Planner Party Feed

A Fresh Start: My 2016 (Homemade) Planner

Fresh start button final
Planners are an important tool for multi-tasking, care-taking mamas, and they're always a popular topic of conversation. (Case in point, my bulging "Calendars and Planners" archive!) Well, today I'd like to show you the planner I'm using for 2016, and you're probably not surprised to hear it's homemade ... ;)

(Now, I'm going to try my best not to be overly wordy, but we are, after all, talking about one of my passions!)

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So I started with a notebook I really liked ... loved, in fact, upon first sight. Funny thing was, I had just had a "planner" bound for myself at Staples the week before, filled with favorite loose-leaf and pretty scrapbook paper, when I came across the above beauty at the Paper Source. It was a nice size and weight - easy to hold in one hand (so, portable) and sturdy. The paper itself was gorgeous - a comfortable off-white, lightly-lined, and trimmed in a shimmery silk. The bindings, made of a copper metallic, were strong and tight and the cover ... well, it just wowed me. At the time of my "discovery" I was out Christmas shopping with Bill, and I just looked at him, notebook in hand, and with a big smile said, "Merry Christmas to me?

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(Here's the notebook set on a file folder to give you a better idea of its size: 7.5 x 9.875").

My long-time tussle over planners has played out something like this: commercial planners, while undeniably beautiful, never quite fit my "exact" needs. (And, when it comes to planners, I can be a bit exacting, lol.) Homemade planners can be tailored to my own specifications but tend to come out a bit too oversized to be practical, and I've never liked the plastic binding to be honest. They're also, admittedly, rather time-consuming to create ... though I do enjoy the work of it. So I decided this particular (and very pretty) notebook was simply made to be a planner and by golly, I was going to be the one to make it! :)

So here's what I did ...

Planner on side

First I counted the pages and determined a weekly spread would fit well in this book, with plenty of room for seasonal planning. (This is what I've found lacking in most planners - seasonal organization and workspace.) I also listed out the events of note for which I need to plan this year. Then I worked in the very back of the book on a "dummy" design ... starting with a wish-list of all I'd want to SEE in my weekly planning, measuring columns and counting lines, etc. And, once I nailed it, I divided the notebook into seasonal sections, including room for each planning project. Then I added monthly tabs for structure and convenience ...

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And colorful flags to denote event/project planning sections ...

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(Some events fall within the seasons themselves, while other projects are set in the back of the planner.)

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Inside the front cover I adhered a year-at-a-glance calendar for handy reference (a printable found online), and the first page (a bit blurred out for privacy) serves as a title page, with my personal and emergency information (name, address, email, phones, kids, who to call ...). I named my planner "My Yearbook," but I also like thinking of it as an almanac of sorts ... eventually filled with all my annual "doings" and seasonal observations.

Planner title


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The next pages are for my New Year's planning ... a quote for our family "word of the year" and then an overview of monthly events - from recurring holidays and full moons, to things like inspection stickers, tax collections, and jury duty. Then I listed out my own personal resolutions (or "goals" as I prefer to call them) on the next page.

Planner goals for new year

Beside each goal I made small, succinct notes for next steps to take - i.e. how to make the goal happen. These will get funneled into the planner itself. (Yes, I'm confessing to you all, by sharing this photo, that my old pants don't fit me ... but we're all friends here, right? Lol.)

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Now we get to the meat of the meal! On the next pages we find my first seasonal planning section of the year (Deep Winter: January-February). On the left side I (washi-) taped a folded copy of my Deep Winter Overview, which I shared in my "printables" post. This is a breakdown of seasonal notes, things to focus on, each week. (There is space on the front of the fold for more notes.) On the right side I have a page for listing more practical concerns - household tasks, projects and goals. As you can see, I've only started filling in this section!

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I used a lot of washi tape and coordinating fine-point markers, as well as several kinds of post-it notes to add color and vibrance to my planner. I think it makes the pages pop. :)

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After the seasonal overview comes my monthly calendars. Now these (12 in all) took me a while to create, but I'm so pleased with how they came out! I used the Pages application on my Macbook (just as I did with the printables mentioned above) and chose seasonal shades, quotations and vintage clipart for embellishment. THIS was such fun - if perhaps a bit fiddly - and I love how they look! I printed each month out and cut it to fit the planner page and then simply taped it down. Not the slickest looking calendar you've ever seen I'm sure, but boy do I love it! :)

Now comes the weekly planning spreads for this season ...

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My weekly agenda allows a column for each day of the week, as well as one for tasks and to-dos. I like a Monday-Sunday rhythm because Sunday is the "dessert" in my week. :) I used a ruler and pencil and then a Sharpie marker for color. Yes, I did this by hand - 52 times - and yes, it took quite a while. But you know what? I enjoyed it ... I found it kind of soothing. I would work on this when I had quiet times (like now, with Little Bear sleeping beside me) and I would think about each week as I drew its planning page ... and pray for it, as corny as that might sound. I "visited" each week of the year in my mind and breathed hope into those days, and asked God to bless them with His grace and guidance. So it was good work, I think, all in all. Time well spent. 

Let's take a closer look at the agenda itself:

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The start date is noted in the top left-hand corner for reference, and the first column lists things I need to do sometime THIS week. On the very top lines I listed this month's housekeeping zone and the individual tasks to focus on that week.

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There are quotes peppered in the generous white space above the agenda - they reflect the week's seasonal theme (winter stars, here - warming drinks and birthdays, below). Weather and nature notes are scribbled along the far left margin. I leave a check next to each date as we move along in the week.

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Along the righthand margin (tough to see in these pics) I have the time ordered from 7 a.m. - 9 p.m. This allows me to write appointments and activities in the daily columns in a timely manner.

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Above each date I write what is "of note" that day: a birthday, a feast day, a full moon ...

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Beneath the to-do list is a place where I can check off everyday repetitive tasks as I complete them. I had a post-it note for this in my domestic journal, but it makes sense to move it here. I started doing this when I had to keep track of medicine for my special needs son, and it helps remind me what still needs doing in my day. The next section of this column is for recording money spent through the week. 

Each day's column is split into agenda (top half), supper, and to-dos. The to-do's include, first, my housekeeping calendar chores (the ones from those index cards, you may remember?). The very bottom line across the whole agenda is for planning my posts here at the blog. :)

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In the Deep Winter section of my planner there are nine weeks (1/4-2/28) and one planning section for Lent. Here is where I will plan out our family Lenten journey and activities. I've allowed two spreads (page turns) for this project.

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And next we have the second season of the year: Early Spring! (March & April)

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And several pages for planning Holy Week and Eastertide ...

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Late Spring! (May & June)

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High Summer! (July & August)

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In late August there is a planning section for Back-to-School notes. I adore that washi tape!

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And then we have Early Autumn! (September & October)

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A couple of pages for Hallowmass planning ... includes Halloween, All Saints and All Souls.

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Late Autumn! (November & December)

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And here we have space for Thanksgiving planning ...

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I love that turkey! :)

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There are purple-lined pages for planning out Advent ...

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And, of course - space for Christmas plans! This section is several pages long ...

And after the last week of the year (12/26-1/1) I have planning sections for: Blogging, Gardening, A Certain Party We're Hosting, Vacation/Travel, Gift Ideas and Miscellaneous Notes. I can add more tabs for projects as they come up through the year - there are plenty of pages back there!

A note on the monthly tabs (which are made by Avery and are adhesive) - I place them on the page where the first of the month falls. So, the January tab is placed on the weekly spread for 12/28-1/3 and the March tab is on the spread for 2/29-3/6, etc. They lead me, not to the monthly calendars, but to where my weekly planning starts for each month.

Oh, and by the way ... that notebook I had bound at Staples? The one with the loose-leaf and vintage paper? I have an idea how I'll use it, so it will not go to waste ... :)


Well, I am sure there is more I could say about my planner but in the interest of time (mine and yours) I will bring this post to a close. I know many of you are planner junkies like myself, so I hope you enjoyed the tour ... and for everyone else, I hope I didn't bore you too much! ;)

I'd love to hear your thoughts or any questions you might have, and I will be happy to talk more about my planner and seasonal planning in future posts AS WELL AS during the planning chat I'm doing with Mystie and Jen on Saturday! That's just two days away, so don't forget to sign up! You can listen in live (and ask questions) and/or watch the video after it's recorded. We're meeting quite early to chat - 10 a.m. EST! - so you can be sure I'll have a mighty large cup of coffee in hand! It should be such fun!

