25 March 2016

Free For All Friday No 384 by Laurie

I have a recurring Planner Fantasy of using one Filofax binder for my whole life. It would be my constant companion throughout the years, and it would age alongside me.

In real life, I almost had this: my first real Filofax was a black Buckingham that I used for eight years almost continuously, through lots of big life changes (pregnancy, leaving work, having a baby, moving to a different country, having another baby, moving to another different country, etc.). That Filofax could have been my one-and-only lifetime Filo, but I wasn't a huge fan of the black color and wanted something more representative of my personality. About 30 binders later, I'm still searching for The One.

About this time last year I bought a vintage Sherwood Filofax thinking it would be my Binder For Life. I love the classic design and the soft calf leather. But it's so delicate I wouldn't feel good about subjecting it to the daily rigors of my hard-on-binders lifestyle. I think its previous owners must have felt the same way, because despite being more than 20 years old the Sherwood is still in pristine condition. I'm thrilled to have it as part of my collection, but my daily-use binder has to be more rugged.

I'm not sure why I have this idea to use one binder for life. I don't think about using one wallet or carrying one bag for the rest of my life. But a Filofax becomes my personal assistant and daily companion. I am inspired by a story I read several years ago about an elderly woman's Filofax that was stuffed and scuffed from decades of use. (You can read that story about her Ostrich Filofax in one of the comments of this post, scroll down to the comment by Anonymous at 11:06.)

In reality, I don't think I could actually commit to a lifetime using only one binder. I like planner variety, and switching out binder colors, styles and sizes helps to satisfy my urge for newness. There are so many beautiful binders out there, how could I ever commit to just one?

But if I did choose just one binder to use forever, I think I would choose a custom Van der Spek binder in the Undyed leather. Janet Carr's photos of her Undyed binder over a period of more than a year show how the leather darkens gradually with age, and shows marks. I would love to see how the binder progressively changes over time, and ages alongside me.

If you could ever choose just one, what would be your for-life binder?

And as always on Fridays, feel free to discuss and/ or ask anything ring-binder related!


  1. This is a really hard one!......

    I think before I settled on a binder-for-life I would have to settle on a format-for-life (Personal/A5/Other) and maybe (but not necessarily) a setup-for-life. Since I still vacillate between A5 Personal and (occasionally) TMI, that's a really tricky one.

    Trying to simplify the problem down, I think TMI is gradually dropping out of my particular 'equation' - I find the binder difficult to manage when I'm on the move (which I am a lot of time time), and on my desk it actually takes up more space than an A5! I really don't know how they managed that......Having said that, the very structured interior setup is incredibly effective for my temperament. All in all, I think the TM will lose out progresively over time.

    That leave A5 or Perssonal, and that's where the main problem lies. Again, my feeling is that A5 will lose out progressively over time, although it still sometimes looms large in my thinking. It's the usual problem of space versus portability, but with the added complication that since I've been using TimeSystem inserts in 2016 the internal setup (not dissimilar to TMI's) has got a whole lot more useful to me. The basic diary is Do2P which is complete overkill so far as I'm concerned, and means I can only carry 2-3 months of daily plans before I'm forced onto the accompanying monthly sheets, which aren't nearly so useful. However, it a great system overall, so it hasn't quite dropped out of my thoughts yet......

    Personal. I love Personal! When I drop that Personal into the side pocket of the car door as I leave home, I know I have *everything* I'm going to need for my day, nothing excepted. The only problem with it is the diary - there just isn't enough space for me. I've ordered some DPP and Wo2P inserts from FF Sweden which, as usual, are taking forever to arrive, but I love the design and I'm hopeful that a combination of the two sets will solve my diary problems for ever. Personal has so much going for it that it really is the binder of choice, given all the various options.

    Which brings us to binders. One binder for life? If it was still functional, that would have to be my Hampstead. I've never understood why people would buy a binder and then fret over a few dings and dents on it. The whole point of leather (and why buy a binder made of anything else?) is that it looks *better* with some dings and dents in it, some scuffing, some wear marks, some signs that it has actually been *used* rather than out in a glass case (or velvet bag) and admired. That Hampstead is a perfect all terrain binder.

    Then there's the ochre Malden. Perfect style, looks great in a business meeting, at the golf club or at the gym, in a restaurant or on the coffee table (or my desk) at home. Getting well-scuffed now, and I like it that way.

    Cavendish in brown? Not quite so good-looking as the Malden, but wearing nicely around the edges, and has those beautiful 30mm rings, which are often the difference between total functionality and having to decide what I'm going to leave out of the system. FACT: If you're going to use the smaller page size of the Personal for the info which would otherwise live in A5, you're going to have more pages. Many more pages! So the Cavendish scores big-time on capacity.


  2. Finally, the brown Holborn which I bought new via eBay last week. Still disturbingly unscuffed, un-dinged and un-dented, but if it stays in my hand (and car) long enough it will be. It's a very handsome binder indeed, although I'm not quite convinced about the inside front secretarial pocket yet - it's rather stiff and finishes rather close to the rings to allow for easy access.

