All In the Name of Simplicity

After my last post, I am sure all of you are sitting on the edge of your seats wondering what my choices are. First, let me say that because of all the stress and anxiety I’ve been dealing with over the last year, I feel it’s important to cut back on my “must-get-it-done” mentality. I took a good long, hard look at my planner, what I use it for, the kind of information I keep track of, what I need it for, and so on. I wondered if there was anything I could remove from my planner to make my life a little simpler.

The answer is yes.

First, I noticed that I was keeping too many lists. While I love lists, this became a problem because I had several items on several lists, constantly moving things from one list to another, only to move it back to the original place. No wonder I was feeling a little disorganized and more than a little overwhelmed. How can I get done what truly needs to get done when I don’t know where it is?

My past list set up:

  • In my “Lists” section, I had lists for things to buy when I’m next at the store; things I want to buy in the future but that aren’t important right now; things to do in the future but that aren’t urgent at the moment; things to do in regards to the house; things to buy in regards to the house; and a list of music to download and books to add to my master list. 
  • On each month’s monthly insert, I have a list of things that need to be done or bought that month. I often need to spread my spending out, so this helps me to keep track of it. This list also helps if I need to make a doctor appointment or the like some time that month. 
  • On a DayTimer Hot Sheet (kept between my two monthly inserts pages for easy viewing), I had a list of things to do sooner rather than later but not by any specific day or time. Often when I had a day free, I would move some of these items to that day, most often moving more items than could ever possibly be done. Then, if it wasn’t done on that day, I’d move the item to the next free day, but still keeping the item on the hot sheet just in case. When the hot sheet got filled up, I’d rewrite any items that didn’t get done on a new sheet. 
  • On my two-pages-per-day inserts, I’d also have a list of things to be done that day. Most of these are items that popped up at some point or another, though some are from the hot sheet as mentioned above. 
The above lists don’t even include the information I recorded each day—appointments, daily exercise, food diary, water intake, weather conditions, blog posts written, books started or finished, movies watched, random gratitudes, etc.

I needed to pare down and quick before my life’s to-do lists took over me completely. Don’t get me wrong, I love to make lists, and I love that I can look back for any day (so far) in 2011 and see what I did, where I was, what movie I watched. But a part of me wondered if I wasn’t going overboard. Do I keep lists because I need them, or because it’s just something to do? I very rarely look back at a day and read what I ate. Sometimes, keeping those lists was more of a chore than an enjoyment. On days out, I’d have to remember what I ate so that I could write it down when I returned home. I wouldn’t let myself go to sleep at night until all of those lists were in order for the day because I knew I wouldn’t remember the specifics in the morning. Was it worth it? The answer to that is no.

SNARLing’s videos on her Black Compact Chameleon couldn’t have come at a better time (I know she timed them just for me—ha ha). I have been wishing for a Filofax whose ring size is somewhere between the slimline and the personal. Asking her a million questions and her graciously answering each and every one was all the incentive I needed to take the plunge.

My friends, after some hesitation (I really love my Malden and didn’t want to change but the slimmer binder is what I was after), I ordered the Compact Chameleon in black (I was eyeing the raspberry for a while, and while I love the color, I just knew it was not one I could live with for a long time). I hesitated because I knew that the leather wouldn’t be the same as the Malden and that the binder wouldn’t lay flat like the Malden, both reasons that I love my Maldy.

Malden and Chameleon side by side.

Chameleon right out of the box - doesn't lay flat.
I was so concerned about these things in fact that when it arrived, I put all of my items into it, looked at my naked Malden, took everything out of the Chameleon, and back into the Malden. I put my maps in the Chameleon, placed it on my shelf and figured that it would be a good binder for traveling but not for everyday use (I didn’t want to return it since I knew I would regret it). It stayed there only for a day because I had read this post and decided to give the Chameleon a proper and hearty try.

The verdict? I. Love. This. Binder. True, she’s not my Maldy, but she’s just as reliable. And thinner too (though I’m not holding that against Mr. Malden—there’s just more of him to love).

