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Our Favorite Planners, Notebooks, Journals, And Pens For Getting Your Life Together


** No scheduled design post this morning because we are taking a minute to sit/process/read what happened what with the storming of our Capitol and the threatening of our democracy. Huge congrats to Georgia for its historic win!! Stacey Abrams is a national treasure. WHAT. A. DAY. Hoping today, Thursday, is a better one for all of America.

Is there anything that unites folks quite as much as the allure of a new notebook or planner? I don’t know (or fully understand, TBH) what dopamine receptors are being triggered whenever I see school supplies – is it the reminder of simpler times? The hope of one day actually getting my life together? The general siren song of the dollar spot at Target? – but it’s POWERFUL and, for reasons unknown, seemingly universal. (Feel free to confirm that you also have this love of notepads and that I’m not totally losing it, thanks.)

See, at the beginning of this year (i.e. earlier this week), Sara posted an Instagram story featuring her new daily calendar – notepad sized with gold-leafed edges – and it sent me down an organizational spiral. NEW YEAR, NEW ME. I’ve long been a proponent of the tiny, pastel-colored legal pad (and it’s still a favorite!) but little pleasures these days are few and far between so like, why NOT treat myself to some new notebooks with REAL covers and pages that won’t get torn when I toss them in my backpack?

We ended up putting out a call on Instagram and y’all responded in DROVES with your favorites. Mallory and Ryann culled them down into the best of the best (every post is a true team effort here, y’all). Then, in the spirit of really GOING FOR IT, I ended up pulling together 9 of my favorite pens because I’m the type of boring person who eats spaghetti with butter, goes to bed by 10 PM, and can actually list 9 different favorite brands of pens off the top of their head.

To that end: planners and notepads and bullet journals and gel pens and ballpoints and rollerballs galore are below! All tested and loved by the fine, stylish, organized (I assume), design-minded folks of the EHD blogosphere. LET US BEGIN GETTING OUR LIVES TOGETHER, together. 2021 is already looking up, right?

1. Customizable Notebook/Planner | 2. Unlined Fabric Journal | 3. Year Task Planner | 4. Unlined Field Book | 5. Goal-Oriented 2021 Planner | 6. Moleskine Monthly Planner | 7. Colorblock Hardcover Planner | 8. Dotted Softcover Notebook | 9. Desktop Notepad | 10. 30 Day Challenge Planner | 11. Large Lined Journal | 12. Goal-Setting Planner | 13. Small Monthly Planner | 14. Time Block Task Sheet | 15. Undated Weekly Planner | 16. Lined Hardcover Notebook | 17. Faux Leather Journal | 18. Everyday Notebook

SO MANY BEAUTIFUL CHOICES. Let’s break it down a little bit by task, yeah?

Best of Undated Planners: These are a dream if you’re the type of person who’s like, “oh, I’ll start doing that at 1 PM,” and then when you look up and realize it’s 1:05 PM, you’re like, “I guess I’ll do it at 2 PM.” There’s no fear of looking at missed pages or swaths of empty months with these – you start exactly where you are and you can tweak the days as you see fit.

Our personal favorite is #13 – it’s only $3, Jess recommended it last year, and it was a best-seller in 2020 – but if you’re looking for something larger, #9 is sized for a desktop. #10 is also VERY goal-oriented (breaking things down into 30-day achievable goals), and you can’t beat the aesthetics of #15.

Best of 2021 Planners: I’ve long been a loyalist to Bando’s selection of planners and calendars, so I was very, very, very stoked to get some new brands and recommendations from y’all. Fun little tip before we break down the favorites: if you’re not great at remembering to journal and if you can’t remember what you did last week (those things seem related, but I digress), planners are super fun to use as journals! I like to put down 2-5 bullet points on big (or small) things that happened that day and then read it back at the end of the year. EASY DIARY HACK.

No matter the impetus, if you’re looking for a 2021-specific planner, we’ve got you: #5 and #12 are great for intentional goal setting and #6 is the classic Moleskin but BOY, AM I IN LOVE WITH #7. I just bought one for myself – it comes in a ton of well-curated colorblocked options and it’s just a dream. A million thank yous to the fine folks who sent us this one!!!

