23 September 2012

It Takes a Village...to Build a Filofax

Thank you to Erin T. for this guest post about her Holborn. 

I started my Filofax journey with a pocket sized Finchley in mustard in 2010.  It worked wonderfully as a datebook, but over this past summer I decided I needed to get more out of my planner; I was looking for a one-stop spot not just to store appointments, but also to keep necessary information and notes from all facets of my life.

Overshooting the mark a bit, I went straight to A5, ordering a raspberry Finsbury.  Very nice, but we just never bonded.  Next was an A5 Imperial Purple Finchley, a breathtaking binder made even more special by the fact that I purchased it from Filofax celebrity Imy! I happily set it up and carried it around much of the summer only to discover, as many have before me, that A5 was just too large and heavy to be my go-everywhere organizer. Just in the nick of time, the famous Zoe was selling a personal Finchley in teal. The size was perfect, and I'd been lusting after a teal Finchley ever since I was forced to order my very first binder in mustard when teal was discontinued, but something was still missing.  It didn't look professional on my desk, and try as I might I couldn't get it to work as a wallet/purse. Enter the Holborn. It may not be as immediately pretty as the Finchley, but it is distinguished, smooth as butter, and has enough pockets to make me drool. Here's my setup, which owes so much to so many Philofaxers!

First, the binder, in gorgeous wine. I was intrigued by Laurie's review and video, and Zoe's high praises for the Holborn sealed the deal.

Inside, I store my business cards and some of the Staples Martha Stewart Avery sticky notes, which fit perfectly into one of Holborn's credit card slots and where I usually write a short list of not-too-time-specific monthly to-do's. I also keep a few slips of scrap paper in case I need to jot something down to give to someone.

As you can see, I carry three Uni Style Fit Meister 3 multi-pens, for a total of 8 colors of .5 mm gel ink and one .5 mm pencil. These are inexplicably called "Mystar" at Jetpens, which is where I got mine, but I couldn't love these pens more.  I created one extra pen loop by covering a trimmed-to-fit A5 Flex pen loop with scrapbook paper and sliding it in the outward facing pocket.

I was really feeling OCD about being able to see the grey elastic from the front of the binder, since it's wider than Holborn's closure strap, but luckily, with my silver pen in that loop, it is camouflaged nicely. I'm also able to keep other little things I need in that pocket along with the pen loop.  The inward facing pocket holds my stickers.

I made my tabs out of scrapbook paper, and based on Ray's tutorial on printing Post-It Tabs, I used icons from The Noun Project with assistance from The PNG Project to print clear labels to affix to each tab. The circus tent is for home and family--and, yes, my choice of icon is most certainly meant as commentary--where I keep information about my daughter's school, plan family finances, and the like.  The yoga figure is for me (books I want to read, stuff I want to buy, and quilting projects in progress or that I'm dreaming about). The tree is for my Quaker meeting, the apple is for work (I teach), and the calendar is for, well, my calendar!

One of the most difficult things for me to give up about A5 was the ability to print on regular paper, make one cut, punch, and then insert into my binder.  In particular, I learned that I like to keep copies of my course syllabi in my Filo so that I can refer back to them when needed and I despaired that I would ever find a way to print them on personal sized paper. As soon as I figured out that a little trimming and folding would do the trick--an idea I got from Steve's folding experiments I knew that I could make personal size work.

Voila!  It's as simple as turning my binder one click to the right.

Inspired by tutorials from The Perpetual Student and Whispering Rabbit, I made my second extra pen loop by cutting, covering, and punching another A5 Flex loop. As long as I make sure I slide my pen into the loop with the clip facing to the right (which has now become second nature) the pages turn wonderfully, even with the pen inside the rings.  As you can see, this pen loop does double duty as a place to store sticky notes, flags, and tabs.

My calendar is the last section of my binder, which helps keeps the rings from getting in the way of writing. I use week-on-two-pages cotton cream inserts, which, as you can see, I divide with a line down the center. (I use a Uni Style Fit gel ink cartridge in brown black for this, as I find it matches the color of ink used to print the pages nicely enough.) On the side closer to the rings, I write my daily to-do's. On the side further from the rings, I write my appointments (purple for work, aqua for me, orange for my daughter, blue for my husband, and green for travel) and I use my Martha Stewart removable color-coding stickers for birthdays.

