Episode 83 – Do I have too many notebooks?

too many notebooks

"Do I have too many notebooks?" is a question that notebook addicts all over the globe are asking themselves. You just can't resist that feeling of a brand new untouched notebook but sometimes they can take over your space and leave you with the feeling that decluttering is on the cards. 

Do you have too many notebooks? If you love the feeling of buying a crisp new notebook but they are taking over your life, this podcast is for you!

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In this podcast we discuss the emotions and habits that lead us to having way too many notebooks. If you are a notebook lover, you will know exactly what we mean!

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Podcast transcript


Intro 0:07
Welcome to today's episode of The Declutter Hub podcast, your channel for super easy, no nonsense advice on how to declutter and organise your home. Please welcome your hosts, professional organisers, Ingrid Jansen and Lesley Spellman.

Ingrid 0:31
Hello and welcome listeners to Episode 83 of the Declutter Hub podcast. I'm Ingrid

Lesley 0:37
and I'm Lesley.

Ingrid 0:38
If you have clutter and want to short it out, this is the show for you. In today's episode, Lesley and I are talking about decluttering notebooks. Now Lesley, we see tonnes and tonnes of notebooks in our clients houses, don't we? And I think you've got a confession to make, haven't you?

Lesley 1:00
Yeah, it's quite weird really, because my Amazon parcel has just arrived with my three notebooks, my three new notebooks. And so quite appropriate today to be recording a podcast on notebooks. But the reason why my three notebooks have arrived is because I haven't got any other ones around because I keep control of my notebooks. I'm not really a huge notebook fan. Now, "notebooks" people when they saw the title of the podcast will think - that's me, that's me! People know if they are a notebook lover. And there are so many people around that just love a notebook and can't get enough of them.

Ingrid 1:40
Stacks and stacks I find in my clients houses, I mean, they're all over the place. And what I find very interesting is that I find lots where they have only used a couple of pages, and then they get abandoned for another one. So I find all these half used ones as well. And that's a shame.

Lesley 2:01
So what is it about notebooks that makes them so compulsive to buy? People do buy notebooks compulsively, not everybody, but some people, and as I say, you know who you are. So what is it about them? Why are they so desirable? Have you got too many notebooks?

Ingrid 2:18
I just think there's something magical about them. Beautiful, crisp, clean. No pages ripped out white paper with lines that have not been written on or gone through yet. You know what I mean? I think that's it, and especially when they're glittery on the outside or really fancy or really beautiful. I think it just inspires people to dream of things, I think.


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Lesley 2:54
So are you in that group of people that finds them absolutely beautiful, or are you a functional notebook kind of person?

Ingrid 3:00 
What do you think? Honestly, I am a functional notebook user. And I actually don't have really fancy ones. I have practical ones with lines. I use a couple of different ones. We'll talk about that some more in a minute. But no, I am not a notebook lover. But I do see them in shops and I think they all look so nice all lined up. But I know for myself that I like a certain type of notebook. And I use them practically so I don't see the point in having all these stacks of notebooks hanging about

Lesley 3:36 
Now, some of them are very, very beautiful. And when you go out visiting places, you know, National Trust places and things like that. They all sell beautiful notebooks, don't they, so they are nice reminders and sentimental items as well. Now the interesting thing was, this morning, when we were prepping this podcast, I said, what's your favourite kind of notebook? And so I picked up my favourite kind of notebook of which three new ones have arrived today. And it's A4 size with lines and a ring binder on it, you can easily rip out the pages. So an absolutely functional notebook. Ingrid loves exactly the same kind of notebook to mine. Something else that we're aligned on then, notebook usage! We even like the same type of notebook. How many types of notebook are out there actually in the in the world and we have to choose the same type. I just thought it was quite funny.

Ingrid 4:46 
Well, I did confess to you, Lesley, that I have actually four different notebooks so I use one for the Declutter Hub. I use a smaller version for my Organise your House. And then I've got one for my private stuff. And I've got a little one in my purse, one of those tiny ones that I can just jot a thought down if it pops into my head or I need to scribble something. So I have a very tiny little notebook in my bag. But yes, for our normal work, we use exactly the same type of notebook, which is very interesting.

Lesley 5:24 
Now the interesting thing is, and we've spoken about this before, actually, because we did a podcast on to do lists and not very long ago as well. So it's kind of linked in with that, isn't it? And we talked about how we manage our to do lists. Now you've got four or five notebooks, I've only got two. So I keep all my standard to do lists in my big A4 notebook that I've described. I've just got three more this morning. And then I have an A5 notebook where you don't rip the pages out for client work. So if I'm taking notes, if I'm doing a project where I'm taking measurements for things, I jot everything down. But what I don't want to do is ever lose that information. So what I do is scribble it out rather than rip pages out of it, I scribble it out. And so I still retain that information. But I don't rip the pages out. Because sometimes notebooks can fall apart can't they if you start ripping pages out of a notebook that's not designed to rip pages out.

