18 November 2013

To A5, or not to A5: that is the question

In my previous post about my beautiful red A5 Amazona, I started off with the sentence 'I don't know what it is about the A5 size as I've never properly settled down into using one'.
It seems that previously I thought it was just because I hadn't found 'the one'. I adore the Amazona as it's got a gorgeous print, isn't too big for its size and is a stunning colour. I decided on what sections I wanted, bought some hardwearing and cute dividers, and yet I'm still not really using it!

My personal Ascot lives under the laptop stand on my desk and is the one I always reach for. My poor Amazona must be feeling unloved sat on the end of my bookshelf, watching on as the Ascot gets carried about into the kitchen, bedroom or into my bag and out the door. I love the idea of having the larger A5 size for planning projects and using all that lovely extra page space for writing. And yet, it never quite happens...

There's definitely something about the bigger size that keeps drawing me back, but I'm beginning to realise that maybe it's just not meant to be. Maybe it's bit like saying to yourself, "I should like olives" but each and every time you try them, it just doesn't do it for you? I keep trying, but the evidence is pointing to my conclusion that I don't think I can cope with having two binders in use at the same time. I think I could happily use the Amazona as my main binder, but it's a bit too big for me to happily use as a wallet, for travelling or just to pop in my bag.

When I first thought about writing this post, it was meant to be to mull over the pros and cons of different sizes, and how to use them together. I'm a bit surprised that I've found that instead I'm talking myself out of owning an A5! However, I know what I'm like, so I'm going to pause before I make a decision as otherwise the Amazona will be up for sale by the weekend. I think I'll remove the contents, put it away and set a deadline to see if I've missed it at all and then make a final decision.

Our cat definitely likes A5
I know that lots of you use multiple binders, and I'm curious as to how you manage to successfully get them to work together? Or are there other people like me that find using more than one just hurts your head??

46 comments:

  1. oh boy Im thinking of buying my first A5. I really like the thought of that BIG filofax, all that paper.....all the plans I can make. At the same time Im thinking, do I really need that much space, I really dont make that many plans....Maybe I just have to learn to write all my plans down.....I really want the big one..
    Thank your for a great blog :)

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  2. I went back and forth with sizes for years. I needed the portability of the personal, but I needed the larger page size of the A5. A5 was too big and heavy to carry, personal pages were too small to be effective for me. After years of struggle I went with bound A5 size books. They have the large page size I need in much smaller and lighter books. Sometimes I miss the flexibility of a Filofax as my planner, but every time I try to use one the system breaks down immediately. I love Filofax for contacts, info and lists but because I need a big page and the ability to take my planner everywhere I have to have a bound book.

    I think the "page too small/ book too big" dilemma is something many Filofax users struggle with!

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  3. One planner person reporting to duty!
    I need a lot of information on me when I´m on the go so there really is no choice. Before, I used to have a "mothership" in the form of A5 at home and a personal to be hoisted around me with everything in nutshell. It worked like a well oiled machine for years and years. However, these days I need evvverything within reach so that´s how things work out now. I do have weak joints and my fingers are prone to overbending so that´s why I spent quite a lot of months in narrowed system. However, I did still need the space so I moved back to A5 Malden (that I bought from my son) and spent a few "entertaining" moments trying to align the misaligned rings, desperately trying to reach each other... oh, the joys of cheap non-quality! However, I now have everything back in A5 and will now need to be more mindful in carrying it around. Instead of yanking it out of my tote with one hand and trying to balance in one hand, I now take care to lift it up with two hands and will lay it down on a table in order to not infect the joints any further. It does work but I also can claim that it was so much more easy to change the entire system than to change myself.
    Again, separating the planner needs from wants was the nugget of wisdom that I needed to hone accordingly.
    But this was my experience. Do you need the A5 or is personal quite enough? If personal size works for you, why fix it if it isn´t broken? Your story reminded me of Gretchen Rubin when she wrote on her book (the Happiness Project) that she always felt that she should enjoy music, but really she doesn´t. She felt that she should like exploring new adventures, but naah. Not her.
    If the authentic Anita Lim truly enjoys her personals, then shouldn´t she carry on? I think so but what really matters is how you feel.
    Happy planning!

