Why Everyone Should Have a Commonplace Book

Whether you are a Type A personality (totally organized) or a Type CC personality (creative chaotic), or somewhere in between,  a commonplace book is a great thing to have and utilize to keep all your thoughts in one place.

What is a Commonplace Book?

Well, it's a repository of thoughts.  Unlike a journal, it's a place to store all of your findings, your favorites, your ideas, your everything (whereas a journal is for journaling only).  Instead of, like me, you have 100 different places where you save stuff and nothing is truly organized, you'll have a place to put all of those random ideas, thoughts, and whatnot.  I have multiple notebooks, scraps of paper, notes on my phone,  etc. and the commonplace book gives me a place to store it all together in ONE spot.  AND you can even attach a folder in the front covers to store extra stuff until you transfer it onto the pages OR you can store random things you find (like articles, etc.) for later reading/looking at.

Most people who use these use them to take notes on the books they are reading (and some use Sketchnotes, which literally means to sketch your notes, rather than writing them out).  But others use them to store quotes and poems they love, lists of things they love, notes on documentaries and Ted Talks.  Mine is a bit different, as I am using my old Franklin Covey organizer with lots of different sections I've created.  I like using this as opposed to a notebook or a sketchbook because there's already pockets, and dividers and everything I need to keep all my crazy ideas in one place.

Here is a list of what I keep in mine:

  • Quotes I find in the books I am reading or in the songs I am listening to.
  • Yearly booklists (last year I aimed for 50, I got 25 done LOL).
  • Books to read in the future (TBR List--to be read list--cut into two lists: nonfiction and fiction).
  • Movies/CD's to rent/watch/listen to (self-explanatory).
  • Wishlists (birthdays, holidays, homeschooling, business, just because, etc.).
  • Invention ideas (yes, I invent things 😉).
  • Silly lists (my family and I make "silly lists", the most recent one was "Crazy Yankee Candle Scents for Famous People" which includes "Simply Buble--which is scented like apples, pickles, and conceit" LOL  We work on these when we're waiting in line or for a doctor's appointment, just something funny to pass the time).
  • Book story ideas or title ideas (I am a fiction writer when I am not blogging).
  • Notes from various places such as magazines and elsewhere, esp. when I am waiting in a doctor's office to be seen--I will read all sorts of awesome stuff and throw it into my commonplace book.  Like I have this great color combination for paint from Benjamin Moore I found in a magazine, so I wrote it down in my book.  Then months later, I wanted to repaint my dining room and used those colors: Calming Aloe for the wall and Bath Salts--a light blue--for the ceiling.  Because I wrote them down in my commonplace book, I didn't lose them and ended up with a gorgeous dining room!
  • Various passwords I need to remember.
  • Various websites I should visit (and a description of what they are).
  • Things I need to always remember: like medicine dosage for my dogs, medicine dosages for me and my family, etc.
  • Things to eventually buy (unlike a wishlist-these are things that are needed, like a "GoggleStopper" for my dog Buddy, who eats so fast he sometimes throws up, etc.).
  • Places to buy things (like there is a place that sells screens in my town that sells quality screens at affordable prices--not their slogan, but this was told to by someone who bought screens from them--so I keep the info in my commonplace book so when we buy our house, I can replace all the shitty screens my landlord installed).
  • Blog post ideas (for this blog!).
  • Crazy stuff (like "Have Samuel L. Jackson write the intro to all of my books" is one my entries LOL).
  • Tshirt ideas (I hand-dye tshirts and put awesome sayings on them)
  • Things to research (because I have ADHD and I want to learn everything I can about everything I see or read or hear about LOL).
  • Medical Symptoms (my hubby get's migraines, so we keep track of those and other various stuff for family members).
  • Recipes to look up (I'll watching cooking shows and write down the names of certain dishes to google later.
  • A list of my mom's "go-to" cat food list (when I shop for her, she just says "Pick me up some catfood!"  Which in goofy mom-speak means: "24 ocean whitefish & tuna, 12 liver & chicken, 12 turkey & giblets, 12 chicken & tuna, and NO salmon!"  So, I always have that list handy in case of a cat food run...).
  • And anything else that I feel I need to keep track of.
And so forth.  You get the picture!  My brain is a jumbled mess, so my commonplace is a place to store all these ideas and thoughts without losing them. I even woke up in the middle of the night back in November, struggling with the first chapter of my newest book when all of sudden I just got it.  I knew what I needed to write.  So I just got out my commonplace and wrote.  This isn't normally what I use it for, but I was so very tired and did not want to go downstairs to get my laptop.  I just needed to write it out really quickly so I could go back to sleep.  The next day I added it into the actual book I was writing.  And my commonplace book was a handy place to jot this down.

There are so many different types of commonplace books out there, but here are a few ideas on what you can choose.

