13 Things to Do With All Those Blank Notebooks

Over the holiday break I did a lot of tidying up around my home office/studio and one of the things I came across was the supply shop quantities of notebooks I have in my closet. Some I’ve taken out of the cellophane wrapper and tested for a review and then they languish in the cupboard. So I’m “saving” and some I might not have liked as much but they could still be useful.

Then I heard Myke talking about trying to use the notebooks he has and I started trying to come up with things I could do to put these notebooks to good use and simultaneously be more productive.

Here’s a list I compiled from various sources and my own crazy ideas for things to do with that pile of empty notebooks you might have laying around:

  1. Daily Journal
  2. Morning Pages/Free Writing/Brain Dump
  3. Lists (Bullet Journal)
  4. Mind Mapping
  5. Sketchnoting
  6. Practice your handwriting
  7. Test all those pens and inks
  8. Commonplace book
  9. Dream Journal
  10. Travel Journal
  11. Book (to-read or read) Journal
  12. Disassemble, cut or remove the pages to use as a notepad or hole punch and put into a binder
  13. Collage, art journal or sketch book

I’m sure I didn’t think of all the myriad of possibilities but I hope these ideas might inspire you to crack the cover on one of those notebooks you have squirreled away. Do you keep a notebook dedicated to a different subject or have a recommendation?

I found a lot of other people writing about this topic with the start of the new year. Lots of people are trying to commit to writing more, journaling or getting organized and nothing will get you there faster than just writing stuff down.

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27 comments / Add your comment below

  1. You may also look to ebay!
    I recently realized I had a number of Field Notes packs left over from a subscription a number of years ago. Turns out there’s a fanatical following that pays top dollar for those babies. I made over $100 on four packs of Field Notes!

  2. I’ve just sent off a Field Notes book to a friend who likes to write. We have not been good at keeping in touch so I wrote him a letter in the notebook and hope that he will reply and send the book back. It is $.70 in postage in a plain envelope but I was lazy and didn’t want to go to the Post Office so I just put two stamps on it. We’ll see if my friend likes the idea. Now I’m thinking I might send one to my sister.

      1. Lol. I’ve thought of it, but it’s hard to get the right person to “play” everyone’s too busy or they forget and then the magics gone. I do hope it works out for all of you! As it’s really fun. I mean look at the vintage Postcards and things people collect now. It’d be neat to have a conversational map at the end of a few years…

        1. None of my friends even mail real cards anymore. It’s so sad. I open my email and it says “e card”. I miss the cool singing cards. My friend gave me one four years ago and I still have it.

  3. Thanks For the suggestions! I’m guilty of “saving” notebooks for something nice. So they never get used…

  4. I just cracked open a notebook to use as my job hunt journal, and then had to get out another of the same brand to confirm that the paper quality has gone downhill. Sadly, it definitely has. Fortunately, I have another twenty of the older ones waiting for me to use

  5. I just started a shared commonplace book with my best friend. We used to have a shared idea journal back when we were teenagers, which was awesome, but this is going to be epic.

  6. Thanks to Messrs. Dowdy & Hurley, as well as the wit of the Unemployed Philosophers Guild, I have a bunch of notebooks & have struggled to find them jobs as well. I’ve been using one to take notes on student presentations, but I love both the book journal & commonplace book ideas! (I’ve also borrowed your idea about using the Ambition Edition date book as a kind of jot-y journal, love that too).
    Thanks for the great ideas!

  7. I sorted through my stuff last summer. I saved a stack of notebooks and bundled up the rest to give away on FreeCycle. (Don’t worry I still have too many notebooks.)

  8. Last week, I unpacked a box that had every daily planner/diary of mine going back to 1993. Why I’ve held onto them for so long, I’ll never know. Now, they didn’t have the Coca-Cola recipe written in them, but just the same, I spent quite a bit of time tearing every page out of them and shredding the ones that had any of my writing in them. Needless to say, I ended up with quite a few blank pages which I have put aside to use for typecasting on my blog. I used some earlier today. Some folks have asked why would I use old diary pages instead of clean white sheets of paper, but I hate wasting paper and I didn’t want to throw these untouched pages into the paper recycling bin without giving them one last shot at being useful. To me, anyway.
    And Sarina, that Field Notes-as-letter idea is pure genius!

  9. I love this. I’m about to tackle more than one shelf of half-used notebooks, and so your post is timely! I sometimes slice out used pages to make the book feel fresh, but then I never go back to use it. I will try the idea of simply removing the fresh pages, and rebinding. My mom (an artist) sometimes uses cast-offs from her painting experiments as the front and back covers of notebooks that she binds. They make lovely little gifts. New notebooks!

  10. Love the photo, Kerouac is a great read on vacation. I read Big Sur while traveling to and through Big Sur a couple of years ago, fun!

    I was listening to a podcast yesterday and he says he has about five journals he regularly updates: goals, business ideas, 5-year plan broken down into action steps, family/personal journal, and one for health. That’s a lot of commitment! But he said that he re-reads them more than he writes in them. He hits each a couple of times a week. I really like the idea. I tend to write, pour it all out and never look again. I’m with you, I have quite a few, all different sizes, paper types etc. Re-purposing them is a great idea.

  11. I am in a postal mail book group; there are 6 of us and we each choose a book and a notebook. We read the book and introduce it with an entry in the notebook. Every other month we mail the book and the notebook and receive a book and a notebook. At the end of a year we have each read 6 books (counting the one we chose) and written 6 entries. At the end your book and notebook is returned to you with all of the entries. This year was my first time taking part in this and this will definitely be a yearly use for a notebook for me!

  12. I go through phases of accumulating sketchbooks/journals/etc and then purging the ones I don’t use. At the moment, I use my notebooks for:
    – my daily planner (This is actually my passport size Midori Travellers Notebook)
    – health journal. I use this to track my meals, how I feel each day, etc. I use a Leuchtturm1917 A5 dot grid for this one.
    – my actual diary. The notebook that I’m using for this is a VERY expensive one I got from a luxury stationary shop in Melbourne several years ago. I attempted to make a “commonplace book” out of it about a year after I got it but lost interest a couple of pages in. So now it’s my diary.
    – recipe book. I decided very recently that I was going to start writing down recipes that I like so that I have some sort of reference down the line. The notebook that I use for this is a Leuchtturm1917 A6 dot grid.
    – sketchbooks/random doodles. These are 2 A6 Hahnemuhle sketchbooks that I got when I decided that I was going to (actually) start drawing/sketching/doodling again.

  13. Testing your handwriting, and trying all pens and pencils…LOL that’s some crazy things to do! Anyway, this is a fun list and loved finding this on Google. I’d also like to add one more…donate. There are many organizations that collect these books/papers and they have channels to redistribute to needy people. Might help others.

  14. I am a teacher and parent. I end up with half-used notebooks every year that most students throw away if not rescued, and have also collected my own kids’ half-used books through the years. They are both college-/wide-ruled paper and composition paper, which is harder to tear out. I can’t throw away good paper so end up storing a pile. I like the idea of making new notebooks for my class next year. Tearing out the perforated lines and creating covers will be the hard part. Any cover ideas for a non-artist? Cardboard covered with …? I have a binding machine.

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