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    1. I love what you wrote: It was so much more easy to change the entire system than to change myself. And this part too: separating the planner needs from wants was the nugget of wisdom… Changing my preferences so I am able to carry a heavier planner seems to be the real need. The truth is, it is impossible to take good notes on those itty bitty scraps of personal sized paper! Everything must be abbreviated - for some that's easy but not for me. Right now I'm using a Franklin Covey compact which is a compromise position and will try larger sized bound books next year.

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    2. Indeed, Christine.
      Because of my planner needs, I no longer entertain the thought of a dainty purse. It´s totes for me. With a special needs child with multiple medical challenges I already have so much to carry, so in my personal perspective the difference between a personal and an A5 is really not even an issue.

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  4. I can't imagine trying to manage two planners that is crazy to me haha. I would be so much more unorganized! :)

    If you need more space to write but still want the personal size, maybe try finding printable inserts that give you more flexibility! Good luck with figuring it out! Hope all goes well for you! :)

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  5. I've used A5 almost continually since launched by Time Manager in the mid 1980's. In those days, carrying a big binder wasn't a problem as you had little els in your briefcase or satchel other than paper and pens! These days, there's all the technology (smartphone, tablet) and accessories (headphones, battery charger) that has made also carrying an A5 organiser around much more problematic.

    I've long advocated the introduction of a genuine compact A5. Not just smaller rings but shaved down in all dimensions and weight. There is no reason why an A5 binder needs to be much bigger than an A5 Flex cover yet every new A5 Filofax is based on the same dimensions - just a bit too big, too thick and too heavy! I've used a Flex fitted with13mm rings for a couple of years now with great success and hope that one day Filofax will produce something similar on a commercial basis. The extra space coupled with the ability to print documents scaled to A5 still has much going for it.

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  6. A5 on the desk, personal at the meeting, pocket in the bag, mini as wallet in the shop...4 in 1 = perfect filofax. Oh, it`s nice to dream sometimes.
    But otherwise I have the same problem...I know that A5 will never work for me, but I keep coming back to it.

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  7. I'd *like* to get back into personal size, but I seem to need the space in A5. I agree with Tim that many new A5s are far too big for what they are - my Pimlico A5 (25mm rings) from around 2000 seems much more compact than the newer ones, but even that could be made smaller and neater. A truly compact A5 - 3/4" rings, say, and minimal overhangs, with construction similar to an old Winchester without all the modern cardboard and padding - would be great! I do carry a pocket filo around with me (a red pocket Windsor, sporting a lime green Pilot Prera fountain pen in its pen looop) when I don't have the A5 with me, but it's only used for capturing thoughts or to-dos etc. The A5 is still the mothership!

    Curiously, I've long wondered if I could make personal size work if I could find one of the rare binders (like a Cavendish or a big Winchester, or an original Balmoral) lucky enough to be fitted with the 5/4 rings. Sadly those are not easy to come by and when they do appear they tend to be quite expensive, so I've not got round to catching one and trying the experiment yet.

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  8. Thanks Anita....this is a *really* interesting post.

    Anyone who's followed my ramblings will know that after vacillating between Personal and A5 for years, Ive been a dedicated Personal user for the last two years.

    However......

    I hadn't read this post (in fact someone pointed it out to me afterwards), but after spending a couple of hours on the train to London this morning 'ticking' my system, it suddenly occurred to me as I was walking through London Waterloo station....what a great thing it would be if I had an A5 binder. All that *space* I could use....the business-like look I would have, all the schedules, plans, data I could have with me, and most of all, not having to struggle (I di struggle) with the reduced page space of the Personal.

