My pocket-sized life

My pocket-sized life: One maker's bullet journal

This is my heart, my mind and my life — the last six months of it, anyway — in the form of a pocket-sized bullet journal, and I’m so deeply attached to it I can hardly even tell you. I’ve been sharing some of the spreads on Instagram the past few months (collected together under #ktminibujo) and have had requests that I write more about it. Ok!

I’ve mentioned before that I’m a lifelong blank-book junkie. I’ve had more diaries, sketchbooks and datebooks than I could count (many of them still in a big rubbermaid tub that moves around with us from place to place) — but it’s been quite a few years. In more recent years, I’ve been tempted by Ryder Carroll’s Bullet Journal system, just because I love both organizational systems and paper so much, but “bujo” is sort of a cross between a planner and a diary. A paper-based planner is not really an option when your days are as complicated as mine, and I’ve never stuck with a diary for more than a few entries at a stretch. Still, I’m drawn to how flexible and customizable the basic concept is, and I’ve incorporated certain aspects of it into my web-based planner system. But seeing examples on Instagram of the incredible spreads and concepts people have come up with, within the larger #bulletjournal ecosystem, is incredibly inspiring to me. And then came my making journal, with its slight nods to bujo here and there. And then came the prototypes for the beautiful memo books (and leather cover) that finally made it into the webshop at the end of last week.

My pocket-sized life: One maker's bullet journal

The samples came at a moment when I needed some help, to be honest. The first few months of this year were rough, and I was feeling both frayed and disconnected — from myself and everything else. One day, in looking at some of the “habit trackers” people have designed for themselves, I had an idea for charting my well-being and its influences, and I had the perfect notebook in which to do it! After that, I was besotted with my little book. It’s truly either in my hand, my pocket or right next to me at all times. Its very presence — the act of interacting with it — has done wonders for me.

There’s not much that’s core bujo in it, but it owes everything to the flexible, freeform, ever-evolving ethos of the system. There are no “dailies” or “weeklies” but there is a quarterly overview (a sort of “future log”) where I’ve listed top-level deadlines and initiatives for myself, to keep me focused on the big picture. In addition to my monthly “mood” charts with their occasional one-line entries about the day, there’s a page for each month that serves as a timeline, on which I record the highlights: travel, dinners out, time spent with friends. I’ve tried to make note of what we’re watching or reading or listening to, as I miss having a reading journal. And I’ve found myself actually writing a diary entry at the end of each month, sort of recapping life and where my head is at. But along the way, I’ve found myself craving more visual, dimensional, full-color representations of what I’m up to — to be able to actually SEE what I’m doing — which has taken all sorts of forms: from incorporating my spring make list into my Q2 priorities (which accounts for how much of it I’ve actually gotten done!) to enshrining my 10×10 outfits, logging my bathroom renovation measurements and shopping list, and sketching my Summer of Basics plan. I even included my little summer mood board because it makes me feel happy. I draw pictures and diagrams, glue things in, anything goes! And I have the notion that perhaps I’ll have prints made of a few relevant IG photos from the same time period, and enclose them at the end.

My pocket-sized life: One maker's bullet journal

For all the books I’ve filled (or half-filled) in my years, I’ve never had anything like this one — so much more a reflection of the timespan than any written journal or datebook. And I love that I’ve got six months of life rather beautifully encapsulated in this small volume (or will, once the final four spreads are filled with Squam and Portugal this month). At that rate — two of these per year — even if I kept it up for 10 years, it would occupy very little space in the world and yet tell such a story.

So yes, I’m deeply attached to this notebook — the first thing I would reach for in a fire — and thankful to Ryder Carroll and every bujo-er who’s inspired me so far.

. . .

There’s nothing to say a bullet journal has to be beautifully designed or elegantly hand-lettered or anything at all — it can be as simple as what Ryder demonstrates in his video or whatever you want it to be! — but if you want to look at some of the bujo Instagram feeds I find most inspiring, see @abulletandsomelines, @vestiblr, @tinyrayofsunshine (so many others!) and of course @bulletjournal

And you can find my perfect little notebook over at Fringe Supply Co.

My pocket-sized life: One maker's bullet journal

PREVIOUSLY: Do you keep a knitting journal?