Lesley 6:22 
I don't have as many notebooks as you, but I'm more digital and you're more paper based. And so that's interesting as well. There are some people that definitely love paper that are not digital. So I would do a voice recording, or I would take a picture of something on my phone, and I would do it that way. I would never have a little notebook in my handbag, I would just never do that. I would take a picture of it or whatever. And there are some people that are definitely more paper based. But that doesn't mean that you can have 300 notebooks from the last 30 years cluttering things up. And I don't need to declutter notebooks because we just use them functionally, as do many people. You need to establish whether or not you've got a bit of a thing for notebooks. That's where we're at. Have you got a thing for notebooks? Have you got too many notebooks? That's what we're talking about today.

Ingrid 7:16 
And I think what a lot of people love about a new notebook is that it almost feels that you can start a project. You have this notebook, and you can use it, to write things down, get all your thoughts out of your heads. And then I think a new notebook makes people really creative. I think that's why it's so tempting to have notebooks around.

Lesley 7:42 
So I'm going to put a slightly more contentious spin on it. Does the notebook then make you more organised? So it's almost like an aspirational item. So do people repeatedly buy notebooks in an attempt to get organised, in the same way that you would buy a subscription to a slimming club or a gym or something like that, thinking that that's going to suddenly make you healthy or thin? So you've actually got to go and use the gym, you've got to look at what you're eating every day. And you've got to use the notebook to write the to do lists and and do the to do list. And so I feel there's an awful lot of people that psychologically feel that a notebook is that first step to becoming organised, but possibly don't carry that process on. So that's slightly more contentious, but do think about whether that is you.

Ingrid 8:29 
So that has made me think about then how I use my own notebooks because as I've just told you, I have four different notebooks. And if I start a new project with something, maybe a DIY project, or maybe volunteering at a group or doing something else that I wasn't doing before, I would not use my current notebook system to start to writing things down that I want to collect. I would actually then probably take another notebook and start to write things down. So my streams of information are not getting muddled. And that's exactly the reason why I've got two different notebooks for work because they require different thoughts and different actions that I want to get out of my head. So if I start something else, I probably start a new notebook.

Lesley 9:27 
I think that's a really interesting point as to whether you do need a separate notebook. So for me, I have one notebook that have all my to do lists and, and I have one for work. And the only reason why I've got a different notebook for work, really, if I'm honest with you, is that it's smaller and I can carry it around with me and I prefer an A4 size one on my desk. But I'm happy to put different to do lists in one notebook. So I do separate the to do lists out into different areas of work for sure, but I don't feel as if I need a new notebook for each individual one. I know a lot of people do. But it would require you to have all those notebooks on your desk. So do you have all those notebooks on the go around you at the same time?

Ingrid 10:09 
Yes. So they're on my desk. They're put neatly away in a stack in the evening. So I've got to tidy up my desk when I'm finished working. But yes, all my notebooks are together in a tray and then in the morning, I say right, where were we and what am I working on today? Which notebook do I need? And it's easy to find out where I am with my thoughts. As soon as I've got the list done, I take the page out, so I don't keep all the pages of small little jobs that I've done. Well, if you've got a big project, you want to probably refer back to notes that you've done. So sometimes I do rip out the pages, and sometimes I don't, but what I see a lot is all these notebooks that have two or three pages scribbled on, and then the kids got hold of the notebook, and then there's lots of drawings in there. And then half the notebook is not used anymore. So I really try to stick with my same notebook until it's completely full, and then go to the next one.

Lesley 11:33 
I think it's really interesting because this is all about how your mind works and how you manage your workflow really, isn't it? It's just different for different people when obviously, you and I are reasonably organised, and we do get through our to do lists and we do write things down so we don't have a problem with that side of it. Our notebooks are definitely functional. I think it's about working out how big a project is. So you're absolutely right if you start a new big project or a new hobby, and want to keep all that information in one place, then that deserves a new notebook. But if it's just a task, then it doesn't deserve a new notebook, it's going to have to be something quite meaty for me to start a new notebook. And that is where the problem lies for a lot of people because that's where we see one page filled out on a beautiful notebook, don't we? So I will regularly with clients when we're decluttering them, rip that page out with the back one out the corresponding back page. And I mean, that comes out on the other side and send it off to charity. Because it's such a shame for these notebooks to have just a couple of sentences written in them. People start in earnest, but don't continue on with them, and then keep those notebooks.