    All of this, obviously, ignores completely that the A5 is utterly impractical from a portability point of view. As Tim has pointed out, in the 80s it was considered de rigeur to carry a BIG binder (look how important I am!), but now, not just for reasons of bag space but because I want my binder with me *everywhere*, it's way out of fashion.

    But hey......didn't I buy that messenger bag JUST SO that I could carry my A5?........

    What I really need is for someone to come round and beat me with a stick (or, as someone has pointed out, with an A5) until this indecision goes away.......

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    1. Please form an orderly queue... sticks are available! :).... only kidding... honest!

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    2. I'd prefer A5s please. And can someone please leave theirs behind?......

      Very glad Conduit St is now closed (never thought I'd say that.....)

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    3. I wonder what the Filofax Popely A5 organiser would look like?

      I should have brought along a few for you to look at the other week David... next time may be..

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    4. Steve, I suspect it would look a lot like the Popely Personal, but bigger.

      Since you've mentioend the delightful lunch we had a couple of weeks ago, I'll add that I've been experimenting with the QV dividers again, in the Cuban, with the Timer17 diary. They're not nearly as bad as I first took them to be (and Timer17 paper *is* a *little bigger*....the biggest problem from a setup point of view is/would be to convert my setup to run in a 5-part divider set. I'm on the case.......

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    5. What's a QV divider please? I've just excitedly run over to the Quo Vadis website, under the impression that they did ring binder inserts, but I fear I'm mistaken??

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    6. The QV dividers are the set which go with the Timer17 diary inserts (and others). BEWARE - the T17 range is NOT FF sized, but 4mm wider. not a big deal, but they *will* overhang a normal set of FF dividers. Possible solution? Move the diary section to the back. Fall back solution? Buy a set of QV Timer17 dividers which match the diary for size. The extra 4mm is not so great as to 'worry' the right hand edge of the binder (at least not in my experience), and the dividers are made if a very robust stiff black plastic. All accompanied by some rather odd and presumably 'continental' icon-bearing black stickers to label the sections.

      Step 3 - after buying diary and dividers, buy a bunch of other QV inserts - the paper quality is absolutely outstanding.

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  9. I'm in the process of moving from A5 to Personal and I'm having all those second thoughts. So much so that I'm contemplating the Franklin Covey inserts for that tiny bit extra space.

    Coming from A5 to Personal feels like 'things' are being sacrificed! (My ideal size would be B6 - 176x125mm or almost 7 x 5 inches. Any guidance to a good quality binder in this size would be appreciated.)

    So far my new Purple Malden is creaking at the seams and I've still another section waiting to go in. It is almost as heavy as my A5 Finchley now. Possibly because it takes 3 sheets of Personal paper to achieve what one A5 page could. Another thing I'm missing is my large clear envelope. Now I have to fold receipts and fiddle a bit much.

    Still I'll stay with it until that elusive B6 shows up or until Filofax produce that perfect slimline A5. (If Filo people are reading - Make a B6 Malden and I'd buy one of every colour, and 10 for Christmas presents!)

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    1. Hi Amanda, my thoghts on this are pretty biased, but then you know the journey I've been on with this issue! My advice would (obviously!) be to persevere with the Personal, and to *make* it work for you. I had to do that and it took weeks, but the pay-off is extraordinary in the end. Today's 'wobble' notwithstanding! If you want to refer back to my post a couple of weeks back you can see how I've set my system up, and I'd be happy to email off-list if that helps. Don't be discouraged - and good luck. It's worth it!

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    2. Amanda, I sympathise - I bought an FC Compact Veronica (http://franklinplanner.fcorgp.com/store/buy/Save-Up-To-60percent/Veronica-Leather-Snap-Binder/prod1110019/?skuId=43536) a few weeks ago because my personal is too small but the A5 is too large! Also because they're currently less than half price and I've been lusting over one since Laurie did her review back in January (http://www.plannerisms.com/2013/01/franklin-covey-veronica-binder.html).

