What To Put In A Bullet Journal To Become Insanely Effective

What To Put In A Bullet Journal To Become Insanely Effective

what to put in a bullet journalWhen you start out with a new bullet journal, it can be overwhelming to figure out what pages you should include. The beauty and trouble with bullet journaling is that it’s so flexible you can do anything, which then begs the question: if you can do anything, what do you do?

1. Start With The Basic Bullet Journal Pages:

start with the basic pages

There are a few key pages that all bullet journals need to have, we outline them here. These pages are the core of any bujo and make the whole system work. The basics are:

  • A key – a set of bullet journal symbols to codify your tasks
  • An index – a place to catalogue your pages
  • Collections – Think a focused list
  • Spreads – often a way to keep track of things weekly or monthly
erin of the petite planner

“Try a couple. Don’t tie yourself into one layout and think you have to stick with it. Try out different layouts and spend some time reflecting on what worked and what didn’t and then make adjustments from there.” – Erin of ThePetitePlanner.com

2. Next Figure Out What You Already Do

figure out what you already do

The best way to figure out what you should put in your bullet journal is to look at what you’re already doing. Many people jump to what they WANT to do, but humans are funny, it’s hard to change habits. First, focus on what you already do and your current needs, then you can figure out where you aspire to be.

Open up your current calendar, planner, or whatever you use and see what is there. Start to write down what you see as your major items. Look for patterns, things that come up a lot, or things that often get lost in the shuffle. You can create a collection in your new bullet journal just for this! Write down what you see as needs here.

racheal

“If you’re just starting out try to keep things fluid. Try rapid logging if you can. That way you’ll get to see how much space you really need on a daily basis. . Based on these findings you can start to design a spread that has enough room”  – Rachael of PlanningWithMaggieRae.com

If you don’t have any system yet (why would you be looking at bullet journals otherwise?) open up your email inbox, then look at who you email most. What types of things do you notice about that?

  • What meetings do you often have?
  • What projects or tasks came up in the last 30 days?
  • What meeting invites did you receive?
  • What tasks result from your top 5 people you email?

You can do this with your text messages on your phone, social media messenger apps, the bills you get in the mail, etc. Pretend like you’re an anthropologist analyzing the pieces of your life to figure out what you do day in, day out. Add these to your collection.

“Brainstorm ideas before you even get started. Grab a random piece of paper, and just write down everything that comes to mind. What do you need your journal to do for you?  From that list, you’ll have a really good idea of what layouts you’ll need in your journal.” – Kara of BohoBerry.com

3. What Else To Include In Your Bullet Journal?

what to include in bullet journal

Next, think about beyond what you already do and think about what you’d like to aspire to be. I’d suggest starting with only 1-3 new things. Remember that we aren’t really good at changing behaviors and besides, its best to start with a few goals that we really nail, then move on to a new one. Studies have shown this to be way more effective.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • What would my ideal day look like?
  • What do I want more of in my life?
  • What do I want less of in my life?
  • If I didn’t have to worry about money, what would I do?

Once you answer those things, figure out what goals you have, choosing only 1-3 goals. Write those down and think about a spread that might support that goal. How can you document your progress on that goal?

shannon of wellella

“You can either create your own layouts or search for examples online to get ideas. There are very active online communities for bullet journalists on Facebook, Reddit, and Instagram that can also be great places to ask questions and get ideas if you feel stuck.” – Shannon of Wellella.com

 Blossoms and Bullet Journals

“Each month, I always include a ‘highlights’ spread where I write down something good that happened to me every day. (I’ve seen others do similar spreads before, but I wouldn’t say it’s terribly common.) It’s great for positivity, and it’s also awesome to look back on later.” – Annie of BlossomsAndBulletJournals

4. Putting It All Together

putting it all together

Take your list of things you already do plus the things you hope to do. These will outline what your new bullet journal needs to do for you.

Once you you know what your Bujo needs to do, start looking for bullet journal spreads that meet those needs.