Malden in back, Chameleon in front.

You can see the difference in size.
Malden on left, Chameleon on right.

The leather is stiffer than that of the Malden, which I don’t love but I like it well enough. It doesn’t lay flat, also something I don’t love. But it does stay fairly flat when I’m writing in it, and the smaller rings make for easier writing overall.
My lists from this morning's errands. It was so easy to
bring the 
compact along and refer to the lists as needed.

And I love that I can haphazardly toss her in my bag and she fits right in. So even though she’s not perfect, she gets the job done!

I did have to pare down what I carry with me, but it works well for me. My new set up is as follows:

  • Everything but the diary section is the same. In the front I have a picture of something I love (post forthcoming about this), followed by the Filofax Post-it Accessory. Then I have my tabs: Contacts—names and phone numbers of only those important numbers I call most often; Notes—random information, Happiness Project notes, my husband’s information, one or two sheets of extra paper; Lists—these have been pared down and consolidated from my prior lists; Projects—items I’m working on that require multiple steps or a large amount of time (information for the next New York City Philofaxy meet up lives here); and Writing—notes on things to write about, whether it’s blog topics or ideas for my journal. 
  • My diary section contains only six months worth of pages. I don’t generally plan things further in advance than that, and if I do it’s most likely going to be something that will be “penciled in” and could change at any point, so the less amount of pages works for me (for now). 
  • I’m still using the month-on-two-pages inserts. Our work schedule is done on a monthly basis so I couldn’t give up a monthly view in some form. Plus, when scheduling appointments and events, it’s much easier to do if I can see my entire month at a time—maybe one day or weekend would work better than another depending on what else is going on. 
  • I have switched… wait for it… back to the week-on-two-pages (lined) inserts. Gasp! I don’t tend to have a lot of appointments in one day. For the most part, my work schedule is the same each week, so that section of the 2PPD inserts was often mostly blank. Also, I decided I could give up writing down what I eat and how much water I drink in a day. With the water, I’m so used to drinking it all day long now that I don’t think it will go by the wayside just because I don’t record it. And the food, well to be honest, most often it was just a chore. I still write down my exercise and appointments on the weekly pages, plus any specific to-dos that need to be done that day. Usually there is enough space to add any random information should I need it. So if the weather is particularly bad and effects how I feel that day, I can record it. If I’m not feeling well in general, I can record that too. I’m still able to write down the things I absolutely need but can eliminate the rest of it, things that were written down mainly out of habit more than anything else. 
  • I still use the hot sheets. However, it only contains things that I want to get done sooner rather than later but not on any specific day. It is now placed between the two weekly sheets, so I see it every time I turn to the week. I work off of that list only—no transferring items to a specific day. If I have time, I pick something and do it. If not, it can live there until I do. 
  • If I ever need extra space for a specific day or to-do list, I can use a jot sheet or Post-its (Lord knows I have plenty of those lying around). 
I’m really liking the compact binder and the fewer items to carry around.

Compact Chameleon all set and ready to go.

SNARLing was right when she said it’s sleek and stylish (or something to that effect). A big thank you to her for opening my eyes to this “stress-reducing” binder. (Currently, my Maldy is holding on to future inserts and maps. He may come out and play again soon—only time will tell. But for now, he’s taking a much needed rest.)

As for my 2012 inserts—I still have yet to purchase them (see, my must-get-them-bought mentality has waned a little). I’m thinking that I will stick with the month-on-two-pages inserts. I was contemplating the tabbed monthly sheets until I learned that they’re still printed back to back and therefore still unable to be interfiled with weekly and/or daily pages. However, I may still buy them to use as my monthly dividers. I have been using the 12-tabbed monthly dividers since starting with Filofax. When you only have six of these dividers in the binder at a time, it looks a little funny. The other ones (I believe) are two rows of six, rather than one row of 12. They will fill up the vertical space better. I’m also going with the WO2P (lined). I may change my mind and end up ordering daily or 2PPD sheets in the future, but I’m hopeful that I can stick with the weeklies again.