Well my friends, as always, I thank you for stopping by and I wish you all a pleasant evening ...

See you here again very soon!

Our Planning Chat Replay

Planning is such a fun thing to do ... and talk about! And it's something I talk about here a lot as you all know! Well, yesterday I took part in a wonderful live planning chat with two lovely ladies, Mystie from Simplified Organization and Jen from Wildflowers & Marbles. We discussed many different aspects of planning and how we organize our days ... including how we handle it when our days are, perhaps, not quite so organized! We also took live questions from the folks following along, but you can still watch a replay of our talk, if you'd like!

You can access that here:

Live Chat Workshop: Planners, Processes & Problems

If there are any follow-up questions I can address, or points from the talk I can expand upon or clarify, please leave me a comment or drop me a note:

bysunandcandle AT gmail DOT com

I look forward to discussing more "planning points" soon ... because the New Year is at our doorstop! And I am all about getting myself and my planning ready to roll ... but for now, I wish you all a very good day!

Vintage birds on branch

See you here again sometime soon ...

Monday Memo: More Planner Chat!

Happy Monday, my friends! I hope your weekend was a good one!

Ok, first up: some not-so-good news. I'm afraid my Advent Tea post will not be up later today, because "Mama time" (aka, blogging and teatime!) has been rather thin on the ground lately. My family has been hit with a nasty cold virus, and needless to say it has really "gummed up the works" around here! Thankfully though, the bug seems to move pretty quickly ... Little Bear is feeling much better this morning after a blessedly long night of sleep. Sleep is such a good thing, isn't it? It's probably the best thing we can do for our immune systems - get good sleep!

Anyhoo, I hope to have a fresh pot of Advent Tea ready to serve one day later this week - hopefully tomorrow! - at our usual time, just as the late autumn sun slips low in the sky. We'll be talking about Christmas tree traditions and I'd love to hear about yours!


But now for some really FUN news! Are you all ready for some more planner talk? :)

Well ... a week from tomorrow I will be participating in a "live chat workshop," hosted by Mystie Winckler at Simplified Planning! Mystie has invited me, along with Jen Mackintosh of Wildflowers & Marbles, to talk with her about one of our favorite subjects ...

Planning talk graphic

I am so excited! (And a little nervous too, to be honest ...) But I think it will be a such fun!

 We'll be talking about "planners, crates, apps, calendars, brain dumps, habits, goals, and more!" Such good stuff, right?! And there will even be a chat box where you can ask questions during the live workshop, too. I'm amazed by the whole process, honestly. I think Mystie and Jen are great ladies with fantastic blogs and I am just completely honored to have been asked to join them! Our workshop is scheduled for Tuesday, December 15th at 4 p.m. EST.

Now, here is a link to the page where you can find out more and sign up to access to the live chat. You will also receive a link for the replay and an e-mail reminder on the day of the workshop. And if you have things you know you'd like to hear me talk about - planning topics we've covered in the past, tools I use or have made, such as the file crate - please let me know in the comments below. I'm trying to organize my "stuff" and my thoughts beforehand so I'm ready to go!

Well, that's all for now, my friends ... I'm off to tend my family and work on getting everyone feeling better. Soup and grilled cheese for lunch, I think ... and lots of fruit juices! I hope to see you all tomorrow though, and I wish you all a very good day. :)

Planner Party ~ Link up!

Good Friday morning, my friends, and Happy Weekend! I just wanted to pop in quickly and link you all up to a wonderful planner post written by Jennifer at Wildflowers and Marbles:

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A Planner Post: How I Plan and a Review of a Few New Planner Goodies

Jennifer gives a fantastic (and beautiful!) overview of how she uses her Erin Condren planner ... and oh my goodness, she has an exciting giveaway in the works, too! (As well as a coupon you can use towards an EC order!) I am sooo tempted to really investigate an EC planner - I am so drawn to those gorgeous colors and that thoughtful layout! Jennifer's post has also inspired me as I trudge along trying to tweak my own planner ... so helpful to see how she uses a planner and what she likes about it - how it fits with her own planning style.

Now see this is why I love sharing planners with each other! The more we "show and tell," the more we inspire and encourage each other! We might find a new planner or a "tweak" we had not thought of before ... and of course, there's that wonderful sense of camaraderie. So many thanks to Jennifer for sharing this excellent post ... I highly suggest grabbing yourself a nice cup of tea (or coffee!) and sitting down with this lovely post at your earliest opportunity ... I definitely plan to when the little guy naps later today!

Before I go, here is a brief quote from Jennifer's post ... I LOVE her thoughts here: 

"Whatever your planner preference, whether you work just fine out of an inexpensive spiral notebook or you have an elaborate schemata of post-it notes, remember that God is a God of order – not chaos and confusion. Write it down. Set a goal. List it. Plan it. Scratch it out and keep moving it forward if you have to … but keep trying."


Wise words, Jennifer! I think whatever we do to plan, it's our motivation that's the important thing. I might keep trying (and failing) to get it "perfect," but I know that I'm striving to create order for myself and my family. Because with order we can put the important things first in our life. Sure, I get silly about the paper and stickers and pens and whatnot, but it's all for a greater good. It's a way of thanking Him for all he has blessed me with - this time, this place, these people. I try to be a good steward of these gifts ... even if the "paraphernalia" does get me sidetracked sometimes! ;)

Well friends, I'm off to tend to my kiddos and get to work on our family's weekend plan ... I hope you enjoy the rest of your Friday ...

See you here again very soon!

Tea Parties & Plans ...

Oak leaves branch

Good Thursday morning, my friends! I hope your week's going well. :)

First up - in Planner Party news, I'm eager to hear from more of you and am very happy to share more planner posts, so if you have some thoughts or pics to share, please send them to me at:

bysunandcandle AT gmail DOT com

I have a bit more to share on the subject myself - in fact, I'm currently working on a post about my binder tabs ... but of course, mid-way through I decided to completely overhaul the whole thing. ;) So that post will be up soon, I hope! 

Now, about my next "party" ...

Advent tea

I was thinking it would be nice to bring back my Advent Tea Journal from last year ... and I'd love to have you all join me again! If you'd like to see how we "took tea" last year, here is a link to my Tea Journal (and here is a link to my Advent archives for good measure). This year I will follow a similar format: there will be a theme to each week, a topic to discuss. I will share my own thoughts and photos, and I invite you all to do the same, whether by e-mail or comment or by posting at your own blog and linking up ... :)

And just like last year I will begin with a Thanksgiving Tea! Join me here on Monday, November 23rd to share some afternoon refreshment and take a collective breath before the busy holiday week gets underway. Our Advent Teas will follow over the next four weeks and then there will be one final Christmas Tea before we conclude our party. :)

Here are the Tea dates and topics:

Thanksgiving Tea: Monday, November 23rd ~ "Simplifying the Season"

Advent Tea, #1: Monday, November 30th ~ "Gifts from the Heart"

Advent Tea, #2: Monday, December 7th ~ "O Christmas Tree"

Advent Tea, #3: Monday, December 14th ~ "Magic + Meaning" (Advent for children)

Advent Tea, #4: Monday, December 21st ~ "Welcoming Winter"

Christmas Tea: Monday, December 28th ~ "'Tis the Season!"


My friends, I welcome you to send me your thoughts on our weekly topics (along with photos if you care to share them) and if you blog, I hope you'll consider posting about our Teatime and sending me a link. I'll also collect comments as they post and add them into each post ... so there's a way for just about everyone to participate!

In the week leading up to each Tea I will post reminders (where, how and when to send things) and describe more fully each topic. And I'm going to try to make up a pretty Tea button of some sort ... but I haven't done that in a long time, so I hope I remember how! 

I think this will be such fun - a nice chance to pause and reflect on the season while indulging in a little teatime together. I'm hoping by organizing this all now I'm giving myself (and you!) some time to digest and think ahead ... I hope you'll join me if you can!

For now though ... well, Advent seems pretty far off ... it's a damp and dark (dare I say dreary?) day here. Very mid-November. Most of the leaves are gone (from the trees, that is ... there are plenty plastered to the wet ground). But December is just around the corner! I'm not one to rush things (and certainly not seasons) but there is prudence in getting things set, at least in your mind if not also on paper. Because as much as I don't like rushing I really don't like scrambling ... and that's what happens when I leave things to just happen without planning ahead! I want my seasons to be simple, yes - but also satisfying ... and that takes a little forethought, I think.

