What's your personal kit?

RenArt Moleskine+3x5In my post about my workplace gear, I noted that there had been a certain divergence between the gear I use in the office and the gear I use for my own personal and creative time. Essentially, the office gear is quite polished and uses a Circa system as a base, complete with fancy zip folio and plenty of DIYP forms, while my personal gear is far more... raw.

I've always maintained that structure is important when you have a lot to take on and keep organized, and having a well-built planner (whether digital or analogue) is key to that. But --although my home life does require some degree of organisation-- it's far less than the myriad projects I have to manage for work. In fact, some simple to-do lists and a calendar is about all I need, along with the occasional contact look-up. Thus, part of my kit is a few DiyP HipsterPDA Action cards and a month-view calendar. I copy down pertinent appointments and to-do items so that I can ferry them and sync with my other planner and online tools as needed.

A far bigger concern for me is creativity. Now, creativity comes in many forms, and that's one of the reasons why I created the DiyP Creative Pack, which is a separate pack in Classic and integrated into the HipsterPDA size pack. Having those prompts can help you manage plots, devise (and remember) characters, keep tabs on story props (like that elusive Holy Grail you keep losing), shuffle your storyboards (did Han shoot before or after?), and otherwise structure your ideas. So, part two of my kit: a selection of DiyP creative cards, which may vary according to the project I'm concentrating on.

But not everything is about form. Absence of form is just as important sometimes. I need scratch paper, I need places to jot idle thoughts, I need blank areas to mind-map and doodle. Thus a pocket-size plain Moleskine with a few blank (and cheap) index cards in the back pocket is a constant companion. At any time as I run about the house or down the block, I just grab this notebook. I should note that this is not quite a journal, not quite a toss-away notebook. I write the occasional journal entry or sketch out an idea, but I also give into my compulsive list-keeper tendencies, and so the pages tend to fill with lists of some intrinsic value, such as books I want to read or movies I have to watch. Contacts, important dates, birthday ideas, and so on round out the rest. That way, I don't have the "oh, it's a journal so I can't write anything in it unless it's extremely important" syndrome, which generally produces a sacred book with only two entries over the course of year.

Okay, now my favourite parts of the kit. I like a sense of heritage, to feel as if my daily life has a connection with the past, a legacy to stand upon. People venturing into my office look around and joke that I'm running a stationery store, and sometimes ask what I actually use. I show them my Circa folio, then quickly point out that it's mainly for work hours. When I show them what I use for home, they tend to be quite surprised. No bright orange Rhodia pad, no fancy disc-based notebook, no multi-hued plastic cover system for me. What I use could have been used a hundred years ago.

Notwithstanding the well-marketed (and --ahem-- suspect) heritage of the Moleskine notebook, the other two parts have a unique heritage that looks and feels authentic. First, I use a fountain pen. Not generally a modern one from the 60's on (although I certainly do love my Lamy 2000 and AL Star pens), but one that's at least 80 years old. Last week my pen of choice was a Waterman 52 from about 1920, crafted of black hard rubber and a flexible gold nib; I love this one despite the occasional blob of ink it leaks from the nib when it's nearly empty. Because of the smooth lines with wide variation (the tines of the nib spread with a little pressure), you'll likely never mistake the writing of this pen with any other. I've partially restored this old beauty as a user, not a collector piece, since the chasing (the engraved pattern) has long since worn smooth. My current favourite, a green 1927 Sheaffer Life-Time flat top, has a much stiffer gold nib but writes as smooth as butter. I'm still in the process of restoring this one, but a little brownish discolouring around the bottom of barrel will mean it will likely stay as one of my prime user pens. Both of these pens were unusable with badly-bent nibs when I got them, but I managed to burnish them straight, install new sacs and fix the ink flow, the end result being that I could enjoy them as someone likely did eight decades ago. The fact that I was a complete rookie when I restored them --rather successfully, to my great astonishment-- makes the quality of the writing experience all the more special to me.

RenArt Moleskine+3x5

But these pieces all need a way of coming together in a way that's consistent with the old-fashioned quality I insist on, and that's the role of the key piece of my kit: a (take a breath for a long name) Renaissance Art 3x5 index card and pocket size Moleskine cover, which I occasionally lovingly refer to as RA35ICPSMC or simply "my thing". I carnally love this thing. The dark brown leather is just a little rough, the scent of the tanning and dye still lingers subtly in the nostrils, and the construction looks strong enough to saddle a horse with. It holds the index cards at left, has a pocket for more beneath them, and holds the Moleskine and a pen at right. A nice sturdy black leather fold-over closure keeps the whole thing securely closed without any worry about papers or cards falling out. (See Innowen's review for more details.)

