2015 Conundrum Week Two: Traveler’s Notebook

I’m a little late getting this post up considering it’s the last week of the month, but choosing which planner I want to use this year has been more of a challenge than I initially expected.

Long story short, I’m still carrying three different planners around with me every day (The Mulberry from week 1 was ruled out).

So anyway, the second contender in my 2015 planner conundrum is a regular size Traveler’s Notebook. I started out using a standard Midori brand TN (which I do adore) but ended up switching to this lovely Gemini leather notebook cover in tan made by Chic Sparrow.

Closed

The reason I was attracted to this TN is the fact that it has four elastics in it to hold notebooks, rather than Midori’s two. If I was going to use something that incorporates bound books as my planner, I knew from past attempts and failures that I would need several layouts going at once to do the trick and the Midori wouldn’t hold everything I needed, no matter how many elastic bands I fidgeted with.

Normally, in a ring planner, I like to have a full year’s monthly view, the entire year in a weekly view, and maybe the current week (or even month, if I have the room in the rings) of dailies to view for details. The beauty of a ring planner is that I can take pages out and put pages in with ease. Not so with a bound notebook system like a Traveler’s Notebook

Fortunately, I was able to find all the refills I needed to outfit this TN from Midori. Everything of the Midori brand that you see pictured here was purchased from Baum-Kuchen.

First off, I added one of the Refill 004 Pocket Stickers to the inside front to hold small miscellaneous papers. See it there on the bottom left corner?

inside cover

Ring planners traditionally have plenty of cubby-holes and pockets, but most TNs do not, so these stick on pockets are fantastic. Next up you can see the 007 Card Holder refill. I don’t usually keep too many business cards in my planners, so I have a couple Hobonichi stencils and my Starbucks reward card in them at the moment.

An essential for me is the 020 Kraft File. Again, because your average TN lacks pockets, I use this to hold important papers, bills and the like. Dated or time sensitive stuff goes here, front and center, impossible to ignore. You can also see the front cover of the Monthly Calendar booklet  in orange. I have added a simple Post-It Self Stick Pocket to the front to hold clips and small ephemera.

kraft env

The 2015 Monthly Calendar refill is awesome, but you usually have to snap these up pretty quickly at the start of the year or they sell out everywhere. Fortunately there is also an undated version (Refill 017) that is pretty easy to find. I’m too lazy to write in my own dates though, so thankfully I was able to snag the dated one.

monthly

I use color coding to identify pay dates (green), holidays that my office is closed (yellow) and other significant days. US Holidays are not noted on these refills, so my yellow dots come in very handy. I also use blue for special days (birthdays, anniversaries, etc) and red ones for date-dates (bow chicka wow wow!!)

The monthly refill is the whole year in one booklet. For the weeks, you get two notebooks with 6-months each (Jan – June and July – Dec). These are available as a dated 2015 Vertical Weekly Calendar, or as with the monthlies, as an un-dated version.

weekly

I only have one of the Weekly booklets in my TN currently, as I feel three notebooks at a time is about all I can stand. IF…and that is a big “if”…I added a fourth notebook, it would probably be an 002 Grid Notebook that would serve as a general capture tool (something I lack in this set up).

Oh, and I’ve also added a Hightide Page Clip Ruler from the Hobonichi store to mark my place in the weekly booklet. Mine is grey, but they also come in black, pink and blue.

Most of my detail work goes on the daily page, and on my favorite of the Midori inserts.

daily

They are Refill 005 Free Diary. I love these things! They are dated and feature a simple bar at the top for a quick title or keyword, and a spot for ticking off the day of the week. The rest is my favorite thing in the whole wide world…quadrille paper. One notebook captures two months. I use these as a day per page planner here in this notebook, and in another TN I have going I use these pages to journal on. They are wonderfully versatile.

Here is the back of the Kraft File, with more papers (though this time they are non-date sensitive) tucked into it.

kraft back

In the very back, I have the 008 Zipper Case. I’ve just got a pad of sticky notes and some calendar stickers in it for the moment. Admittedly, I went a little nuts with the pocket refills, so I don’t really need this…but I like it, so it stays.

ziplock

Just for the sake of being thorough, here is the inside back of this TN, with another Midori stick on pocket, this time 006 Pocket Sticker, added. This lovely Sparrow was customized to add a riveted on pen loop. With so many TN styles not including a pen loop, I find the fact that this one has one securely built in to be a key feature.

back pocket

In daily use, this set up almost worked for me. So close…it came SO CLOSE!

My main issue is that, although I need at various times to see monthly, weekly and daily views, I most often leave my planner of choice open on my desk to the weekly spread so that I can see on overview of what I’ve got going on all week at one quick glance. In my ringed planners, as I have discussed many times before, I  traditionally use (with great success I might add), a DayTimer Self Stick Hotlist on my Page Marker Ruler, located right in the current week, to note down a running list of my tasks.

week with sticker

With no rings, and therefore no Page Marker Ruler, I have no place for my HotList except stuck somewhere right onto the week’s page itself. This of course proves problematic in that it covers up a day (and also it leaves a sticky residue that interferes with smooth ink flow when trying to write on whatever day was under the HotList previously when I move it around).