Ingrid 12:41 
Let's talk about decluttering then Lesley, because like you said, we find them all over the place because they are everywhere. So you almost need to start collecting them. Before you can even start to consider the collection you first need to kind of find them all and work out whether you have too mnay notebooks.

Lesley 12:59 
I think it's a really, really important part of the decluttering process to confront yourself with the amount of notebooks that you've got in your house. So some people wil be asking what's the big deal? I've not got too many notebooks , I don't need to be confronting myself with the amount of notebooks. If you are a notebook lover, which is probably who we're talking about more than anything else today. Then there will be boxes and boxes or shelves and shelves of notebooks. And so you need to gather them, gather them from your workbags, gather them from suitcases that you've been on holiday, from shelves, next to the bed, your bedside table, your car, your work bag, your desk, they're just everywhere, and you need to bring them all together to see exactly what you've got before you start decluttering them. 

Lesley 13:44 
So I guess what we're saying is it's so difficult because we've got the standard decluttering emotions. So number one guilt. The reason why we feel guilty about it is maybe because it was very, very expensive. Some of these notebooks can run to 20 or 30 pounds and they're really beautiful. So we feel guilty because they were expensive. We might feel guilty because a friend gave it to us. And we don't want to get rid of something that a friend gave to us. So that's another example of that classic decluttering emotion of guilt. 

Lesley 14:14 
And then we get the next decluttering emotion kicking in, which is sentimental that you've mentioned already. We're sentimental about notebooks because maybe someone's given it to us. Maybe it was something that we collected on a special trip. We all see those in gift shops when we're on holidays. We see there's always a notebook in a gift shop, always a notebook that you can buy? And so they become very sentimental items. So definitely guilt and sentiment play a huge part in notebook decluttering, don't they?

Ingrid 14:42 
Yes, I think so, too. And I think people become notebook collectors over time without realising it. And then when you start to put it all together, it's wuite shocking, I had no idea I had so many. And then of course, you can divide them into the the unused ones and the used ones. I think that would probably be my first step. Okay, let's make two different categories here. Which ones have you used and which ones haven't even been used yet? Instead of looking at one big stack of notebooks, I think you need to do some categorising to be able to take the next step and decide what you're going to do next.

Lesley 15:24 
So do we think we're even going to get to a stage of decluttering? Do we think that we can get our listeners to a stage where they will declutter some notebooks and do you think that's essential?

Ingrid 15:33 
Yeah, I do. Because I think the notebooks that we collect are so many different shapes and sizes. And you just need to think to yourself, if you look at the notebooks you have been using, look whether they are bound or ring? Are they small, are they larger ones, because if you kind of see yourself constantly grabbing a larger notebook, then maybe an easier thing is to look at small size notebooks you really don't use at all, and they can actually go. You can really look at your own behaviour, and think, okay, what do I do normally? What what notebook would I grab? And what type actually makes me happy to work with.

Lesley 16:15 
So I definitely I agree with you. I do certainly try to ask my clients to part with notebooks if they've got too many, and they have more notebooks than they would ever realistically be able to use and are still buying more. It's really important to gather all those notebooks together. So you are confronted with the amount that you've actually got, because they are scattered all over the house, and you don't always see that. So as part of the decluttering process, we're going to talk in a minute about realism. But before we get started on talking about realism and what you need to do to confront your own behaviours, when you're decluttering notebooks, we're going to talk about a couple of things that are happening within the Declutter Hub at the moment.

Ingrid 16:57 
Yes, we have we're so excited about because we actually have got our room by room eight week declutter boot camp, up and running.

Lesley 17:08 
Yeah, we're definitely going to tackle more than notebooks, aren't we? And we definitely do more than notebooks in our boot camp.

Ingrid 17:15 
Yes, Lesley, lots more than notebooks alone. We're actually looking at the kitchen, clothes, bathroom hallway, garage loft or basement, laundry, books and toys. So yes, much more than only notebooks. That's for sure.

Lesley 17:33 
Yeah, so we guide you through, don't we Ingrid with videos. We've got a forum where you can chat ,post before and after pictures, get inspiration, get motivation, ask us questions. We do a live Q&A every week. So there's a lot going on in there and people are really loving it, aren't they? I think someone said the other day that I felt like I could always do it on my own. I was never really getting there. And so I just needed that final push to get me motivated. And it's definitely worth it. So check it out. 

Ingrid 17:59 
Yes, go to the declutterhub.com website, click on the shop and if you scroll down, you will see the room by room declutter boot camp. And we'd love to see you in there.