Well that's all for now, friends ... my little one's due to wake any moment. So I must be off ... but I thank you, as always, for stopping by and I will see you here again very soon!

Planner Party Guest Post Number 14: Mic!

{Happy Friday, my friends! I am so pleased to present another wonderful guest planner post ... please welcome Mic to the party!}


Dear Dawn,

 I have really enjoyed all the planner posts and wanted to share my own system. I'm actually using a grid notebook at the moment while I wait for 2016 and my hobonichi cousin planner to start. It's a Japanese brand and you can pick different covers and accessories to go with it.
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I had bought a different planner for this year, but it was too small and I stopped using it after a few months. My main gripe was it didn't have a section for a weekly plan. I like to be to see my week at a glance. At the start of the month, I draw the monthly calendar, where I write in holidays, feast days, family travel, birthdays.
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On the weekly plan, which I do on Sunday nights (sometimes Monday or even Tuesday, to be honest) I write in my children's after school activities, our meal plan, gym time, and any evening or special activities or holidays. I then make a photocopy on my printer, and stick it up in my kitchen so my husband and the girls' babysitter can see it.
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Throughout the week, I add to-do lists, washi tape, quotations, who I wrote letters to, and little doodles.
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I just want to close by saying I have been so inspired by everyone's posts! There really is no right or wrong way to plan!
Warm regards,
Oh, Mic! I can hardly begin to express how much I LOVE your planner! You are a gal after my own heart - there's just something so wonderfully satisfying and soothing about a handmade planner! Your artwork and penmanship is just LOVELY. And the that nubby, knitted cover? Swoon ...
I also find I need a weekly plan, for sure. I need to see where I am in the week and I really think about our family and homeschool time in increments of weeks. Right now I'm struggling with: do I actually need a separate daily planner or can I rely on my weekly planner to cover all my bases ... ?
Also, your idea to photocopy your weekly calendar and hang it up so that your family may refer to it ... genius. Absolutely genius!!
Thank you so much, Mic, for sharing your planner here at my blog - I am inspired by your design and am excited to get back to work on my own handmade planner. Friends, how about you leave a little note for Mic and let her know your thoughts. Let's keep this wonderful planner conversation rolling!
And remember, I'm always open to new guest posts ... you may send me your planner pics and thoughts at:
bysunandcandle AT gmail DOT com
But for now, I wish you all a wonderful weekend ... I will be back here again very soon!

Planner Party Guest Post Number 13: Elizabeth Q!

{Happy Wednesday, my friends! Our planner chat continues ... please welcome Elizabeth to the party!}


Hi Dawn,

I have been enjoying the planner post so I thought I would send you mine.
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 This is my calendar where I keep my appointments and day to day things. It is from Blue Sky which I love, however it goes from June to June. I am planning to get a new one that starts in January so I can follow the calendar year.
I write important information on each day's blocks. I love to decorate my pages with stickers and washi tape.
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This is all the folders and note books that I use for menu planning. I am in treatment for an Eating Disorder so my meal plan is a bit more detailed. I have workbooks and a meal plan worksheet that I turn in each week that is checked by my treatment team. 
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 This is my To Do Basket that I keep on the counter in the wash room. The top shelf is things I need to take care of. The bottom shelf is where I store my folders. I work on a couple big projects at a time. I keep a folder for each project so this way I can keep track of what needs to be done next. 
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I attend a couple of meetings each month for the various boards I serve on. This little notebook is where I keep my notes for each meeting.
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This is my reading basket with my scissors. I need to sit down and do a little clipping . I have gotten off track with this. Life happened. LOL. I am going to start a home making journal this week to paste my clippings in.
That, Dawn, sums up the way I plan.
Elizabeth Q.
Wonderful post, Elizabeth! I love the look of that basket - you know we share a love of magazines and the way they pile up! My pile is steep as well, but I've just been keeping them out on the counter. I like the idea of a pretty basket for this ...
I also really like your two-tiered organizer ... I have all these papers and clippings and coupons and scraps of paper that I keep piling on my dining room table thinking, well, I will get to this over the weekend. The trick of course is finding all those things when the time comes I need them! I could do with a shelf system like this ... an inbox of sorts. And I'm thinking that bottom shelf I could use for my current project folder (ex. Thanksgiving) as they tend to get lost in my File Crate. Come to think of it, I might have something down in the basement that might suit this very purpose ... :)
And of course, I too love Blue Sky (as do many of my readers)! My planner is also adorned with a couple of stickers and maybe a dash of wash tape, now and then. Just some seasonal things to make me smile. It's the little things, after all!
And you are very organized with your menu planning, as always - especially now that your planning is so important to your health. I'm sorry to hear of your struggles, and please know I will be thinking of you and praying for your strength and recovery.
Well friends, I hope you leave a note for Elizabeth! I can't tell you how happy I am to have more guest posts to share ... please consider sending me your own post and pictures (bysunandcandle AT gmail DOT com) as I can assure you we would all love to see (hear about) your planner(s)!
Enjoy the rest of your "hump day" my friends, and I will see you here again very soon!

Planner Party Host Post: Me!

{Woohoo, it's my turn! Better grab yourselves a cup of tea, my friends - or better yet, make that a mug - as I warned promised, this is a mighty long post!}


Good Morning!

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Well, I'm so glad you've all been enjoying the Planner Party! The enthusiasm has been infectious and encouraging! Big thanks to all who have participated in the Party so far - all the posts and pictures and questions and comments have been truly inspiring! I am happy to know I am not the only one who is a wee bit (or a whole lot) addicted to setting up planners and systems ... and that I am not the only one using more than one system! You've all given me courage to truly bare my planner soul today ... :)

So at the very top of the post is a picture of my "planning station." It takes up a significant portion of the kitchen jetty which is situated between the kitchen proper and the breakfast nook. It can get quite messy at times, but I try to keep the clutter under control as best I can. I like the idea (and look) of clear counters, but realistically speaking, this is the best place for me to work.

What I have here is my file crate, my planning materials, a pile of magazines to read through and clip for my journal, my laptop, and some writing utensils, tape and scissors.

It's not a streamlined or perfect situation by any stretch of the imagination, but rather, as always, a work in slow progress.

Ok, so let's break all "the planning materials" down.

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Above you see my master planning binder. This is one of those things I use, and have used for years, even though I'm constantly tweaking it. I can never get it quite right, but I need it in my life! I'm using one of those Martha Stewart 3-ring binders, and though a bit expensive, it's really well made. The cover used to be plain, but this summer, on a whim, when Little Bear was obsessed with butterflies, I added stickers .... and I hate them, lol. But they are stuck on there FAST. I keep meaning to have Bill (who has way more patience than I do) help me remove them and any gunk they leave behind.

(Now, mind you - this is ONE of my planners (in that, I use it for planning), but it's not actually a planner, per se. It's a bit of a mess really, but I do try to use it as a planner.)

The binder is pretty much never just sitting there closed like that, but open on the counter to my domestic journal. (So therefore, the butterflies shouldn't really bother me ... but they do.)

Here's what it looks like when you first open it ...

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There is a nice inside pocket in which I keep a few things, including a neat month-at-a-glance calendar. There is also the weekly file folder laying there - that's from my File Crate System - holding any materials/papers I need for this week. It's not the ideal place to keep the folder - I've tried other spots - but I need it handy and this seems to work best.

I suspect we're due for another File Crate System (FCS) post, but I do want to show you all really quickly:

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I have been using colored paper clips to separate the papers inside my folder by subject: recipes, crafts, to file/act on, Earlybird's printables (homeschool work), and personal stuff.

{Again, I think we need a full-on file crate post, but I just wanted to share that little tidbit in case it might make sense for you, too!}

Now, before we get into the meat of the binder, here is a look at that monthly calendar:

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I spotted this at my local grocery store, and I stood there in the stationary aisle for a good 10 minutes or more trying to talk myself into - or out of - purchasing it. It was relatively inexpensive (I think about $7) so I could hardly resist. And of course, in the end, I didn't.

It is called the 18-Month Simplicity Planner.

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Great, lightweight paper, large spread for each month with lined boxes. I like that it's a thin, light, booklet-style calendar - very easy to grab and take with me if I'm heading somewhere and need to consult our family calendar and/or want to work on the calendar itself.