Ahh, so the drama has ended. I’m sure it won’t be long until there is new drama to post about. But until then, here’s a little something special to hold you over:

My boy nudging his way into my planning process.
He seems to like 
my Frixion pens as much as I do,
though for different reasons.


  1. Keeping track of water consumption: I have a sticky in the front of my Filo where I just keep a tally for the day. I chuck it every day and start anew. I use to have blue ones used only for water intake but now I just draw a little glass on it to remind me it's not for writing shopping lists, etc.

  2. Good idea, Beverley! I could just do a tally on the day since there's room for that.

  3. holy shit. twice already i lost my comments here (operator error)

    anyway, yay for the compact! glad it's working out for you. maybe by the time you get your system totally pared down to what you really need and don't even have to think about it anymore, there will be other compact styles available (LIKE A COMPACT MALDEN). for the record, i have been using mine for 2 months now and it has softened quite a bit. i had recently bought a pocket chameleon in black (gave to my aunt) and the leather is waaaaaaay different. it's more flexible and flimsy and plastic-y than the stiffness of the compact. i like the compact leather a LOT better and feel it will soften and age really nicely with use.

    i also feel the same about the malden and caress it everyday and look at it lovingly then transfer all my contents into it and realize yet again that 23 mm is just too big and bulky for my taste. when i put everything back into the compact i feel a sense of relief ahhhhhhh. that's better. fits perfect! i still have my eye on the osterly compact but thank god it's not yet available here in the us and it's at a can't-do-it-unless-it's-special price point for me (really don't want to spend more than $100 on a filofax) so, yeah compact all the way for me. for awhile anyway...heh heh

  4. SNARLing - I pretty much have it the way I need it. I might condense a bit more, but generally speaking, it's where it needs to be. I was in Barnes & Noble earlier and my husband needed to write something down. I whipped the compact right out of my bag and opened it to the Post-it accessory - worked like a charm for him. And it looked so sleek sitting on the table next to the glossy magazines and Starbucks cup. =)

    I have to say that since getting it last week, the leather has already softened a bit. Not too much, but it stays open better than it did when it first arrived. So I think it will be better as the days go on. It will never be the Malden, but hey, life goes on, right? Right now, I'm looking for the narrower binder and this works for me.

    I hear you about the pricing. I would pay a little extra for a Compact Malden though. (Do you think if we say it enough, someone might actually hear us?) I realized with the Malden that I have to put MORE than I need into it to make it usable, because of the size of the rings. That was whole point of getting the compact, so that I wouldn't need to carry that around. Time will tell which will win out, but right now, it's the compact.

    Thanks for your input on this purchase!

  5. Kanalt, I've been faced with the same decisions when I changed from personal to pocket size. I also used to record and note stuff that was really not important. As it turns out I can live with a lot less information and the world still doesn't collapse!
    I have the personal Chameleon, but it lays totally flat?! Bit weird that the compact doesn't, but maybe it'll come around in time...!

  6. Jotje - it's amazing what we find necessary until we no longer do. A few months ago, I would have said that I NEED every bit of information that I was writing down. But I don't really. I'm feeling so much lighter and freer now that I'm not struggling to remember to put this here and that there and recopy the other into a new place.

    Yes, I think with time the compact will lay flat. It's well on its way now, and it's only been a week. SNARLing said that the leather between her compact and the pocket was different - maybe it's the same with the personal. I don't know why that would be, but there you have it.

  7. Well damn and blast, I "need" one of these...

  8. Rori - LOL! Don't we all need every binder? ;) Honestly, if someone were contemplating the compact, I'd say it's a great binder, but it all depends on how much you need/want to carry. I have the same amount of "extra" stuff as I did in the Malden (lists, contacts, etc.) but only five months worth of monthly and weekly pages. I could MAYBE get one month of dailies (if I took out the corresponding weekly pages) or two - three months of dailies (and no weeklies), but not much more than that.


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