Using a clear today ruler helps to ensure that not too much is blocked from view. I love looking at Angela's colorful pages, so each evening, I decorate the day based on its events and my mood.  This is one of my favorite things to do, and it makes me squeal just a little teeny tiny bit every time I look at a completed week spread.

After my calendar is the business card holder that comes with the Holborn, which I have filled with cards that have non-sensitive information on them.  The only failing of my beloved Style Fit pens is that that the particular model I like doesn't come with an eraser.The Seed Slendy + Super Slim eraser, which I keep clipped to the business card holder, solves this problem very well. I use washi tape that I purchased from one of the Etsy sellers recommended by Tracy throughout my Filo, but you see it here being used to keep the release lever for the eraser closed.

I was very attracted to the idea of being able to use my Filofax as a wallet/purse since it would reduce the number of things I would need to carry with me. My one reservation was that I often leave my binder laying open on my desk in my office, where many random students and others come wandering by, and I was fearful that if it was too obviously a wallet, I might come back one day from the water cooler to find it missing. For that reason, I do not store my credit and debit cards in the card slots at the front of the binder, where they would be ultra-visible. Instead, I use the back pockets of the Holborn as my wallet, with cash and coupons in the inward facing pocket and cards in the outward facing pocket.  Without careful examination, it's almost impossible to see that I've got cash and cards in my organizer at all, especially because the pen shields them from view. Notice that I don't have any actual cash in this picture...certainly it's clear from this post where all my money went!  I also keep some stickies here in the back for jotting quick notes that I may later want to stick in my calendar.

And here's the device I hacked to keep my cards organized in the back pocket of my Holborn. I took two inexpensive Day Runner business card holders that I purchased at Staples, cut off the strips with the holes punched on them, and used clear packing tape to fasten the two together. There's plenty of room for all my cards, and the holder stays pretty firmly wedged in the pocket once inserted.

And a few more, just because it's so beautiful.

Thank you all so much for reading.  It's truly an honor to have this post published on Philofaxy.  I'm so grateful for all of the inspiration I've gotten from all of the specific people I've mentioned, as well as many other individuals from this community who have sparked my ideas in ways I can't even pinpoint. You're all the best!

Erin T.


  1. Thanks for such a detailed post, Erin. It's great to see how other people use their organisers. I can't believe you pack so many pens into one Personal. I carry a Frixion in my pen loop as my daily calendar changes so much and very quickly, otherwise I would have several crossings out each workday. Apart from being ugly to look at, it would also mean not being able to re-use the time slots in my page per day. I'd like to carry my
    Fountain pen also, but I don't want to use the thing that sits across the front of the binder (is it the Quiver?). Does anyone know of something that clips into the rings, so the own is held at the opposite end if it, like an insert if some kind? I have an old Lefax with the wraparound flap, so I don't have the problem of modern Filofaxii that the pen loop would be too tight. Failing that, has anyone made their own? Thanks.

    1. I'm going to show my "nerdness" now--I have a personal Malden and I've found that a clear pocket protector fits exactly in the back pocket. It can hold 3 to 4 thick pens and 4-5 thin pens with no leakage to worry about. I don't like to use the loops. I usually use high-end pens and don't like them being held in only by the clip.

  2. That Should say "so the PEN is held at the opposite end". Blame the iPhone.

  3. Erin, great setup and lovely binder! I'm a Quaker too.

    I too used my planner as a wallet but am experimenting with keeping the two separate. I like having the two combined but it gets somewhat annoying to have my filofax in my hand ALL the time. So I'm trying a pocket wallet for a few weeks to see how it works.

