”What makes you think that you are such an expert?”, might be your first thought, when getting to this very unknown blog. No, I am not an expert. I started bullet journaling the 28 July 2017 and that is not a long time. BUT I am a fast learner. Especially when I make mistakes. And boy have I made a lot of mistakes since I started this journey. But before I go in to what lessons I have learned, which I want to spare you, the reader, from repeating, I want to tell you why I started bullet journaling at all. Perhaps you will recognize yourself?
All my life, I have loved what we in Sweden call ”pyssel”. A friend of mine has a daughter, who used to call our scrapbooking, ”cutting and pasting”. Well, ”pyssel” is that, cutting, pasting, fixing, making, decorating and creating. I am also a note taking person. Scribbles of all sorts. It can be fun sayings in a TV program, information given in a documentary, notes on a book I am reading, recommendations of a book or funny things my children have said. I could go on like this forever.
One of the things I have carried around with me on a daily basis, since I started high school at age 13, has been some form of calendar. In order to keep track of homework. Later on it was keeping track of things at University and nowadays it is to not miss any appointments for my children, meetings, their gym clothes having to be brought and other such things. With three autistic children and being a mother of seven, I can not keep EVERYTHING in my head. To have any sense of control, I need to carry a calendar at all times. The thing which has never worked for me though, is keeping a personal diary. I can not for the life of me, keep writing up my days, every day, every month, every year. I would love to. I admire everyone who gets around to doing this. But I can not limit myself to a couple of words. It has always been my problem. That what ever I write, becomes long. And noone has the energy to write something long, after a difficult day. So you save it for the next day, and the next, and suddenly you are way behind in your diary entries and have a pressure on your shoulders, to catch up. But you never get there.
For years, I have got in to the practice of scribbling down everything on any kind of paper laying about. The problem with that is, that the rest of the family sees an empty envelope and throws it in the paper garbage. They do not notice that I have a nice quote on the back of it, said by my youngest son. Or an important website address. A book written down, which I really want to read.
For years, I have also tried to scribble things in notebooks. There are some really pretty ones out there. For a while, I had a lovely green one with a pretty owl, where I wrote down all websites carrying doll house items. I had gone in to each and every one of them and taken notes on what I would like to order from them, SOME day. A massive job, that took months. And then my daughter with OCD , ”cleaned it away” and it has never been seen since. Who knows where it is? But even more so, how can I locate those addresses again? Everything has been lost and it makes me so upset. My notebook with books to read one day, met with the same fate. Never seen or heard of again. This happens to a lot of my things, in my house.
And then one day, I discovered bullet journaling. And that is the journey I started on the 28th July 2017. Finally I had found a place and a system, where I could keep all my precious records in one place. A book I carry with me at all times, which can not be cleaned away and that everyone in the household know, is sacred. A no touch zone.
Since then, I have learned a lot and I want to share what I have learned in a series of posts. I am not going to weigh you the reader down too much, in this very first post, which I have called bullet journaling 100, since I have heard that someone else has written one, with the name 101.
One of the very first things I did, AFTER purchasing my notebook, which would become my bullet journal, was to go to the internet and google bullet journal. What a nightmare! You get thousands of posts basically. There is Pinterest, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, you name it. And blogs dedicated to the subject. I decided to look at Ryder Carroll’s video on YouTube, since that is what they recommended at the craft shop, where I bought my notebook. My thoughts after watching it? Ryder Carroll is a man with a very busy schedule, a working man, who lives a completely different life than I do. The perfectionist in me objected to everything about his bullet journal, from his handwriting to his ”messy” idea of moving tasks not performed, to another page or day. His key with different symbols, did not at all feel right for me and I knew that it would take me forever to re-think the way I keep track of what I need to do and so on. That has never really been the problem for me. But it was a good video to watch, to get the bigger concept explained.
