by Shelby Hill
I used to be a Filofax girl back in the 80s and 90s (no comments, please… yes, I am that old). I flipped to digital with my first Palm Pilot then on to iPhone. When a premature cataract started, and when I got sick of being beeped and dinged with every appointment, I switched back to paper in 2016.
I was a Filofax lover from way back. They were pricey to buy, but, when you got one, it lasted. The inserts were tricky to find in small towns, so I would have to go into “the college town” (as my parents called it) to the bookshop to purchase them. I can’t describe how I felt walking into Eau Claire Book and Stationery. I went very irregularly when I was small. I remember I wanted the complete set of Doctor Dolittle when I was a kid and that was the first time I set foot there. It smelled like books and paper and ink. I thought I was in heaven. Little did I know that several years later I would schlep myself into town to buy the precious Filofax inserts. This was before the WorldWideWeb, my friends!
But when life got busy, I would just buy any agenda, always lusting after those exclusive inserts. Some years I was happy with what I bought. Other years… meh. I still had to take the time to keep my time under control, so just any tool could get it done. The pleasure and fun were left behind for other pursuits — theological studies, marriage, moving to a foreign land.
In 1998, I came back to the US for a funeral. it was just before my birthday. My dad was still alive then, and we went shopping together. At ShopKo, the Wisconsin precursor of Walmart, I found a shiny imitation croc planner with — gasp! — a pocketbook section! I had never seen bliss before, but I figured this was it! It was shiny and black and begged me to buy it. My father, of course, talked me out of it. I didn’t know of his inner scheming to buy it on the sly for my birthday. My dad was not a touchy-feely-talky guy. He would give me money instead of gifts when I was a teen, saying that he didn’t’ understand me and didn’t know what I wanted. So when my birthday rolled in that year, so did the planner, in my father’s inimitable gift wrap, the white ShopKo bag. I was struggling with a 10-month-old at his kitchen table. Smoke from my dad’s many morning cigarettes filled the air with blue-grey haze. Coffee cups were on the table and a jar of Carnation non-dairy creamer was open. He unceremoniously tossed the bag before me and said, “Happy birthday.” I knew what it was before opening the sack.
Isn’t it crazy? Stuff that seems unimportant to others is very important to us. Our love language is not always the love language of our parents or spouses. Anyway, I was thrilled with the gift! Dad was perplexed at my joy. Then the baby was crying again, and my busy life rolled on.
Not to find refills in France for this beauty! You know how Americans think that Europeans have a great life: bohemian, artsy… “je ne sais quoi.” Not all true. Filofax inserts were freaking expensive in downtown Paris. There was no romance around the fact that my husband nearly cried every time I bought some.
Time rolls on again. Internet happens. Ebay emerges. I start a business in 2005. A new Filofax is bought. It’s hot-red leather with, of course, a pocketbook. Inserts could now be found online. That part of planner life gets easier and more affordable. Life gets busier still so I switch to digital. Time ticks away. Now it’s 2009. I am into my second business and to deal with it all I was on the route of digital calendars. Since I am a planning fanatic, everything is noted. Did I say by this time I have six kids? The schedules were insane. I tried to digitize my analog family, just so we could all be on the same page, but no luck. No one looked at their devices if they had one. They used paper! At this point, I thought that France was so very retrograde. They still sold calendars, inserts, agendas! And my phone just kept dinging and donging, demanding my attention. I grew weary of my planning sophistication.
Then it happened in 2016.
Somehow, I fell upon the bullet journal, the original by Ryder Carroll. My mind went back in time to pencil and paper and pens and the smell of EauClaire Book and Stationery wafted from my memory to my consciousness. “Where have you been all my life?” was my question. Then I cried, “Dan, look at this!” to my innocent bystander husband. I remember where I was. It was Christmas vacation. I was taking a few days off between the holidays. The tree was up. Music was playing. We had jut eaten an ungodly amount of food and were trying to digest; and there it was! On YouTube. It was something I had never seen, but knew it was possible. A DIY Planner! Woop woop! No expensive inserts to buy! Just a notebook. And I knew exactly where to go — Hema. Hema is a Dutch “drugstore without drugs” type of store. It’s all over Europe and has wonderful deals, cute stuff, and tons of stationery! To do list on my iPhone: “Hema tomorrow morning” (with a ding and a dong)!
I popped off to Hema, chose my notebook, and traipsed home to start. And restart, and start over again. Oh S!!&!! Pen doesn’t erase, does it? It’s been so long… I did the monthly log and daily log and after a few weeks I realized, I need something more structured for forward planning.
Hello, Facebook! I am sure you have some juicy news for me! But what do I type? Planner? Organizer? I called it an organizer for all my days so… nope, no luck finding that one. Hmmmm… Filofax? Yep, that works! On to Philofaxy, Ray Blake, Steve Morton, and company. People MAKE inserts now?! Thanks to Facebook intuitivity, many planner groups jumped onto my screen.
What do I see here? There’s a Fish in the pot? Oh, yes, DIYFish, here I come! I found the structure I needed. For now. All of you planner addicts, I hear you laugh when I say “for now”!
Somehow Peanuts got mixed up in the pot of Fish along with Greeks (Marsia) and Romans (Alibi). Now I was very confused. What’s the best for me? Rings, strings, and planner things! Oh my! My old style 90s Filofax mind was in a tizzy.
Planner meetups, planner conventions all over the world… I couldn’t get enough. I was in planner heaven and hell both at the same time.
Downloads, inserts, Etsy, and pens! Oh my!
After experimenting, I finally found what I need. I need monthlies and dailies. Rings are no longer my thing, so I am in a TN. Planner peace, I have found you at long last… But wait! I haven’t tried a Hobonichi yet…
Shelby is a gorgeous grandma in France, helping women get lighter, feel better, and age gracefully. She can be reached at her website.