Now that you’ve figured out what you need, check out some ideas for bullet journal pages.

16 Best Pens for Bullet Journaling: Bujo Supplies You Can’t Live Without

16 Best Pens for Bullet Journaling: Bujo Supplies You Can’t Live Without

best pens for bullet journalingWhen I first discovered bullet journaling, I spent hours looking at other people’s amazing designs. Soon I was looking for some tools of the trade to try it out myself. Being a technical-minded person, I, of course, wanted to understand the “how” of the bullet journaling process. What was the best method? What was the best paper and journal type to use? What were the best pens for bullet journaling?

Beginning bullet journalers may feel at a loss for how to begin. For a breakdown of the bullet journal process, please check out my post on How to Start a Bullet Journal and Master Your Productivity. Once you understand the bujo basics, choose your preferred supplies. In future posts I’m going to share the best journals and supplies, I’ve found, but here I thought we’d start with the most important tool: the almighty pen.

I’ve broken down the 16 best pens for bullet journaling. I also conducted interviews with top bujo bloggers and got their take on the best supplies as well. Here is a comprehensive list of every writing utensil you need to create beautiful, artistic, and functional bullet journals!

Best Pens for Bullet Journaling


Black Pens and Markers

pens and markers for bullet journals

While colored pens and markers are very popular for bullet journaling, it really all starts with your basic black ink. Anja from Anja Home responded to my survey with, “Besides my bullet journal notebook, I couldn’t live without a black ink pen.”

There’s a misconception that bullet journaling needs to be fussy and overcomplicated. As you well-know, I’m a simple guy. I’m all about minimalism and simplification, especially when it comes to organization and work. You don’t need artistic talent or even great handwriting for bullet journaling. Truly all you need is a black pen and paper.

So here are the best basic pens and markers for bullet journaling.

1. Staedtler Pigment Liner, Black

Amazon rating: 4.2 out of 5 stars

Staedtler Pigment Liner

These pens are quite popular for bujo fans. Blogger, Little Miss Rose writes her most popular bullet journal supplies are, “All my pens! But if I had to choose one, it would be my Staedtler Pigment Liners. They don’t tend to smudge and are waterproof.”

This set of 6 Staedtler Pigment Liner pens (for the price of 4) comes with 6 different widths, ranging from .05 mm to .8 mm. They’re perfect for outlining, shading, shadowing, and more. Strong, steady lines are easy to master with the varying widths of these pens—the ideal simple black liner pen for bullet journaling needs.

One Amazon reviewer writes: “I love these pens. I originally bought them for my bullet journal, and I ended up using them for that purpose and more. I love them for any kind of writing or note-taking. I love that this pack came with six different tip sizes. I enjoy writing with each tip size for different circumstances and needs. I keep my pens in the case they came in so I can easily take them all with me in my bag. You know you have a pen obsession when you carry them with you everywhere you go. The case also snaps into its own little stand, which is nice if you are switching between pens frequently. I have used these in my Leuchtturm1917 dotted journal – there is ghosting but no bleeding.”

best pens for bullet journaling


2. BOXUN Calligraphy Brush Pen

Amazon rating: 3.9 out of 5 stars

BOXUN Calligraphy Brush Pen

These liner brush pens are another perfect set for bullet journaling. There are four different size tips in this set (two brush tips, one medium, fine, and ultra-fine), making it versatile for all outlining, shadowing, etc. If you want to learn calligraphy or lettering for the first time, these are great beginner-grade pens.

My friend, who is an avid bullet journaler, recommends these because she’s also learning calligraphy and loves them for both applications. They provide smooth, super-rich black color that doesn’t pool or smear.