Basically, I really loved the look/feel of this planner and decided I could not BE without it even if I couldn't figure out why I actually needed it. (As you'll see below I have other monthly calendars in play.)

So now here's a breakdown of the binder contents ... the latest configuration, anyway! I feel this post would become completely, ridiculously, overwhelmingly, long if I were to get into each tab and discuss what's what - and I can do that in a separate post if you wish - but for now let me just give you the headings ...

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Tabs across the top:

1. Domestic Journal

2. Seasonal Plans

3. The Holidays

4. Months at a Glance

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Tabs down the side:

1. Monthly calendars with seasonal dividers

2. Home & Family

3. Meal Planning

4. Correspondence & Contacts

5. Blogging, etc.

6. Budgetkeeping

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Here is what my planner looks like on any given day. As always, it is open to my current journal page. I use a page finder (cut from pretty scrapbooking paper with a post-it tab on top) and on that page finder I stick my daily chore checklist. I make one up for each week. I turn a lined post-it note sideways and write all my daily tasks down the side - the days of the week across the top - and check those things off each day. I started this to help me remember if I'd given Earlybird his meds and then added on to the checklist.

As you can see, my domestic journal page holds both notes and clippings. It's a "brain dump," much like Mary Ellen described in her post. I just keep it open on my counter so I can write things down quickly as they come up. And I add interesting or inspirational things I find in magazines or newsapers. Nature notes go here, seasonal thoughts and cute things the kids do or say ... pretty much anything goes, even if it will later get recorded somewhere else. It's just a place for me to get it out and then it's not niggling at me. 

What I try to do with this journal (and with all my planners, actually) is to sit down with it on a regular schedule so as to make the best use of the system. So right now I am keeping this journal in a monthly fashion ...

Today being November 1st, I pulled all of October's notepages out of the binder and moved them to my "Yearbook" binder (where the whole year's worth of journaling can be found). Ideally, I will sit down first (not later, because "later" never seems to happen) and comb back over my notes and index information I'll want to return to. The index is a simple sheet that lists the journal year and date alongside the info I might need again. Sometimes there are things in there I need to immediately move on - like a new account and password I created, or an appointment to schedule asap. 

I'd like to make this a weekly task actually, but right now monthly is the best I can do. This also keeps the journal from getting too thick and taking up a lot of space in my binder.

Now, something I've been experimenting with lately is inserting a weekly planning section right in the middle of my daily journal. Because I really have this thing about keeping things all in one place, and right in front of me at all times ...

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To differentiate from the domestic journal paper, I'm using a set of smaller-size loose-leaf (8x10). The yellow sheet on top is an overview of the week ... and I've already revamped it since posting that pic! I once tried stapling this weekly sheet (an earlier version) to the front of my weekly folder but I couldn't figure out how to keep it in my line of sight.

Behind that yellow sheet is a series of pages pertaining to further weekly planning. I am experimenting with this at the moment, so nothing is too set in stone and the pages themselves are just loose-leaf with notes - nothing really worth showing at this point. But I do have individual pages for:

This week's nature/seasonal theme.

This week's family faith at home.

This week's older boys' lesson plans.

This week's younger boys' crafts/activities.

This week's grocery list.

I've tried and tried to compose "worksheets" that allow planning for all of these things on one page ... but I can't get the design right and I find I need more space for my messy notes and ideas. So I'm not sure if it's a design issue or a space issue ... or, you know, a crazy-picky-planner-person issue ... but for now, this is where I'm doing my weekly planning.

Such as it is.

Next is my clipboard on which I keep our weekend plans: 

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We call this list our "P.O.W." (plan of the weekend) and at the end of each week, I prepare a new page. I look at next week and see what needs getting/making/setting up (special projects, events, recipes) and I look back at last week's POW to see what still needs doing. The little sticky note holds notes about the coming week. (Like, feasts and holidays, etc.) Our weekends are for catching up on all those tasks that can't get done during the week, but there is always plenty of carry-over each week.

I keep this on the kitchen counter all weekend so we can all refer to it. I add initials next to tasks so we can see who is responsible for what. Bill and I go over the POW every Saturday morning over coffee (and Sunday after Mass). I use it when working on my weekly to-do's and as I said, again when I'm preparing a new POW.

Now here's where I get a little silly.

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So remember that Stop N Shop aisle where I found the month-at-a-glance calendar? Yes, well, they also had this very pretty Mom's Manager engagement calendar ... and I gave this a really good look-over, put it back on the shelf ... and then kept coming back to it. It was $15 so not exactly something I had in my grocery budget, but still, I was sooo tempted ...

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The thing of it was (is), it's a great little planner! Nice layout, nice durable covers ... showing the weeks-at-a-glance, along with the months ...

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Each month has a nice inspiration page - ideas, recipes, etc. I liked the size of this planner - something easier to tote around than my Day Designer (see below). Even though I work at my "jetty" most of the day, I also like to take my planner upstairs with me when Little Bear is napping and when I'm heading to bed so I can work in my planner in the evening or early morning before the baby wakes. This planner is such a nice size and weight and it's so easy to tote around ... to pop in my purse if I'm heading the hairdresser's or a doctor's appointment, etc. Or even just waiting to pick up Crackerjack from class!

Overall, a very NICE planner ... one I wish I could just fall completely in love with and make work on every level and then I could just forget about all other planners. Life would be so simple!

But here's the other commercially made planner I'm using ... and I would not so easily grab the Day Designer to tote with me, because it's fairly bulky. Here's my DD, open to the daily spread (two days in the future) ...

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I really do like this planner, and I DO need a daily space to plan - there are things to keep track of that are very much pertinent to the day itself (not the week or the season ...). Things that would perhaps get lost in a weekly planner: a call to place, a book to return, a prescription to request, a tv show to record, a check to drop off ... 

(Side note: I'm always trying to figure out how to incorporate a daily planning page into my daily domestic journal because that would seem to make sense ... but so far, no dice.)

And the Day Designer (which I described in more detail here) is beautiful - nice paper, soft colors, a well-thought out design. It has quite the fan following and I admit, I've been caught up in the enthusiasm a bit... but I'm wondering if it might be too much "day" for me. I sometimes feel I'm not using enough of the page. 

So in case you can't tell, I struggle between using a week-at-a-glance planner with an insert or sticky note for daily to-do's/reminders ... OR a day-at-a-glance planner with an insert or sticky note for weekly to-do's/reminders. Hmmm ...

(Do you see now how much I overthink all of this?)

Then of course there is the very pretty homemade planner I made way back in January:

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I am ashamed to say, I only used it through April, and that was, I think, mostly because I had only drawn up the weekly pages through then. (I remember feeling so confident I would get them done before I caught up to them, but that didn't happen.) I would like to think if I'd had those pages done ahead I would have continued on with this homemade planner ...

Here is the October cover page (how I love this vintage paper!):

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And here's how I was using it as a weekly planner ...

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The first page had an overview of the week (much like the one written on the yellow sheets above), and then the next pages featured an agenda for the coming week:

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All hand-drawn on that favorite paper of mine, with (mechanical) pencil, and lots of notes and details about the week. Some quotes, some temperatures and weather notes, where we went ... and if the Patriots won. ;)

I will confess to you - I have all the materials to make this again for 2016 - and I might just do that! I have the vintage paper (a fresh set) and the monthly tabs, and I even found a stash of that awesome loose-leaf in Bookworm's bedroom closet. (Apparently I had sent him off to college last year with a supply and he brought home what he didn't use. So happy to have more of this paper!)

But ...

I also bought the scrapbook paper in the 8x8 size and I'm toying with the idea of making a smaller-size planner in the same design as above. The 8.5x11 is not too thick or heavy but it is a bit bendy, if you know what I mean. Maybe I'll add more support? Hmm.

Oh, wait! Let's got back to the File Crate for a moment, shall we?

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So another way I plan is to use a file folder for each week of the year - it holds any information I need for that week. I keep them all in a simple, plastic crate. There are hanging folders for each season (I divide the year into six seasons rather than four) and each season includes eight or nine weekly folders. I use recycled (brown) folders and write the date and weekly theme on a strip of washi tape. In the front of the bin I hang our parish liturgical calendar. I don't use this calendar in any way other than as inspiration and a reminder of where my Church is in the year.

Then, in the back of the bin I keep my homemade lesson planner.

