Monday, June 21, 2010

How Many Notebooks Are Too Many?

The true notebook addict would probably say that it would be impossible to have too many notebooks, but I am not so sure.  I have been feeling overwhelmed lately by the number of notebooks that I am currently using, as well as feeling the need to simplify and use fewer notebooks.  Here are all of the notebooks that I am using right now:

Top row, left to right:
  • A fabric-covered, soft-covered book that is called an "Anything Book."  I have had it for years and am currently using it for writing my favourite poems in.  I don't like this book: the large size is cumbersome, the fabric cover attracts dust, and the pages do not open flat at all.
  • A cheap Hilroy exercise book - Just a basic spiral-bound notebook.  I am using it for taking notes in.
  • A composition book - This book originally was my journal; later (after I had stopped keeping a journal for a while), I began using it for writing my own poetry in.
Middle row, left to right:
  • Another composition book, this one from Blueline - This book was a gift, and I would never have bought myself a book with such a garish cover.  I have used it for various purposes in the past, and am currently using it for keeping track of the books that I have read.
  • Paperblanks journal - This is a beautiful book with a wraparound cover with a magnetic closure.  I am using it as a commonplace book - a place to gather quotations and useful information.
  • A cheap, hardcover notebook from the dollar store - This one was also a gift.  I am using it as my "ink book," a place where I keep writing samples of all of my pens, organized by colour.
  • Another plain spiral-bound notebook for taking notes in or writing drafts of blog posts.
Bottom row, left to right:
  • Unlined, pocket-sized Quo Vadis Habana - This is my current journal.
  • Lined, pocket-sized Quo Vadis Habana - A notebook for miscellaneous notes and lists, such as lists of ideas for blog posts, lists of pens that I want to buy, etc.
  • A small fabric-covered notebook that is another journal - This journal has been kept erratically over the last several years.  The first date in it is Sept. 26, 2004 and the last entry was on Mar. 14 of this year.
  • My art journal - Made from a recycled dollar-store notebook.
  • My sketchbook, also known as the "other journal."
What do you think?  How many notebooks are too many for you?  Or is there even such a thing as too many notebooks for you?  Do you have suggestions on how I could simplify my notebook use, perhaps by combining several of them into one?  What notebooks do you use?


  1. I have a commonplace book used to collect snippets of this and that which are inspirational for my painting work.I have a large loose-leaf folder used as a journal and place for writing poetry over the years but not lately, a small silk bound heavy paper book for ideas, another similar one for my personal adoption thoughts and work and a tiny pad for notes.Gosh! That was more than I thought.
    I wouldn't worry about it, if you need that many you need that many, who's counting?

  2. too many is when I can no longer find places to hide - I mean, store them :)

    Mostly I have a commonplace book near the computer, a personal journal near my bed, and a pocket notebook in my bag. I don't really think it's fair to count sketchbooks since you need more than one for different formats and types of paper. I also think you shouldn't count any used for academic work. So I really only have three notebooks. No, really :)

  3. I know all too well about trying to strike a balance between having an organized system and having too many notebooks. Right now I'm using more notebooks at once than I ever have before.

    1. A Peter Pauper Press Wraparound- Journal
    2. A Pro Art sketchbook (just got it today)- Sketchbook
    3. Hello Kitty Spiral Notebook- Current Writing Project
    4. Rhodia Reverse Book- kept by the computer for random notes/scribbles/pen tests
    5. Moleskine Daily Planner
    6. Moleskine Cahier- for keeping track of books I've read and library due dates
    7. Writers Blok small notebook- correspondence log
    8. Alvin Saray Graph Pad- used for pen reviews for my blog

    It seems like so many when I list them, and yet I use them all on a regular basis. I think this system is working for me because all of the notebooks except my journal and the Hello Kitty notebook basically live in their assigned spots on my desk. I don't feel overwhelmed right now, but I'm sure sometime soon I'll feel the urge to condense everything.

    Wow, that turned into a long comment!

  4. I have (too) many notebooks too. They are full of notes, drafts, more notes, more drafts. Some of them present such a clutter of words, most of them deleted or corrected that I find it impossible to open them. I ultimately rely on the computer for a clean copy.

  5. I'm glad too hear that I'm not the only here with many notebooks.

    Von, I know what you mean about there being more than you think. I was rather alarmed at the number of notebooks that I discovered I was using, as well.

    Sophie, are you sure you really only have three notebooks? Maybe I could "not count" some of mine as well...

    Taylor, I read your comment and realized that I left the Rhodia pad that I use for my pen reviews off my list. But then it's not really a "real" notebook so maybe it doesn't count?

    Palimpsest, I think that I have a few notebooks that are nearly as cluttered as yours are. But most of my notebooks are fairly tidy.

  6. Oops, that should be "to" not "too" in my first sentence :)

  7. I think that whether you have too many depends on whether you need the information to keep up with everything you need to do. In David Allen's Getting Things Done system, since it requires that you regularly process all the input in your various "collection buckets" — your in basket, email in basket, your mailbox, and any other source of input (which includes anything you use to keep notes that may require action later), that you have as few as you need to get by. (I feel like an expert on GTD because I've done so much reading about it, but I'm having a devil of a time implementing it!)

    Based on your description, I'd say the only ones you probably need to reference are the ones for "notes" (top row), drafts of blog posts (middle row), and the one with ideas for blog posts (bottom row). That doesn't sound like an unmanageable number of notebook collection buckets, even though you could probably consolidate those three uses into a single notebook.

    Since the rest are for various things that you'd like to keep for a while but don't need to keep track of, I say have as many as you want! There is more than utility to consider. What makes you comfortable?

  8. Thanks, Note Booker, for your comment, which has also reminded me that I should really read some more on GTD.

    I really do need to pare down the number of notebooks that I am using. I think one of my problems is that I always feel as though I need to finish every notebook completely before retiring it. But then because I have so many and my notes are spread out over so many books, it takes forever for any notebook to actually be filled up so I am stuck with all of them.

    I'm working on it, though. Look for future posts that will (hopefully) show a reduced number of notebooks that I am currently using.

  9. Just found your blog and I find it very funny and enabling at the same time. I didn't know there were so many people who had paper and/or pen obsessions like I do. Currently I own about 35 different pads of paper and about 15 lined blank books. I do watercolor, Chinese pen and in painting, calligraphy and I write. How many are too many? I'm not sure but I may have met the limit when one storage shelf collapsed.

  10. Thanks, Anon. I'm glad you're enjoying my blog. I think that you have even more notebooks than I do - mine haven't caused any shelves to collapse (yet). :)


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