Personalized Household Notebook – Doing It My Way

personalized spiral bound notebook

Every successful woman uses some kind of organizational method. I’m not saying that she uses something complicated. But, unless she’s got a photographic memory or a million hired hands, the with-it woman has her ducks in a row, and someway to organize them.

And I want to be a with-it woman.

So, I’ve been working on how to get my act together — for like twenty years! I’ve done the clipboard and the binder and they just don’t completely satisfy my needs to get with the program.

(True confessions: I set up a notebook at least once a year, but somewhere along the way, it falls into disrepair and ends up dusty on a shelf. Then I revert to planner sheets on a clipboard.)

I’m still fine-tuning a system that truly works for me. And what I found out about myself is that

  1. I like things to be simple. If it’s too complicated, I just won’t use it.
  2. I like it to be compact. I don’t want to fuss with a big bulky binder on the countertop. I need to be able to carry it all over the place with ease.
  3. I like love ADORE spiral-bound notebooks. I buy them when they’re super cheap and then use them for everything. I’ve got four or five going right now.
  4. I can make my own spiral-bound notebook!

Well, the copy shop can, anyway.

Over the weekend, I printed out calendars, to-do sheets, and 92-different kinds of forms. I dug up some lovely green cardstock – eight sheets were left, exactly as many as I needed. And today after our library trip, I hauled all six kids into Fedex to get my new planner bound in a coil binding.

It was a happy day. I came home and started planning my life. I even made doctor’s appointments that I’ve been putting off because I didn’t have a good place to write it all down. I think that this might actually work to help me stay motivated and organized. Here’s hoping!

What do you do to get with-it?

** Visit DIY Day to find more helpful tips for making things yourself.

Right now you can purchase my latest ebook, Organizing Life as MOM, which includes 125 pages of inspiration and planning ideas. 80+ pages are fillable planning sheets, meaning you can customize them to fit your life, your family, and YOU.

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  1. I love that you found what will work for you and I am the same way with spirals. I love them and try to thing up things to do in them. Since I am a teacher I buy them in bulk each year to sell to students in need of them for cheap. When I have excess I just want to fill them all up myself! My main comment here is that I think you should tell us or show us all the stuff you put in the spiral…you know those 92 forms. It would be oh-so-helpful to the people still trying, like me.
    Thanks, Kristen

    • Jessica Fisher says:

      Thanks for the suggestion, Kristen. I’m working on that. I’m not the best designer, but want them to a little purtier before I divulge them. There are some links in that binder post, though.

  2. I agree with Kristin! I’d LOVE to know what forms you used!

    I’m a huge fan of spiral notebooks too! It lets me be a little more creative with doodles and “note to self” stuff!

  3. How exciting!! I love trying to get organized but like you nothing ever sticks. So far what’s working for me right now is the pads of paper that are bound on the top…can’t think of the name. I’m not a huge fan of it because it’s too big to take with me, when I really need to write stuff down!

    Why is it that all of the good ideas and whatnot come when you are in the car?

    I can’t wait to see what you put together.

  4. I LOVE the spiral. I have a binder, but I think a spiral would work better for me as well. Can you share with us what you have in your spiral? :)

  5. What? No sample? No peek? I’m with you though. I’ve tried the binder and I get overwhelmed with all the sheets I don’t need or use and then feel overwhelmed like maybe I’m not doing enough. LOL.
    So I ordered a small hand held planner from Gooseberry Patch for a $1.00 on sale and I’m waiting for it to get here. I’m hoping it’s all I need. We’ll see.

  6. It is soooo hard to find the perfect system! I wish I could. For now I am in love with the MomAgenda. That is what has been working for me….when I purposely use it – that is the key….

    I had never even considered creating my own! You go girl!!!

  7. Spiral bound is such a great idea! I have also tried the binder method, but it drives me CRAZY to get out that big binder and try to keep EVERYTHING in it. I love that your planning sheet has your routines and room to add what pertains to just that day. I might have to try this.

  8. I am like you and strive to find the trick to being organized…however, I think that part of my joy is trying out new systems and calendars. Right now I am in love with these:

    I got the Mom planner for Christmas…

  9. I love this idea. I have never found a system that works for me either. Nothing ever fit for me just right and I would end up not using it. So, I think I may try this one. Thanks!

  10. I am thinking the same thing, Jessica. What forms are in there? I love the idea of designing my own (brilliant!) but am pretty sure I wouldn’t think of everyhting that needs to be bound together seeing as I have about 4 different notebooks going myself!

  11. I would love to know where you found all those forms to print. Did you use links similar to your September 2009 post about your household notebook or did you find new things to print? I hate spending a ton of money on a planner that someone else has put together and doesn’t really meet my needs. I would love any and all details that you can share!

    • Jessica Fisher says:

      I made them up on my computer. That’s the only way I could find to have what I wanted. And, yes, I will be sharing them.