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Try as I might, I can't seem to incorporate lesson plans into any other planner. They just need to be separate and so, after looking for a commercially-made lesson planner, I ended up making my own. As you can see, I covered a (plain, recycled) spiral-bound notebook with some alphabet scrapbook paper and to secure it, I used some of that same washi tape (mentioned above) around the edges of the notebook.

The metal clamp holds my place in the planner ...

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 I can do a separate post all about this particular planner which has several pages in the beginning for general information and an annual overview, and then there is a page like the one shown above for each week. The weeks allow me to jot down a "plan" for each of my three younger boys for each day of the week, and then on the back of this page I write down resources used and any other notes about the activities and lessons that week.

Although ...

I do have a lesson planning page as well as a craft/activity planning page in that weekly section we discussed back up at the top (or near the top) of this post. I have not yet determined if it makes better sense to have a separate lesson planner as shown here or write plans on a sheet that gets kept in the overall weekly planner.

(Does anyone else find that you can spend too much time dithering over what to use to plan that your plans themselves suffer a bit?)


Well, I am pretty sure I could go on, but I think it is in the best of our collective interests to wrap up at this point! I hope some of what I said was helpful or interesting ... even if it just justified your own planner craziness or showed you just how unhinged I get when it comes to planners. I've been on a planner mission for so many years I have to accept the possibility it might be me that's the problem, and not the planners themselves. Perhaps I'm too picky or flighty, take your pick.

It's a pretty harmless addiction to have in the scheme of things I think. And as long as I'm keeping up with most of my family's needs (and my own) I feel I'm on the right path. Tweaking till I get it perfect is just in my nature ... whether "perfect" is attainable remains to be seen!

So friends, I'd love to hear your thoughts! Did any of this ring a bell with any of you? Do you have any questions or need clarification? I tried to be as clear as possible but as I've been working on this post for several days, I feel like it started to unravel a bit. Let me know what you think and let's continue our discussion! I have some more guest posts coming up and I'd love to have you join us if you'd like. If you have a planner post (with pics please) please email me at:

bysunandcandle AT gmail DOT com

I look forward to hearing from you even if you just want to say, hey. I know this was a lot to digest, so I apologize for going on so long, but I know - thanks to this series - many of you are planner junkies like myself. Anyways, I hope this was fun!

As always, thanks so much for stopping by ... see you here again very soon!

Planner Party Guest Post Number 10: Mary Ellen!

{Happy mid-week, my friends! Please welcome Mary Ellen to the Party!}


Dear Dawn,
I use the Catholic Mother’s Daily Planner and have done so for many years now (maybe ten?). This is where I write down all of the kids' activities, my own appointments, business trips, work deadlines, bits and pieces of my husband’s schedule and feast/holiday/family celebrations. I mostly use the month-at-a-glance section for scheduling and the daily pages for notes about the day, homeschool notes, a menu note or doodling. :)
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My brain dump is not a planner at all. I use the Mead Cambridge Business Notebook which has a wide left margin suitable for lists and a pretty sturdy cover. I usually use one a year. In this goes all the lists I make, menus, groceries, errands, ideas for articles, party planning, field trip ideas, homeschool ideas/projects. The book ends up being a hot mess and really useable only to me because it only makes sense to me. It’s not pretty but it’s a good reflection of how my brain works, also not pretty. :)
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Lastly, I have a pretty commonplace book, purchased for cheap at Marshalls where I keep quotes, thoughts and ideas that I find inspirational. Also some doodles.  For school work I use Seton planners and lesson plans with an eye towards making it work for my family. Flexible is my favorite word in homeschooling. :)
I hope you find this useful ...
Mary Ellen 
Mary Ellen, this was very useful - thank you! I have long admired The Catholic Mother's Planner - not sure why it's never made it into my repertoire! It is lovely to look at, especially that monthly page with all your cheerful family notes. I think the fact that you've used it for so many years is its best recommendation ... anything we return to, and use so thoroughly, is a winner for sure!
As for your "brain dump" - it sounds much like mine! I LOVE that you call it a "hot mess" ... that is PERFECT. And I know just what you mean when you say, it only makes sense to you. Same here ... it might amuse someone else (because sometimes I sound rather silly) but I have all kinds of information stored here, some whimsical and some important. And I know that exact notebook you are using; it is a very nice one. I have used small Mead notebooks in the past for my own "domestic journal" ... but nowadays I use loose-leaf paper filed in the front of my home keeping binder ... though I kind of miss the convenience of the notebook platform.
I don't have a separate commonplace book as you do - I throw it all in the same place - but I think it is nice that you store special quotes and (lovely!) doodles somewhere apart from the less formal brain-dump. Honestly, I think all this doodling and scribbling and information gathering is keeping our maternal brains fit and flexible, to capture your sentiment!
Thank you so much for participating, Mary Ellen! I enjoyed seeing and hearing about your planning systems, and I'm eager to hear what our readers have to say!
Friends, I truly feel that all this planning - while often fun and sometimes frustrating - is actually quite important to our role as mother. Not just for keeping our families on track (the appointments and commitments, and such), but for laying down the good and true tracks to begin with. I have a vision (as I'm sure you all do) of how I want our time together to go ... the days and weeks and seasons, etc. But it is only with planning that I can hope to bring it into focus for my loved ones.  
Now, looking ahead to November I'd like to point you in the direction of Mary Ellen's latest post at Seton Magazine, in which she discusses November Feast Ideas for the Family.  A great place to start planning the new month ahead!
Enjoy the rest of your Wednesday, my friends ... see you here again very soon!

Planner Party Guest Post Number Seven: Tanya!

{Happy Friday, my friends! It's Tanya's turn today!}


Hello Dawn! Thanks for hosting this planner party!  

First, I must say that I feel as if I am floundering along this autumn. I’ve cobbled together some plannerish things but by no means is my system complete and I have found that things are falling through the cracks as a result. Two of the three systems I’m going to share are working….one decidedly is *not*! 

The first thing that is working is this little daily planner page. I made it up for myself while Steve was away for five days. (I was solo parenting and quite desperate!) Since then, I’ve adopted it wholeheartedly and (other than wishing I could pre print it) it continues to work well for me. I modeled it a bit after your homemade planner but tweaked it to work for my family. I love having a column for each child. Two of my kids require therapy and medications so it’s helpful to see them all laid out for me in the morning! 

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The other part of my planning trio that is working is my lesson planner. I used an inexpensive coil bound book and used it to plan lessons. This has been SO helpful. Especially when I have been able to preplan a few weeks in advance. I’m careful not to plan too far ahead as often my son’s chronic illness will dictate how much work we are able to get to each day. I love having everything set out for me though! 

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And the part that definitely isn’t working for me? My wall calendar. It makes it easy to see what appointments are coming up but it isn’t doing the job I need it to anymore. I’m definitely at a point where I need a proper paper planner rather than only the wall calendar.

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Thanks for hosting Dawn! I’m looking forward to learning from others and gleaning some great ideas. 



Tanya, you and I have "talked shop" a lot through the years, and we are often on the same "page" so to speak. :) Like you, I find myself floundering this autumn and some things are slipping through the cracks ... I feel like it's my own fault because if I could just stop being so picky and just stick with something - even if it's not exactly what I want - I'd do so much better overall in keeping up with ALL THE THINGS ... but there it is.

So I thank you for sharing your planners with us, Tanya! They look very much like things I have going on at this time! There is just something about putting our own pen to paper that creates a more meaningful and workable planner ... even when my head get turned by professionally made planners, I truly love the homemade ones best!

Now, I really love clipboards - I think they are perfect for daily planning as you show above. And they're so portable. I still like my Day Designer planner, but I don't care for how heavy it is - I don't really feel like grabbing it if I'm heading upstairs or if I'm going out somewhere. It's just a bit took bulky to come-with, so I tend to leave it on the counter ... but a clipboard is so easy to tote around - and clip things on if you need. Right now my clipboard holds my master to-do pages as well as our weekend POW pages. (Something we can all work off of all weekend.) Basically, I think clipboards are brilliant and much underused.

And also, I LOVE making planners out of spiral-bound notebooks as you have! In fact, I really like your simple, straightforward layout - a column for each day. I used a plain notebook for a lesson planner this year and I like it but I think I might have made it more complicated than it needs to be ... 

As for the wall calendar - I had one on the fridge but Earlybird commandeered it, lol. He wanted it on the December page AT ALL TIMES so we could see when his birthday was. (As if I'd forget!) I finally took it down and hung it out near his play area in the family room. I like having a large monthly planner that all the family can refer to when we're making plans or kids/husband are wondering what's going on when.