That sounds like a simple, stupid thing to get caught up on, but believe it or not it has been quite a stumbling block to this system being a win. I am very much an “out of sight, out of mind” person with my task list, so although I do note daily tasks on the daily page on which they are due, if my book is open to the weekly spread (which it most often is during my work day) it becomes too cumbersome to flip to the necessary day and jot down or look at tasks.

Another issue I’m having is the battle to get this thing to lay flat in whatever view I happen to need. After much tweaking I figured out to put the weekly view in the middle, because that is most likely to lay flat easily with it smack dab in the middle of the book. Still, it takes some backward bending each time I open it.

Lastly, although having no rings to get in the way of my hand when writing is very nice, those sometimes-pesky rings do enable me to put in pages and take them out as needed. There is no punching and sticking stuff in my planner with this baby. Yes, I can fold papers up and tuck them into one of the plethora of pockets I’ve added….but it’s not the same. Sometimes I just flat out need to add pages for a while TO THE PLANNER ITSELF, in the rings, easily flippable and all that. But I can’t.

This and the lack of a good spot for my sticky HotList are the deal breakers I’m afraid.

Those of you who use TNs as their only planner, how do you handle situations where you need to add pages (or take them out when no longer needed) but you’re stuck with a whole booklet? And where do you track your tasks?

As a grade I would give this system a D. While I do have an inherent love for Traveler’s Notebooks and I really, really wanted this to work, sadly, this is going to have to be classified as a Fail and although I love this notebook and no doubt will find another use for it, it won’t be as my daily planner.

Right.  On to the next…

Pocket Full of….

Sunshine? Miracles? Dynamite? Seems a lot of people have pockets full of a lot of stuff.

Me…I’m going to try my hand at a Pocket full of wallet.

Gillio pocket that is.

About a month ago, I moved house. You know how it is when you move…there seems to be a never ending stream of things you need, and often you discover you need things at the precise moment you realize you need it the most.

Case in point: The dishwasher in my new apartment didn’t come with a silverware basket. When I noticed this, I thought to myself, “That’s okay…I’ll just wash these by hand.”

And then I realized I had neither a sponge nor any dish-washing liquid. Because who packs and moves sponges and dish-washing liquid, right?!

So I jotted it down on a piece of paper and went about my unpacking.

Before too long, I had a few lists going…basic pantry items I didn’t bother to move, household utility things, decoratives to look for, etc.

The next morning I trotted off to at least get the grocery and pantry items so I wouldn’t starve, but when I got into the store I discovered to my horror that I had left the list on the kitchen counter.

In the last month I have created and misplaced more shopping lists than I care to admit.

I know what you’re thinking…just put them in your planner, you daft blonde! Ah, but when I go into a shop more often than not I ONLY grab my wallet out of my handbag and bring that in (because I’m too much of a wimp to carry a big handbag AND shopping bags).

So I decided to try a pocket size planner as a wallet, and use the rings for all of my lists.

Enter this lovely Gillio Pocket Compagna in Epoca gold.

closed
This stunner was passed along to me by someone who had purchased it new from Gillio, but who could not make the size work for her.

I can’t make anything this small work for me as a planner either (and trust me, I’ve tried. More than once) but since there were to be zero planning components this time around, I thought I’d give it a go.

Open Front
The set up is simple…in the front I have my three most often grabbed cards (since there are only three card slots); My debit card, my gas card and my driver’s license. In the nifty secretarial pocket I stash receipts, and in the handy little multi pocket at the bottom, I have some stamps.

Then, as you can see, I just have a bunch of note paper for my various lists. I’m working on a new grocery one as we speak.

Open Cards
I stuck a piece of cardboard in after the note sheets to give me something stable to write on, because next come the rest of my cards.

Not bad…just three Filofax pocket size card holders did the trick.

Back Zip
The back has another secretarial pocket and a small zip pocket. I have coins in the zip pocket, and that orange thing you see tucked into the secretarial pocket is a Midori 2015 monthly calendar booklet  just in case I need to check a date or something and this is all I have with me.

Just In Case
Will I ever use it? Probably not. But for some reason it makes me feel better to have it in there. It is passport size, and I got it at Baum Kuchen.

Wallet Pocket
Aside from the zipper pocket, the other key feature that screams “wallet” to me is the nice large pocket along the back that all the Compagna models have. When I have cash (which, let’s face it, isn’t often) it will go in there.

I haven’t tested this in the field yet, but all in all just from putting it all together I have a pretty good feeling.

compare
The footprint is not really any different than the Dooney & Bourke wallet I have been using, so it won’t take up more room in my bag.

Side

Top
My one concern is giving up the security of a zip around for a snap closure. The only loose papers that go into my wallet are receipts, and I think they will be fine in the secretarial pocket…but it is nice to know when you’re out and about carrying your wallet as a clutch, that you can just zip the whole thing up and NOTHING is coming out of that sucker.

So we’ll see.

I need to find a small/short pen for it, but other than that I’m excited for my next shopping trip to give it a try. Hopefully I’ll discover that I’ve got myself a pocket full of win ;)

2015 Conundrum Week One: Mulberry Agenda

The first week of the great planner experiment of 2015 (or, let’s face it…knowing me it’s more like the first planner experiment at the very least) has been completed. This week’s contestant was the lovely  Mulberry Agenda in Oak natural veg tanned leather.

MB closed

There is absolutely no doubt that this is a gorgeous planner. The leather is thick and wonderful, its style is classic and understated and the A6 size is portable and handy.