    So here's my conclusion, assuming Personal is the way to go (which for me it almost certainly is):-

    Cavendish for work days, and when I need to carry a lot of stuff (most of the time)

    Malden when I want it to look good and don't mind stripping out a few bits and pieces temporarily - say for an evening event.

    Holborn. I don't know yet. Needs to find it's place.

    Hampstead. Venerable. Retired. Best of the lot, but no longer functional.

    No binder-for-life, but certainly every situation perfectly covered by one of the binders still in service.

  3. Laurie, by coincidence, I just ordered the Undyed Vand der Spek binder yesterday. I had been thinking about it for several months, and the more I saw Janet Carr's updates, the more I admired the planner. I'm using two planners now--a Van der Spek A5 Touch Me binder, and a personal sized Holborn. The A5 binder is perfect for work; I am a college professor and the size of the pages, the layout, the size of the rings, as well as the secretarial pocket and long outside pocket are absolutely perfect. I use a page per day, and I keep course notes, meeting notes, project notes all in the binder with plenty of room left. The "only" problem is that it does get heavy, so while it's no problem when I carry it in my backpack, it's a little too big to carry in a handbag or to carry with me when I'm doing errands and such. So I also use a personal sized Holborn that I carry in my handbag. That's for all my weekend, household and personal reminders, birthdays, grocery lists, etc. I know the tried and true advice is to use only one binder, the personal is too small for my daily work, and the A5 is too big to carry around. So this seems to be working well. I might not have one binder for life, but I might be able to use the A5 and switch between the Holborn and the Undyed and be pretty well set for some time.

    1. I am so envious of you for having made this 'split' scenario work!

      One question.......one diary or two? And if two, is the A5 diary work only and the Personal diary non-work only, or do you reconcile them?

      Sorry that was two questions...........!

    2. I have my main diary in my work planner--daily, weekly, and monthly--because there are more things to remember :). For my personal, I use a week on two pages and a monthly, but it's only to note anniversaries, birthdays, haircuts, social things---so I can pretty much keep up with the two without anything falling through the cracks. The personal is non work related except if there's a date out of the ordinary--like an evening lecture or a conference or a big deadline--things like that. I find it fascinating to read about how people use their planners :).

    3. I've always fought shy of having two diaries, my work and personal lives are so closely intertwined. I'm envious of anyone who can make it work!

  4. Ooooh, that Undyed VDS.

    One binder? Not gonna happen. My current system consists of 3 binders: 1) Life Management in FC Classic with 1.5" rings and A-Z tabs 2) FF Pocket for wallet and capture device 3) FF Personal control binder (this only works because of the Project Index and A-Z tabs.)
    Then there are 2 or 3 more floating around for specific information. Other than the varied sizes, if I tried to put everything into one binder, it would weigh at least 10 pounds. Goodness knows how big those rings would have to be.

    Now if said binder was a Tardis-type...Undyed VDS. There's the "Unicorn".

  5. We'll see if it ends being my 'binder for life'....but it should be for a really long time......the vdS Undyed Standard(FF Personal size) binder I received in mid-February.

    I had the binder widened a bit so I could use Franklin Covey Compact size inserts which are same height as Personal, but a bit wider, which is much better for notetaking.

    I'm in the midst of my vdSSUTBPAP (van der Spek Standard Undyed Torrone (interior leather) Binder Patina Accelleration Project). Going well so far....

    I've managed to get it to go from the pale pinkish color to a nice light caramel color already.

    Hoping to get it to a nice warmer, bit darker caramel color soon.....

    Can't wait.....


    1. Hi Mark! So you're back in Personal.....I'd be very interested to know your setup. Drop me an email?

  6. I do not have an ultimate binder. However, I favor my Franklin pocket binder because it is smaller than a personal one and has pockets that hold business and credit cards. I created my week insert on lined paper and maximized the sheet for a large space all days. I would like to design a computer version even an incomplete one that does not require printing the pages in succession. I considered buying a smaller pocket binder for certain occasions but have not found one. It is fine to not use the same binder for too long because styles and products change.

  7. What I find amazing is that if you look back on here 5 years or so, you'll find the same discussions - even with the same people! (Yes - Laurie, David, me...!). This surely shows that there is no, one, single perfect organiser. I'm certainly still debating Slimline vs Pocket vs A5 (and now A6 too!), rings vs no rings, small rings vs large rings, Filofax vs other brands etc. etc. Only this week I've been tinkering with an A5 Clipbook and fitting a smaller ring mechanism. I've looked at how thin I could make my Holborn Slimline (answer 26mm) and briefly re-contemplating a Pocket. It all keeps life interesting, but sometimes I wish there really was one "for life" organiser! (For me - It would probably be an A5 super slimline, ultra-light , multi-pocketed, soft leather with no florals and no washi tape in sight!)

  8. Thanks for the great post, Laurie. It really struck a chord with me. I, too, have imagined a "for life" organizer. Something worn, loved, and possessing its own story. Although there are many more important decisions to be made in life, I often find myself hung up on selecting and committing to a particular binder size (more so than the style). It feels good to know I'm not the only one who thinks the way I do (thank you Philofaxy community). Who knows? Perhaps I will go through my binders tonight and finally pick my "for life"! I won't hold my breath, though. :)


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