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Low Tech Organizational Solutions

Otherwise known as my little black book.


Organizational maven, I am not. I bow down to Miser Mom for all things resembling an actual “solution”. You should too. Especially, if like me, you have a love/hate, but-still-not-buying-it relationship with iPads and their ilk. I can buy a whole lot of $12 Moleskin notebooks for the price of one tablet gadget something or other. How many? Oh about ten years worth, if I stick with my iPad analogy. That’s assuming I buy them, which is not always the case.

But, I am getting ahead of myself. Why is this little book so damn useful?

This all started in earnest at the Pet Store. Before that I’d dabbled in note taking and organization. Suddenly it was a necessity. A matter of survival. I had more details than I could possibly manage on a day to day basis. So I invested in what would become my new best friend. An unassuming little notebook. The legendary Moleskin. I don’t know about the legendary part, but they do hold up. This thing is constantly in my bag, out of my bag, getting thrown onto desks, into the car, misplaced, spilled on, dropped. Cheap or even freebie notepads do not hold up to such abuse. Moleskins survive. For about 3 to 4 months, until I fill them.

I originally started using this book to manage my job. Kind of an on-going to-do list and general facts to remember. When you can’t possibly accomplish everything on your to do list daily, then a running tally is critical. It worked. My book became legendary. Not because of the brand, but because everyone became acutely aware that it contained the better part of my brain. The Staff would call me if I forgot it. If it was missing, several people would join in the search.

And so began the book system. Survival by notebook. I currently function with three: Personal, Work, and Garden.


Personal. Since returning to Corporate America, my primary book now contains my personal life, not my career. Funny how that works, huh? This is my wheelhouse. Daily free form entries of to-do lists, garden ideas, things to research, often my weight, exercise and eating for the day (a key trick to maintaining weight loss), potential blog posts, addresses of places we need to stop, things to talk to The Husband about, etc, etc, ad nauseum. In a few minutes every morning, I review the previous days entries and start over. This book stays open on my desk all day so I can add to and/or cross out what I’ve accomplished. If I’ve got a spare few minutes, this is where I turn to get back on track. When I get home, its usually on the kitchen counter as a reminder of all the things I need to go over with The Husband, and so I can add any of his priorities to it. Who needs an iPad? I mean really.

Work. Coming in at a distant second, I do maintain a work notebook. But they ain’t fancy. Nor legendary. Try spiral bound and free from the supply cabinet. The work notebook isn’t as important for it’s to do feature, more so for the technical how-to notes. These I record, hoard and refer back to constantly. For the real jewels, I even copy them into another pristine book. I figure I do this in lieu of actually caring about the nuts and bolts of my job. If I’ve got it recorded, I don’t have to.

Garden. The newest incarnation, and still a work in progress. Everyone says in order to be a better gardener, you’ve gotta keep a journal. What variety did you grow? When did you plant? How much did it rain? Basically a way to learn from your mistakes. I’m doing that. My problem? I’ve been treating it too much like an actual journal. That’s time consuming. Lists and random flotsam and jetsam? That I can record, and look back on. It just gets muddled up when complete sentences are involved.

Scribbling in books? Not groundbreaking. In fact, its down right old school. I do not find the use of any “device” as gratifying as taking pen to paper. Beyond that, I don’t want to worry about battery life, clean hands, covers, and theft. No one is interested in my grubby black book. Believe me. Technology is the way you accomplish what’s in the book. But the book itself, is effective and sacred.

And cheap. I did recently have to spend a little actually money on one of these. That’s not typical. These are usually part of my regular Amazon non-purchases, making that iPad less and less of a reality all the time.

What tools do you use (high-tech or low) to manage your life? How much do they cost you?

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Katie B

Being in the pacific northwest and having inevitable rain in the garden have you ever considered these notebooks:

They were always super convenient when we used them on our Environmental Studies trips but I am sure they would be good for this type of application too. I am sure you already have your favorites but just a suggestion…


Oh, those are cool. And outdoor handy. Thanks for the link!

Lindy Mint

I love the mental image of you and your employees running around the pet store in search of “your brain.”

I use mostly low tech organization methods, briefly dabbling in high tech.

For personal life, I scribble on my kitchen chalk board. If I chalk out a list of stuff to buy at Home Depot, I’ll take a picture of it with my iPhone so
I have it when I go to the store.

I do use my iPhone to track blog post ideas, book & movie recommendations, etc. But I don’t use any fancy apps. Just the simple notepad that comes pre-installed on the phone.

For creative ideas, I have a hardback black sketchbook I use for brainstorming.


Oh, it was funny on more than one occasion. Especially some of the places we found it.

I love your hybrid approach! I should remember to use my phone camera for idea capturing more often.

Miser Mom

I’ve read so many good things I have several times almost gone out to buy one. Almost, but not quite.

Another one of my favorite descriptions of this little book came in the book “Hamlet’s Blackberry” — a cool read on how we have organized through the millennia. It claims Hamlet refered to something like a Moleskine. You can check out what it might have looked like at the blog

My own book (much more complicated than yours, for both good and ill) — I refer to it as my “external memory”. And, like you, I’ve run around the home searching for my brain. It’s funny if it’s someone ELSE! But I get twitchy if I get too far from it, so that doesn’t happen often.

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