A fan on Amazon writes: “I ordered these along with a hand lettering and calligraphy book. I don’t have much experience in art, but I do use other markers to create illustrations. I would say these pens aren’t professional grade but are exactly what I needed to learn how to hand letter for the first time. The various sizes made it easy for me to experiment with what I liked best as I was learning. I will definitely keep these around for various lettering crafts.”

best pens for bullet journaling


3. Tombow Fudenosuke Brush Pen

Amazon rating: 4.2 out of 5 stars

Tombow Fudenosuke Brush Pen

Calligraphy brushes and pens are perfect for bullet journaling because of their versatility. You can draw hard, fine lines and soft brush strokes with the same pen. These Tombow brush pens are perfect for fine line calligraphy or shading and outlining. This 2-pack of soft and hard tipped pens are a definite necessity for your bullet journal.

boho berry
Blogger Kara of Boho Berry wrote in my survey that she highly recommends, “My Tombow MONO Drawing Pens! They come in a variety of tip sizes, and the black felt tip writes gloriously!”

Amazon reviewers seem to feel the same, writing: “There honestly isn’t any competition when it comes to brush pens. These two Tombow Fudenosuke Brush Pens are all you need for calligraphy and illustration. The hard tip pen is blue, and the soft tip pen is green. I use both for calligraphy, but I prefer the soft tip for darker/heavier lines and the hard tip for thinner, delicate lines. Either way, you need a steady hand and control over pressure to get good quality lines. Both pens give you good control, but overall, I prefer the soft tip more. Both pens feel great when you use them. The lines are dark and do not bleed easily, and it makes you feel just THAT much more professional. I highly recommend these pens, and I will probably buy another set after mine run out of ink!”

best pens for bullet journaling


4. Faber-Castell Wallet Pitt Pen Nibs

Amazon rating: 4.4 out of 5 stars

Faber-Castell Wallet Pitt Pen Nibs

Another popular pen, these artist-quality Faber-Castell Pitt Pen Nibs, come in a variety of tip sizes and use pigmented India ink that is archival, meaning the ink will last and last on paper. They’re a reliable set of jet-black pens perfect for simple journaling needs.

elizabeth journals
Elizabeth Journals writes, “I could not live without my Faber-Castell Pitt artist pens because they do not smudge in my notebook, and I love the way they write.”
the petite planner
Erin of The Petite Planner writes, “I recommend Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Pens. I use them pretty much all day long.”

On Amazon, one reviewer wrote: “I love these pens for sketching, and this pack is a great sampler. Highly recommend if you want to experiment with different art styles and pen techniques. They last a good long while, and the packaging can be used as storage if you want (it has a closable flap up top). The ink is a nice dark black, and the variety of brush tips is fun to switch between – half are smaller, technical pen types, while the other half are larger and more brush-like.”

best pens for bullet journaling


Colored Pens

best pens for bullet journaling

Many journalers love using colored pens for their bullet journals. It’s easier to track your goals, progress, and activities when you use a color-coded system. Additionally, the color is beautiful and makes your bujo stand out.

I personally find it’s more motivating to use something that looks nice and is easy to read. Color-coding your bullet journal really helps increase the functionality. In my survey, Sylvia from Mommy Over Work wrote that her top bullet journaling supply was “Colored pens! I love items that combine functionality with aesthetic, so having a variety set allows you to color-code your writing.”

5. Crayola Super Tips Washable Markers

Amazon rating: 4.2 out of 5 stars

Crayola Super Tips Washable Markers

Crayola markers are reliable, washable, don’t bleed through paper, and last for quality use. This 80 count set includes 42 unique colors, 25 duplicates of the favorite colors, and even scented markers! It’s a perfect set for both children’s coloring and adult bullet journaling, so it’s a multi-purpose set.

A friend of mine has these, and she loves them. She uses them for her adult coloring books as well as bullet journaling and says they’ve lasted for over a year.

Another blogger from Planning Mindfully says these Crayola Super Tips are her favorite!

best pens for bullet journaling


6. Paper Mate Flair Felt Tip Pens

Amazon rating: 4.6 out of 5 stars

Paper Mate Flair Felt Tip Pens

These medium-point felt tip markers are another bullet journaling favorite. They’re smudge-proof, waterproof, and won’t bleed through the paper. The .7mm tip is the perfect size for precision lines with bold color. They’re also perfect for note-taking and coloring.