      As you say the pages are that little bit bigger, plus the ring size is 1.25" which is 31.75mm!!

      I do feel like I'm going over to the Dark Side, but it's my intended set-up for 2014. Fortunately 95% of the pages I use are just A4 squared paper cut down (turns out if I use squared paper, I plan, if I use lined paper, I don't!), so at least I won't be spending loads on expensive inserts as well.

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    3. Quo Vadis do a very nice quadrille paper in their Timer17 range ;)

      No need to go fully over to the dark side then ;)

      I wonder if there is a correlation between the use of squared paper and us OCD types (I'm happy to own up to pedantry any time). Discussion on FFAT tomorrow?........

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    4. Thanks for the replies (and sympathy!). I'll persevere and report back.

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  10. Thanks for all you interesting & useful comments.
    I'd happily join Steve's queue to beat me with a stick (or A5) if I consider buying any additional or different sized ones!

    It's been said before, but what we all need is a Tardis-like filo that can shrink or grow in size depending on our needs. I did try an A5 as my sole binder for a short while, but I absolutely agree with David about the portability issue. I tried the size out as my sole binder for a short time, but just ended up leaving it at home.

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    1. i think what we really need here (for us Personal downsizers) is a stick-beating collective with a general agreement that if any one of us even mentions upsizing back to A5, the rest of us will grab their beating-sticks and get round there quickly. I know that would deter me......perhaps!

      Seriously, though, if you can get to a single binder which is portable (viz. Personal sized), so far as I'm concerned the page size disadvantage is small beer in comparison to having everything in one place, all the time.

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    2. Great idea! I love the idea of this collective to help us stay faithful to what works & not stray. Goodness knows I've tried out my fair share of binders & I'm about to write my next post about it :)

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    3. Kindly align your backsides while I dust my long- distance broom. Help is on the way!

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    4. Thank you, WeirdRockStar :)

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  11. Found an A5 Luxe in T K Maxx yesterday for FIFTY POUNDS. I was SO tempted to buy it, but I bought my dream A5 Holborn only a few months ago and then a Personal Ranger soon after. And Christmas is coming plus two kids' birthdays, we're doing a lot of saving up ATM!

    But if anyone wants me to go buy it for them, I'll be in the area on Wednesday after work!!

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  12. I have felt much better planned when using an A5. It just works for me. Briefcase and A5. I used to have a personal, decades ago,but the pages got utterly crammed with appointments.... and I'll never forget the day I missed a rather important one, because I simply did not see it amongst the tangle of a whole bunch of stuff crammed into the personal page.Luckily, the person concerned was extraordinarily understanding and said we are only human.... and we re- booked, but I was mortified. It happened many many years ago, but still makes me blush to think of it..A5 is fabulous. I can see my day laid out clearly and simply in Steve and Ray's TM inserts. I am a person who needs visual space and clarity, room to breathe and see appointments clearly.. I wince at those diary pictures, showing set ups that have no white space whatsoever..... but each to their own!!!!!

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    1. Butanben I completely agree! I have to be able to see my schedule clearly in front of me.

      Which binder are you using/ can stand to lug around everywhere with you? I'm curious how you manage this! Thanks!

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    2. I can commiserate, Butanben. I´ll never forget the day when my employee had to come back to me- with her A5 calendar where her hours were clearly and neatly written to see...just because I failed to translate the tiny scribbly mess from my smaller system and had butchered her working hours. OH THE GALORE OF SHAMES OF ALL KIND! That was the day I changed back to A5 binder. I told my son sternly "mommy will really need your binder now. Will 100 euros do?"

