Let’s set the scene.
The year was 1995. Where I was working at the time, we were still using DOS system and pin-feed printers (the kind that you feed green and white striped perforated paper into). We had just gotten a shiny, pretty (translation: modern) computer where we installed this accounting software called QuickBooks and the bookkeeper in me had panicked because I didn’t know how to use it (today, I’m now a certified pro advisor, but I digress). The internet was still a baby, I had a ‘car’ phone that came in a black case and plugged into my lighter. Cell phones the size of credit cards that can house a plethora of mobile apps were most likely a speckle deep in the crevices of Steve Jobs’ brain. Yes, we’re talking about the good ol’ days when ‘text’ was considered typed content – on paper – , sending messages and documents required an envelope and postage, a phone call was the quickest way to get a hold of someone and people sitting across from each other in a restaurant actually ‘talked’ to each other. There was no Hulu, Tivo or OnDemand so if I didn’t watch Melrose Place live on Monday’s at 9pm I was screwed until the repeats.
Oh, and my monthly subscription to Mademoiselle Magazine was delivered to my mail box, not my inbox. I looked forward to each and every issue and greedily devoured articles. Especially one particular one.
That set me on my planner journey path.
At the time, desk calendars, wall calendars and pocket calendars were how you kept track of appointments, tasks, errands and….life. I always had one of those refillable desk calendars (non-affiliate) that were bound by two metal loops on my desk at work. But for myself personally,- honestly, I cannot remember how I managed my day until I walked into TJ Maxx one afternoon and saw this walnut-brown, grainy-toned leather binder with 6-rings and a black-buttoned snap closure. It was on a clearance table and I bought it because I loved the rich color. It fit so nicely in my hand, even though I had no idea what it was or what it was to be used for. There were rings, so I figured some kind of paper would go inside, but what kind and…..what for? Can someone say ‘impulse buy’?
A little time passed before my latest subscription to Mademoiselle came in the mail. I do remember taking it with me to work so I could read it on my lunch. When I did, I happened upon a two-page article with Naomi Campbell (who was one of infamously coined ‘supermodels’ back then) on one side. On the other side of the page was a picture of Lori Loughlin from Full House and a designer named Rebecca Moses (whom I never heard of). They all had something in common, but I didn’t know what because I hadn’t read the title of the article. All my eyes could hone in on was a photo of what looked like a carbon copy of the ringed binder I had just purchased. However, the one in the photo was called a Filofax – a U.K. based company that made personal planners. My eyes finally read the article’s title – ‘Happiness Is A Worn Filofax’:
AK! I couldn’t scream because I was having lunch at my desk nor could I confirm that the brown, bargain-bin beauty I had bought on a whim was this brand called Filofax. Filofax? What kind of a name was that? I mean, it has nothing to do with faxing. Oh, I didn’t care. I just couldn’t get home fast enough, only to find that the binder I had purchased had no markings on it whatsoever. No insert card. No tag. No embossing. Nothing. Nada. I had no idea what brand my planner was, but (and I wish you could see the photo better) it looked EXACTLY like the one pictured in the article above.
Regardless, I now had a clue. A purpose. A blueprint on how to use this planner, or at least….put it together. In the sidebar article by Liz Logan, she states, “once you’ve acquired your Filofax, the real fun begins. I consider mine a pet, hobby and religion all in one – something to buy treats for, putter with and meditate on. I am always shopping for accessories.” And this was looooooong before there was an internet planner community filled with FB groups, Instagram feeds and Youtube videos paying obsessive homage to Filofaxes and other planners.