For General Note-Taking and Journaling: Ah yes, notepads for the rest of us. A few standouts here – #2 and #4 are unlined (if that’s your thing), #8 has dotted insides (for those who can bullet journal – props to you), and you can customize the inside of #18 to be lined, blank, dotted, or gridded.

#11, #16, and #17 are good old-fashioned standard notebooks, but were recommended for their paper quality/weight/texture. (I ended up going with #16 to replace my own legal pads. NEW YEAR NEW ME IS RIGHT.) But now that we’ve got our notebook situation taken care of, it’s time for the true star of the show!!!

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: portland reveal: a light & bright home office

If you’re like, “hey, is this person neurotic enough to write tiny descriptions about all of these???” the answer is YES, and the pen of your dreams is below. Please enjoy smooth writing, no smudging, and no bleeding. Magic!

1. 60 Glitter Gel Pens: There’s a meme I saw once that said that Libras are the type to sign legal documents in gel pen…and it’s not wrong. Many EHD contracts have been signed in colored glitter pen!!! (Please don’t judge me.) These are my personal favorite – they don’t dry out or get scratchy and they’re fun and vibrant which makes red-lining documents a real treat!!!

2. Calligraphy Pen Set: This was actually a Ryann recommendation and it’s a good one! $8 for a variety of pens with all different weights and brush tips is a great deal. (Also, like, maybe you’ll pick up a new skill, which is even better!!!)

3. Be Nice Pen Set: Sometimes a gal just wants a cute purse pen to lend to strangers. (I guess, like, when it’s not a pandemic, though.) This is that pen. Also VERY cute for desk styling.

4. Ultra-Fine Tip Pens: NUMBER ONE PEN. Will die on this hill. If you want your notes to be TEENY TINY and VERY NEAT, this is the pen.

5. Chroma Ballpoint: It’s fun AND it has a happy face stamp on the end. Big fan of this one if you’re trying to check goals off a list because the stamps are 1. cuter and 2. more uniform, therefore more satisfying, than regular checks.

6. Refillable Pen: Just a real beautiful one with this leafy green print AND she’s refillable. I see you, mother nature!!!

7. Gold Ballpoint: This pen is on sale for $5.95 but it feels like something VERY FANCY. It’s really weighty and feels like a pen my grandpa would pull out of a pocket to do important business dealings (you know, like, in a magical situation where my grandpa was still alive and a rich businessman).

8. Needlepoint Pen: Niche interest alert – this is the pen version of the clicky lead pencils we all grew up with. This one is really great if you’re writing A LOT (e.g. handwritten essays or books or something).

9. Set of 6 Ballpoint Pens: Sweet, classic, super affordable, pretty to look at, and nice ink flow. Can’t go wrong!

And there you have it. Those are our favorites – did we miss any of yours? Let’s talk about school supplies because they’re tiny bright spots on a weird and long winter. CAN’T WAIT TO CHAT WITH YA. xx

Opening Photo Credit: Photo by Tessa Neustadt | From: Custom Framing for our Home Office With Framebridge

Fin Mark


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I literally JUST purchased new Japanese pens from and then saw this! It MATTERS what you write with…of course, I am an artist so maybe it is just me, haha!
Now to click through for the “perfect” notebook! 😉


The Staedtler Triplus Fineliner. No smear, really vibrant, and brilliant for note-taking or writing in planners. Partial to hot pink, red and kelly green out of the set. Also at Target.


Oh, Staedtler is great.


Noooooooooooo… I JUST bought a pile of boring white mini legal pads 🙁 I’ll have to save the pastel ones for later

I prefer cheapy notebooks – composition books or the cheapest little spiral dotted notebooks on Amazon or the little legal pads…. After reading Writing Down The Bones (a total classic) I am too concerned with accidentally psyching myself out and thinking I have to write grand thoughts in my expensive notebook >.<


Me too! I always end up wasting expensive notebooks…


Pilot frixion pens are erasable, which for a planner is life. Especially in these times when stuff is being charged or cancelled 😊

Agree, I will never write with any other pen again. So good!


The frixion pens are also great if you have a kid who has trouble with the physical act of writing or dysgraphia.


