21 August 2016

Reader Under the Spotlight - Cathy

Today I would like to introduce you to Cathy 

My name is Cathleen ("Cathy") and my husband and I live in a very small town (one general store--that's it!) in the outer suburbs of Boston, MA. Neither of us are New Englanders by birth, but we've lived here so long that it feels like it's our hometown.

I'm a college professor, involved in teacher education, and I love it. I usually get to teach small or very small groups of students, and I get great pleasure seeing them develop into good teachers.  I'm an avid reader, and during time off, I'm usually hunting to find new used or independent bookshops.

My husband and I both enjoy travelling near and far, which is a good thing because our family--siblings, nieces and nephews--live scattered all over the United States. I have a weakness for anything related to planners, stationery, pens and pencils, and whenever I visit somewhere new, locating the nearest stationery shop is always at the top of my list.

A year or so ago, I found Philofaxy, and I look forward to reading the posts each morning alongside my morning coffee. 

1. When did you buy your first organiser and what was it?

I bought my first Filofax sometime in the mid or late 1990s.  It was a personal size red Windsor, and I still have it.  I had always used paper planners, notebooks, and the like, but I never had a "real" planner until that time.  

2. Out of the organisers you own which is your current favourite (Style and Size)?

I have two favorite planners currently.  I had read so much about Van der Spek planners here that I saved up for them.  The first one I bought is an A5 Touch Me light brown planner. The second one is the personal size Van der Spek un-dyed planner.   

3. How many Filofax or other brands of organisers do you own?

In addition to the two Van der Spek binders, I have the following:
  1. A personal size red Windsor  (my first, from the 1990s)
  2. A personal size brown Holborn
  3. A personal size black Durham
  4. A personal size brown Portland
  5. A personal size black calf leather Filofax without any name
  6. An A5 black Domino
  7. An A5 raspberry Finsbury
  8. An A5 red Belgravia
I've been lucky because other than the red Windsor, the Van der Speks, and the raspberry Finsbury, I've been able to get the rest all used through e-bay at very low prices.

4. What do you use your organisers for?

I use the Van der Spek A5 Touch Me as my teaching/work binder.  The rings are really generous, and I can fit lots and lots of class notes, calendars, project notes, meeting notes in it.  As many people have remarked, the pocket lay out is excellent, and I really like the large full length pocket in the back.  I often stick meeting agendas or handouts there.  The only drawback is that it's quite heavy.  This academic year, I'm hoping to adjust my system so that I can leave that binder in my campus office during the week. 

My personal size Van der Spek undyed binder is my daily planner. I've had it since the spring, and I take it with me everywhere, and I'd be lost without it.

I'm not currently using the red Windsor, but I'm keeping it for sentimental reasons.

The brown Holborn is used when we travel.  It has so many pockets that I can easily keep my passport and any other tickets.  There is also a zipped pocket for currency and lots of space to take notes. 

The personal Durham is my notes binder.  I take lots of notes in my daily planner.  When my current planner starts to get filled, I file them in the Durham, using the A-Z file. 

I had been using the brown Portland as my everyday planner until I got my Van der Spek.  If/When I decide to switch out of the Van der Spek (maybe in the winter?), I'll use that again as my daily planner. 

The personal black calf leather binder is for storing inserts.

The A5 Domino is another teaching binder.  It holds notes from courses I've taught and will teach again in the 2017-18 academic year. 

The raspberry Finsbury is our home binder.  I use an A-Z file and store house information, including our passwords, family addresses, contacts for car, home repair, etc, and info on major purchases.    

I use the A5 Belgravia to store monthly and weekly calendar inserts. 

5. How many sections do you have in your organiser and what is each section used for?

For my daily planner, I have the following sections:
  • a laminated dashboard
  1. a year at a glance calendar (downloaded from www.wendaful.com)
  2. a few blank sheets of paper to capture ideas, reminders, everything until I process them in the appropriate section.
  3. a few blank sheets for grocery lists
  4. monthly pages, a year's worth
  5. a few blank sheets for recurring chores/tasks (e.g. "Get gas."  "Do laundry." "Defrost chicken.")  I put the tasks on small sticky notes so I can re-use them. 
  6. a few weekly meal planning sheets
  7. 2 weeks' worth of 2-page-per-day sheets.  I modified the grid page provided by Philofaxy to make my own undated pages.  I put them in the middle of the binder to make it easier to write on them. 
  8. a few blank sheets for weekly goals
  9. 3 months' worth of weekly pages, vertical style.
  10. Notes.  I label each note sheet by letter on the top right hand side so I can easily recognize the topic. 
6. If you could design your own Filofax what would it feature?

I really like the external snap pocket on the Durham, so I'd include that on my own Filofax.  I'd also include Krause rings and the full-length pocket that the Van der Spek has. 

7. What's your favourite Filofax tip or hack?

I've gotten so many great ideas from reading Philofaxy that it's hard to pick just one.  The most important of all, though, was learning through Philofaxy that I could rearrange, create my own sections, and personalize my planner.  A few other quick ones are:
  • Use inexpensive memo pads for the quick, non-permanent lists (capture lists, grocery lists, etc.) and save the expensive paper for permanent notes.
  • Use differently colored paper in the notes section or for current projects.  I recently returned from a conference in Vancouver, Canada, and I wrote all of my travel and prep notes on lavender paper. I could find them very easily in my notes section both when I was prepping for the conference and when I was there. 
  • Cut up transparent folders to use as dividers. I had very thin, plastic folders and cut them down to use as dividers.  They divide sections without adding bulk. 
8. Have you ever attended a Philofaxy meet-up? if not do you intend to one day?

No, but if there's ever one in the Boston, MA area, I would love to attend. 

9. What was the last movie you watched?

Eye in the Sky with Alan Rickman and Helen Mirren.  It was bittersweet viewing, as Alan Rickman is my favorite actor and it was his last film. 

10. What was the last book you read?

I just finished The Last Days of Dogtown by Anita Diamant and A Question of Attraction by David Nicholls.

Thank you Cathy for such a detailed post. 

As you know we are always looking for new people to appear in our 'Reader Under Spotlight feature, you don't have to be 'well known' or a long term user to be considered to appear in this 'spot'.

So please contact Steve philofaxy at gmail dot com today. Thank you.


  1. Hey Cathy, such a thorough post. I really enjoy reading it and you presented some great ideas on how to use multiple planners!

    1. Thank you, Fran. I'm glad you found it helpful!

  2. I love your teacups dashboard! Where is the image from?

    1. Thanks, Bonnie. I love those teacups, too. It's from a card I bought at the Royal Crescent gift shop in Bath on a trip I took last year. I cut it in half, hole punched it and had it laminated. Unfortunately, I didn't save the back of the card, so I'm not sure where the images are from.

  3. Replies
    1. Thanks, Rebecca. I really enjoy your YouTube videos!

  4. Enjoyable post, Cathy. It would be interesting to hear from educators why they would recommend a planner to their students, and what suggestions the educator has for a student.