  12. Jessica, what a great idea! You are so creative! You could bundle up those sheets and sell them as a download like you did for the muffin sets. I would love to get a set. I have been on the hunt for the perfect household organizer for a long time! :)

  13. I did the Control Notebook for almost 7 years (still do more for the family’s use than my personal needs) and sometimes I use a spiral notebook if I need to write or sketch but mostly it is all about my SMART PHONE!!! I use the Palm Centro and it has changed my life. As a stroke survivor and Mom to 5 kids, it has saved me countless hours. The best thing is I can back it up on my computer so if it is lost/or broken I can start again. I love the TO DO and tasks (soft alarms), also the Memos (that can go to each child and activity) and the calendar function add repeats, more alarms if you want. I can blog on my phone and check e-mail. I have older ones but not driving yet so I am in the car and waiting on them so my phone is there to update and keep up. In any case, have a rotation of family needs and getting info for your family needs is important. When I had my stroke and was in the hospital for 3 weeks, my family went to my control journal and knew where everything was. When my memory was so bad, I had the passwords and schedule to help my forget things. It is a very VALUABLE tool!

  14. This looks great! You should post an ebook of it so we can all get our own Life As Mom planner made.

  15. Thanks so much for all your great posts! I’m totally on the same page with organization – I went from being footloose and fancy -free to being married with a 5-1/2 year-old living with us in less than a year – so I HAD to get organized :) I found Amy Knapp’s Family Organizer was great!!! It gives me places for phone #’s, Christmas lists and monthly and weekly calendars – and not overly expensive.

    Thanks again – Have a great day!

  16. Post-its baby!

  17. I wrote about tackling my calendar today too:-) I like cyber-organization but I think what you have done here is important: know what works the best for you:-)

  18. I’ve moved all of my organizing tools to a digital format because after much trial and error it works best for me. I have three main tools that keep me organized:

    1. A spreadsheet that I’ve evolved over the years to list all the things I need to do to get through the year (plan for birthdays, holidays, pantry re-orgs, household projects etc). I spend about 1/2 a day in early January getting the spreadsheet up and running and then it keeps me on track all year long. I use the previous year’s spreadsheet as a starting point so the work is faster. I also use formulas to base activities on key dates. From the spreadsheet I can then create my daily/weekly to-do lists. This year I integrated editorial calendars for my blogs and a baking group I’m part of into the schedule and it’s really helping me stay ahead.

    2. A weekly to-do list that I manage in Evernote. I’ve settled on Evernote because I can access it with my home PC, work laptop, and iPhone. I have a series of pre-created list templates for packing for travel, weekend errands, that I can easily leverage.

    3. An Outlook calendar. I save all of my events for work and personal life in my work calendar with privacy set appropriately on personal activities. My calendar syncs with my iPhone and is accessible from the web at home so I have all scheduled events in one place. I go through an update my calendar with important school dates, holidays, events, etc twice a year.

    My approach to managing my world has absolutely evolved over time as my life as a working mom and blogger has evolved. I think it’s important to be honest with yourself about what is and isn’t working and don’t be afraid to try new tools.

    What a great discussion!

  19. I have a three ring binder for a “control journal” that is for house hold stuff like menus, list of canning amounts/types, chores and routines. I have one that is for budget information, bill payment, debt and assets lists. Then, I have a notebook with a continual to-do list for household, a to-do list for school, a to-do-list for gardening, a section for “pending” for projects to hear back from other folks, a project section for crafts, tickler/idea section for writing, quotes, recipes etc, someday/maybe section for different things like books I would like to read someday or long term goals. It sounds complicated, but it really works for me. I don’t care for spiral notebooks because I can’t keep those organized in a fashion that works for me.

  20. Last year, my husband and I went “paperless” and use Google calendar online, Google documents online, and we both have Moto Droids so that we can keep track of what we’re doing on the go. So far, it is the only system that has worked for us. I already have to carry a diaper bag and my huge purse everwhere… I don’t think my back will allow me to add a notebook system to the mix! :)

  21. My problem is even coming up with a list / schedule that works for me…. ugh..

    I love the notebook idea, maybe that would work better for me than the binder idea, which I’ve tried to implicate.

  22. While I am not especially techo-savvy, my husband is, and after some discussion with him, I asked him to buy a Palm Pilot for me for Christmas two years ago. It’s been wonderful! It’s a little larger than a cell phone, so it fits in my purse no problem. It syncs with our Outlook calendar on our computer, so I put all of our to-dos, appointments, and meal plans in our Outlook calendar and then have them with me on my Palm Pilot at all times. My husband uses the Outlook calendar for his household to-dos as well (to remind him when to change the oil next in the car, etc–he changes the oil himself so we don’t have one of those handy reminder stickers in the front windshield). I also have all of our contacts in the Palm Pilot–and because it syncs with the computer, I only have to put the address in once to have it in both places. I have a free list-making software on my Palm Pilot that I make my grocery and other lists on. Oh! My husband also syncs his work laptop with our home computer, so I always have his work schedule on the calendar in my Palm Pilot calendar, and he has my schedule on his work laptop calendar, too. This is nice since he likes to go to things like our son’s doctor appts and my ob appts (we’re expecting #2). I can schedule our appts knowing that he won’t have a meeting that he can’t get out of to come with us.