I have this set up as a planner only…for the purposes of this four-week evaluation I am using a separate wallet so as not to convolute my decision making process more than it already is.

MB open

In the front of the planner, I have the usual ephemera of daily life…business and appointment cards, stamps, small miscellaneous papers. The stunning dashboard was made for me by the wonderful and talented Tweetiepie Collage on Etsy. She does fantastic work and although a dashboard isn’t something one technically NEEDS in a planner, personally I love having something meaningful and motivational to look at right when I open mine up each time.

Anyway, moving on to how I have been using this planner all week…

MB tabs

Since one thing I know I require out of any planning system is tabbed months (or the ability to add tabs to monthly pages), I picked up a set of Girl of All Work Peel and Stick tabs from Amazon. These are colorful and easy to read. On an A6 page I was able to create two rows of 6 months each.

My monthly pages were made by Kiddy Qualia on Etsy. They are month on four pages (similar to how Franklin Covey prints theirs) so that I could add the tabs and incorporate the weekly pages, which I’ll get to in a minute, in between the months.

I especially like them because they are printed on quadrille paper, and given the choice, everything would be on quadrille paper in my world.

MB monthThey are very clean and simple in design, which is perfect for my needs. Since I use my monthly pages as an overview, I don’t need any clutter here….I just want to have ample room to write what I need to write and get on with it, but one thing I DO need is lines. And these give me lines a-plenty. I was even able to request a Sunday start and a note column on the right or left.

Love them!

I had also purchased weekly pages from KQ, but once they arrived it became apparent that the daily blocks were unfortunately going to be too small for both my personal and work scheduling. Which was a bummer because I really like the way they look.

MB weekly

For my second try at weeklies, I went with Piaric. Typically, I do prefer the standard week on two pages layout, but  I decided to go with a custom design of two days per page. This gives me plenty of room for both personal and work scheduling. I do sacrifice the ability to see my entire week at one glance however.

(Side Note: When I moved into this size last year, I was using the Mulberry week on 2 pages inserts and they were ideal. The line spacing was perfect, the paper quality was awesome and I couldn’t have been happier. For 2015 though, they decided to go to a vertical weekly format and there is no way on this earth I can write small enough to make that work in anything less than an A5 size)

MB weeks

As you can see above, there is ample room in this format. The line spacing is wider ruled that I like, but when shopping for A6 inserts, beggars cannot afford to be choosers.

Because the ring sizing is the same as Franklin Covey pocket size, I am able to use my FC page marker ruler with a DayTimer Self-Stick Hot List  sheet tucked in it for my weekly tasks. I’ve been doing this for years in all of my various planning systems and it works really well for me.

Other than my calendar planning pages, I also have some subject tabs in this set up.

MB top tabs

Again, using sticky tabs from that Girl of All Work set I bought, I have “Schedule” (for my calendar pages), “To Do” (for general tasks that don’t need to go on my Hot List, and shopping lists), and “Notes” (for…you guessed it…notes).

The tabs are stuck to awesome dividers made by the Lady Karen Louisa (find her on Facebook in the Mulberry Appreciation Group, as I don’t think she has an Etsy shop).

colorful tabs 1

colorful tabs 2

colorful tabs 3

Isn’t the paper she used perfect with the dashboard and GOAW tabs??!! What makes them truly awesome is the fact that, on the back of each divider, she included a pocket. Win!

MB pocket

So that was the set up in Contestant #1 this week. Technically, it did work. I love Mulberry products and thanks to some extremely creative Etsy friends, this was a very enjoyable piece of kit to carry around.

There were a couple factors that consistently got on my nerves though:

1. The tiny pen loop. Normally I use a big, fat Coleto multi pen that incorporates three different ink colors and a pencil component. This allows me to schedule tentative events in pencil first, and to color code (which I do throughout my planner). But this week I had to accommodate that dinky pen loop. I used a combination of two skinny Cross products; one was a click gel pen (the robin’s egg blue one in the photos) and the other was a mechanical pencil (the black & gold one in the photos). So while I could still do my scheduling in pencil first, there would be no color coding for me this week with out my Coleto.

Could I have carried a pen bag? Sure, but normally I don’t…and frankly I didn’t want to have to start. Could I have stuck said Coleto in the MB rings? Yeah, but that is sort of a pain in the butt when you just want to pop open your planner and quickly jot something down (trust me, I tried it…it lasted about 5 minutes). Could I kluge a stick-on or clip-on pen loop somewhere? Of course, but if comparing apples to apples this week, I wanted to go on what features each planner has out of the box.

2. The lack of truly optimal weekly pages. Now don’t get me wrong, both of the weekly pages I tried were well made and for normal, non-OCD whack jobs like myself they would be fine and dandy. But I am oh-so-picky when it comes to things like font, line spacing, paper feel/writability and dammit I really liked the Mulberry weekly inserts best. The paper was white-white, the lines were a subtle grey, it felt great when turning pages, it took ink superbly and they even had those handy tear off corners so you could quickly and easily flip right to the current week. If MB had not have changed their format to stupid vertical, I more than likely would have never moved out of this planner to begin with.

3. Having to order custom, hand made inserts makes me use them very sparingly. Let’s face it, here in the US A6 is not a size you’re going to find at Staples. Things like To Do sheets, note paper, my beloved quadrille paper…all have to be custom made to order (thank goodness for Etsy!).