Amazon featured this promising review: “I bought these for my planner and was pleased to see that they don’t bleed through the paper. All markers worked perfectly; none were dry or empty like other reviews. They dry pretty quickly, so I haven’t had any issues with transferring or smearing. Love these!”

best pens for bullet journaling


7. Fineliner Color Pen Set

Amazon rating: 4.4 out of 5 stars

Fineliner Color Pen Set

Vibrant colors and a fine-point tip make these markers ideal for journaling, note-taking, color-coding, and even basic doodling. They’re slim and comfortable in your hand and write smoothly with no bleeding through the page.

According to some of the reviews, they don’t last as long as other pens but are really ideal for bullet journaling.

One reviewer on Amazon writes: “These pens are gorgeous. The colors are vibrant, and next-to-no bleed through or bleed out. I absolutely love colored pens and have bought many, many brands, and these are better than any I have used. The value is remarkable. I like them better than Sharpie and Papermate fine point markers. None of the markers were dried out, as I have experienced on multiple occasions with Papermate markers. The colors are vastly different from each other, and the packaging description is pretty spot on. Will absolutely be making these a staple in my collection!!”

best pens for bullet journaling


8. ZEBRA Sarasa Porous Pen

Amazon rating: 4 out of 5 stars

ZEBRA Sarasa Porous Pen

These fine-liner pens are colorful, write like butter, and are perfect for drawing, journaling, or everyday note-taking. Zebra is an excellent brand for journaling pens because of their long-lasting quality. Color-code your journal, calendar, notes, etc. with the bright, vibrant colors and create perfect lines with the reliable fine-point tip.

The reviewers on Amazon highly recommend these pens: “I LOVE these pens! They are excellent “scratchy pens” – they write wonderfully, the colors are vibrant, and make taking work notes so much better. I’ve already bought some for myself and another pack for a friend as a gift.”

best pens for bullet journaling


9. Staedtler Triplus Fineliner Pens

Amazon rating: 4.6 out of 5 stars

Staedtler Triplus Fineliner Pens

These ultra-fine point pens are .3mm, making them perfect for intricate, fine lines and designs. The tip is metal-clad, reinforcing the fine tip for steady penmanship. The barrel of the pen is an ergonomic triangle shape, making it ultra-comfortable in your hand.

marsha plans
Blogger One of my bullet journaling interviewees, Masha Plans, highly recommended these as a top bullet journal supply, “It’s so hard to choose just one thing. I have a crazy amount of stationery, and all of my supplies are must-haves for me. But if I had to choose, I’d say it’s probably my Fineliners. Fineliners are the basis of all my doodles and page setups, so I can’t imagine planning without them.”

On Amazon, these Fineliner pens receive rave reviews: “These are gorgeous pens! All of the felt tips were functional – not dried out and not too rough on the pages. I use these mostly in my Leuchtturm1917 journal. There is some bleed through on thin papers, such as the sheets in that particular journal.”

“The pens are shaped with three angles; as someone with joint problems, I’ve found this extremely helpful in minimizing pain when I write. This function also helps the pens click back into the container. The container’s lid has a pop-back function that lets you stand the entire case upright for easy organization while you write. They are made very well, though I did notice my most-used colors’ felt tips were smushed a little after prolonged use (I’m talking a few months of heavy use). Overall, these are quality pens in brilliant colors, and I would buy more from Staedtler.”

best pens for bullet journaling


10. Sharpie Art Pens

Amazon rating: 4.4 out of 5 stars

Sharpie Art Pens

I will personally vouch for the perfection of Sharpie pens—these are my go-to felt tip pens for writing, doodling, journaling, basically any note-taking. You can get these pens in an 8, 12, 16, or 24-count set. They come with a hard case so you can keep them organized while using them. Sharpie pens are designed with the well-known Sharpie quality, but with no bleed-through on paper.