Lesley 18:09 
So we were in the middle of talking about decluttering, and how difficult it can be because of the standard decluttering emotions that we feel - guilt and sentiment for the most part. And so we said that it was all about trying to keep things real, trying to have an element of realism. So why is realism so important, Ingrid?

Ingrid 18:27 
I think because if we are not realistic about how and where and why we use notebooks, we will be collecting too many notebooks for the rest of our lives. And we're going to have cupboards full of notebooks and that's exactly what we see. So you need to figure out what size of notebook works for you. Do you like a small notebook? Do you like an A5 notebook? Or do you like a large notebook? Do you want it with a ring binder or do you want to have it bound together? What kind of notebooks are actually practical for you in your life? Also think about where you use your notebooks? Is it always on your bedside table because you want to jot down some notes at night, because your head is still full of things that are happening. You just want to get some thoughts down. Or would you rather use a notebook as a to do list that you can just scribble through, take off your list, get the paper out, throw it away and be done with it. So think about how you use notebooks and don't just have them on a beautiful stack or being beautiful while you never get around to using them. 

Lesley 19:32 
So you've talked about being realistic about the type of notebook that works for you. I think it's also important to be realistic about what type of notebook definitely doesn't work for you. So I'm talking about the things that you get given as freebies. We quite often get freebies in magazines as little extras. They're basically marketing material for a lot of people. And for me, they're just not practical, but I know that you don't mind a little notebook, because you use that in your handbag all the time, but for me, I think I need a bigger notebook. I just couldn't cope with a tiny little one. So there's certainly some notebooks that appear in your lives that are not going to work for you. I mean, let's face it, once people know you're a notebook lover, they start to buy you notebooks as well as gifts as well. So there might be gifts. So you might have been given a notebook as a gift from a friend that's the wrong size or not something that would normally use or it's not lined and you prefer lines or it's not the right kind of paper, or it doesn't sit flat. There's lots of reasons that these are barriers. We talk about barriers all the time with decluttering. There's something about that notebook that you don't like that's stopping you from using it.

Ingrid 20:43 
Yes, I think that's really true. And you see it also with children. They also get given a lot of notebooks for for parties and for their birthdays and from their friends because it's really cute to kind of give stationery and with matching pens and glitter pens and all of those things. And I think my daughter is going to probably hand me over one or two of her notebooks that she doesn't use. Because they do so much more work on the computer now as well and are not note takers. I think I'm still very old fashioned with my note taking. But I think the younger generation are far more online. And they probably use the computer and email and their notes in their phones to keep track of stuff.

Lesley 21:29 
And I think I think you're absolutely right there. And I don't think it's just kids. I know you're a note taker, but some of us are not.

Lesley 21:37 
It's not just, it's not just the younger generation, we need to be realistic about the way that things have moved on, and the way the way that we devour and use information and write it down. So my kids will do everything with voice memos. They very rarely write to do lists,

Ingrid 21:52 
But the shops are still full of them and we still get tempted to buy them, so look at your own behaviour and look at your own life and how you deal with information now compared to in the past,

Lesley 22:06 
I feel like we're coming across as notebook haters! I think sound like we are saying "Down with the notebooks, no more notebooks." We're getting really negative. Actually, maybe what's not coming across is that people get great joy out of a notebook. But what we're saying is the classic thing of choose quality over quantity. Make sure you've got notebooks that are serving you well in your current life. So make sure the notebooks you have around you are useful.

Ingrid 22:33 
Yes, and also, if you have a whole stack of half- used notebooks, take the pages out if you can, so if they are in binders, take all of those pages with half scribbled notes, take them all out. So you have a much thinner notebook, but at least it's one that is unused again. And you can start to use that again instead of flitting from one notebook to the other. If you're using several notebooks on the go, how do you know where you are and what you're to do? It's better to go back and make one new list in a notebook and not have loose pages. So it actually stays together. And it gets easier if you can keep track of the things that you have planned or want to do or a project that you're working on. Get away from all the little random little loose notes everywhere and start using the notebooks that you have. Because I love a notebook. I might not have fancy notebooks, but I do love a notebook.

Lesley 23:45 
You love a to do list. That's something completely different. Anyway, so we've talked about decluttering. We've talked about realism and the emotions that you feel with decluttering. And we've also talked about bringing them all together. So how are we going to organise them?