Mulberry itself only makes very few inserts for their Agendas; ruled note paper, plain paper, address sheets and the weekly calendar (yes, they also make a Games sheet which is glorified Hangman…but I’m talking about useful inserts here), and they are not cheap.

I have been finding myself debating whether or not something is worthy of writing down in the Notes and To Do sections because I only have so many of those sheets from Etsy and it’s only January. It’s difficult to use your planner as a capture tool if you’re worried about burning through your paper too soon. Just sayin’.

As a grade after one week I would give this system a C. It didn’t fail, but it didn’t work as a seamless organizational tool for me either.

One thing I still intend to do is take this binder to my local cobbler to see if it would be possible to integrate a piece of elastic into the pen loop to accommodate at least a Uni Style Fit (my #2 choice for a multi pen).

If MB changes back to a horizontal weekly format for 2016 I would give this another look in a heartbeat. But for now I can’t say I’m at all disappointed to move on to the next planner in contention.

Stay tuned for week two featuring the Midori Traveler’s Notebook………………..

Another Year, Another Planner Quandary

no idea

The new year is here, and with it, my annual indecision about which planner I want to use.

Truthfully, this indecision pretty much lives with me year round, but at the start of a new year it graduates to somewhat of an obsession.

I ended 2014 rotating between a few Compact size ring planners; namely a Filofax compact Holborn in brown, a Van der Spek standard with compact rings in #104 Janet leather and a Gillio slim Compagna in gold. The insides remained the same no matter which binder I used and I rotated depending on which color shade of brown and pocket layout I happened to be craving on any given day.

In it, I had some trimmed and re-punched Franklin Covey Her Point of View month on two pages tabs used in conjunction with Filofax week on two pages. I also had some quadrille paper in there for the occasional note, but mostly I did note taking on my iPhone using the Notes App.

That’s just what I ended the year with though. Throughout 2014 I vacillated like a mad woman between A6 size (using both a Mulberry Agenda and a custom made, widened Van der Spek Senior), regular old Personal size (ranging anywhere from a Filofax Malden to a medium Gillio Compagna) and a Midori Traveler’s Notebook in regular size.

This is one part of my personality that drives me nuts. All of them worked, but none of them worked OPTIMALLY and no matter what life threw at me. So, as I start a new year I really want to simplify and break this cycle of planner indecision and, let’s face it, craziness.

So as I start a new year, I find myself staring at all four of the planner options I was in and out of last year and wondering which one would serve me best this new year (a year in which is proving to be busier and more complicated already). Is there one I can stick with for the entire  year? No matter what changes come?

Let’s find out with a little experiment, shall we?

contenders

                      The four contenders

The four planner sizes/formats that I can’t seem to make up my mind between are as follows:

Mulberry Agenda in "Oak"

          Mulberry Agenda in “Oak”

1. Mulberry Agenda size (A6) with homemade inserts from Kiddy Qualia on Etsy. This has a full year of month on 4 pages (so I can tab them using Girl of All Work adhesive tabs), week on two pages and roughly three months at a time of day per page for detailed scheduling. I’ve also added a small Note section as a capture tool.

The advantages are its small, portable footprint and of course the sheer quality and elegance that is embodied in Mulberry products.

The main disadvantage I can see right now is that the A6 page size might not be enough, given some of the new  changes to my life 2015 has already brought, and also the lack of insert options (that I actually like) in this size. Another huge thing is that the Mulberry pen loop is tiny, so I can’t use my favorite multi pen unless I stick it in the rings which bugs me to no end. I may take this planner to my local cobbler to see if he can add some elastic to the pen loop, but at this time I haven’t done that yet, so it remains a pesky disadvantage in my opinion.

Van der Spek Standard in "Janet Leather #104"

Van der Spek Standard in “Janet Leather #104”

2. Next up is a Standard size (akin to Medium or Personal size). In this case it is a custom Van der Spek with 25mm gold rings and a secretarial pocket added to the front. This planner houses a full year of Franklin Covey 7 Habits month on two pages tabs, as well as three months of the 7 Habits 2 pages per day inserts. I have also added 12 subject tabs with a few pieces of note paper behind each. This is a lot more specialized than a general Note/Capture section, but on the other hand I’m not entirely sure I will need this level of precision, but my OCD demands that I have all 12 tabs in there (because spacing). Sometimes I put this same setup in a Personal Malden (in ochre) depending on mood or weather (as in, if it’s raining out comes the Malden so the Janet leather doesn’t get water spots, which it will). So if, as we go along, you see a Malden pop up in the photos, that’s why.

Advantages are that I have loved FC inserts for many years (but typically not the planners FC makes) and find the wider page to be nice and roomy. I also really like the quality of the paper used and the unique three section daily task list featured in the 7 Habits design.

Disadvantages are bulk and the lack of a weekly overview. This  two page per day layout means a lot of detail in each day, but also a lot of flipping around between days to get a picture of my week. Also, FC does not seem to make quadrille paper, so although I prefer it in my subject tabs, I’ll have to settle for lined. Not a huge deal, but since we are trying for optimum here I thought it was worth mentioning.

