I did what I did, and I am going to be happy I have what I have :).

  3. JOYCE says…

    Love the baking rack idea, wish I had room for that. I would love to get more organized.

    Reply 1 Reply
    1. Michellejeanne says…

      me too Joyce! However, if I can get through my list this year, I won't need it. For a moment I thought it might be a good idea for my husband and his various model projects, and then we could share it, but ... we have models everywhere as it is!

  4. Mel says…

    Hey, so I'm not the only one with unfinished projects! :) I still have a gratitude mini book to finish, and I never did get the first 31 Things class content into an album. Those two are the first that come to mind. Thanks for this post, Ali! I'm inspired to get busy.

    Reply 0 Replies
  5. Queen Mary says…

    Excellent idea Ali -- setting aside the time on your calendar! Like you, my things are kinda, sorta organized by album. Now, if I could only get a job where 3 hrs on Thursday doing scrapbooking counted as work! :) This may be the kickstart I need though to package up albums for crops instead of discrete 3D projects, which is what I have been doing. I'll be looking forward to your progress with Thursday mornings! Do keep us posted!

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  6. Amy in PDX says…

    Thank you so much for sharing your strategies for completing these projects. It's very inspiring! My husband of 20 years and I separated a year ago and I've completely stopped scrapbooking. I have studio shelves filled with unfinished albums, but haven't been in a place where I felt motivated (or emotionally prepared) to work on them. I need to work on getting back to them--a healthy part of making peace with the past. I appreciate you sharing your process.

    Reply 0 Replies
  7. Cynthia H says…

    Love this, especially step 4. Thanks for sharing so many details of your current progress!

    Reply 0 Replies
  8. Leslee Cotterell-Barrow says…

    I get stuck at getting the photos printed! And how one figures out what sure to print. What photos to enlarge. I have a Disney adventure, 2 Hawaii trips and 1 Alaskan cruise/ tour. Any suggestions?

    Reply 1 Reply
    1. Stacy says…

      I have a process for this! I first make sure all my photos are in one folder on my computer. Next, I delete ant that are blurry or just bad shots. I delete duplicates as well. Then I print the whole thing out - cheaply, like when Walgreens has a sale. I then group like with like (for trip albums, I break them down into days first) and start thinking about pages. I might have a layout based on a theme or one event, it's up to you. I sketch the layout and the title and then make a note on the back of each photo with a post it - to keep as is or to change it (enlarge, reduce, convert to b&w, etc). That way, I can do all my conversions at once and have the complete album ready to scrap when I'm ready.

  9. Amanda A says…

    I too have many years worth of trips to document. I started working on a snap album for my trip to Memphis but then the gal I went with decided she didn't want to be friends anymore and it took the wind out of my sails. I'm on a spending freeze for a few months so I'm forcing myself to use up products. I also have next to no pictures printed for most of my trips. I take A LOT of photos on trips.

    Reply 0 Replies
  10. Jen D says…

    Love that baker's rack for unfinished projects. I have so many unfinished projects that I want to tackle & just don't know where to begin. Thank you for the inspiration! I know this year I will get some (not all) done. Trying to be realistic. =)

    Reply 0 Replies
  11. DEE says…

    I'm on this journey with you this year! Your progress is going to keep me on track, so please keep us updated! My oldest turned 18 and there's nothing like seeing your child leave the house for college to make you get the MOST IMPORTANT trips to that child finished!!!

    Reply 0 Replies
  12. Christine says…

    Great post Ali. I also have lots of UFOs. I am in the process of a major overhaul of my craft room. I recently bought the Varde from Ikea. I love this cabinet it makes a great work station. Now I am off to make my list. Thanks for the inspiration.

    Reply 0 Replies
  13. Sally Stevenson says…

    Thanks Ali...you've most definitely encouraged me to move forward with less fear and guilt...thank Katie too she's an awesome addition too!

    Reply 0 Replies
  14. L Squared says…

    What a motivational post. Thank you for layin out your approach and assumptions. I find I most often fall trap to planning more than doing.

    Reply 0 Replies
  15. Mary Beth McCormack says…

    This works! I do a similar version with sewing/quilting projects Everything stays in the box until the project is 100% done, labeled and delivered. I get so much more done this way. And the baker's rack is really impressive! Enjoy!

    Reply 0 Replies
  16. hannahk says…

    Love how visible the 'to finish' list is with the use of trays.

    Reply 0 Replies
  17. linda marie says…

    I've commented before on that baker's rack...oh boy, do I love that :) and yes, so understand the too much time planning the projects/procrastination rather than the doing.
    This inspires me to 1)sort my projects in separate containers (would like to find something similar to those trays), 2)take photos of each container and post them where I see them...love your tray photos, to me that's motivating to look at those 3) set aside time twice a month to finish 2013 projects.
    Thanks for sharing Ali...look forward to seeing the finished projects :)

    Reply 0 Replies
  18. Carol says…

    Sweet idea - you are very motivating!

    Reply 0 Replies
  19. Doreene says…

    I stopped doing the "Grandkids" album when my husband was killed in 2010-it was just too painful. This is the inspiration I needed to get back at it. It's time to dig out the pictures and half finished pages and get it all together for them to enjoy sometime in the future. Thank You, Ali

    Reply 0 Replies
  20. HelenH says…

    Looking forward to this series. I'm tacking "school of life" for my 2 boys. My challenge is culling, then creating! Glad to have support and inspiration during the year.

    Reply 0 Replies
  21. Julie A says…

    LOVE LOVE LOVE the baker's rack! Thanks for the inspiration!

    Reply 0 Replies
  22. C.Robin says…

    I am trying to finish my project to, the rack is a great idea.Thanks

    Reply 0 Replies
  23. Karen says…

    I love the baking rack idea but I just don't the room. Instead, I put everything I need for a particular album in a clear plastic box with a lid (I catch these on sale at Michael's whenever I can). I have a chart that I created in Excel with places to fill in: photos, dates, memorabilia, journaling, comments, etc. that I attach to the outside. I label with my label maker the name of the album and/or time period. This way I have a cheat sheet that I can use to refresh my memory. The box has a locking hinged lid and handles so I can take it with me to another room or to a crop outside my house (or even in my card as I wait for my kid).

    Reply 0 Replies
  24. CJ says…

    THANK YOU Ali for the inspiration. I have some things I need to work on, and you've helped me to realise that I need to be organised about it. I am so looking forward to your posts about your progress. And I'm going to set aside some time each week for my projects too. That way they will get done, even if it takes a while.

    Reply 0 Replies
  25. Nancy says…

    Thank you for the inspiration Ali. My OLW this year is "finish", so this is just the kick I needed today to help me focus yet again on finishing what I have started so I can enjoy what I create instead of stressing about what is waiting for me to tackle. I love how you keep things together that you will use together. I have some big trays that I am going to use in the same way. By stacking my projects from highest to lowest priority, I will know exactly where to start when I have time to craft. I look forward to reading about your progress and hopefully sharing mine!

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