Great food for thought, Tanya! Friends, what say you?

I hope you'll drop Tanya a note if you have a chance! Are you someone who prefers making a homemade planner? I think that's becoming an increasingly popular project - just check out Pinterest! (But only if you have a few hours to spare ...)

Also, before I go, I wanted to mention something I posted about on Facebook yesterday ...

As I am working on my next-week plan I realized that November 1st is just ONE WEEK away from this Sunday! Which means I need to get my gratitude project in order if we're to start on the first of the month. (Our remembrance altar as well.) So this weekend I've made a note to finalize a design and pick up any supplies I need. Next week I'll get the projects pulled together in my "spare" time (ha!) and hopefully be ready to roll on Sunday morning.

But for now, have a nice evening my friends - and Happy Weekend! Today is a special day for us - Bill and I celebrate 22 years of marriage! Where has the time flown?? Anyhow, I am going to take the weekend off from posting, but will be back on Monday with more party plans! Happily, we still have a few more guest posts in queue! :)

See you here again very soon ...

Planner Party Guest Post Number Five: Mary!

{Good morning, my friends! Today's planner post is brought to you by Mary!}
I currently use the Motivated Moms chores calendar - I print out the day-by-day pages, hole-punch them, and divide them into four binders (with three months in each binder). Also in each binder go monthly decluttering calendars from Home Storage Solutions 101. I was inspired by your 'Book of Days'.
  I like this calendar because it gives me a daily schedule area and lots and lots of room to write! I keep it open on the kitchen counter and co-ordinate it with my 2 other calendars. I also keep a daily/monthly planner in my purse that I purchased at the dollar store, and a calendar on the wall by More Time Moms, that I buy every year at Costco. 
This is how the web site describes the Motivated Moms calendar:
The Motivated Moms Chore Planner printable chore list is an e-book to be downloaded and saved to your computer. You can then either print the full year out at once, print a week at a time or just view it on your computer. These printable chore lists are just what you are looking for if you need to know exactly what to do each day in your home and love to be able to check items off a list to feel that sense of accomplishment.
I am very happy with my system, and maybe it will help others. I do a little decorating with Washi tape and stickers, but I try to keep the pages clean as I refer to them for addresses, phone numbers, etc. There are pockets in the binders, so I store papers in there as well.
All the best!
I can't figure out how to post a sample page here, but you can see one at the Motivated Moms website - they provide many samples (like this one) for you to check out before purchase. (Or even if you're just lurking.)
Mary, I love the straightforward simplicity of your planning system - and I also like the way you divide the days into four binders (like seasons). Makes perfect sense! I also relate with the way you keep your planner open on the kitchen counter - it's where I can be found much of the day! - but like others, I fret about spills!
I am fairly certain I have looked at the MM system a time or two before, but not in a long while. I really love the layout of the daily pages and how they describe them:
"... if you need to know exactly what to do each day in your home ..."
Yes, that's me!
*raises hand and waves it around wildly*
Some of you might remember, a while back I put a lot of time and effort into creating a home keeping calendar for myself, breaking down general and intensive housekeeping into annual, monthly and weekly chores ... then filtered it all down into what needs doing every day. I am/was using index cards to keep the daily housekeeping chores straight, but as others have said before me - it's just become one more thing to keep track of! Not sure why a small bin of index cards looks so much like CLUTTER to me on my workspace, but it does. (Never mind the giant pile of magazines, the file crate, the open binder or scattered piles of post-it note pads!)
(For example right now that index card basket is out on my living room desk ... not here on my kitchen counter workspace as it should be. That might tell you how well it's "working" for me right now.)
So I LOVE the idea of keeping all of it in one place. The to-dos and the tasks and the agenda and the dinner plan. I'd also add if I could, lesson plans, blogging, faith at home, nature study - but I know that's cramming a lot into one daily space! Still, a girl can try ... and try ... and try!
But now I'm kind of taking over Mary's post so I will wrap up and leave it to you, dear readers! Please leave Mary a comment if you have a moment and let us know if you've tried Motivated Moms or if you use a daily planner that incorporates all those housekeeping chores that might not otherwise get done. We're eager to hear from you!
*And remember, I'm still accepting planner posts! If you'd like to send me pics of and/or thoughts about your planner, you may do so at the address below, and I'll add you to the queue!
bysunandcandle AT gmail DOT com
Let's keep this party going!

Planner Party Guest Post Number Four: Amy!