Gillio Slim Companga in "Gold"

Gillio Slim Compagna in “Gold”

3. Third in the lineup I have a Compact planner. Because I ended the year in it, I have chosen a Gillio Slim Compagna in gold. It seems that each Compact ring planner has slightly different ring sizes. Filofax are generally 15 mm, Van der Spek is 13mm and Gillio is 16mm (another reason I opted to start the year with the Gillio).

In this planner I have, as previously mentioned, a full year of trimmed to fit and re-punched FC Her Point of View month on two pages tabs and a full year of Filofax week on two pages. I do have a small Note/Capture section as well, but keeping an entire year of weeklies and monthlies pretty much fills these smaller rings.

The advantages of this system are many. For one, I know it and it has worked for me in the past (in times when life is relatively simple), there are plenty of inserts and refills that I can use, it is very portable and the rings keep me from stuffing the living daylights out of my planner or carrying a bunch of stuff I don’t really need.

Disadvantages are also related to its size, in that I might need to add a supplemental notebook or something for projects or if I need more room for things other than my calendars.

Regular size Midori Traveler's Notebook in "Brown"

Regular size Midori Traveler’s Notebook in “Brown”

4. Last up is the Traveler’s Notebook. I own several incarnations of the TN, but chose to set up the regular size Midori version in brown for this test because it is familiar and a widely known brand. I like the Indiana Jones look of the leather and I also have a clip on pen loop that matches it perfectly (cough, OCD, cough).

In it I have (all by Midori) a monthly booklet and the first 6 months of the year in a vertical weekly formatted booklet (they come in a set of 2 booklets holding 6 months each, but I don’t need the whole year in there straight away). Also I have included a quadrille notebook for general note taking and a ziplock pocket as a catch all, since the traveler’s notebooks don’t traditionally have cubby-holes and pockets as ring planners do.

Advantages of this system is the lack of rings to get in the way when writing on (for me, as a righty) the left hand pages, and the ease of archiving the booklets. Not to mention the sheer cool factor…these notebooks make you feel like your life is an adventure, they age wonderfully and they don’t need any babying.

The main disadvantage is the fact that booklets mean less flexibility for adding papers and taking them out, which is very easy to do using a ring planner. Traditionally bound book planners and I have failed miserably together, but I have such a love for the traveler’s notebook that I keep wanting to try again with it.

There you have it.

All have pluses and minuses and let’s face it folks, all of them COULD work…but I’m of a mind to do some dog calling and see which one WILL.

So, as the first few weeks of this new year pass, I will be carrying each for one week to try it out and then writing a blog post to summarize what worked and what didn’t. What could be tweaked and what couldn’t due to the particular limitations of the size or style (maybe something I need to add isn’t available, etc).

I will commit to carrying each for one full week (which is a long time if a planner fails for you on day one, lol!) and then at the end of the four week trial, I will pick a winner. I might even let you all vote too.

And my fellow planner peeps…the point of this whole thing…at the end of the four week trial I will commit to carrying said winner FOR THE REST OF THE YEAR. Period. No do-overs, no excuses. I get the next four weeks to dub around and experiment and then that’s it. One planner for the remainder of the year, no matter what.

Just saying that made me break out into a cold sweat, but I waste so much time (not to mention money!!) going back and forth over planners and inserts, re-copying weeks or months at a time into something new only to change yet again, that this HAS to stop. It has to. I didn’t used to do this…I want a tool to help me organize my life, not a time and money pit that makes me rip my hair out every few months.

So…if you’re wondering why I only showed photos of the exterior of the planners in contention today, it is because each individual one will get more of a detailed breakdown in its individual post as the weeks progress. Don’t want to show all the goodies right off the bat now, do we?

Also, at the end when a victor is chosen, I will do a post featuring the details of the winning set up…any changes I had to make since running the experiment, how I use each planning component, what works and how it contributed to it being chosen…the whole shebang.

What do you think? Are you with me? Think I can do this?

Yeah, me neither, lol!!! But it will be a good excuse to play with a bunch of planners during the winter doldrums amirite?!

Okay, here we go……………………..

Wabi-Sabi and the Traveler’s Notebook

TN
I have spent the majority of my life as a perfectionist.

There, I’ve said it.

Although, those who know me well don’t really need me to say it…it is quite obvious. I like order, uniformity, have high esthetic standards and like straight lines, right angles and flawless finishes. I have been known to start an entire page over in my day planner if I was unhappy with the way my handwriting looked.

Perfectionism is a fruitless pursuit, however, since in reality there is no such thing as “perfect”. I know this logically, but until recently, I haven’t really bothered to apply that knowledge and embrace the imperfection in life, and more specifically in myself.

I have written in my non-planner-related blog about how the sea of life has rounded and softened my hard edges, my right angles, over time. Along with all that tumbling about, I came across a Japanese concept called Wabi-Sabi, the acceptance of transience and imperfection. Expressed as an aesthetic, it is sometimes described as “the beauty of that which is imperfect, impermanent and incomplete”.

Reading a book called Wabi-Sabi Simple by Richard Powel, this powerful sentence caught my attention, “Wabi-Sabi nurtures all that is authentic by acknowledging three simple realities…nothing lasts, nothing is finished and nothing is perfect”.

Wabi-Sabi reveals the stark honesty of natural processes – aging, wrinkling, fading, deteriorating, etc. Items reflecting the esthetic of Wabi-Sabi graphically mirror our own mortal journey through existence.