Next, I read a funny article by someone who is a mother, who stated that we should not dress the bullet journal for the Oscar’s. Well, I will admit that I try to do this every week. Not intentionally, but because of who I am. She said something I keep at the back of my head though, which is working as a very bad conscience. ”You must be able to write something in it, when your child has pooped on the living room floor and when your parents-in-law are suddenly standing there as well, in the door, for a surprise visit.”. I probably did not quote her perfectly, but what she tried to say was that the bullet journal is not functional when you can only write in it with your best pen, with your best handwriting, using lots of washi tapes and other decorations. It is meant to be functional. But then, the book is yours, and you must do with it, as you please. And I fall in to the category of people, who will not use my worse handwriting in my bullet journal, since I would never be able to live with that the next day, and the next, having to look at the eye sore.
What I did next, was starting to pin things on Pinterest. I saw so many beautiful spreads that I started to feel overwhelmed and not knowing where to start. Yes, you can get overwhelmed by watching what others have accomplished and feel the panic grow inside of you. Because how can you be happy with the not so perfect pages you create, when you know what it was you wanted it to look like?
Here in lies the danger with Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook groups like Bullet Journal Junkies. You can actually get stuck there. You can get stuck watching what everyone else does, and not do anything yourself. I have caught myself, having spent hours on Pinterest, which was not my intention. Or hours on Facebook, because the group mentioned above, has thousands of members and they post hundreds of posts every day, so your feed is full of things you do not want to see, nor have the time to look at. My advice is, try to avoid those places as much as you can. Do your own thing and only go there, when you are stuck. I will get back to what you will need for your bullet journal, in later posts, but I would like to discuss a topic here, which comes up daily in Bullet Journal Junkies, Bullet Journal Sverige and probably all sorts of other groups, which I do not belong to.
The question, which I wish people in the groups would search for, instead of asking, since the answers are given every single day, is a combined one: When do I start my bullet journal and which notebook should I use? The point with having a bullet journal is, that it is not a shop bought calendar starting with 1st January. It is a plain notebook which is full of possibilities. You can do whatever you want with it, make it in to whatever you want and NEED! So the answer is always the same: Start as soon as you have that notebook in your hand. Whether it is the 1st February or 16th June.
The other part of the question is more complicated. I have seen people answer, that it is enough to have a notepad and a pen. Yes, in theory that is enough, but practically, that is insane. That assumes that you will keep it at home and much good your bullet journal do you at a meeting with the headmaster, when your notes and questions are sitting at home, on your kitchen table. Because a notepad is not very convenient to carry around. But, you are always going to come back to the question, ”What do I need in my life?”. If you have no need to carry your bullet journal around, then a notepad can suffice. What I want to warn everyone about, who contemplates this cheap alternative is, what will you do with your notepad once it is finished? Or when the pages start falling out? There might be pages you want to save. Because they contain important information. Or for posterity. Because, for most of us, the bullet journal becomes a record of who we are, right here and now. It is in a way, better than a diary, since we might not bring up the obvious in such, but our bullet journal CAN tell us and posterity a lot about us as persons. And for many, this has become a very positive side effect, of bullet journaling.
Also, when you start on a notepad, to get the hang of things, you might regret not having all those pages in your ”real” bullet journal later. To glue in loose sheets in a notebook is never a good idea, whatever some people say. A notebook which can not be closed, because it looks like a V, is not easy to work with nor to carry around. There is no reason to start on a notepad in order to perfect things. You can do that in the notebook which will become your bullet journal! You do not have to be perfect from page one, in it. For the most part, you are the only person who is going to look in it anyway.
So, what notebook does one buy. The million dollar question. I had never heard of the concept bullet journaling before 28th July 2017, but then I live a very isolated life as a stay-at-home-mum, and in Sweden, far away from the gigantic craft stores in America. I discovered the concept at Panduro. The only physical craft shop available to most Swedes. They are over-priced, have a lot of low quality items, since they insist on preferring their own brand, instead of the well-known brands people desire. But when it comes to bullet journal notebooks, they have taken in a well-known brand, which I suspect has been around since 1917. Leuchtturm. The name makes me break out in hives nowadays. My husband and I stood there that day and admired all the colours and the concept of bullet journaling, shown on some very artistic pictures. My first thought was: ”No, I do not need that since I have my Filofax!” but the more I walked around, ideas popped up in my head as to what I could use it for, more than just using it for calendar. My husband walked out with an A6 blue coloured one, that day, and I bought myself the petrol coloured one, in size A5.