Because I had no idea how to fashion mine, I copied Ms. Logan’s set up (minus the maps). I purchased DayRunner week-on-two-page inserts for the remainder of 1995, but I had wanted genuine Filofax inserts. But for now, I had discovered what Ms. Logan meant by that line. I couldn’t believe that I was anxious to shop for an inanimate object. I bought blank, lined notepaper, business card holders, A-Z telephone/address inserts (because, you know, no such thing as storing contacts and numbers on your phone) and a zipped pocket for change, stamps and receipts. I didn’t buy dividers, but made my own by cutting down a set of those with clear, plastic tabs we had lying around the office. You know – the ones that come in a plastic sheet with teeny-tiny perforated paper tabs that you have to insert into a typewriter (yes, a typewriter!) then insert into the plastic. Handwriting would not do. I wanted everything perfect. I think I had sections for To Do and Notes as I wasn’t sure what else to have. I played with it, moved things around, constantly took it out of my handbag to look at it or bring it up to my nose for a whiff. Yep, that’s how tightthat square piece of leather had wound me around it’s shiny little clasp – I had resorted to sniffing it as it were the perfume counter at Macy’s. I was addicted. I didn’t care. I was in love.
Before year end, I had purchased my 1996 week-on-two-page inserts directly from Filofax so I’d have them ready to go. And when my hub proposed to me on Christmas Eve 1995 and booked our wedding for August 1996, I knew I’d be able to pull off this feat in eight months because……..I had a planner!!! I consider those inserts my very first and saved them in my wedding day box (along with our invitation list, cards, swatches, dried boutonniere, seating arrangement – etc.) When hub and I went out to dinner for our 19th anniversary this past August, I brought along the inserts to take a walk down wedding-prep memory lane. Patiently, my inserts waited on the table as we enjoyed our appetizers and entrée. Then, over coffee and dessert, I read him every wedding entry from January right up to the big day:
Those are the oldest inserts I have saved, with the next ones being 2005. It was sometime in between that the snap closure (where the leather had begun to crack and split) finally broke. I must’ve not had done anything of note to warrant me saving 1997 – 2004, but I do know that mid-2005 I had begun my part-time bookkeeping service business and had begun to fill up my planner with appointments and business planning so I must’ve made the decision to save all my inserts after that (especially since I was billing hourly at the time and wrote my hours in my planner)
I’m going to guess-timate that it was around 2006 that I found the second planner I had purchased in almost 10 years:
Again, I found it on a table at either TJ or Marshalls and it had no closure. And it was that nice shade of brown. I bought it and, from then until August 2014, it was a fixture in my handbag where I booked appointments, clocked hours, scheduled work, wrote in birthday/anniversary reminders, noted gifts to buy, dishes to bring on holidays – yadda, yadda, yadda. I kept it very simple – pretty much the same setup with business card holders, weekly inserts, A-Z inserts and a notes/todo section. Really, that was it. Again, there was no planner community at the time that made me want to tear it apart and completely revamp it with all sorts of pretty stuff (maybe that was a good thing!) But it was through that community that I discovered The Storage Studio who had posted this very same Mademoiselle article on her IG feed. (where you can enjoy our banter back and forth over it!) I couldn’t believe it – another had been heavily influenced by the same article. And then I read an Experienced User (Alice) article on Philofaxy where yet another planner credited the same article. Wow!
Between August 2014 and June 2015 I had put my planner aside because I thought it may be time for a change. I had discovered bullet journaling, but before buying a notebook I had practiced first in my planner for the month of July in order to get the hang of it first. Egads, I was messy!
But after going through several notebooks, I had needed to go back to a ringed planner in July 2015, until those needs changed again October 1st. Not knowing what to settle upon, I decided to experiment with whether I need the structure of a planner or the freedom of a notebook. I gave myself until the end of this year, but early November I had reflected upon the years worth of planner inserts I had saved while I fondly remembered that impulse purchase in TJs and the article that started it all. Then I had realized there was no more need to experiment. A planner it was. With both of those brown planners are long gone, the black zippered one given away and the Franklin Covey Classic Bree too large, I was lucky enough to have found the compact polka-dot on Amazon before they were all gone.
It’s been quite a journey. One I would never have embarked upon if it wasn’t for that article.