I love a simple bound notebook and quality pens (really is the best gift for your architect friend) and greatly appreciate this post. Please also hear me say as gently and kindly as possible, why so many Amazon links and products on EHD posts? I really love this blog (hellaaaaaa longtime reader, like cheering the lady in blue on Design Star long), so please know I mean this as just a hope to make it even better for the world. I am sorta prejudiced against Amazon because I blame them for closing so many bookstores AND their corporate tax evasion that could go to public education AND that they are a weird large empire taking over with a gross amount of money. I refuse to get prime for these reasons. In the spirit of trying to do better in the new year, a great way is voting with your wallet with EVERY purchase. Who makes it? Are they paid well? Is this durable? Are their toxic materials in this? Is this easily deconstructed? Can I buy this locally? Welcome to the brain of a try-hard enneagram 1. And thank you for hearing me out. I mean well.


I agree. I am a Prime subscriber, so I clearly have some work to do to disengage from them, but I would like to shop at more independent online sellers. EHD seems so great with roundups, I’d love maybe more roundups of the small shops, or more roundups featuring products from them to click through. Just discovered Bloomist from the very first link in this post, and that looks like a fun place to start. I loved the lists of BIPOC owned shops from last summer- more resources like that please!


Katie, good on you for thinking about this and reflecting on your choices.
Starting off is the hardest part. Once you get into it, it feels so much better to be making wise, conscious choices, instead of shopping like a mindless Zombie.


I have been making an effort to not buy from Amazon for many months now. My Prime Membership renews in early Feb and I will not be renewing. This decision to not buy from Amazon has helped me become a more thoughtful consumer (do I really need XX?; instead of impulse click-buying, I add items to a list on my phone, to revisit) and I have also saved money – win/win! We need retail diversity in our neighborhoods – I dread the thought that some day our only store choices may be the grocery store and a big box place. #shoplocal And local brick & mortar stores (even large chains) keep our neighbors employed, and keep them doing a multitude of tasks at their job (i.e., not just grabbing product off shelves, like a robot; there are managers, and shift leads, high school kids learning how a “real job” works, having a not-mom boss, LOL). And think about this – Bezos is such a genius b/c he has inherently changed our mindsets in regards to shopping – it’s SO EASY, the means of obtaining is no longer an obstacle, we no longer even need to think about it, and so… Read more »


Karen, I’m so proud of you!


I think Amazon is about laziness.
Generally, it’s cheap.
The employees are treated and paid poorly.
It’s largely a pile of plastic crap.
Whhhhhhyyyyyyyyy are people doing this???

Can’t be bothered about sustainability, researching, supporting small businesses, the list goes on.
See it. Click. Sit on one’s laziness.

I choose (as in MINDFULLY CHOOSE) where I invest my money.
Yes “invest” because there are makers, workers and the environment behind Every. Single. Choice. We. Each. Make.

Gah! C H O O S E.


Amazon is nice if you need random items that are hard to find elsewhere or if you live in a rural area that didn’t have access to many retail options even pre-Amazon. But for those of us living in cities it’s really not necessary 99% of the time. I don’t have Prime and if I need some obscure item I just wait until I have $25 of merchandise in my cart and then I get free shipping anyway, even without being a Prime member. The convenience and instant shipping definitely leads to overbuying, in addition to all the environmental/ethical issues.

yep, Rusty. you nailed it. CHOOSE wisely for the future people. i always say, nobody is thinking about that not so distant future where we will be faced with waste lands of empty plazas where there used to be local stores.


I suspect it’s a combination of things, primarily 1) “local” is impossible to provide when your readers are all over the world, and 2) small stores don’t have affiliate programs. EHD can’t provide us with any product recommendations at all if they can’t afford to pay their staff and keep the website running.

Possible compromise: they continue to recommend items that are accessible to most of their readers, some of which are on Amazon and some aren’t, and readers continue to support the businesses they are comfortable supporting. And if readers can afford to, also join the EHD Community so that the funds are available to possibly rely less on affiliate sales in the future 🙂


I wonder if Emily and anyone else would mind if we shared alternative places to get things as a matter of course in the comments? Some will still shop Amazon for everything, and maybe they have to and we need to be gracious that convenient urban living is not a universal experience. But, others could engage in a little friendly anarchy that could be politely ignored right?