So what I have is a nice little sturdy kit that measures less than 6.5"x5"x1.5 and that can easily slip into my well-worn Eddie Bauer guide bag or my small Derek Alexander messenger bag, both leaving plenty of room for gadgets like a digital camera, an iPod Touch (where I keep my contacts, by the way), and a Flip video camera. Maximum creativity, medium organization, minimum load.

Do you keep a separate kit for home or creative use? Let us know what's in your kit bag.

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Ooh, pretty.

I like the look of that RenArt cover. I'm tempted.

I'm disabled and don't work, so my only kit is a personal one. It's simple -- a Circa compact translucent notebook with a couple of accessories I got on sale, and a pocket Moleskine.

The Circa notebook has one of those Levenger dual pen clips on the front for a pen and mechanical pencil. I love my fountain pens, but right now I'm enjoying a Pilot Precise V5 RT in blue. It's not the prettiest pen, but I love writing with it. The pencil is a cheap Office Depot store brand model. I have yet to find a pencil I love. The notebook is for my calendar, a few reference pages, and task lists. When I start back to school I'll add an assignments section.

The Moleskine has a booksling (recommended in a thread on the DIYP forums, actually) holding a purple-ink Pilot Precise V5. It's my journal and idea book. All the creative stuff goes in there.

I have a Palm Tx that goes with me everywhere, too, but that's for music and contacts and photos and games. I also use it for writing (along with a folding keyboard) and email/web when out at coffeeshops. I stopped using the calendar and to-do functions ages ago.

My Canon Elph sits next to the Palm in my purse. I can carry a small bag, but if I do then I have to carry a separate bag for my knitting. Right now I'm using a larger handbag that hold notebooks, gadgets, a book, AND my knitting. Slightly annoying to be carrying something bigger, but it's more convenient that juggling two bags. Of course, I'll probably change my mind yet again next week and go back to two bags. And then switch again a week later. I waffle a lot over my bags. :)

Some kit

Heh. What kit? *sigh*

The piece that stays the same is my rolla 3x5 address book and password hint book. It goes with me everywhere except shopping.

I have to use outlook for work, so that's my whole calendar. I don't have enough personal outside that to merit a whole other calendar just for personal use.

For a few days now I've been experimenting with a daily scratch sheet inspired by Dave Seah. I made my own version of his ETP that doesn't have any little tracking bubbles. It's got the day down the left (I have it sectioned into planned and actual just for kicks), the top three sets of three tasks on the top right, and a big grid in the bottom right for notes and scribbles. It actually works better than I thought, so I might make a book out of that when I have to go work somewhere other than my desk. Not really necessary, since each day is a throwaway these days, once I transfer the important stuff to the next day or digital. This is letter size, so it's kinda big to be carrying around.

I have a leather classic circa foldover in navy. Right now that's serving as book notes for some books I'm reading that are workbook-y. I made another classic book (paperboard cover) that's waiting for a purpose. I might make that into a zentangles book or something, not real sure. I just made the book because I felt like it. :)


Personal Kit

After spending 3 years using the Circa system (with the receipts to prove it), I've found that it was almost too fluid to fit my needs. While the removable pages were great in theory, I felt as though I was continually maintaining the system. My planner itself was perfectly organized. Putting the notes in an easily-referenced system while maintaining the chronological integrity of the notes proved difficult.

I've slowly transitioned my system(s) to a 4x6 hipster PDA and Black n Red notebooks for reference. I have three reference notebooks (work, personal, and academic), which I index by topic every Friday. I've tried other notebooks, but the Black n Red are the perfect size for my needs and takes my fountain pen ink wonderfully. I've even invested in leather cover to dress things up for important business meetings (Levenger Infinity journal cover, FYI). The 4x6 cards give me a bit of breathing room to write, while still fitting in my pocket when needed. I keep my calendar, email, and contacts online, courtesy of Google Apps.

This has been an important step in simplifying my organizational system, and it doesn't require nearly as much upkeep as my Circa did. It's working for me quite well.


My take-along kit

I carry a 4x6 DIY circa-punched hpda. I print my office calendar (includes both work and personal appointments) onto 4x6 index cards, a section for to-do's, a section for each child and their school needs/dental and medical updates, and a list of important phone numbers.

I often covet the beautiful covers offered by RenArt, but recognize begrudgingly that the need for a lightweight and slim hpda trumps beauty and the heft of a handcrafted cover. I troll the dollar stores in the area, looking for 4x6 photo albums I can cut apart to use their covers and allow cover changes at a whim. I've also used plastic placemats (mentioned elsewhere on this site) to use as covers.

