I have started to write this blog post several times but always stop myself because I think, who in the world would ever care about my planner, how I made it, or how I use it? But on the off chance that anyone is actually interested, here it is. My wonderful planner!
It may not look all that spectacular, but honestly, after using this for the past 8 months, I am in love with it. I would cry if I lost it! I always know where it is and I'm pretty sure its in the top 5 items I'd grab if my house were on fire. So, allow me to tell you about the best tool I own for staying organized amid the chaos that is my life. Since I work a "real job", homeschool my 2 boys, run my photography business, and have other responsibilities at church and home, I would lose my mind if I didn't have a place to keep everything.
I decided, after looking at hundreds of options and doing tons of research, to invest in the ARC discbound system (sold by Staples, or on Amazon). I LOVE this system because pages can be added and removed any time you want. Each year, you just put in the new calendar pages, printables, etc, and you're ready to go! You only need to buy the cover, discs, and other accessories once.
Here's what I purchased for this project...
1) Leather Notebook - I went with the 9.5 x 11.5 size so it holds regular 8.5 x 11 sized paper
I actually bought a poly cover at first, but it's kind of light-weight and didn't stand up to all the abuse I gave it. I adore this cover. It's very sturdy, pretty, has a pen holder loop in the back cover and a pocket in front w/a place for credit cards or business cards (I store my business cards there and an old CC with extra washi tape there). If you're serious about your investment, I'd recommend to go ahead and get the leather cover and not bother with the poly one. This is the ARC brand, but Martha Stewart brand also makes a pretty blue one. The cover came with 60 sheets of ruled paper too, which I took out.
2) Set of 1 - 1/2 inch discs (the notebook comes with 1/2 inch discs but they weren't nearly large enough for my needs. Purchased from Amazon.
3) 2 zip pouches - these are great for me when I need a place to safely store checks & cash from clients, extra stamps, extra thank you cards, receipts, etc. Purchased from Amazon. They come in a 2-pack.
4) 2 sets of these divider tabs - I picked these up on clearance from Staples for 50% off. They are re-writable tabs, but I cover them with pretty washi tape to write on. I use these to divide out each month in my calendar. I like the pretty multi colored Martha Stewart ones better than the black ARC ones.
5) Set of pocket dividers - I needed something to divide the major sections of my planner: Business, Calendar, Meal Planning, Homeschooling. I had to punch special holes in them to make them fit into the notebook, but I'll get to that in a minute. I liked these because they have pockets to hold loose papers. I got them from Walmart during back-to-school sales so they were cheap. The only complaints I have about them is that they're thinner plastic and the tabs have bent a bit, and they are wider than my notebook, so they stick out over the edge, making them easier to get torn up. But they function ok and they were only a few dollars. If I ever need to replace them, I'll look for something that actually goes with the ARC system so its the correct size so it wears better.
(You can see in the photo below how the purple divider sticks out past the edge of the notebook.)
6) This Disc Hole Punch - Here's the one kicker of using the discbound system. All your inserts and pages have to have the correct holes to fit. So you have to purchase this special hole punch. I got the Levenger brand, but ARC also makes one. When I happened to buy it, the ARC was about $10 more expensive on Amazon. They are both nearly the same so all the accessories are compatible. This was the most costly part of this project, but I plan on using it for years and years.
7) Paper - I got the heaviest stock paper Wal-Mart sold because I wanted my pages to be sturdy and for the ink not to bleed through. I think it was 28lb. When printing my planner, I only used about a third of the ream.
8) Ink Cartridges - my printer was almost out of ink so I bought enough to last through printing the many pages I knew I would need.
9) Pens - I love these Papermate Multi-Colored Flairs because they don't bleed through and I'm all about color coding my stuff. Plus, what girl doesn't love a pretty pen?
10) Assorted washi tape. I've got dozens of them and am a little obsessed. You can find it pretty much anywhere: Dollar tree, Wal-Mart, Hobby Lobby, Office Depot, Amazon. I will say that I got one from Wal-Mart on a roll like scotch tape that I HATE. It was Duck brand and looks shiny. Avoid that one because it's impossible to write on and very difficult to tear off. Go with the matte kind that's a texture like masking tape. Also, if possible, get the removable kind.
11) Assorted sticky notes & sticky flags. I picked up a few packs of the tiny ones at back-to-school time because the little ones fit better on my calendar squares. They make it nice when I'm not sure of a particular date or event and might need to remove them later. I just removed the wax backing and stuck them to the inside of my front cover so they're handy.
12) Printable Planner Pages - your possibilities on this one are literally endless and totally customizable. Try typing "printable planner" into pinterest or etsy and you'll find hundreds of options. It's crazy! After searching for weeks, I finally settled on this free set that I really like from The Handmade Home. There are dozens of others that I would have loved too, but ultimately I liked the free option best. It's pretty and suits my needs just fine. I did two-sided printing, which takes quite a bit of trial and error to figure out how your printer works (for me, at least).
I made my own cute cover page using a free template I found somewhere online. And I put one of my address stickers on it so it could be returned to me if I misplace it. (I doubt that would happen!)
Lastly, I downloaded and used TONS of other free printables from all over the Internet. You can find links to most of them on my Pinterest board here. A few favorites are: year-at-a-glance, important dates at a glance, master to-do lists, monthly menu planners, weekly menu planners with grocery lists attached, cleaning checklists, chore charts, summer and fall bucket lists, books to read bucket list, Christmas shopping/card/gift checklists, account registers (for my business), and client spreadsheets (also for my business). My plan is to eventually make my way to the Teacher's Aid store to have the monthly and weekly menu, master to-do list, and chore charts laminated so I can just use dry-erase pencils on them each week.
So far I love this system! It has served me very well and I think it can grow with my needs since it is so versatile and easy to customize and update.
I use the monthly spread to keep a general overview of upcoming events, birthdays, appointments, photo sessions, etc.
Then I use the weekly spread every day to keep track of my to-do items for home, work, school, and photography, meal planning, as well as our weekly Scripture memory and daily Bible reading plan. I normally color code my to-do items according to the category (photography, work/appointments, social/fun events, birthdays/holiday/anniversary, & meal plan) but in the page shown above, I did my planning at my mom's house so I didn't have my pretty pens handy. I place a square next to each item, and have a system developed to keep track of my progress. X means I cancelled the item. Solid square means complete. Half filled square means item has been started but not finished. Arrow in the square means I moved it to another date. This way I don't cross things off my list, because I normally need to look back on when I did things. This becomes especially important for business when I submit print orders for clients and need to keep tracking info and notes on when I mailed them off, etc.
I use the notes section at the bottom of the weekly spread and at the end of each month for all kinds of random things. Sometimes I jot down shopping lists, or write down cute things the boys said or did, or maybe a project I'm brainstorming, other times I use it as a journal for my thoughts, someone's phone #, a website to check out, a blog someone recommended, just whatever comes to mind when I need a place to jot something down. I like having the extra space as needed.
There is much more to say on the subject, but you get the idea. I hope all this info is helpful to someone. :)