Ingrid 24:01 
I would say really think about where you use them and where you would look for them. If they're all over the house then it's really easy to think you don't have any. So I'm going to buy a new one. So place them all together. In my house they would be with stationery and envelopes, and a box with stationery supplies like staplers and things around a desk area or an area where you have all your stationery. My paper cutter is in there and my laminator it makes sense to have my notebooks in that section. If you find a lot of new and unused ones that you have bought yourself and you kind of realise "Wow, I have too many notebooks." Maybe you can regift some of them and put them in your gift cupboard to give away as presents to other people, but of course only if they're unused. If you think you know what I like the notebooks but I wouldn't really gift it, then it's perfect to donate it to a charity shop because they will actually really love an unused notebook to sell in their shops. So there's different ways of dealing with them, but organising wise I would say start putting them all in one place.

Lesley 25:17 
Definitely. And if you have got lots and lots and lots and you can't put them with your stationery supplies, put them on a shelf of a bookcase. And so you can see them really easily because that's quite often how many people have. One shelf worth of notebooks at least. You can grab the ones that you need. Have I told you what I love more than decluttering Ingrid?

Ingrid 25:35 
What? 

Lesley 25:36 
It's not drinking wine. Well that that possibly is, but apart from that, it is using things up. I love using things up, using the last little bit whether that's like a tiny bit of shampoo, little bottles, you know, that's why I love to line things up with smaller amounts at the front, so you can use those up. Now it's going to be in reverse in a notebook. So what you're going to do is you're going to pull to the front of your notebooks or start to use first the ones that are almost full rather than almost empty. Are you with me? 

Ingrid 26:07 
Yes, I am with you. Don't just throw these things away and think it can go into recycling and I can start a new one. If you've not got tonnes and tonnes start to use the old ones. Pull out the ones that are almost full, so you can use them. And then it will give you great satisfaction to say that notebook was fully used up. I used it, it didn't go to waste. And then it can go into recycling. Most notebooks if they've got a cardboard outer can go into recycling, obviously if you've not got a ring binder on them, so they can go into paper recycling for the most part.

Ingrid 26:43 
And it's really easy to get the ring binder out you know if you just pull the front and the back of and then take out the pages. You know if it's just little scribbles that mean nothing, if there's no addresses on there or phone numbers, all those little notes of shopping to get and little to do's that you've written down to yourself as a reminder, they can all go into recycling. And I fully agree with you you know how we call it in Dutch "opmaken" - finish off something. I am a great fan of "opmaken". We completely agree upon this Lesley, because my kids always know when there's a tiny bit left. You know, even when the soap was nearly finished, take the little top off and finish that last bit of soap. I'm just trying not to be very wasteful, I think it's more of a money thing. Being frugal,

Ingrid 27:38 
There's something really satisfying about using something up and seeing it to the end of its useful purpose. And I think that's really important. So, find a balance is what we're saying, you don't have to use everything. And so some of these things can go potentially into recycling. But if you've not got that many, think about using the one with only five pages left in it. So that's the one that I'm going to use for the next couple of days for our to do list. So have we exhausted notebooks, I feel like we were we were kind of a bit negative about the notebooks. Notebook lovers are the same as book lovers, aren't they? They just like "Don't touch my notebooks, I don't have too many notebooks!" This was a request, wasn't it to do a podcast about notebooks? And we were like, Yes. Why have we not done a podcast about notebooks before? Because it's bags for life, notebooks, books. They're something that people really are very reluctant to get rid of. So I hope that it's been useful. I hope that we've given you a little bit of food for thought in terms of what is your relationship to notebooks? Is it unusual? Have you got too many notebooks? And is there anything that you can do to use them up? To recycle or to donate them or not? Are you ready to do that?

Ingrid 29:01 
Absolutely. Lesley, and you are absolutely right. This was a request from one of our members in our membership who said, please do something with notebooks because it's so hard for me and I would like to hear your thoughts about it. So, here you go. These are our thoughts about notebooks and listeners, we hope you've enjoyed listening to our notebook podcast as well and are inspired to take action. Are you ready to let go of some of those notebooks or at least going to try and empty them out a little bit so you can use them all up? We would love to hear about it. So leave us a review, or come and share with us in our Facebook group, the Declutter Hub community, we would love to see you there and you can tell us how you're getting on with your notebooks. We appreciate you taking the time to listen today. And if you've enjoyed the podcast, like I said, Please leave a review and tell us what you think about the show. Come and join us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. And you can find us on there at the Declutter Hub. We'd love to see you there and take a look at members.declutterhub.com to find out more about our membership. 

Transcribed by https://otter.ai


If you'd like to step up your decluttering and would like more input from Ingrid and I, come and take a look at our membership options, our courses and our 8 week bootcamp. We have a 14 day trial for $1 if you want to take a look what's on offer in more detail. we would love to see you! More information is available in our shop. If you have any questions, do let us know!

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