Monday, February 19, 2018

Christmas every month

I've always had planners, but I haven't always kept up with them. I've written before how my planner saved my life when Bob was in the hospital for so long a couple of years ago. The first day I took a notepad with me, and it was immediately apparent that I would need something more, so I brought in the A5 Daytimer that I was using at work at the time. I loved that size and configuration. It was the two-page-per-day version. The left-hand page had space for a to-do list, an hourly schedule listing and a place for phone calls and expenses. The right-hand side was lined, but otherwise blank, for notes.

I wrote down everything--what doctors saw him and what they said, every procedure that was done and the result, everyone who visited, my thoughts. Bob's two closest friends are doctors, and one or the other (or both) would call me every night and want a report, so I took notes in preparation for that and for their explanation of what it all meant. And once Bob came out of the coma and was home, we went through it together and I gave him a timeline of what happened while he was out of it.

I continued to use that planner when I went back to work, then put it away when I got laid off the next year, because I didn't feel like I needed it. I was still doing freelance work for clients, and was also looking for a job, so I did need somewhere to keep notes and record appointments. So I switched to a pocket Daytimer, with a spiral monthly booklet, and that was fine. Then my dad went into the hospital, and about a month later he died. My planners help me keep my sanity during times of crisis, and this was one. The pocket DayTimer was with me during the first couple of weeks when I was keeping track of doctors and phone numbers, and questions that I needed to ask.

When it became apparent that he probably would not come out of the hospital, the pocket planner wasn't enough, and I switched again, this time to a personal sized planner -- I think DayTimer calls it the "compact" size. It's the one in between the A5 and the pocket size. After he died, I had a lot of appointments with the assisted living place where my folks -- and now just my mom -- were living, lawyers, accountants, financial planners, etc., and again the planner was my lifeline. It was full of phone numbers, notes, questions I needed to ask and instructions for things I needed to do as executor of his estate and my mother's representative, as I held her power of attorney.

At some point I had gotten kind of bored with the DayTimer. Occasionally over the years I would switch to one of the decorated planners that Franklin Covey or DayTimer offered, but I always came back to the standard plain white and green. Which is very professional and businesslike, but sort of boring, so I started looking around for something else. I used a Happy Planner for awhile, and bought TONS of stickers and washi and different kinds of paper and that was cool for awhile, but I kind of got tired of having to decorate everything. The Happy Planners come completely plain, and all the decoration is done by the user, with the aforementioned stickers, washi tape, colored pens, etc., and I enjoyed the creativity of it for awhile, but it got old.

I had seen Carpe Diem planners in the craft stores, and really liked the look of them, particularly the "Reset Girl" line. I loved that color palette and the design aesthetic, so switched to that. It was kind of annoying because again, the pages are blank, and in the case of Carpe Diem, always undated, so you had to go through and date the thing, in addition to decorating it. But I liked it, and used it for awhile. Then we made plans to go to the Dominican Republic with some friends the middle of January. I knew I wanted to take a planner with me to keep itineraries, plans, and notes, but the A5 Carpe Diem was just too big to carry around. It was great for a desk planner, but not to take on a trip. Carpe Diem had just come out with a personal size line, so I stocked up on that. A new binder, new inserts, new stickers, etc. And it was nice, but still kind big to carry around.

So I switched to a Webster's Pages personal size. The pages are the same size, but the binders are narrower, so a little easier to take with me. So as I'm preparing all this, my mother went into the hospital and died within 48 hours, and everything became even more complicated. We needed to shut down my mom's apartment, cancel utilities, credit cards, insurance. And more lists were necessary. But first, we had to go on vacation. My mother died on January 5, we had the funeral on the 10th, and we were leaving for the Dominican on the 13th.

Somewhere in that timeframe, I ran across Cocoa Daisy, probably in my Facebook feed. I was joking to a friend recently that my feed consists of planners, knitting and cats. Not joking, I guess. It really does.

Cocoa Daisy is a company that sells planner inserts and accessories. They don't make a proprietary line of binders, they just make the insides (although they do sell some binders made by other companies). The inserts are heavily decorated, and are different each month. The January set was in a travel theme, with maps and travel images, and it seemed perfect for January, new beginnings, and yes, also, we were going to be traveling!

The company has a subscription model. I wasn't ready to commit to that, so I bought just a pack of personal sized pages to try it out. I ran across a black leather zippered Kate Spade binder in a discount store which turned out to be great for travel, since I could throw it in a bag and not worry about the pages getting beat up. I didn't like it so well once we were home since it doesn't lay flat when opened, but the pages themselves were wonderful.

As I said, it's a subscription model, with some items available separately, although they quite often run out, i.e., if you don't subscribe you run the risk of not being able to buy what you want. Which is very annoying, but also sort of genius. AND, the subscriptions close at certain times of the month, so even if you want to go in and subscribe, subscriptions could be (and often are) sold out before they are even for sale. I still wasn't quite ready to commit to a subscription -- you have to sign up for 3 or 6 months and there is a cancellation penalty -- so I ordered another set of pages for February. By that time, I had drunk the Kool Aid and was waiting nervously for subscriptions to open back up. I ended up subscribing to the monthly personal planner kit, the planner "add on" kit, and the dashboard kit. It's VERY expensive -- my subscription came to about $50/month with shipping -- and it's probably not really worth it, but it's pretty wonderful.

Then my OCD kicked in and I got worried that I was going to miss something, so I added a stamp subscription and a sticker subscription and something so secret they don’t even tell you what is in it (the “Classified” edition). I believe my AmEx got hit for about $99 yesterday. A lot more than I was paying for a year’s worth of Daytimer inserts!

The thing is, every month is different. VERY different. And you don’t know what it’s going to be before you subscribe. I committed to six months (you get a small discount by subscribing). January was travel themed, and the colors and design were very “me.”  February was pastel floral and the company’s mascot, Simon the rabbit. It was okay. Cute. 

March was peacocks. VERY colorful. April is umbrellas and clouds and lilacs, and May is going to be birds and typewriters, which looks like it’s going to be another one that I will love. Every month is different, so you can’t get bored. And if you don’t particularly like one month’s design, it’s just a month until you get a different one. 

It’s a lot of fun to get the box each month. Planner pages, stickers, rubber stamps, patterned paper, and often little extras like a pencil pouch, decorated bulldog clips, paper clips, etc. it’s like Christmas every month!