Share share share!

yessss! my first question – can i buy this secondhand? when i stopped buying new, the yearly joy of buying a new planner became the yearly joy of making one!

as a fellow notebook and pen fanatic (youre not alone, caitlin!) i was well stocked. i love graph paper and it’s fun to get creative and try outlines or stick with one i love. see more here:

also love passion planners and they offer free printables so you can test drive the layout first. re: amazon links. this is definitely a step EHD can take. just seek out companies that you can link to directly. more work, sure, but worth it. appointed makes beautiful notebooks/planners, is made in the US and sources locally. i’m sure there are many more.


Grateful for everyone’s thoughts.
I also want to thank the EHD team for taking pause. I was a wreck yesterday. While it was a weird say for me to finally say something about Amazon, it is almost because of how wrecked I was yesterday. Still makes me tear up thinking about the layers of what happened at our nation’s capitol. It’s another sad day in America but hits another place I’m my heart and mind when I see a brown woman in the mirror.

i 100000000% agree with you Sarah. I’m always turned off when i see a bunch of links to amazon. for all of the reasons you stated.


I really really appreciate your comment. I own my own little shop, in a small, rural town, so am extremely aware of the impact Amazon has had on retail. Also, some other blogs I follow only ever use Walmart and Hobby Lobby as sources, which are far worse. However, two things. Mackenzie Scott just donated $4.2 billion to organizations across the country, including $15 M to our local community college and $1M to our YWCA. And Jeff Bezos matched all donations to non- profits who suffer due to the pandemic, somewhere around $100 M, here in Wa state. As a small business owner (who sells pens and planners, so I view this post as research for me) Amazon is of course my competition. In the late 90’s the end of brick and mortar was a “given.” Didn’t happen. Because successful small businesses (we are in our 11th year) adapted and became the “anti-Amazon.” We are everything Amazon is not, not only curating constantly (which our customers love us for, trusting us to bring in the items they know they want, and the items they didn’t know they wanted till now) but providing an environment appealing to almost all the senses… Read more »


Big fan of Commit30 planners (I’m on my fourth year) AND it’s a woman-owned small business in Colorado. It’s good quality, there is a good community via Instagram with lots of tips and encouragement and free downloads. Strongly recommend!


storming of our *Capitol
I’ve used Typo’s planners for the last 6 years but am now using this one from The Ink Bucket, an artist in Bangalore, India:


Also, Muji’s planners are pretty great… (this is their Singapore site)


Yes, Muji!


Thank you for posting this today! I am a Moleskine kind-of-gal since morecthan 15 years, but for pens I try new ones constantly. My newest discovery is Muji, a japanese one. Just beautiful


I meant “Moleskin” of course, sorry for the typo


The typo is in the blog post. The brand has the ‘e.’

Andrea Yoas

Muji! Super cheap, but really high quality. They sell a bunch of other home goods as well but their stationary section is my favorite – dotted spiral note books and super fine tip ballpoint pens.


Love Muji!


I saw the US news just before I had to go to an appointment today.
I’d been dreading this happening even though it was obvious that *someone * had been priming the lemming-lunatics for a couple months.
Like, really?
Bring on the section 25 or whatever it’s called!
This is massively scary and I’m on the other side of the world!!!🙄
Holding the UNITED SA close in my heart tonight. xx


Thanks Rusty! My spouse and I settled on calling it the *attempted* coup – past tense- once it became clear that the rest of the Republican politicians hadn’t also completely gone off their rockers (despite plenty of evidence to the contrary up until yesterday).

It’s disappointing that there are people capable of this ridiculousness, but I take solace in the fact that the majority of the individuals who have decision making power are coming in on the side of reason (and democracy).

Very weird to be living through something that will definitely end up in civics history books. I hate that the fascist watchdog orgs are really coming in handy right now!


Yeah, I thought coup was a fair term to use.
There’s been much talk of Australia voting on being a republic, we’re a member of the Commonwealth with Queen Elizabeth as a figurehead under the Westminster political system. Phew!
I would vote no to a republic since a Prime Minister can do almost nothing on his /her own, whereas a President can do soooo much, all on their own.
No system is perfect, but Trump has certainly convinced me on this one.


