I've been packing up bits and pieces of our apartment as we get ready for the move ahead, a sort of weird in-between time as I'm making decisions on what we can live without for a month or two, and what needs to wait. It's a bit sad to have all my books packed away into boxes, and Jon has been groaning about how we keep decluttering stuff, but accumulating more and more books. I've been packing away some of my stationery and supplies as well. It's been nice to sort through things - drawers, boxes, piles - that have sorely needed it, but it's also been a good time to re-evaluate what's working for me and what's not. I won't say it's shocking to see how much I have, as it's not like someone else put it in my desk drawer in the middle of the night, but there are moments I surprise myself, like discovering three half-used pads of Toile Imperiale A5 pads in different places. I'm re-living my InCoWriMo strategy, of leaving out all the half-used stationery to finally get through some of the supply.
And it's good timing as well, to finally start figuring things out. The baby came in the fall, and shortly after was the pen show, and then the busy holiday rush. I told myself I would spend time getting myself organized (both my desk and mentally) after it all calmed down, but it seems like we picked right back up in January with new products and getting the new shops ready, and we went through two weeks of a flu where Caleb was alternating between moaning on the floor and running around feral, from which I needed a six week recovery period. Jon now spends more time talking on the phone with the contractor than he does talking to me.* I'm letting this phase of our marriage pass without comment (except here, publicly, on the internet), because in some ways, he's also project managing me, as every time I go on site I "discover" new things that might be done, and everything (budget, timelines, Jon's level of agitation) is ballooning into space. In any case, I usually spend a little time at the end of each calendar year organizing my notebooks and analogue system, in preparation for the next. I didn't write anything for the blog, partly for a lack of time, but mostly because I wasn't organized enough to have anything worth sharing. I'm still not really too organized, but I thought I would share a sort of quarterly review of what papery things I'm using these days. in my Traveler's Notebook: - a weekly planner (vertical) - a refill for vaguely keeping track of photos and stories about the babies and animals - a B6 slim everyday notebook - more here on how I use it - a morning pages notebook (Clairefontaine, A5 age-bag) - my regular journal (A5 Stalogy + a leather cover) - my correspondence and some loose stationery is kept in my A5 portfolio


