Planning: Filofax (01)

Ok, so this is going to be a little different from my sewing posts, but I thought it would be fun to share anyways as I will be doing some crafting. Eventually. This first post will be about my journey into using Filofax as a diary and planner. It is very text heavy (ok, it’s only text today), but I promise I will include photos (possibly even a video!) and crafting tips in next posts on this topic!

I started using a diary for the first time in my final year of primary school. If my memory serves me well, we had one week scheduled to be organised like it would be in high school (side note: there’s no middle school in the Netherlands). This meant that instead of having the same teacher as normal, we would be taught by different people every couple of hours or so (this is a long time ago so I can’t recall the details!). I think parents of classmates were teaching these classes. To keep track of your classes, you had to use a diary and this was part of the leaning experience, I guess to make the transition to high school easier. In my memory my diary was pink and purple but who knows, this is almost twenty five years ago!

At age twelve I went to high school and now I really needed a diary. I remember I made a denim cover for one of my early high school diaries as well as a matching pen sack. Ever since, I’ve bought a new diary every summer to last me for the next academic year. I changed this habit once I finished my PhD and was no longer living life on the academic calendar: I started buying diaries that would last from January through to December.

My current diary is quite small as at the moment I don’t need that much space per day. However, I plan to start tracking my workouts and some other things in my diary so I want more space.

I was in a WHSmith recently and was looking at office supplies when I saw the Filofax stand. I don’t remember ever looking at these specific products before but they looked really well made so my interest was piqued. This led me to do a deep dive online to learn all about Filofax!

I learned that Filofax has been operating for over one hundred years and currently sells a selection of organisers, clipbooks, notebooks etc. as well as some small leather goods. My interest is in the organisers as I want to use one as a diary. These organisers come in a range of sizes from small to large: Mini, Pocket, Personal, a5, and a4. Some of these sizes come in a few variations (check out the Filofax page explaining the different sizes).

The main difference with other diaries is that Filofax is a system with loose pages that are contained in the organiser with a ring binder mechanism, as opposed to the pages being bound into the spine. Filofax, and similar systems, allows you to customise many aspects of the organiser and to do this whenever you want and as many times as you need. You may change jobs and suddenly need a lot more space per day in the diary part of the organiser so you buy a different diary layout (no need to buy a whole new organiser or to copy all your contacts or to-do lists!). Maybe you need a very large contacts section so you insert a bunch of blanks for this whereas someone else may not want contacts in their organiser at all. You can add in lined paper as well as quadrille (grid) paper. You may not want to use the organiser as a diary at all and instead use it for personal notes and sketches. The options are almost endless. And whenever you are done with a week or a month or a quarter and you no longer need to carry those pages with you, you simply remove them from your organiser and either bin those pages or store them at home.

The Filofax system seems like such a smart system that I wish I’d found this when I was still in high school. I do remember spiral-bound diaries and they seemed a bit annoying because the spiral might be in the way when you write on the ‘backside’ of a page, but the benefits of the Filofax may outweigh this (plus, you can remove pages if you want to properly write on their ‘backside’ and then put them back when you are done).

For a diary I imagine the Pocket and Personal size might be the most popular as they both would not take up too much space in your bag. The a5 size also looks appealing as it allows for more space to write notes, make sketches, as well as offer more space for daily plans for people who have a lot of appointments every day.

Not only can you choose a size to suit your needs, you can also pick a style (‘collection‘) that suits your aesthetic best. I found that these collections seem to somewhat change over time, but the sizes appear to be a static element. In addition to the aesthetic, every collection also has it’s own inner design with a specific layout of various kinds of pockets on the inside of the flaps of the organiser.

My preference right now, if I were to buy new, would probably be to buy from the Original collection in the colour black. The Midnight Blue is also beautiful but just wouldn’t really go with my fashion style. But as a vegan I try to avoid buying new leather items anyways. Also, I don’t want to spend £100-200 on getting both sizes I’d like to try out (the Personal and a5). So, I decided to look for something secondhand.

I have no issue buying something that’s been owned/used by someone before me: most of my clothes were bought secondhand. So are most of my furniture, books, and crockery. In order to save a bunch of money I spent some time trawling Depop, Vinted, and Ebay to see what it would cost me to get the Personal as well as the a5 size secondhand but in good condition.

I didn’t find any secondhand ‘Original’ organisers in black in the Personal or a5 size, but I did find these sizes from the ‘Metropol’ collection, in black! This collection is made from faux leather but I read online that they age quite well (the only reason I would consider leather). I bought both from two different sellers and they should be in pre-owned but (very) good condition.

After watching some videos and reading reviews I learned that the pages that you use up, such as diary pages, to-do lists, lined paper, blank paper, meal planners etc., are called inserts or refills. These are offered by Filofax. There are other companies that make Filofax-compatible inserts and they might have a slightly different offering than Filofax. Some people make their own inserts, and Filofax offers the option to design your own refill.

In addition to the inserts, you also want to have some dividers. These will help you to quickly navigate to the right section of the organiser. As with the inserts, the dividers can be bought from Filofax as well as other companies. There are also crafters who sell their hand-made dividers online.

Being the crafter that I am, I will be making my own dividers and probably also some of my own inserts. The only insert I bought is a diary/calendar pack because that just seemed much cheaper to buy than to go through the hassle of making yourself (and for it to be accurate!). But I intend to make my own to-do list, coloured lined paper, and plain paper inserts.

I have made a small start: I printed off some labels to fit on the tabs of the dividers I intend to make. I have spare photos and thick paper so I should be able to make what I want with things I already have laying around. Stay tuned for a next post in which I will show how I make this stuff!

By Alex

I have been crafting since early childhood and currently do mostly sewing and illustration. 'Almalauha' is the project I started to showcase my sewing/fashion hobby, at least that was the plan. But because I like a million different arts/crafts things, I'm just going to share most of the creative things I do on this blog.


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