Mochi planners are great. Lots of colors and options. And a good price point.


I LOVE the Get To Work Book (number 12 above) and have been using it for 5 years. The clean design, the project planning pages, the weekly action items- the best! It is not an understatement to say this planner, and the goal setting work of Elise Blaha Cripe, the woman behind the planner and the book “Big Dreams, Daily Joys” has absolutely transformed my life! Elise is absolutely worth a follow and her newsletter is full of great, practical, actionable, not-at-all-scary goal setting advice.

This was very needed today, I actually laughed out loud. Thanks EHD team!


I’m so shocked that cult faves like Archer & Olive notebooks/acrylograph pens, Tombow fudenosuke and dual brush pens, Sakura gelly rolls and Muji pens aren’t on this list! So many faves.

Also, this line made me feel SO SEEN. And this is why I love bullet journalling, lol. “if you’re the type of person who’s like, “oh, I’ll start doing that at 1 PM,” and then when you look up and realize it’s 1:05 PM, you’re like, “I guess I’ll do it at 2 PM.”” THIS IS ME.


I love all things in the stationary supply department! I’ve used a variety of notebooks and have loved them all for different reasons. My mainstay has been Blackwing’s Medium Slate notebook.
It started with switching to pencil in my bullet journal. I love my Blackwing pencils. I have all of them, which are good for different uses, but lately I’m leaning toward the 602.
Amazon and my local independent bookstore also carry their products, and I thought I’d share for the pencil lovers out there.

My favorite lower cost options are from Muji. They have the best supplies, pens, notebooks, cases. It’s so fun to shop there. They are also worldwide, and you won’t just love their stationary supplies, but also their home organization, simple decor and fashion. Their stores are so soothing to shop in (pre pandemic). Now I’m going to peruse their site, because I’ve missed shot there so much!

Finally, I’ve been long interested in Russell and Hazel products. Their mini binders with refills seem infinitely customizable, but I’ve never made the switch.


I really appreciate you taking a second and acknowledging the chaos in the Capitol. Thank you.


OHTO Graphic Liner 4 life


Pentel EnerGel pens! They come in lots of colors, 3-4 point sizes, not too expensive, vivid inks. It’s just about the only pen I’ve used for the last 5 years.

AmPad Gold Fibre notebooks, sized 7.25×9.5 inches. I’ve used these notebooks almost exclusively for 20+ years. The paper is good quality, I like the slightly smaller format (but not too small), and they’re not so expensive that I worry about “ruining” them with trivial thoughts/doodles.

I do love Levenger paper, but it’s so expensive that I end up not getting my thoughts down because I worry about wasting it. So, it ends up being self-defeating: what’s the point of a blank sheet of paper but to create something!

I LOVE school supplies, I LOVE hand writing things (I have lots of both!), so I have played with lots of different pens and notebooks over the decades, but these are the ones I keep coming back to.


Please think about your response to the attempted coup. I unsubscribed from your blog after your “cookies for Trump supporters” post. I check in here just every couple months. Maybe you’ve seen (LDS) fabulous thinker, Gabrielle Blair’s responses and thoughts that don’t erase the responsibility of those that elect bad actors.

The cookies were self-indulgent window dressing for feeling the true discomfort and social costs of valid disagreement. You are stronger than that.


I missed that post and just read it. Yikes. I’m glad you shared.


Every year for the past 2 decades, I purchase a beautiful monthly/ daily planner from Graphic Image. They’re handcrafted in the US.

Their selection of colors, textures, leather/European goatskin, gorgeous. Many options for planners, journals, sketchbooks.

I’m a fan of their Robin’s Egg Blue, but purchased “ Ink” this year. They also have metallic options. The pages are cream with gilt edges.

All, so pretty, inspiring and worth the splurge.


The Clever Fox (my fave is rose gold) is my go to planner. I LOVE it.


Where can I find the black, two-person desk in the header image? Thanks!


Just got some new notepads from the Noted by Postit Collection. I got them at target. SO GOOD!


Well I don’t know what this says about me but I am appalled there is no mention of either the hobonichi planners or staedtler pens. A gross oversight!

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