  4. I love this Erin, thanks for posting!
    I saw/touched Holborn just once and I couldnt believe how many pockets and how wonderful the leather felt! Your post made me itch again to get one! :D

  5. I love your post and the Holborn. I have the same one, same color and it's indeed buttery soft and smells great. I recognize your A5 to personal journey and have just gone back to the Holborn myself yesterday after giving a Malden A5 a try.
    Your post makes me happy, it's nice to see all the links to different ideas of Philofaxy members and the ideas themselves are useful too. But most of all your set-up is just colorful and fun to look at. And I am glad to find your folding tip, because folding A4 sized papers and sticking them in the outward facing pocket was a little cumbersome.

  6. Nice setup Erin. I enjoyed reading this. Loads of great ideas.

  7. Great post Erin, love the links to all the ideas and your set up is lovely.

    The Holborn really looks a great binder. All the pockets remind me of the Flex concept and it seems to allow for that flexibility, with the way you've added a penloop and credit card holders.

    I love to see the creativity with which everyone customises their Filofaxes.

  8. Great setup - thanks for sharing! :)

    I have the exact same Holborn in wine and I have to say that it seems that it seems to be 'my' perfect Filofax - I just love it; the color, the feel of the leather, the pockets.. Perfect (for now, you never know...) ;)

    Anyway, enjoy your beautiful Holborn! :)

  9. Great Post, Erin. Thanks for all the inspirational details and links. I'm taking away many new ideas. Will definitely try putting the calendar part at the back and dividing the daily boxes in two sides.

    And you definitely made me think here. I guess there really are binders that are less "in your face" beautiful. I wouldn't have given the Holborn a chance before but the longer I look at it the more I admire its simplicity and elegance.

  10. Erin, I really enjoyed reading your post! Thanks so much for letting us tour you gorgeous Holborn. I have a Holborn in black and love it! I was using that one until I bought my ostrich binder. Reading about your binder and seeing how beautifully you have it set-up makes me want to pull mine out to find a use for it. It won't replace my ostrich but I want to put it back in use. Now, my only problem is that I wish I had it in wine too!

  11. Thanks for a great post, Erin. I saw some Holborns at the meet up yesterday & they're a close second after the Maldens for me. I love how many pens you've managed to fit in there :)

  12. Lovely detailed post. Erin your idea for another pen loop is brilliant!!! Love it!

  13. I loved this post, so detailed and inspiring. I'm a Uni gel pen lover too and have one of those 3-barrel ones in pink for my wallet/purse. For my stay-at-home filo, I put them into the Coleto barrels cause I find the Coleto barrels better to write with.

    Lemming the Holborn now! (:

  14. Thanks for sharing. Love your setup!

  15. I absolutely loved your post---and you were very helpful by showing pictures to show us exactly how it turned out. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words!!
    The Holborn is a great binder, and I have found the one with the zip to be especially helpful, as well. I have the zip in personal, which has a few hidden pockets, making that one really good to use as a wallet, even in Personal. I wish I had both versions; the wine color is really a beautiful full bodied wine color-not purple, not orchid.
    Thanks so much for sharing all of your great ideas!!

  16. Thanks so much, everyone! I had almost as good a time writing this post as I did perfecting my setup--I'm so glad that there's this community who is able to enjoy it along with me. Unlike my husband, who is very supportive, but whose glazed-over eyes wordlessly say "If I never have to hear the word 'Filofax' again, it will still be way too soon.'"

  17. I am in love with this post and your Filo. I thought that I had found my one and only Filofax in my Malden...but now...this Holborn...it's just gorgeous. I never thought they were so gorgeous before seeing how you have yours all set up. I love how many pockets it has!!

  18. Thank you for this post and references to others for the Holborn! I am on the edge of a second FF for 2013 dedicated to a certification program I am pursuing as part of my job. I already carry a personal finchley and I am nervous about breaking out to a second planner, but this program is so rigorous I do not think my personal can handle the additional needs. I will go back a review the other post you refer.

  19. Great post Erin, and I think you may have solved my present quandary. Love and adore my A5 Regency as a work mobile office - so much so that I'm yearning to ditch my Debden Personal and replace it with a Filofax version. However the Personal version is missing so much that I love in the A5. After months of search the Net, reading reviews, checking out YouTube, your review has shone the light on the path ahead - The Holborn looks like my salvation... :)