One ah-ha moment, served up, not on the mirror finish of the stereotypical silver platter, but rather in a rough, hand hewn Japanese tea bowl lovingly gilt at the broken places.

For when the Japanese mend broken objects, they ennoble the damage by filling the cracks with gold. They believe that when something has suffered and has a history; it becomes more beautiful.

I now consider myself a recovering perfectionist, and I strive every day to take notice of and cherish the beauty and uniqueness of what I once perceived as flaws. It is effort, don’t get me wrong…but it is worthwhile, enlightening effort, and I have found that it nourishes my soul in a way directly opposite of how the path of striving for perfection once depleted it.

The path of life is a series of steps. New territory, new discoveries.

A few years ago, I discovered something very cool. As a writer, it instantly appealed to my love of all things pen, ink, fine paper and writing by hand:

I discovered the Traveler’s Notebook (affectionately known as a TN).

There are a plethora of reviews already written about them. The most widely known and commercially available of these little wonders is the Midori Traveler’s Notebook; this post is not meant to be a critical review…or a review at all. It is merely me sharing something that I love (and the lesson it taught me) with you, my planner and notebook peeps.

The essence of a Traveler’s Notebook, in case you are not already addicted to familiar with them, is a thick piece of hand cut leather, which holds its inserts (paper notebooks and other accessories) by means of an elastic band (and, in the case of the Midori brand, a modest tin clasp). The leather is usually naturally vegetable tanned but not otherwise treated, so as you use it, wear marks and the like become very apparent and as it ages a wonderful patina develops, making each TN unique to the life journey of its owner.

TNs

I have a small collection of these notebooks – my first, a genuine Midori courtesy of Wakako at Baum-Kutchen (I buy all my refills and accessories from her lovely shop, and find inspiration there even on days I’m not shopping), was a full sized brown leather beauty that serves as my journal. But my constant companion is a stunning find called a Traveler’s Star Edition. In lush camel colored leather, this beauty commemorates the 5th anniversary of the Midori Traveler’s Notebook in the smaller Passport size. I find the size easier to cart around with me, even on small handbag days.

I have had this notebook for a matter of months, rather than years, but it already looks as though, based on the cover, my life is akin to an Indiana Jones movie.

The newest addition to my TN family is a gorgeous regular size Camel addition by the wonderful & talented Mr. Ray Blake.

RTN
This is it on the very first day I started using it. Already I am looking eagerly forward to when it has become as much a part of me as my beloved Traveler’s Star has, and bears the marks of my life upon it.

There was a time, not that long ago, when just looking at scuffs, scratches and dings on any fine leather good would have made my left eye twitch uncontrollably and my OCD reach for leather lotion to buff out the marks and return it to “perfection”, but these notebooks have a quality to them that not only embraces the rough and tumble nature of life, but almost revels in it.

They change from day to day…from moment to moment really…every time you take it out of your pocket or bag and write in it…a key mark here, a pen clip indent there…just as we ourselves change, evolve, grow; become molded and re-formed by that which rubs up against us every day.

Nothing stays the same. Not the world. Not our trusty little Traveler’s Notebooks. Not even ourselves.

Yes, the used notebooks looks even more beautiful to me than the day I unwrapped them in all their pristine glory. That day it was a clean slate, full of potential…and today each one remains unchanged in its ability to make me catch my breath whenever I take it out of my handbag…only now they have become imbued with my energy; from my deepest thoughts scratched on its pages, to the ink marks from a shaking hand, or tear stains from nights I have wept myself to sleep.

What I once would have cursed as “ruining” my notebooks I now look upon as enhancements, embellishments…the emotional equivalent of bedazzling, if you will.

Quite an object lesson for a card-carrying member of Perfectionists Anonymous like me, and a gift that has turned out to be far more profound than a mere heft of leather and a couple elastics.

Perhaps one of the greatest lessons to be gained from the imperfection in each of us, the impermanence of the world and all of life that swirls around us, is that we ourselves are incomplete…and that we each have a story of our own waiting to be told.

Through my own experience with blogging, I have come to know this firsthand. As I not only open to those most tender and painful parts of myself (usually written first in one of my Traveler’s Notebooks) but also share the stories (and the wisdom that I have gleaned from them) with you, those wounds begin to heal. Transform. No longer something that feels weak or ugly to me, but now…much like that gilded bowl I mentioned earlier… something which served only to make me stronger and to reveal more of the beauty in life.

More wondrous still, I have discovered that when I share these stories and begin to heal myself, a joyous, mysterious ripple effect happens…others are touched and opened up in a way that allows for their own process of accessing their inner wisdom and they themselves begin to heal as well.

Each time I reach for my Traveler’s Notebook, I am reminded that there is value in the simple, humble, weathered and worn of this world. That shiny and new have far less to offer than the well-used and well-loved. That things which leave pocks, dings and scars on you can go on to become soothing balm to someone else.

That beauty does not come from being perfect…it comes, in all its flawed, pitted, frayed-edged glory, from being real.

wabi sabi bowl

Van der Spek Custom Planner

closed with pen
Recently I was fortunate enough to receive a lovely custom Van der Spek planner in “Senior” size. Senior is very similar in size to A6, and since I have recently made a MAJOR zeitgeist shift to A6 size and purchased a Mulberry Agenda organizer (also A6…blog post on that forthcoming) I wanted something that could share the inserts I was using in it (since I spent several nights copying over the first half of the year onto them!).