40 thoughts on “My pocket-sized life

  1. Intriguing. Thank you for sharing your experience!

    A friend and I were ooohing and aahing over the bound journals. I’ve been tossing a three ring binder type system around in my head for awhile. The main deterrent being awkward clunky plastic binders made in China primarily. Do you know of a three ring sister to your bound journals?

  2. Karen your experience is very similar to what I’ve experienced. The flexibility and creativity of a BUJO is so liberating. I’m no longer bound by someone else’s idea of what a “planner” should look like A day if I need it to can take a line, a page or…? One is only limited by one’s imagination. All my to lists are in one spot even the list for an event in 2019. Such a deal!

  3. Love these new books, Karen. I’ve been bullet journalling for 3 years now, and it helps me feel less scattered and gives me a place to put all the important things I want to keep track of (like the books I’ve read this year, restaurants I want to go to, etc). I’m tempted to get one of your new dotted notebooks to take with me to Japan in a few weeks, so I can have a smaller and more lightweight book for travel.

    • I used that tiny guidebook when we were in Paris, scribbling notes all over it, and loved having it be small enough to keep in my hand or my pocket at all times. I’m SO looking forward to making the Squam an Portugal spreads in this one.

  4. Hi! I love the cover and the journals! Quick question: can the leather cover hold more than one journal?

    • It’s only meant to hold one but you might be able to squeeze two in there at a time, each with its own tie. (Unless you’re like me and you add bulk by sticking all kinds of other stuff in there! In that case, it would be a much tighter fit.)

  5. Thanks for sharing this!! I’m inspired! Overwhelmed…eek! I feel a new obsession coming on!

    • Sometimes before I fall asleep I fall into one of the bujo hashtag rabbit holes on Instagram, gathering ideas and inspo, and then sleep like a baby. People do such pretty, clever things!

    • Yeah, I just print stuff on our little printer, cut it out and glue-tape it in. Although I’m thinking of getting better prints made of IG photos, from one of the many services that do that. The Summer of Basics drawings were done on Fashionary templates, as always, and then cut out.

  6. This kind of recordings and presentations reminds me of my MIL, 90 years strong, who cuts out from magazines or any media paper little ideas of craft items, words, colorful pictures, and makes wonderful notes or thank-you’s, birthday-or-whatever cards and sends these to everyone. It all comes out of her past creative life (quilting)and now she just has a smaller world to continue within.
    How will we continue when we grow older beyond the creativite life we now inhabit?

    • Not at all! I’ve become addicted to Palomino Blackwing pencils over the past year and a half or so, and can’t imagine life without them. Make sure you get the long-point sharpener, which really seals the deal.

  7. I love the size of these notebooks! Any chance they or the cover might have an elastic to hold them closed at some point, or do you think I could sew one on? Thanks!

  8. karen, I just got mine in the mail and it’s the perfect size. fits my hand and is light enough (even with the leather cover) to carry around in my purse. the book cover is sturdy so will not get all bent up wherever i decide to carry it (purse, sendak, art case). thanks for the really quick delivery too!

  9. I see you use a pencil for writing with an reader attached. I like to witte with a pencil. Witch one do you like the most?

  10. Ugh, this is totally scratching an organizational itch for me. I’ve been bullet journaling/dot journaling for a few years but I’ve never been able to totally stick to a regular rhythm — I think in part because my notebook is so big that I don’t carry it with me often. I do love having exactly one place to record my ramblings, tape in fashionary panels, make endless lists, etc. These small notebooks are so good! Maybe once I fill mine up :)
    Thanks for sharing your spreads, too, I’m the same way with no-fuss charts and layouts, and these are really inspiring.

  11. I’ve recently been encouraging my sister to start making basic daily to-do lists in a blank book, which then snow-balled into introducing her to the bigger world of bullet journaling, which then forced me to acknowledge my own lack-of-follow-through habits when it comes to journaling. It motivated me to revisit my most recent attempt at a basic knitting journal, and then here this post is! It’s inspiring, right when I needed it! (This is not the first time, either. I’d been spotting moths around my apartment building a month or so ago, and then you wrote about moths. Uncanny!)

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  13. May I ask you where I can get this little golden bookmark/arrow-thing? It looks all so beautiful! Cannot imagine to work so tidy and clean in my notebook… but I would like to do it ;-)

    • They’re called “page points” and are available lots of places — Google should lead you to some options. I love them!

  14. I really have a hard time deciding if I want to use an A5 or A6 … I love the space in the A5 and also love that I can carry an A6 everywhere …

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