    I confess, though, that I do print out our schedule each week from Outlook and post it on the front of the fridge. It’s more convenient for my husband when choosing leftovers to take for lunch to be able to glance up and see what’s for dinner that night.:) I also have a magnetic list pad on the fridge that I put my specific daily to-dos on each morning, in the order that they need to happen.

    My comments are always forever long…sorry! Maybe I should start a blog so that I could just post a link to my thoughts.:) I love your spiral notebook idea! I am going to have to keep binding my own notebook in mind…

  23. I’m going to second some other posts here and say — WE WANT TO SEE WHAT THE GUTS OF YOURS IS! Apparently we all need some inspiration too. I’ve tried the binders — it’s great at first but because it’s someone else’s system completely it’s really hard to tweak it to make it your own… I’m a spiral person too and have several going too! I’d love a way to compile the madness! SHARE WITH US!

  24. UGHHH, the illusive ‘what will work’ question and solution is ever more, for me. I’ve done everything that everyone’s suggested before, as well…to no avail. I start out with a binder with pocket inserts and tabs and sections and ‘forms’ and a yearly calendar, as well as a monthly budget book, and nope…it always ends up just like your’s did, w/dust on a shelf, and my papers and envelopes and bills and the kid’s school papers and my sale fliers and EVERYthing is scattered on the island…which causes yet another problem, lol. There has GOT to be a better way. Thinking ‘affordable,’ I’m curious as to how much your binder ran, ‘cost-wise?’ Although, cost shouldn’t be too big of an issue if it solves the long-time problem, however, as everyone would agree, in today’s economy, it does.

    • Jessica Fisher says:

      I hear ya, Debbie. I printed out the pages myself on our home printer. (We buy after-market ink cartridges, so I think it’s fairly cheap per page.) Then it cost $5 at Fedex to buy the covers (hard plastic) and to have it coil bound. I’m fine tuning it and will probably put another one together in June for the second half of the year. I’m determined to work out the bugs and have a working planner.

  25. I am with the others – I want to see the “guts”!!!
    I am mom of 10 and have faithfully used a binder for years. Now, since we are renting a SMALL house near our vineyard (while waiting for ours in AL to sell) I have no counter top to keep it out on. Something new would be great!

  26. Stephanie says:

    Good grief, you ladies are CRAZY!!! I can only dream of being that organized. Someday….

  27. I buy a huge desk calendar and hung it on my wall on nails. The spaces are big enough that I can record activities for all 7 of us, and I can glance at it when I’m on the phone. I tried carrying around a system also, but I never reconciled the 2 and got into trouble!

  28. Thanks for this post. It actually inspired me to put a *binder* together for myself! I had been making do with my super-cheap spiral bound notebooks, but I’m really more of a binder girl at heart (in college I only used spiralbound if required to, but I loved my binders)- it feels less permanent because I can move things around. So your post encouraged me to do what works for me!

  29. That’s a great idea! I hadn’t really considered spirals because can’t add pages, but I think it would be really handy for pages that you need to keep for a record. Thanks for the inspiration!!

  30. I’ve just started to piece mine together from various sites and ideas. The base of it is a zippered trapper-keeper type binder. At the front of it is just lined paper for jotting down ideas and basic lists. I also have a folder that holds print-outs for freezer/pantry inventory and a list of numbers for companies like the phone and elect. so I don’t have to bother with the phone book if I have an issue. There’s also a list of birthdays and such by month. (I’m always forgetting those) All the little pockets in the binder hold things like large folders that hold tax paperwork as it comes in. When tax time comes, just grab the envelope. I’m working on a cleaning schedule and refining my notebook. It’s a good place to put the mail too..toddler safe. Yes, having a digital version is great ..until you have a power outage or the battery dies..or it finds a body of water/hard surface.

  31. I LOVE the idea of making my own planner! I’m curious… how pricey was the binding?

  32. Do you print a sheet for every day or do you put it in a sheet protector and use a dry-erase marker? I currently use a clipboard for chores but I’m like you–I like a sprial bound portable book that’s simple and easy to use.

  33. Thank you Jessica, you’ve inspired me! I’m motivated and ready to start my own organized notebook. All the comments are great too for offering different ideas on what works. I love Kendell’s comment on using Google Calendar & Documents – my home office is filled with lists like books to read, gift ideas, etc. and I could easily go paperless and place these in Google documents!

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