25 November 2019

Compact A5 Organisers

People often say that they would like to try using an A5 organiser but it is too big and bulky for everyday use or to carry around. I think I have found a way of solving this problem. It is something I've been doing for the last 2-3 years. However, what works for me, might not work for you, but read on and see if it might work for you.

Choose a suitable organiser.

We reviewed the new Filofax Chester A5 Compact last week, if you haven't read the review be sure to check it out soon.

For some people the Chester A5 Compact will be out of reach for their pockets. It is indeed quite a high price for a Filofax A5, but there are other solutions that might work for you.

There is of course the Filofax Heritage A5 Compact, but even that might seem expensive for a Filofax A5, so can you do better.

My challenge was to come up with alternatives that are as practical, but considerably less costly than the Filofax Chester A5 Compact.

I looked through my own 'collection' first to get some ideas to show you. Not all of these will be available new, but you should be able to find most of them at reasonable prices on various auction sites or one of the Facebook sales groups.

First of all I looked at any with just 25mm rings and the simpler the internal layout the better.

Ones I came up with are Filofax Original, Filofax Chameleon, and the Filofax Holborn. All of these pass my 'iPad slot in my messenger bag' test. Yes they are fatter than the Chester or the Heritage, but they fit reasonably well.

A5 Original
A5 Holborn
A5 Chameleon

I also have my Van der Spek A5 Custom which has 25mm rings.

In the current Filofax range, you still have the Original, the Lockwood, Nappa and the new Classic Stitch Soft, which has just been added. All with 25mm rings mechanisms.

Looking at previous models the Filofax Luxe and the Filofax Adelphi also look suitable as they both have 20mm rings and therefore they should be fairly compact.

The Filofax Boston A5 also came with 20mm rings. Reviewed by Laurie.

Also worth considering it you really want to be a little bit different is the William Hannah disc-bound leather notebook/planners these have 20mm discs and are even more compact than the equivalent ring organiser.


Once you have decided on which A5 to use, be it one you are already using, but you want to make it more 'compact' or one you have bought in addition to an A5 you already own. The next step is to work out how to use the Compact one as a 'Satellite' organiser to your main one.

This is what I did a few years ago.

The first step it to remove the sections/pages from your current organiser. Lay them out on a table so you can see all the different categories/sections you are using.

For each section decide on how often you access or write in that section. The sections you access constantly on a daily basis should go to one side and the others that you might only access weekly or over longer periods of time should go in to the other side.

When I did this I found the diary section and a few of the notes pages were the only ones I used on a daily/regular basis. The rest much less often, but I still needed access to them.

I therefore moved all of the diary pages and a most of my notes pages in to my 'compact' A5 and left the other sections in my 'main' A5. The 'main' A5 was still on my desk should I need it, but closed most of the time.

The 'compact' A5 though could be open on my desk and when I go out I can easily slip it in to the back pocket of my messenger bag and I have all that I normally need to hand at any time.

If you leave some spare capacity in your 'compact' A5 you can easily exchange pages between the two A5 organisers as required, replacing used notes pages for instance. Transferring say a list or a map in to your compact A5 for travelling etc.

Keeping to the same size and without duplication I have found is the key to the success of splitting my system in this way. What organiser you use for the compact is not critical, there are plenty to choose from and you might already own one already.

Give it a try and see if it works for you.


  1. That's a great, thought-proving post Steve. Many thanks! It is more than seven years since I wrote a two-part guest post here on Philofaxy about my search for truly compact A5. I've still got the A5 Flex that I used in that post.

    I looked at both the Luxe and Adelphi when they came out years ago. Both were clearly aimed at women; the Adelphi in particular, having a big squidgy purse on the back that completely negated the benefit of the smaller rings! Somehow, the Luxe wasn't for me either.

    The Heritage A5 is both compact and has a very simple layout. I'm going to try using that as you suggest for a few weeks! One of my concerns about the new A5 Chester is that 10 plastic credit cards overlapping each other in the front will certainly bulk out the otherwise slim organiser and surely cancel out the benefit of the slim rings?

    The problem with other A5s such as the Holborn (which I also own) is that, whilst the rings are 25mm, adding the covers takes the minimum thickness to about 37mm. I don't own an Original but the thickness of leather in that model may make things even worse!

    One low-cost ringed model you didn't mention is our old friend the Clipbook. Whilst it has 23mm (approx) rings, because there is no additional cover material to add to the rings, the total thickness is only 26mm - almost identical to a 15mm Heritage plus covers! Tim

  2. Is any one selling the binders on here that are been displayed?

    1. See the Adspot page for sales.