In case you have not heard of them, Van der Spek is a small family business located in the Netherlands that creates their own high quality leather goods by hand.

By hand people!

Take a moment and check out this video on YouTube that highlights the care and craftsmanship that goes into everything this family makes.

For those of you in the ever-growing Mulberry Agenda fan club, but who are perhaps craving a bit of color or customization, here is the Van der Spek custom Senior as compared to a Mulberry in Agenda. Very close…you can see that the Mulberry is just a wee bit wider, as it is a true A6 size.

Van der Speck Senior Left, Mulberry Oak Agenda right

Van der Speck Senior Left, Mulberry Oak Agenda right

It is worth noting that, going forward, it will be possible to request a Senior that has the same dimensions as a Mulberry Agenda. This was sort of an experiment and Petra and I have exchanged emails and photos to get the size closer next time around. Just another example of how customer-centric and involved Van der Spek is as a company.

Anyway, as I was going for a classic, timeless look, I chose Italian nappa leather #6208 (Cuoio) inside and out, with contrast stitching done in #08. To further the customization, I also requested that the binder be widened to get it closer to A6 in size, and that the pen loop be larger so that it would fit my favorite multi pen or fountain pen with ease.

Both of those customizations did carry an extra cost, however it was nominal when compared to the value of having a planner EXACTLY the way you want it.

(Hint: this tricked out custom planner cost less than half of what a MB Agenda would run you. And that includes International shipping. Just sayin’.)

As is always the case with Van der Spek products, when it arrived, I was not disappointed. In fact, I may have actually gasped.

That leather smell is fantastic! To. Die. For. They should bottle it!

The Italian nappa leather is unbelievably soft and supple. It has a slightly “cushy” feel to it and since I elected to forego stiffener, the binder is luxuriously flexible, while still offering adequate support for writing in hand or on my lap.

The “Cuoio” color has a lush British Tan look to it that I just love.

closed front

closed back
Here is a close up of the contrast stitching.

contrast stitching

The interior has a wonderful complement of pockets. Inside the front cover are five vertical credit card slots, with a larger and quite roomy vertical pocket at the bottom. Behind this are two full-length horizontal slip pockets.

inside left

The back features another full length slip pocket, a nice deep vertical pocket and a partially elasticized pen loop. As I mentioned earlier, I had mine made slightly larger than normal to accommodate my penchant for fat pens.

inside back

Wonderfully soft and pliable, this binder lays completely flat the moment you take it out of the box. And also worth noting is that the closure strap does as well. This is a nice feature, as it is always neatly out of the way when writing on the right-hand pages.

open spread
Just to demonstrate just HOW soft and pliable this little custom beauty is, I took these photos! No stiffener indeed ; )

bendy cover

rolled up

Um….WOW right?!

This planner is a joy to use in my day-to-day life. The ample pockets make this a wonderful planner/wallet combo and the durable nappa leather needs no babying…any scuffs or scratches can be rubbed right out with your thumb.

"Oh noes...I scratched my planner!"

“Oh noes…I scratched my planner!”

"Fret not...scuffs and scratches rub right out!"

“Fret not…scuffs and scratches are no match for this planner!”

I opted to use my own inserts in my new custom Van der Spek, although there is an option to purchase VDS inserts right along with your planner.

Next time I will do this, as I have never tried their inserts and I really should. You know, for the sake of research ;)

I am using Franklin Covey “Her Point of View” monthly and weekly pages in Pocket size. As you can see, FC Pocket size is a bit narrower than the typical A6 size inserts this binder was made to fit, but the holes do line up perfectly and I am a person who needs monthly tabs, so I am quite happy with how they are working out.

open in use

Lots of room between tabs and pen loop

This planner has become my every day companion

This planner has become my every day companion

Really, I can’t say enough positive things about Van der Spek as a company, their stellar customer service, and the quality of the product they produce.

By hand.

Exactly how you want it.

Did I mention this planner was custom made for me and that I chose the type of leather, the leather color, stitching, whether I wanted gold hardware or silver (both will get you tight, snappy Krause rings by the way) and how large I needed my pen loop to be?

Everything about this planner makes me happy…because I selected everything about this planner. What a wonderful and unique experience it is to be able to start from scratch and design a productivity tool that is catered specifically to your needs.

And hey, I’m not going to lie…it is SO FUN to mix and match leather types, patterns and colors using the Van der Spek customization tool!

If you are a lover of planners and a fan of fine, hand crafted leather goods (not to mention customer care that is out of this world), then I urge you to go spend some time on the Van der Spek website. You’ll be glad you did.

Thank you to Petra Van der Spek and her family for creating the planner I have always dreamed of…and for being there to create whichever planner I can dream of next ;)

Filofax Original A5- the Dark Teal Reveal!

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Recently Filofax UK was generous enough to send me an utterly gorgeous dark teal Filofax Original in A5 size to review. Technically, they are calling this dark aqua, but to my eye it looks more like a jewel-like teal tone.

Plus, “teal” and “reveal” rhyme. Nothing cool rhymed with “aqua”.

Anyway, my love for Filofax’s “Original” line is no secret. I have written about it in both the stunning patent fuchsia and the ever classic retro brown.

But those were personal size and this is A5 size. So this post will be completely  different ; )

Ok, on to the gorgeousness of the dark teal….did I mention that, no matter what you choose to call it, the color was gorgeous?! Just checking.

