If you love making lists but have never found a way to keep them organized, this post is for you! This simple method of “list journaling” keeps your lists orderly and accessible.
Have you ever had a friend confide to you that she looooves making lists? And you smile enthusiastically and say “Oh, me too!!”
You talk about how you love your lists, how you need your lists, and you feel like the two of you share a secret. You’ve got a special personality quirk in common that makes you both tick!
Now that I’ve been on one side or the other of this conversation over a dozen times, I’ve come to this realisation:
We all love making lists.
Or a lot of us do, at least.
Finding a fellow list-lover is about as common as discovering that another woman likes dark chocolate.
Yeah, pretty common!
What’s far less common is finding someone who’s discovered a way to keep all of those lovely lists organized.
Personally, I used to be the least organized list maker south of the Mason-Dixon line, until about a month ago. My lists were everywhere–scrawled onto scrap paper and trailing off receipts, covering notebook pages like spiderwebs and hibernating between the pages of library books.
I’ve been making lists since I could write. My childhood was marked with penciled columns: what I wanted for Christmas, items to pack for the next family road trip, big words that I found in the dictionary, names I would give my future children.
Two decades later many of my lists are still the same, but now I’ve added grown-up things like menu plans and clothing inventories. There’s something supremely satisfying and just plain fun about making lists! Watching your thoughts cascade in columns onto white paper not only feels tidy and organized, I’m convinced it helps your life to be tidy and organized, too! The only problem: it’s hard to keep the lists themselves organized.
In an attempt to make my lists more accessible and orderly, I started keeping them online, in Google Drive. But I quickly found that that’s not as much fun as writing them by hand, and I wanted something that I didn’t have to access via my computer or phone.
Instead, for about a month now I’ve been keeping all of my lists in a small journal that fits inside my purse.
I got the idea for a list journal from reading about the Bullet Journal method that’s become so popular. The Bullet Journal is a way to keep all of your schedules, to-dos, calendars–and yes, your lists–in one physical spot. My favourite thing about the method is that it encourages list-making. From reading a lot of blog posts on the subject, the lists (or “Collections,” as they’re known in Bullet Journal circles), seem to be everyone else’s favourite part, too!
The biggest drawback is that the Bullet Journal method mixes savable, evergreen content (like your thoughts and journal entries) with content that becomes outdated (calendars and to-do lists). You fill your notebook with a conglomerate of things that you want to build on and continue, like a running list, but in between are calendar pages and to-dos that will be completed and fade into the past. When you finish filling one notebook you pick up another and keep going, transcribing any content you want to save from the old book to the new.
This sounded like too much work to me. And I knew I wouldn’t want to circumvent the problem by tearing out pages and gluing them into the new journal–too messy!
Basically, I wanted a book specifically for lists that I could change, re-arrange, and keep using indefinitely. Not a stack of filled-up Bullet Journals that I have to scour for a piece of archived information I want to recall. I’ll continue to use my regular journal for recording my deepest thoughts, and appointments go in my Homemaker’s Friend planner or on the wall calendar.
How to Make a List Journal
The key to an effective list journal is using a binder-style notebook, rather than one with a glued spine. Everything hinges on that! Keeping all of my lists in one loose-leaf notebook was the biggest organizational breakthrough I’ve had this year. It’s a simple concept, but it’s a game changer.
Surprisingly, finding a suitable loose-leaf journal is no easy feat. I scoured office supply stores like Staples and Office Depot for a small binder that I could fit in my purse, but this three-ringed binder was the smallest I could find. It was still much too bulky for my purposes, and a couple of inches longer than a typical journal.
I figured if anyone had what I was looking for, it would be Amazon. After some sleuthing and adjusting of search terms, I found a number of inexpensive, “refillable diaries” from a variety of sellers based out of China. They’re all very similar and have great reviews, but I ended up choosing this particular journal. It comes with plenty of blank, brown paper pages (I actually took some out because it was so full!). You can get blank refill pages here, or lined refill pages from this seller. (If that particular journal is unavailable, you can find very similar ones from other sellers, such as this one.)
The journal fits in even a small purse, and is approximately the height of your favourite pen. Because the pages are little bigger than an index card, it wouldn’t be very comfortable to use as an actual journal. But as a vault for storing your lists? It’s perfect!
You can rearrange pages as needed, add pages to continue a running list, throw away checked off to-do lists, and customize it in any way you like. Plus, the design is attractive and makes the book feel special. I carry my list journal with me wherever I go. When I’m waiting in the parking lot or at an appointment, it’s much more fun and productive to consult my journal than to scroll mindlessly through my phone.
I keep all sorts of brainstorms, to-dos, and wishlists:
- Wardrobe Wishlist
- Summer Reading List
- Blog Post Ideas
- Movie Suggestions
- Things to Tell Amy
- Seasonal Menus
- Fun Money Ideas
- Summer Blogging Goals
- Long-Term Blogging Goals
- Things to Pack for ____
- Bucket lists
- Stuff to Research
You get the idea. Any list you’ve ever scrawled can find a new, tidy home between the covers of your list journal. If you want to quickly reference lists within the journal, create a Table of Contents page at the front of the book. Write down the title of each of your lists as you add them, and assign numbers only to the first page of each list. For instance, if your Wardrobe Inventory list takes up two or three pages, just number the first page. That way, if you add more pages to a list in the future it won’t mess up your numbering.
This is a longer post than I thought I’d be writing for such a simple concept, but this habit is gold and I couldn’t help but pass it on to you! If you have an affinity for lists, get a list journal ASAP–it will make you happier than you thought a little blank book ever could.
P.S. If you have more to spend on a journal, this one looks very pretty, too, although it’s larger than the one I got.