I have to admit, it can be a challenge making sure the hpda and the work calendars are in sync. I often think I can make this process more efficient, but acknowledge the act of writing things down twice or three times even makes it easier for me to remember.


Question re a RenArt product

I keep looking at the 'pouchette' for the 4X6 index cards -- I just love the way it looks, though I don't use 4X6 cards. I'm thinking, though, that I could adapt one into being the perfect 'clutch' to carry inside my big tote purse, just a little thing to grab and take when running off to lunch or whatever.

Er, this the url, I never learned how to do real links, sorry:

What I'm thinking is, I would carry only a couple of dozen 3X5 cards in it, which would leave room to slide in, oh, a small spiral bound notebook behind them, and a few bills and a couple of credit cards. And the extra length would allow me to carry several 'mini' pilot pens, because I love to color code stuff. You know, 'standing up' at one end beyond the index cards. Maybe even slide in a lipstick. ;)

Anyway, the only picture is of the front, closed. Could I prevail on you to add one with the flap opened so I can see the inside and how the sides 'work'. I mean, how low they're cut, whether they are creased/belied in/whatever?

Oh, and also a shot of the back, if there is any feature there. Like one of the 3X5 cases has an extra pocket on the back, anything like that.


You mean this one ?

said the silly admin after unspamming it.

I added you to the "notaspammer" group. You should now be able to post links with less fear of the Spam Filter.
"I think the surest sign that there is intelligent life out there in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us." (Calvin and Hobbes/Bill Waterson)

You are wonderful!


Please !!

My wifey might be watching !
"I think the surest sign that there is intelligent life out there in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us." (Calvin and Hobbes/Bill Waterson)

Help! post eaten by the spam filter

At least, I guess it was. :(

It was posted in this thread just a few minutes ago, title something like "Question about a RenArt product." and I did include the url of the product I was asking about.

If someone could please resurrect that post for me, I'd be grateful.

(I though I was on the 'not a spammer' list already?)

4X6 pouchette

The Moleskine pouch and pouchette are smaller than their 4X6 counterpart.


Nice creative kit Doug

It's great that you've found a kit suits you.

My workplace encourages paper personal organising as it's impossible to connect any electronic devices (palms etc) to the work system. But being somewhat regimented at work has definitely made me less formal about my home and creative planner.

My home planner is "dinky" because I've discovered that if it's average or large sized ('personal'/A5 size or larger) then I'll leave it at home and won't use it.

So, I've got a cute little 2 inch long mechanical pencil I found at a weekend market (sorry, no packaging and no brand name so I don't know where it's from, although China is a good bet). With a Moleskine pocket diary (the vertical kind with note pages) and a few blank stickynotes in the back of the diary in case the notepages aren't enough space.

I was carrying a fobster and 3x5 cards, but I transferred the Fobster info onto labels I stuck into the diary and I found that I wasn't using the cards.

3 x 5 Cover

Hi doug,

an excellent review of an excellent product; so much so that i went to their website to order one......
unfortunately their postage to UK is nearly as much as the cover itself and that makes it a little too expensive. Anyone know of a UK supplier or a simmilar item obtainable in UK ?


My kit ATM

My kit consist of a cloth type of Circa PDA cover. I have 5 divisions. Next Actions- Considering im a student I have my homework written down in my next actions. It just has a bunch of lined paper. Hard Landscape- In mine I labeled it To-Do, Agenda, Projects. I have a monthly calendar, to-do list, and 2 project cards with lined paper backing them for some notes :) Reference- I have in here To buy list, Addresses, Passwords :O, and some circa message pads (Its like a paper based email. Sounds stupid but pretty useful) Tools- My favorite part! I have a ruler 4 1/2 inches, Morse code reference (use this alot to pass notes in class), Some flags (Arrows, Normal, Big ones), Some post it's, A pocket with a big sheet of paper inside (always comes in handy), And last but not least my Inbox-Bunch of blank sheets (Filled with doodles LOL). I love my Circa PDA its awesome use it everyday! TOTALLY RECOMMEND IT!. I also bought a Moleskine red planner which I have not used yet considering its from 2009. Looks nice and I love the little stickers. I bought this one because ive been using moleskine sketchbooks and notebooks for years and I decided to get one of these. For note taking in class I use a circa letter size notebook (not the fancy one, considering i stuff it in my bookback it will get damaged). I love this Circa im still working on setting it up GTD for now I just have notes and tools. I mostly use a vintage Conway Stewart pen from about 1937 its beautiful. The pen is a beauty. I also use this old waterman W3 which I got in london for about $10 USD! Im planning on getting a leather circa but Im ordering it from rollabind (MUCH CHEAPER!!!!!!!!!!)