My B6 notebook (Midori B6 Slim, with the matching leather cover) is my everyday-everything-lists-to-dos-ideas-notes-quotes notebook, and I put almost everything in here, from things I want to journal about later, to notes for quick meetings, grocery lists to a list of books to read. From here, I transfer a lot of information out, whether it's rough brainstorming that ends up turning into a blog post, or dates that I need to write into my planner, but it's my starting place for everything that happens during the day.
Midori B6 Slim Toronto Canada
My Traveler's Notebook planner keeps track of the "real" stuff - appointments, dates, work commitments. I'm currently using the vertical weekly, since I use it loosely to plan my day, like if I know I need to go pick up something on a certain day, or if Jon and I are planning to go to one of the new shops, in between more important appointments, like with the doctor or meeting a contractor. These days my agenda pages are looking pretty functional, but I'll take what I can get. I feel like if I lost my planner, I'd be lost in terms of forgetting to meet people and being disorganized, but if I lost my B6 notebook, I'd be lost. I have thought about condensing my B6 notebook and what I use it for (random notes, keeping track of things, etc.) into my Traveler's Notebook as a refill, but I like the portable size of my B6, and that I can slip it into a pocket or bag easily. To be honest, though, the thought is always there, even if the physical space inside my TN currently is not.
In my Traveler's Notebook I also have two personal refills - one is a notebook from our trip to San Francisco last year that I'm still working on (I figure if I leave it there, the guilt should eventually eat away at me and force my hand, or else I'll just be comfortable carrying around an extra incomplete refill for the rest of my life), and the other is an insert where I'm vaguely taping in photos of Naomi and Caleb and writing down a few stories or funny memories. It's a little boring since it's supposed to be sort of a family-babies-warm-fuzzies but Naomi doesn't do very much. I didn't realize how true it was that babies don't get interesting until they start talking and having opinions.
I used to do morning pages, and then stopped, but over the last couple of months I've picked it up again. Morning pages are three pages of stream of consciousness writing, ideally done in the morning, but my mornings are a bit hectic, so I've been doing them sort of willy-nilly during the day, or mostly at night after both babies have gone to bed. It's been great, and I have no idea why I stopped.** I find when I'm sort of all over the place or procrastinating or especially when I'm trying to hold a bunch of ideas in my mind, none of which are really that important, it's cathartic and freeing to get them all out and not worry about sounding or feeling silly or petty or weird. Sometimes I don't finish my pages, and sometimes I write more. Sometimes I'll start and then I'll hit on something, a story or an idea, that I want to write in my journal - my journal being a notebook that I plan on keeping, rather than my morning pages, which I recycle.
My regular journal is as it's always been - just a notebook with pages and where I write a few things here and there. Over the years, the notebooks have been filling up, and while I would never reread any of my past journals (the thought horrifies me), it's nice to see them on my shelf. I've been using Stalogy notebooks for my last few, and I love them for their thin pages that crinkle as they fill up with fountain pen ink. The paper handles the ink great - so does my B6 notebook, but I like the thicker pages of the MD notebook I use as I flip back and forth between pages frequently, erasing, crossing out, flipping again, and I don't have to worry about accidental dog ears or tearing. Other miscellaneous papery items:
  • I've had a notebook for around ten years, in which I record books I've read. When I first started keeping track, it was a hard habit to get into, but I now love looking back and seeing what I've read and remember how the year's reading (or lack thereof) lines up with that year's events.
  • The pressure to keep a daily gratitude journal was a bit much as we welcomed baby 2. Recently I've been keeping gratitude notes in a Field Notes memo book, and write in it whenever the mood strikes. I also tape occasional pictures or mementos in there.
  • Since January 1st, I've been keeping a multi year diary, the kind where you write a few lines a day. I'm giving myself lots of grace on this, and actually it's nice to fill in days I've missed with generic things like a list of the books I'm reading at that time, or taping in a photo. It's also a lot of fun, even having only kept it for a few months, to look back on some of the funny and important moments we've had.
When I write it all out, it seems like a lot, but actually I feel like I've really pared down this year, just out of the inability to sustain frivolity due to a lack of time. I have both a 2018 A6 Techo and an A5 Cousins basically untouched, looking at me sadly from the shelf. I'm thinking maybe as things calm down I might use the A5 as a desk ideas/to-do list page a day, but that will probably have to hold off for a month or two. To sum up, my two biggest organizing tools are my everyday B6 notebook, and my Traveler's Notebook planner. My morning pages and journal are for processing and getting everything out, and then as I have time, I've been trying to hold onto a few photos and memories of my babies while they're babies. The last five years of running the shop (we turn five in April!) have been huge, leaping, roller coaster learning curves for us, and for me in particular, both with the shop and its growth, and with family. Now with another massive change ahead, it's nice to have something to keep me grounded.
  *This is a slight exaggeration, but he also sends texts back and forth with the contractor while talking to me, so... **It's because I was lazy.

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Anonymous said:

I currently keep them (actually I only have two, almost three used ones), but I am thinking of recycling them. My shelves are already bursting and really I should be cleaning out stuff I don’t actually need.

Once I use an idea (for example on a blog) I cross it out, or otherwise I collate all the old-but-still-good ideas onto a fresh page, and keep it going. A lot of the lists for meetings or things for newsletters or grocery lists are not important to keep. I might consider going through all of them thoroughly for any last ideas or quotations or things I still like and collecting them all into my next notebook before recycling them.

And hello back, all the way to North Carolina! What an honour to have an international visitor :)

Marcy Penner

Marcy Penner said:

I’m in the predicament where I switch from using my B6 slim like you (brain dump really) to just adding another insert into my TN. That lasts about a day and then I go back to splitting them up into the B6 and TN again (what seems like) the next day. And then back and forth and back and forth. Not sure why it’s so hard to commit to. LOL. As always, thanks for the inspo!


Anonymous said:

Unfortunately I’m a complete failure at any sort of gear or set up or kit for photography. I rely on natural light 100% of the time, which is why some of my photos are better lit than others – it depends on the weather! I have heard good things about improvements in technology and lighting in the five years we’ve been in business, but I don’t think I’m savvy enough to get technical yet! :D


Anonymous said:

Chicago, home of Oprah and ER!

The portfolio is actually made for our shop by Superior Labor in Japan. I have the light brown A5 for my correspondence. You can see both the A5 and A4 (larger) portfolios here: https://www.wonderpens.ca/searchresults.asp?Search=portfolio&Submit=

I hope to one day do a blog post on my organization for correspondence, and what all I keep in my portfolio, but right now I’m slightly disorganized. There’s a flat interior pocket I use for stamps and envelopes, and inside the main compartment I keep mail I need to respond to, along with a pad or two of stationery. It’s great for bringing to cafes as I have everything I need to write a letter from start to finish in one relatively slim case. I’ve heard from others that they use it for traveling, to keep a notebook and travel papers, or to organize loose papers, mail and receipts going back and forth to work or the office.