I went home, as said above, and spent hours on internet, while my fingers itched to get started. I decided to start with a book page. One which gave room to add books read during the year. A pretty picture with a book-case full of un-named books, plants etc. I used my very favourite pen: Uni Pin nib size 0,1. When I was finished, I turned the page to do something else on that page, and to my horror, I noticed that I could see every line from the previous page on what should have been a new clean page to work with. THIS is called GHOSTING. Now, some people say that this is charming, that it means that your book is loved and so on. I only have one sentence to say about it: I HATE IT. Because to me, it means that I have just been robbed of the freedom what to put on the new page. Whatever I create on that page, will be mixed with what is on the previous page.
I kept on going, but had this sad feeling about my bullet journal from then on. This was something that I wanted to make pretty, but also useful of course. But Leuchtturm took all the happiness away from me, since I felt that my pretty page creations got ruined as soon as I filled in the back side. I started to look up what other people were saying. Most people feel as I did, they worry about the money having been paid for the notebook, but they also feel very, very unhappy about the state of the paper, in it. Some have even gone so far as to complain to the company, but the company is so big, that they do not have to pay attention at all, to unsatisfied customers. That is bad and should make you think whether you really want to support such a business. One who does not even consider feedback and what customers want.
But then, in their defence, they have not lost any money at all, if everyone starts with a Leuchtturm1917, since that is what most people buy after watching Ryder Carroll’s video! That is what he uses. And I doubt that ghosting bothers Ryder, because he does not make his pages pretty in any way. He has his bullet journal for one purpose only and that is for function. Leuchtturm created their notebook for notes only. They are in reality only aiming for the note taker and the ones who bullet journal like Ryder. To change, they would have to put a considerable amount of money in to changing their paper quality and thickness, and there is absolutely no incentive for them to do so!
How did I solve my ghosting and bleed through problem? When I started to bring my rubber stamps and inks in to the equation, it soon became apparent that I could not continue with this notebook. With the stamping inks, something else ghastly occurred called BLEED THROUGH. It made it impossible to work with a page which had a stamped ”front” page. I had to glue that page to the next, to not have to look at the abomination. This of course made the pages thick and difficult to flip through, when searching for information and to be frank, I felt fed up. So I started to do what I should have done from the beginning. Research on notebooks.
Some people will be honest in their opinions and will tell you exactly how bad a notebook is, others do not want to be alone in their misery. They wasted money on a notebook which turned out to be bad, so why should not others. And then there is the point of people using different pens, with different results in the notebooks, different pressure when they write and draw, not to speak of colouring. And there is a difference in tolerance of ghosting and bleeding.My tolerance for those two is basically zero. And I will tell you exactly how I feel about the few books I have tested. I will also tell you what pens I have tested, so that you get a sense of what adjustements you might have to make, to use different books. Like choosing away certain inks and pens.
Who is the typical bullet journaler? It is a person who already was a hoarder of stationary products and pens. Bullet journaling has opened up a reason to use the stash and also add-on to it. It totally makes sense that we want to use everything or as much as possible of the stash we already own. And through internet, we get tempted to add on to it, with all new things created especially for a fun experience of bullet journaling. But the notebooks have not really kept up with the development. Most of them are for simple note taking, with a pencil or biro. Leuchtturm paper even ghosts pencil and then it is bad!
In my next post, I will discuss my findings on notebooks, so that this post does not become too long for you to plow through. But I can already divulge that on page 54, I said a permanent goodbye to my Leuchtturm. I will never go near the brand again, unless they change their paper. It was a lot of money, an expensive lesson to learn, but the way I am, I just could not go on using it. You are not supposed to sit and be upset about your calendar for heaven’s sake! It is supposed to help you, not bring on depression.