Not Evangelism

Friday, January 28, 2011

Nothing Too Nice To Use (Moleskine Notebooks)

One of my personal principles is the avoidance of clutter: owning nothing that I don't use regularly, having nothing Too Nice To Use. Clutter - aside from lying around, waiting to be dusted, cluttering up the place - is a sneaky kind of waste. After all, if I'm not using something, then I don't need it. Which means I've wasted time, money and effort on buying it, and I'm going to have to waste more on getting rid of it. Not to mention the cost of producing it in the first place; cost that has no pay back in use because it's just not getting used.

In short, I'm a practical person and I can't have ornaments, by which I mean something I might use one day in the future, or which I'm saving for a special occasion. Something, in other words, that's just Too Nice To Use.

When I find something that has become an ornament in my life, I give myself two options: use it (and I mean really use it, regularly, not just some token effort every now and again). Or get rid of it; if I don't use something, then it has become waste, clutter, so it needs to be passed on, recycled, re-purposed, disposed of. I give myself a little time to trial the process; an amnesty, if you like.  I set a reasonable time to understand my habits, and whether I can and want to change them. If, after the trial period, I can look honestly at what I've done, and say that I'm using the items - I keep them. If, on the other hand, it doesn't work out, then we part company equitably.

Example: Moleskine Notebooks

I'd been quietly collecting notebooks for a short while, the result of some whimsical shopping and a few choice presents from wonderful friends. I particularly liked the Moleskine notebooks; the idea of them, the feel of them, the history. I liked the size of the notebook; they fit the hand very nicely. I liked carrying them around. I thought the hard covers were likely to be handy for on-the-go jottings, for writing anywhere.

But after a time it became clear that all I was doing was carrying them around. I wasn't using them for taking notes, wasn't writing in them. I realised that my Moleskine notebooks had slipped out of use, crossed the line beyond Saved For Best. I was saving my Moleskines for Something Special, never using them: too nice for To Do lists, shopping, jottings.

They'd become ornaments. Too Nice To Use.

So I started to use the Moleskines. I gave myself two weeks. I stopped carrying any other notepads, stopped using the back of envelopes for those sudden thoughts, started writing in the books I'd been saving for best.

And you know what? It turns out that I don't like Moleskine notebooks very much. The lines are too close together for when I'm feeling expressive, or when I don't have a decent surface to write on and my handwriting goes all crazy. They're too small for when I need space to think. The paper doesn't play very well with my fountain pen (which was especially disappointing, because I had been saving them for Something Special). And writing every on other line makes me feel like I'm a child at handwriting class, feels like I'm wasting paper.

In short, I realised that the Moleskine notebooks weren't as nice as I'd thought.

Which is when it got even better.

I realised that my Moleskine notebooks didn't warrant saving for best. They really weren't too nice to use, not by a long distance. And that realisation was particularly satisfying, because it allowed me to use them more; for more than just my most important thoughts. I didn't need to be precious about them. Their function was to be jotted in, not carried around primly or kept on a shelf.

Now I use my Moleskine for everything. I scribble in them, doodle in them, write my shopping lists and idle thoughts. I tear pages out to give to other people. I use them, really use them. Oh, I'm not profligate with them; I don't waste them. But I do use them, and gladly. They're not clutter, they're useful, and used. They're no longer ornaments; they're utensils, something to be used up.

Which is something of a result.

Related articles:

1 comment:

  1. I too have a moleskine given to me as a present at the begining of my PhD. I decided I would only use it for GREAT ideas that deserve a permanent home in a well made notebook - you know, like Darwin's theory of evolution, that type of thing. I bet that was written on a moleskine or something similar. But it turns out that great ideas do not announce their arrival with a fanfare and give the receiver time to grab the BEST notebook, so all 2 of my great ideas in my three years PhDing were written on scraps of paper, coded in to a computer program and then thrown away. My moleskines are now empty. I have therefore decided to use my notebook as nothing more than a notebook - that means, dates, times, ideas for my research that might never see the light, meeting minutes, someone's phone number, shopping lists. I reckon it would probably take me at least 6 months to get through one notebook so 5-10 quid is not really all that expensive either.