Erin said:

Always a fan of second opinions, I’m wondering if you recycle or archive your b6 “everyday” notebooks?

I have a similar setup myself, and while those notebooks have a lot of scratching out, re-writing, moving to the computer or another journal, sometimes I hesitate before recycling them. Curious on your take

Hello from North Carolina!


Anonymous said:

Thanks so much for reading! I just can’t resist a good notebook ;)


Emily said:

Hi! Another of your non-Canadian fans here (USA, Chicago). Loved this post and am a fan of your store/site. I’m curious about what your leather portfolio is for keeping your correspondence and how you use that, or any other details. Thanks!

Randy Preising

Randy Preising said:

Just a general question, but do you use a lighting kit for your product shots? Or just use natural light? They always look good, especially on the scratched up desk.


Andrew said:

Apologies, I somehow had it in my mind that you were in Britain. So, not across the pond, but across the border in California! I’ve flown over Toronto and it looks like a lovely city; my wife was born in Montreal and someday we hope to see more of Canada. I’ve been to Vancouver and toured a nearby island by ferry. Swore I’d live there someday, given how pleasant everyone was and how beautiful everything is. That was years ago and work got busy, so here I still am! Things are messed up here in America right now – we’re hoping you don’t build a wall to keep us out if we decide to run : )


Paul said:

The TN and the Age Bag are both excellent—I live out of mine! And I’ve recently started using a Life Stenographers’ notebook for keeping track of which pens have what inks in them… love it.

Keep it real, please, that TN looks beautiful in all its well-traveled glory.

Hope you guys start getting some downtime soon. Or maybe not, maybe we should all wish you a massive in-flux of business after all your hard work and effort. There’s probably a grey area somewhere between the two you should explore. if there is, I hope you find it soon!


Sarah said:

Thanks! I really enjoyed this and am glad to see I’m not alone in my multiple journals approach.


Anonymous said:

You and I are quite similar! I’m also using my TN for travel, and I love it.

I hope to write a blog post eventually (not sure if I should wait a…year? is that too long??) on how I’m using my multi-year journal. I’m really enjoying it! There are little “cheats” but actually they’re not even really cheats because they also do truly capture this date or this point in time in a great way. :)


Anonymous said:

Thanks!! I appreciate the support. I can’t tell if sometimes I’m too real (HAHA) since jury’s out on whether I should be sharing pristine and beautiful things, or my “real” stained and worn-in leather notebooks and inconsistent journaling practices ;)


Anonymous said:

How amazing that you’ve found us! Occasionally I get a reader or two from outside Canada, and it’s a delight. I always wonder how you’ve stumbled across us, but better not to look a gift horse in the mouth ;)

I always have the intention to downsize, but I feel like I need to welcome every notebook and system into my loving arms. This year has been the first time I’ve really pared down (relatively speaking), and it feels good.

The Nock Co cases are great, and I love the durability of it. Luckily for me, my daily work commute is quite close, but the result is that when I need to head out for a meeting or appointment, I tend to over pack.

Thanks so much for reading, and for taking the time to write!


Andrew said:

Love your blog (and shop, though I live across the pond and have never been there)! Great post too. I love to see what others do and how they use it.

I keep downsizing then it slowly creeps up again. Right now I use a Nock Co Sinclair filled with a notebook, 3×5 cards with daily lists and other notes and a few gel + pigment pens + pencil. I’d like to add a larger notebook for sketching and larger work or photography ideation (my current favorite is the Panobook).

The challenge I see is carrying the smaller notebook, larger notebook, 3×5 cards and the pens/pencil together in one nice, tidy, portable package that you can easily grab and go anywhere. I sometimes have a backpack or shoulder bag and sometimes not. In the “not” scenario, the portability of the Sinclair is nice.



thyna said:

those notebooks though ?i’m also using a b6 slim as my everyday agenda! i like it’s a little smaller than my traveler’s notebook (which i used to use; it’s now being used primarily as my travel journal) and a bit easier to carry around on the daily. i do miss using my traveler’s though, not to mention i have a growing pile of yet-to-be-used notebooks, so this was a great read for inspiration on more ways to use up more of my collection.

i also love your little blurb on how you’re using a multiyear journal – the idea of having to write every single day seemed daunting, but using photos or even writing just what you’re reading sounds really neat.


Lilian said:

Thanks Liz! I love this blog post and how real it is! :)

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