{And now we hear from Amy - I am having such fun with this series!}
This is so exciting. Thanks for this invitation! How fun - like my own little blog post, as I get to explain to you just how and why my planning looks the way it does at this time.
First I will show you my wall calendar. We have had this system for many years, at least 7 or 8 at this house and I can't remember when I began doing it this way, but the important part is that it shows three months at a time - usually the current, and two upcoming months, though sometimes I don't update so fast and we have the previous-current-future instead.
For years I had two 12x12" heavy-duty, somewhat-glossy card stock sheets attached to the wall to create a 12x24" rectangle background, and the calendar pages were held onto that with tape rings on the backs, but that was tedious, and then made saving the old calendars a pain: you have to remove those tape rings so the old pages don't stick together! But at least the tape peeled off the semi-gloss card stock easily so I could quickly take down the old pages, move the current ones upward, and add the new ones at the bottom.
However, every summer the papers AND the card stock would curl so badly from the humidity! Between that, and the tape hassle, I finally had my husband install a piece of sheet metal. Now I use magnets to hold up my calendars. What is funny is that I had the magnet idea years ago, and we talked several times about going to pick up a piece of sheet metal and cutting it to size; then, just as we finally got over the hump of indecision (really, just being too busy with all the other small - or extra-large - projects we always have to do) and ordered the sheet metal, we were able to get just the right size (12x24") from Amazon, AND my very next trip to Joann Fabrics revealed that they, too, were selling these pieces of sheet metal! Some were plan, others were filigree.
I have been printing my calendar pages from for years; I think before that I might have gotten some from or elsewhere.
It just occurred to me yesterday that perhaps I should have seasonal magnets instead of this random assortment of whatever isn't needed on the fridge. Wouldn't that be nice?
Oh, just a note, the clock on the wall used to be a "Maine" thing around here; a local family used to make these "Fox clocks," there were at least a dozen designs, all of them from that kind of 40's diner era. I am fairly certain that they also were a homeschooling family! They don't make them anymore, very sad. I always love it when I walk into someone's home or business and spot one of these clocks - they are unique, local, and becoming rare! We've had ours for 12, maybe all 13 years that we've lived in Maine and just this past year someone knocked it off the wall and we lost the glass. It still works, I will just have to be careful about dusting it more often!
And then, you will probably appreciate this: yes those are two thermostaats on the wall. :) (This is also just about our only kitchen wall, 2.5' wide, as most of our kitchen is taken up by windows, exterior doors, and interior doorways - what a pain.) We have the old thermostat from the old oil system, which we had replaced a few years ago. Above it is the new gas thermostat. And we have 3 zones. That is on top of the wood stove in the living room and electric on the third floor... we have an interesting and ancient house!
Oh my, this is so long! No wonder I don't blog anymore, sheesh!
{Dawn here, popping in to say: I'm loving this, Amy! You are so fun to read and never-ever apologize for wordiness ... I'm a big fan of wordiness!}
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Now on to the fun part!
I have a few photos for you of the planner I was using until the end of the summer. I tend to be a 9-months kind of plan lady, and then I get an urge to switch up my system. That worked well with the Franklin Quest (then Covey, then Planner) products because they offered sets that start on all the quarters! Now most of their paper products seem to start on the half-years only, but I think a few classics still start on the quarter...
Of course that did get expensive on our single income and often I would just bide my time by making new inserts for my binder....
A number of years ago I switched to Michelle Quigley's beautiful Catholic dayplanners (and I used a few others too that were less expensive than the Franklin products) but eventually I got tired of nothing seeming quite-right.
So I made my own, of course.
{Dawn here again - we are kindred spirits, Amy!!}
This one I started in January. I've had a couple of other iterations in the very recent past few years. This one in particular is a Canson sketchbook and I like it for the thickness of the paper  and also because it is book-bound. I found that the spiral-bound planners would get caught on things in my purse/bag, if/when I took them out with me. And the binder-style ones are just so thick and cumbersome.
So I have been making this style for a few years now, and I often use colored pencils that either reflect the season or reflect my whim. :)
I've got a couple of photos here of my monthly pages, and I leave a blank page behind each month for who-knows-what, maybe a phone number or a prayer or a birthday idea etc. I leave a few pages after Dec. for Christmas planning and card lists. And I always have the current and future year-at-a-glance calendars pasted in somewhere - usually the only thing that I print and glue in. You can't glue in too much or else you strain the binding, and I do want to leave just a little space in case of wanting to add in a photo or a bookmark or a sticky note etc.
SO. I am sending you photos of my monthly spreads, and my weekly spreads. The weekly spreads I have tweaked so many times; this layout I found in one of the Franklin catalogs and I essentially copied it. It's called the "Five Choices" planner and I don't really know what the "five choices" are, maybe once I looked into it and decided those few extra encouragement pages wouldn't be worth the $28 when I could just fill in my own $10 notebook! I really just like the clean style of the layout, and this is one of very few that go horizontally across the top. The bottom half the the spread is reserved for my to-do lists, which are: do, call, comp(uter), and go(errands etc.). That's it!
But like I said, I stopped using it abruptly at the end of the summer and I have something much simpler that is working for me right now. 
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Ooooh I love what Cay says about adding to our favorite planner and helping us focus on what is most important. YES.
And the thing about having stopped using my hard-bound homemade planner is that now I don't have a keepsake copy of what was important to me at any given point. I do save our wall calendars but they don't capture the smaller details, like the things on my to-do lists or my weekly focus notes to myself (at the top of some of my weekly spreads, such as a particular bible book, a verse, a reminder to myself about a child's habit or my own habit... etc.)
What am I using now?
A totally disposable, totally simple stack of papers in a mini binder clip.
My main scribbling/planning/jotting/thinking spot is in my kitchen, standing at the breakfast bar, and at my house, that breakfast bar frequently has someone eating at it. And so any time I leave my planner there, it is at risk! Even though I don't think I had ever had any major accidents with it over the years, the risk is still very great (and case in point, just on Saturday I dumped a child's water glass onto my stack of papers and had to rewrite them... a first, I'm pretty sure... but there it is).
So one problem is that I often put my planner "away" to keep it safe. Even if that means putting it into the family command center in the kitchen, or onto the kitchen table where there is actually less snacking and drinking, that is several steps out of my way, and not where I am currently trying to do my thinking.
The other problem with the book-style planner (and this might sound ridiculous) is that you have to open the cover to get to the important/pertinent part!
I know that sounds like no big deal, because we spend all day opening books to the pages we need, and my planners always have the month and week tabs easily graspable from the outside, so it's just one quick flip of the wrist to get to where I need to be.
It's a step. And performing it many times a day does add up, and it does become an impediment. 
Now I have, at times, experimented with a list attached to the front cover of my planner, or a sticky note attached to the cover, but those don't end up working the way I hope they will.
(And the last part is that there are always crumbs about. Having my "thinking spot" being in the midst of food prep - and really I have tried to come up with a better spot, there just isn't one - means that even though whole bowls of soup or full mugs of coffee don't usually land on my planner, there are always tons of crumbs that need to be brushed up all day! That is probably the reason why I keep it closed, which means I always have to be opening it...  So now that I have a disposable clip of paper, I'm not nearly so worried about it, which means I am much more apt to actually use it.)
(Can you believe anyone else thinks in such specific, minute details about her planner situation? Isn't it ridiculous, in a way?)
{Dawn again, here - I can absolutely believe it and to be honest, I am relieved by it! I am so glad I'm not alone in my obsession! It might be a bit ridiculous but that doesn't mean it's wrong!}
Okay, so now I am using scrap paper, which we have in abundance because of having printer rejects or just papers that got scribbled on one side, etc. I tear it into 1/4 size sheets, which is a little bit smaller than I would prefer a planner to be, but because there are no bindings or covers etc. to get in the way, it's working so nicely! And because it's so small and "disposable" looking, it ends up being rather private too. Nobody bothers to waste their time with it.
My top sheet is my brain dump, and it gets filled quickly. I end up refreshing/rewriting it every few days. And because the whole thing is disposable, I don't mind crossing out heavily anything that I have done or deleted etc. (That was another problem with my planner, I wanted to keep it neat so "done" items simply got a check-mark, which didn't make them get out of my field of view! I wasted so many accumulating nano-seconds skimming things that had already been checked off, because I could still see them!)
Sometimes I have a totally urgent sticky note attached to my top sheet, reminding me that we really really need to cook the fish before 4pm, that sort of thing... because if it's not written down right under my face I am apt to forget that sort of thing.
Beneath my top sheet, I have several longer-term sheets that I actually have stapled together, which helps me to understand that, as a group, I don't need to review them too often. A couple of times a week is fine. Each sheet is a little bit different, but basically I have a non-urgent shopping list that has things like a new belt for myself, a smaller crock pot, etc. just things I should keep a lookout for but don't need to worry about.
Then there is a list of places we can go if we need to get out of the house. On those rough days, I usually end up walking around in circles muttering about how awful everything is (not really, but in my mind I worry a lot!) and if I could just remember to look at that list, it might, maybe, spark me into a spontaneous trip to: the beautiful working waterfront; the gluten-free bakery; a different library branch; the beautiful cemetery in our neighborhood; the arboretum which is only 40 minutes away; etc. I have a list of indoor places and a list of outdoor places that we could easily get to, thus making memories instead of stewing and being angry with one another while the dinner doesn't get made, the laundry doesn't get done, and the homeschooling gets neglected. (Really our lives are not angry and bad like that at all, but again, inside my own head it gets kind of ugly and no matter how lovely and sweet things might be inside our own home, I know we need to get out and do more interesting things sometimes, esp. outdoor things.)
And I also have a sheet of other long-term things I need to keep in mind, like I am starting to jot down Christmas ideas but that will probably become several full-size pages in my housekeeping/homeschooling binder which I am not going to bother to include in these emails, it is rather separate from my main calendar/planner habits. 
Oh, and the very last page I have in my binder clip is a little vitamin/supplement weekly chart. If it's there and can be checked off, I am much more likely to be getting those supplements! I have it oriented as a landscape so that I can easily flip it open 3x/day.
This system is working so well for me - but honestly now that I've been talking about this stuff with you, I am tempted to try my book-bound planner again. It's just so very nice!
Now I'm not sure how these photos will be ordered for you, but one photo shows two stacks of paper, wet, because I had just dumped water all over them. You can also see the scribble marks from my helper, and it doesn't bother me at all because I now these pages will just be recycled when I am done with them. :)
The other two photos show the new (dry) stack earlier, and then later, during the weekend as I added more and more items. And since then I think I have re-written a clean list for the beginning of this week.
Well that sure was fun for me! I hope you aren't entirely overwhelmed. I hope some other people are joining your party too! I guess my kitchen is pretty dark, we've got all southern exposure but some fools put a giant garage at the back corner of our house about 25 years ago and it blocks all the morning sun from the kitchen! And there is also a gorgeous sugar maple in our neighbor's yard, I have no problem with that, but until it loses its leaves it also casts shadows (which helps keep our house cool).
Planner party amy 7
Planner party amy 8
Planner party amy 9
 Amy I can't even begin to tell you how much I enjoyed this post! I love - LOVE - your stream of consciousness and I also LOVE that you are as mindful and - ok, I'm going to say it, but I'm right there with you - persnickety about planners! Thank you so much for sharing not just your planners but yourself and your family life, too. I think you hit the nail on the head when you said that this current system is working so well for you ... and yet you feel pulled to go back to the book-bound planner. I am always in this situation. I find something that works well - maybe even really well - for me, and us as a family ... but I am constantly feeling pulled to something else that might appeal to me on a more aesthetic sense. It's a tough thing to balance!
The three-months at a glance on the wall are fantastic - I really like that the whole family can see these calendars and that you have a "season" in view at a time. My whole fridge is taken up with a large whiteboard I use as a schedule for Earlybird, otherwise I'd be on this. And now our one big kitchen wall is adorned with three very large framed prints. They are so pretty and just what I wanted but there goes my wall space.
(Seasonal magnets would be lovely, but there's something very genuine about those random magnets.)
Ok my friends, please let Amy know your thoughts and if you have any questions on her planners ... drop a note in the comments box below if you have time! 
Isn't this so fun? I am having SUCH fun with these guest posts and I hope you are too! I have several more to share so I hope you enjoy and I hope to see you here again ... tomorrow!

