Questions About How I Use Notebooks

From Kara: Do you have any advice for supreme organizing? And are Moleskines your favorite? Also, how do you keep yourself from just buying and buying new ones without filling up the old ones first?

I’m not sure if the organizing question refers to how I keep my notebook collection organized or how I use notebooks to keep my life organized. Most of my notebook collection is not very well-organized at all! I keep them in shoeboxes, with as many squeezed in as I can. This means they are mostly grouped by size. As for using notebooks to organize my life, I’ll address that more below in response to another question.

Are Moleskines my favorite? It’s hard to pick any one favorite, but they’d definitely be up there, and Moleskine is the brand I use most often for my daily notebooks. As much as I scoff at a lot of their marketing, Moleskine still comes the closest to making  notebooks that are just right for my personal preferences. As for other favorites, I have some old pocket size Filofaxes that have been among my most beloved notebooks. I also love the paper in Clairefontaine and Rhodia notebooks and would use them a lot more if they had more options for plain or squared paper instead of lined. HandBook Artist Journals are my favorites to use for travel sketchbooks, as the paper works well with pencils, ink, and watercolors.

And how do I keep myself from buying and buying new ones? I don’t keep myself from doing that at all! I do buy notebooks faster than I can fill them, and ever since writing this blog, I’ve also been fortunate enough to receive quite a few free samples. But I do try to be somewhat selective– I hoard notebooks I know I will use, plus some unique favorites, but I also give away lots of notebooks that I know others will make better use of.


From Kelly: What do you record in your daily notebooks?  Do you use them as planners or journals?

I definitely use my notebooks more as journals than as planners now. In the past, I used Filofax planner inserts and wrote down future appointments but for the last 15 years or so, I’ve switched to keeping an electronic calendar. I still keep to-do lists in my daily notebooks, though. I dedicate a spread at a time to my main personal to-do list and shopping list. Once a lot of the items have been crossed out, I re-do the list on a new spread. Sometimes I divide the pages in half or in quadrants to group tasks I have to do in a certain place or to organize them by project. I keep a red post-it tab on my current to-do page. I also keep separate pages with notes and to-dos related to blogging, marked with a green tab.

At the beginning of each daily notebook, I have pages where I keep lists of books I want to read, music and movies I’m interested in, restaurants I want to try, etc. I don’t tend to cross many of these off during the time I use one notebooks, so I end up transferring them to my next notebook. Starting from the back of the notebook, I have pages where I record my food and exercise each day, with the most recent page marked with a yellow post-it tab. The rest of the pages in between are filled with the usual randomness of life– measurements of closet shelving on one page, a journal entry on the next, followed by a drawing of someone on the subway or a page full of notes about a book I’m reading or a glued-in clipping from a magazine. Some of these notes may be transferred to electronic lists I keep on my iPhone but the daily notebook is my catch-all for thoughts, images, reminders, doodles and ideas.

Here’s a few random pages from my current and most recent notebooks.


I always love to see photos of other people’s notebook pages– if you have any you want to share, you can post them on the Notebook Stories Facebook page.

5 thoughts on “Questions About How I Use Notebooks”

  1. Hi, anyone knows where I can get 8-holed diary paper refills? Mine is an unusual 3.43 x 5.55 inches or 8.7 x 14.1 cm.

  2. Amazing! I thought I was the only one who buys notebooks faster than I can fill them.
    I feel that every new notebook and every new pen holds the promise of a story.
    Love your blog!!

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