What you can use as a commonplace book:

Your book can be a spiral notebook, a traveler's notebook, a sketchbook, or your phone.  Granted, a phone won't let you put stuff in it (like real stuff), but you can type all you want into your notes file (and speak into your audio recorder for audio notes!) to save for later to put into a real book if needed.  Here are some cool ideas to use as a commonplace book:

  • Spiral Notebook: any kind will do, but I'd find one that matches your personality
  • Leather Bound Journal: such as these from Medieval Journey, or you can go on Amazon and search for cheaper ones.  
  • Steno Book: I have loads of these that I used to keep notes in.  
  • Organizer: If you go onto Amazon or Michaels, you will find oodles of organizers to choose from.  Just make sure they have places to put lined (or unlined) paper.
  • Sketch Book: I got mine at Michaels, a huge one for $20 with a 40% off coupon.  Depending on your needs, you can choose from one that will fit into your purse or bag or a huge one to keep at home.  I like mine portable.
  • Traveler's Notebook: these things are uber cool  Here is a video of mine that I put together for my old (now defunct) blog.  You can find cheap versions at Michaels that are really cute. 
  • Binder: I use binders for everything!  I really love my mini-binder I got from Walmart that I use to write notes for my memoir (they even have mini-paper and mini-dividers to go with it).  
  • Altered Composition Book: here is a video of how I made mine (link coming soon).  I love this composition book--I got it for $1 from Walmart AND it's has grid paper!  I use mine for my Life List Notebook (which I will also link later).
  • Scrapbook: if you are scrappy, then you can turn a scrapbook into anything. And they are refillable so you can add more pages as you go.
  • Handmade Book: I am not really good at hand-binding books, but I still love to try to make them.  You could go simple or really complicated and beautiful with this.
  • Day Planner: which is what I have.  I love these because of all the zippers, pockets, folders and sheets to use.  I found some new inserts at Michaels the other day and I can't wait to use them!
  • Smashbook (tm): did I mention I have like 10 of these?  I love smashbooking!  I even created a bag to organize all my supplies, which I will link to later 😄 There's so much room to write in these and you can let out your arty side and decorate the heck out of it!
  • Legal Pad: this is my go-to type of paper for working out business/blog stuff (as well as other stuff).  I love legal pads so hard, the only issue I have is that I don't like to tear out the paper, so writing on the back becomes nearly impossible.
  • Recipe Box: I am providing a link down below to how someone uses this for a commonplace book.  Just use blank dividers and then take notes on notecards and place in the right section.  That's it!
  • Portable File Box and Folders: Get one with a handle and throw all your loose papers and printouts in it.
  • Envelope Journal: <--here is the link to make one of these.  You can write on the envelopes and shove papers into them, too!
  • Moleskine Journal: these are small, portable and can even fit into a pocket!
  • Memory Box: place loose paper in these, among other stuff.
  • Altered Book: if you know how to alter books, you can turn it into anything you want, including commonplace books!

Here are some pictures of mine:

This is a Franklin Covey organizer/day planner I got a million years ago, either at Office Max or somewhere used (I tend to pick up these types of things at Goodwill and the such--great way to get expensive things at cheap prices!).  The cover has some cat scratches on it because apparently I can't have nice things AND have cats.  So anyways, here are some pictures:

This is what it looks like, very bulky, but I like it that way.  It's harder for me to misplace! haha

These are the front folders inside.  There is room for cards, as well as a zipper and pockets.
I keep my papers for my ecourse/book I am working on in the front pocket.

Here is the inside.  I have a hole puncher, a card sleeve, a zippered pouch and then all my sections.

Here are the sections.  I love to use the sticky tags to use on sheets as dividers.

Here are some cool notes I took as I was reading a writing website.  These exercises are lots of fun!

Like I said, I have decorating ideas I got from a magazine at my doctor's office.  I painted my old dining room these colors stated at the top.

These are the back pockets/folders.  I love having places to shove things into LOL

Depending upon your needs, you can turn a commonplace book into anything you like.  Like I said above, some only use it to take notes on the books they read, but many people use it for so much more!  Check out how others use theirs:

Here are some of my favorite videos and websites about commonplace books & the such:


Thought Catalog: this is the link that teaches you how to use an index card system with a recipe box

Self-Made Scholar: this is a great link to get to know how to create a commonplace book.

Toasted Cheese: a nice long (and informative) post about commonplace books

Ellina: a cool IG account, mostly of her sketches, but also her commonplace book as well

Clark Kegley: a wonderful video on how to make a cool commonplace book in a sketchbook

Ten Boom Institute: a wonderful explanation on what a commonplace is

Rhomany's Realm: one of my all time favorite videos on brain dumps (which work for commonplace books)

Julias Bento: another great video of what commonplace books are

Do you have a commonplace book?  If so, share some pics or links to your site so I can see it!

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