Planner Party ~ Important Note!

Dear Friends,

This is just a quick note about planner party emails ...

I’ve heard from one person whose email I never received. Unfortunately, she used my old blog email address (comcast) so I never got her planner pics … :(

Here are the names of the people whose email I did receive and whose “guest posts” I’ll be sharing over the next week or so:

Kelly B, Tracy B, Michelle P, Amy B, Mary L, Denise H, Katie BH, Tanya W, Elizabeth P ...

If you sent me an email and don’t see your name listed, it’s possible you used my old address - but I hope you'll consider resending! I'm afraid the giveaway is over, but I'd still love to include you in our Planner Party queue! I think we're having lots of fun sharing planner pics and methods ... :)

My current blog email is:

bysunandcandle AT gmail DOT com

Thanks so much, and enjoy your Sunday, everyone!


Planner Party Guest Post Number Two: Tracey!

{This lovely planner post is from Tracey ... I hope you enjoy!}


Hi Dawn!

I thought I would share, as I am all about planners right now. I entered the world of Erin Condrin Life Planners and have finally found planner peace. I am a mom to three children and have a Etsy business so I need to be organized! But I also want to have memories, not just tons of to do lists. This planner allows me to be organized while also being creative. Here isa pic of this past week.

Planner party tracey 2


Ok, all you Erin Condren planner people out there ... let's hear from you! :) These are such popular planners and I can see why! They really are so pretty ...

I've never seen one in real life - only on Pinterest and now, happily, here. I think it might actually be a good thing that they are only available by ordering - not like I could stumble across them at Target - because I can ASSURE you I would be going home with one of these babies before you could say "cash or credit, ma'am?"

(Hang on - I *think* they might be available at Staples ... can anyone attest to this ? I will have to investigate ...)

But Tracey, your planner is lovely! I love how you've set up this October page - filled with seasonal colors and cheerful stickers and washi tape. (My favorite month and colors!) And all your neat handwriting! I especially love how you have a balance of remembrances and to-do's - sentimental and practical. And a record of dinners you served your family, too ...

I appreciate a week-at-a-glance with a good bit of room for each day. I am currently using a Day Designer which is really snazzy but it might be too much "day" for me, if you know what I mean. Of course that might be me talking myself out of it so I can justify starting something else ...

Tracey, you've given us some very pretty food for thought! Readers, please leave a comment if you have time and tell us - are you a weekly or daily planner? I find it hard to commit to one over the the other!


And before I go, I have some exciting news! Tracey has kindly invited my readers to use a special coupon at her lovely Etsy shop, Grizzlie, which features all kinds of knitted delicacies. Take a peek around her shop and, should you find something you like (which is quite probable!) enter the coupon SunandCandlelight at checkout - you will save 15% on your purchase!

What a treat! Thank you for this kind offer, Tracey!


Enjoy your Sunday, my friends! Please check back tomorrow for another lovely planner party guest post! :)

Planner Party Guest Post Number One: Kelly!

Whew, that title's a mouthful, isn't it? Well, I couldn't think of a better way to say it ... this is a continuation of our Planner Party, but the words and pictures in this post (and the next eight to come) will be from one of my readers (in this case, Kelly), not me!
(Well, I'll talk a bit at the end and obviously I'm talking now, so I am here - just not for the "meat" of the post!)
So onward we go ... let's hear from Kelly!
Hello Dawn!
I am very excited to participate in your planning post! I have two main planners; one is for daily use and the other is for weekly use. Here are the details on what I am using:
Daily planner details
I began this planner in March of this year, I think after you published a bunch of planner posts. :) I had a vision and it evolved as the year progressed. In the beginning, I only created a month or two at a time so I could make tweaks as I went along. It’s October now and I feel the best about this planner than I have about any other I have used or created! I am currently brainstorming the layout and plan for my 2016 planner. I haven’t decided yet if I will create the whole thing at once (horrors in case I want to change anything!) or go 2-3 months at at a time. We shall see. It is a lot of work to create it from scratch but I am SO happy with it that it is worthwhile.
This is the book I am using: Moleskine Folio Professional Portfolio. The photo you see below is my 2016 planner just waiting to be created!
Planner party kelly 1
This is what a weekly spread looks like:
Planner party kelly 2
Planner party kelly 3
The top picture gives a good overview and the bottom picture allows you to see close up. There is a document on the right side of my weekly spread and that is my homeschool plan for the week. It is stapled over the previous or next week so that I still have access to the dates if needed, but is right there with my current week-at-a-glance. For each day of the week, I have the date, my husband’s work schedule, and any feast day or holiday. The next column shows any commitments I have out of the house so I know what I can and can’t plan to do at home that day; and next week I am adding a small “notes” column at the far right to write in prayer notes for that day and times to observe the moon or other tidbits like that. I think this will be a good column to add without taking away too much space for my to-dos.
This is what a monthly spread looks like:
Planner party kelly 4 (1)
On the left is a small calendar just for noting special holidays and feasts that we will observe in some way. I am not using it to its full capacity yet; more to think on. Below it are seasonal notes for the month; if I clip anything from a magazine or anything like that, I just file it in my FCS and make a note of it here. I plan to add seasonal cleaning tasks to this page. The right page is my list of to-do’s for the month. I add them as I think of them. I also have budget notes and anything else I want to keep track of for the month. I will use a highlighter for any really big projects that must get done this month. Anything left undone at the end of the month gets transferred to the next month or dropped. This has helped me get so much done!
In the remaining pages of the book, I have a section for a log of picture books I read to my kids, my own personal reading list and log, and a huge section just for notes. Anything I am brainstorming or working through, I write in here. I did all of my homeschool brainstorming/planning in this. I also have notes from a retreat, chore plan ideas, snack/cooking ideas, etc. It is truly a home for anything I am thinking about and needing to work through. Next year I will number all of the pages and add an index page at the front as my notes are rather random. :)
Weekly planner details:
This is simply a 3-ring binder decorated with a beautiful Victoria magazine cover! I have four sections in this book: HS (homeschooling); HH (household); Seasonal/nature; and Field trips. I spend two nights per week doing our homeschool plan for the next week (two nights so I don’t have to stay up so late either night). While the year’s plans are already made, this is the time to look at math and reading lessons and gather materials needed; gather liturgical/saint books to read; etc. I have a list of all of the areas I need to cover during my planning nights so I don’t miss anything. Once a week I do my household planning for the next week. I also have a list of areas I want to be sure to cover, for example, assigning days to do laundry and other cleaning (I am so weak in the cleaning area!); updating our budget and/or paying bills; planning our family time if it won’t happen naturally; planning meals for the week (I do meal planning two weeks at a time). The seasonal/nature section is where I keep notes about what I hope we’ll study according to the month. Field trips? Places we can go - it helps to have them all handy.
In addition to these, I have reference binders for several different things (homeschooling and others) but they are used only on occasion.
With my daily and weekly planners, I really do feel that I am accomplishing a lot and keeping track of important things. Thank you for letting me share! Sorry this is so long. :) If anything is clear as mud, please let me know!
Take care,
Kelly, what a fantastic post! Everything is perfectly clear and never-ever apologize for "long" posts/comments/emails, whatever. I'm the wordiest person I know - I LOVE long conversations! :)
Well, this is a lovely system you have - I like that you have a weekly AND a daily planner, because right now I'm trying to decide which is better for me and now I'm thinking - why not both?! :) Your Moleskin is designed beautifully - I've spent a good deal of time on Pinterest looking at Moleskin planners and bullet journals! Their efficiency and adaptability are perfect for planner-making! And I love how you have everything so well thought out, especially how you've scheduled "maintenance" times - which I think is a real KEY to success. I think so often we set up this or that system and then just assume it will go well ... but without taking time to sit down and actually manage the system - to plan and write things down and tweak and consider - the system won't really work for us. We need to take an active part in the planning - as much as I love planners, they aren't magical objects! We have to commit to our planners if we want them to be the best they can be!
Thank you so much, Kelly, for sharing your planner with us here ... you have me eager to really think through my 2016 planner. How I can make it fit my needs better! 
My friends, if you have a moment, please drop Kelly a note in the comments box below! Is anyone else using a Moleskin notebook for planning? I'd love to hear about it!
Enjoy your Saturday, my friends! I'll be back tomorrow with our next guest post!