The iconic "f" subtly embossed on the spine

The iconic “f” subtly embossed on the spine

The Original is as awesome in the larger size as it is in its smaller incarnation. Both lay flat right out of the box and while the single heft of luxurious leather is the same thickness as the personal size, it feels more pliable in A5 (probably because there is more leather surface). It is not so floppy as to be unstable when writing on one’s lap…I would compare it almost to a Malden, but perhaps just a tad more structured.

Anyway, on with the reveal!

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The outside front of this lovely  Original A5

And the back

And the back

The interior layout of the A5 is exactly the same as the personal size…only, you know…bigger.

This next bit is photo intensive, so hang on!

Inside the front cover

Inside the front cover. Still we have the “Multi-functional elastic holder”, two slits that will accommodate business cards, and a slip pocket behind

Side note: I think the color of this particular shot (above) is actually the most accurate showing of the color. Despite my efforts taking the photos outside in natural light, most of the other photos look more blue than it actually is in person.

The inserts that come with this lovely planner are:

The dashboard page

A cool “Made in the UK” dashboard page

First up are 6 colored, numbered tabs

Six colored, numbered tabs, alternating between blue and pale green

To do sheets

To do sheets

Some lined note paper

Some lined note paper

Quadrille paper

Quadrille paper

Some plain paper for you sketchers and artists out there ;)

Contact pages (though, there are no A-Z contact tabs with this planner

Contact pages (though, there are no A-Z contact tabs with this planner)

Blue note paper

Blue note paper

Pretty green note paper

Pretty green note paper that, in my opinion, goes strikingly well with the color of the binder

Pink note paper

Pink note paper

Now comes the 2014 diary pages. As usual, you get a full year of week on two pages

Now comes the 2014 diary pages. As usual, you get a full year of week on two pages

Looks like the WO2P sheets have been slightly re-designed with iOS 7-like round dates

Looks like the WO2P sheets have been slightly re-designed with iOS 7-like round dates. Me likey!

Then you have your frosted page marker ruler and a frosted page protector sheet

Then you have your frosted page marker ruler and a frosted top-opening page protector sheet

The inside back has the Flex-esque jot pad and a slip pocket behind.

The inside back has the Flex-esque jot pad and a slip pocket behind.

Ok, so that’s what comes with the Original A5 when you get it. Now on to how I have customized it…the best part of any Filofax :)

First off, I am pleased to announce that I have found very functional uses for the now infamous Multifunctional Elastic Holder.

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In the outer elastic section I have my vivid pink Pilot Prera fountain pen (the stretchy loop will also fit a 4-barrel Coleto or a Lamy Safari and still allow the binder to be snapped closed). The middle section houses my DayTimer hot list sticky pad, and the other smaller section, which I think is meant to be a second pen loop…but I find placing a pen there creates an awkward lump in the right hand pages when writing on them…I have a pad of sticky flags.

Et voila! Multi-function goodness achieved!

Next up, my set up:

My "Life is Good" sticker dashboard

My “Life is Good” sticker dashboard

This is a clear plastic sheet with my favorite sticker in the whole wide world on it. I use it as a dashboard for random, temporary sticky notes and/or flags that I want to see first thing upon opening my planner.

Then I have my tabs:

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Rather ironic that my “Capture” tab…possibly the messiest bunch of scribbled notes on the planet…gets the Simplify sticker, lol!

I’ve got six subject tabs which are, respectively, “Capture” (brain dump), “Quotes” (cool quotes I find that I want to jot down), “Info” (reference sheets, topics to look up, etc), “Projects” (this tab holds a bunch of To Do sheets, with each sheet being a list of action items for a particular project – mostly household), “Blogging” (ideas for things to write about) and finally “Finances” (Filofax check register sheets and a plastic envelope for receipts waiting to be entered into the register).

As you can see, I have decorated each tab with a Life is Good sticker because I am about as creative as a Galapagos Land Tortoise and stickers were the best I could do.

Now, I am in no way affiliated with either Filofax nor Life is Good…but I do love both brands and use each copiously  as often as I can. Usually together.

But I digress…………

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“Quotes” gets a colorful peace sign. I don’t know why. It just does.

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“Info” gets a seashell. The quote around the sticker says “The little things in life are the big things, founded on the timeless principles of simplicity, humility and a sense of humor”.

Now that I think about it, this one probably would have gone better on the “Quotes” tab given that it has an actual quote on it.

Blonde…

Anyway, next comes “Projects” with a colorful daisy. For no apparent reason.

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The “Blogging” tab got another daisy. Daisys are my favorite flower, so I had quite a few of that flavor of Life is Good stickers on hand I guess.

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Finally comes “Finances”, which appropriately enough gets a green sticker with the admonition to Grow. As in, quit spending money on planners and planner accessories you dope or you will have no retirement!

Yeah, right! That sticker doesn’t know me very well does it, lol!

2014-06-15 18.31.08
So there you have it folks, the spectacular awesomeness of the dark teal (dark aqua…whatever) Original Filofax revealed.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…these binders are truly beautiful and well worth every penny. The all-leather construction will last for years and the classic design & zen-like simplicity of the interior make the Original a beautiful addition to any Filofax collection.

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Sigh…how could you not swoon?!

 

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