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    3. I agree - I almost missed an interview for a job when using my Personal Filofax, and I was so embarrassed at how disorganised I felt that I moved back into my A5. The key thing about the A5 for me is not only the space to write, but the inserts available - I rely on the WO2D vertical layout to keep me, my family and work organised, and although that insert is available for the Personal size, it is so small that it just doesn't work for me.
      I would love Filofax to bring out a reasonably priced compact A5, which would give us the best of both worlds - size and portability.

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  13. I have an A5 Boston. It is one of the smaller A5 Filofax binders at 7 inches by 9.13 inches (177 mm by 232 mm) and 19 mm rings according to my measurement. It is very sleek and lightweight. It lies flat and has the cardboard backing. It is my only A5 Filofax binder so I can't compare it to another one. I used a comparable A5 size binder of a different brand a long time ago and it was heavier and bulky because of larger rings. I left it on my desk a few times because it would not fit in some handbags. Anyway I intended to use the A5 Boston for a specific purpose but I am now rethinking this?? I know it would be a big leap from a compact Luxe to the A5 Boston. I have been using the compact Luxe for several months and it is exactly what I expected in terms of size. I am thinking of using the A5 Boston as my main planner. I read some of your experiences of the A5 being too big, etc. I am not sure.

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  14. Hi Anita
    You must be agonising over which binder best suit your needs. Your post really shows that. The space afforded by the A5 must be a governing factor, despite the extra weight if I was in your position I'd stick with the A5 Real Estate rules. Good Luck with whatever decision you finally make

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    1. Hi Anthony, I wouldn't say agonising as such, I want to stop messing around & just get on with it! I actually found writing this post very helpful & I have already written the next one about my decision. Thanks :)

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  15. Hi Be - to A5 or to a different A5? That's another question! The official measurements for the Boston A5 are 235x195x41mm. It has 20mm rings. The A5 Holborn is officially 235x195 (213mm if the fastener is included) x 41mm - but has 25mm rings! I think they missed a trick with the Boston! As for weight... a fully laden A5 can easily get up towards 1kg as a post on Plannerisms recently discussed. So, even allowing for the different ring sizes, why does a binder that takes 210mm paper need to have an extra 25mm in height? And why the need to be so wide (even allowing for the ring diameter)?

    The A5 Flex (which will take a set of rings up to 13mm) is 225x167x18mm. Fully loaded it's 450g. That's more like what I want in an A5!

    (I'm currently experimenting with an A5 Flex (with no ring mechanism) for office work and a Slim Flex for my coat pocket. I've made a couple of Ray Blake style information booklets for the data I currently keep on rings. If the Plannerism planner was true A5 (and thus fitted in the Flex) I would definitely make that a great set-up for 2014. As it is, I need a large Moleskine monthly or Flex A5 diary to make it work.

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    1. I did a review of the A5 Boston about a year ago, with photos comparing it to my A5 Finsbury. It has a smaller footprint, and is much slimmer: http://philofaxy.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/a5-boston-filofax.html

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    2. Hi Tim. My width measurement is incorrect. I did not include the closure. I measured it again but I will just go with the official one you list. I would like to correct it on my first comment but then I would have to remove the entire comment. If a filled A5 can weigh over 2 pounds then that is just too heavy. I had not thought about the Flex because I wanted to use the ring bound planner. The space on the pages in the A5 Filofax is so appealing. It is easier to write on too. Anyway, thank you for the detailed information and the correct measurement.

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    3. Hi Laurie. I liked your review on the A5 Boston and the comparison photos. Thank you for putting the link here. It seemed that you were excited about it, but did you use it as a main planner and carry it with you? Was it still too big? I am still on the fence on whether I will use it as my main planner because it is obviously much bigger than my compact Luxe.

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    4. Hi Be, I use bound books only for planners, but I do use this A5 Boston for job interviews and it is perfect. Nice big page size, but the binder itself is slim and sleek and sophisticated-looking. I don't look nuts hauling out a honkin' big binder, I just look professional and organized! I highly recommend it, but hurry--they are discontinued and currently on sale for crazy-low prices on Filofax USA so they won't last long. http://www.filofaxusa.com/store/organiserdetails.asp?rangeId=185&sizeId=5&dsizeId=5&spId=1400

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    5. Thanks for the reply Laurie. I have the A5 Boston already. I initially wanted to use it for a home binder but then I thought I should try it as my main planner. It fits nicely in a couple of my handbags. My A5 Boston includes the Wo2P insert with vertical columns. I was looking at the Circa smart Planner master refill by Levenger. It is a Wo2P layout but is not the same size as the A5 Filofax insert. The Circa one is less wide and taller and would require trimming and punching. Anyway, it is good to hear what others have to say about the A5 size binders and how they are using them.

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  16. The Finsbury is indeed a beast of an A5! Official measurements are 235x218x45mm thick. Yes, a Boston with fill should be10mm slimmer because it has 20mm rings instead of the Finsbury's 30mm.

    The Boston has (it appears) been a dreadful seller. It's currently heavily discounted on the Filofax UK site and elsewhere. Maybe the slimmer (but the same height and only slightly narrower) size hasn't been enough to entice A5 purchasers. It certainly wasn't enough to persuade me to buy one! Conversely, the bulkier "The Original" is said to be selling well in A5!

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    1. I like the A5 Boston and am a bit surprised that it is not popular. Then again I am not surprised because it seems that I have Filofax planners that are not popular except for the Luxe.

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  17. I too considered the A5 for a nano second and decided it wasn't 'me'. I now have a 2 Filofax/1 Midori system that works great, and stuffing the Personal Filo with information was just a matter of discipline and choice.

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  18. I could have practically written this post and I almost did I a post on my blog with the exact same title. :-) At this point I'm fairly convinced the A5 is not going to be my planner. It is simply not portable and I would feel like a tool carrying it around. That said, I am not sure getting rid of my A5s is the right decision either. I have two. One is essentially a notebook with dividers, and the other holds my extra inserts. (Makes sense, right, I've never used an A5 fully, but i have enough inserts that I need an overflow binder.) But even as a notebook, I'm not sure it's something I love. I do not enjoy writing on the pages in the binders so I always have to remove them. Opening and closing the rings so much worries me. I have had many ideas of what to use an A5 for, writing projects, journaling, smash booking, but if I'm honest, my Moleskines are perfect for all these things. Writing in them is like a dream, and they are certainly portable! But, and it's a big BUT, they lack the ability to add and remove pages, change things around, and create customized divided sections! For real planning, that's essential.

    So while your post brought you some clarity, the clarity I felt before this comment has now been replaced with uncertainty. Lovely. :-)

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  19. I have multiple binders. I do like having everything within arms reach and in one binder. But the reality is that I didn't use all of the information I was carrying - it was there for more of a what-if scenario. When I downsized to compact, I created an at-home personal binder. In it I keep all of the information I need at hand but don't need with me all of the time, things like addresses, budget info, household projects, and the like. The trick for me was no overlap, or as little overlap as possible. So my at home binder does not contain any of my calendar information. That only stays in my compact. I have lists and lists of things in my at home personal, some of which I might transfer to the compact if I know I'll need it for something specific. It's the same for projects - I keep them in my at home binder until such time as I need the information with me all of the time. At that point, I'll transfer the pages to my compact. But that's the bonus of going back and forth with compact and personal - no difference in page size.

    For a long time, I had a very similar struggle with the pocket size. I want to move to pocket in the worst way just because I liked the look of it. But in the end, I just couldn't make it work for me. The compact seemed to be a good compromise - portable but usable. Once I was able to accept that pocket would never work for me -- no matter how much I may have wanted it to -- I was able to get to a system that did work for me. It was like cinderellas sisters trying to squeeze their foot into the glass slipper - I wasn't willing to cut my foot off just to get it to fit into something pretty. Then again, there wasn't a prince waiting for me on the other side of my pocket binder. ;)

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