There are quite a few Sharpie art pen fans on Amazon too: “I’m a full-time writer and am always on the hunt for a good pen. I have standards, and most pens will skip, run out of ink too quickly, lack a variety of colors, hurt my fingers, or tear the pages I’m working on. It is incredibly frustrating to be mid-scene/note-taking/brainstorming to have your pen die on you or be finicky.”

“Enter the holy grail of pens: Sharpie.”

“These don’t bleed through the page for me, and I even use them in my bullet journal I keep (Leuchtturm1917). They are my staple, and I routinely buy back up packs of these, so I always have my favorite colors on hands–the dark green is a beautiful color. These are also excellent for marking up manuscripts during revisions. The only color I don’t use is the yellow because it’s too light and not easily legible. If you’re looking for a great pen that is trusty and sturdy and won’t bleed, I highly recommend these, especially if you’re a writer. I’ve used these exclusively for the last two years, and I’m never looking back!”

best pens for bullet journaling


11. Pilot FriXion Clicker Retractable Erasable Gel Pens

Amazon rating: 4.4 out of 5 stars

Pilot FriXion Clicker Retractable Erasable Gel Pens

Remember the hype of erasable pens back in the day? You were the coolest kid in class if you had magic pens. Well, Pilot FriXion pens are the modern-day cool kid’s erasable gel pen. These pens are reliable, smooth pens that last. This pack comes with multiple colors, including basic black. Use for bullet journaling, everyday note-taking, planner art—they’re so versatile, and if you screw up, erase and continue!

Devotees of FriXion pens highly recommend them: “Love, Love, Love!! I have purchased these pens over and over! I am a 4th-year college student, and these have truly helped me organize my notes. They are so great for color coding, and I love that you can erase because I know for a fact if I wasn’t able to, my notes would be so sloppy! I have recommended these to other students and friends, and they too have loved them. The pens do write like a gel pen, so you have to be careful to let the ink dry a little before going over it with a highlighter, for example. I would also suggest trying not to erase hard as you will either rip your paper or make it all wrinkly! Overall, these are my favorite!”

best pens for bullet journaling


12. Pilot FriXion Colors Erasable Marker

Amazon rating: 4.3 out of 5 stars

Pilot FriXion Colors Erasable Marker

If you are amazed by the existence of erasable pens, wait until you hear about erasable MARKERS. Yes, that’s right—FriXion markers are erasable, vibrant, and have the perfect fine-to-medium point for smooth and versatile writing.

A note on FriXion pens: the ink erases due to heat created by the friction of the eraser so that ink will reappear in the right temperatures (-10 degrees Celsius, or 14 degrees Fahrenheit). Pop your journal in the freezer and watch the ink appear! Likewise, don’t leave pens or your journal in a hot car, as the ink may disappear under heated conditions.

An Amazon reviewer writes, “I was recently introduced to FriXion pens. I bought these to use on my Everlast and Wave notebook, and I’m pretty amazed. The markers are sturdy with a fine tip that produces vibrant color. They erase using the rubber tip on the cap, a FriXion eraser, or a hairdryer. I’ve printed off several of my toddler’s favorite cartoon characters and let her color them with these markers, and she is amazed when I use the hairdryer to make the ink disappear like magic for her to color again. Definitely saves a lot of paper since she LOVES to color. They are definitely worth the money, in my opinion.”

best pens for bullet journaling


13. Paper Mate InkJoy Gel Pens

Amazon rating: 4.6 out of 5 stars

Paper Mate InkJoy Gel Pens

InkJoy pens are one of the most reliable pens I’ve found. The vivid color ink dries quickly, eliminating the risk of smearing. The fine point is perfect for smooth writing or journaling, and the pen grip is comfortable. They’re super versatile for use and they last, making them a great go-to pen not only for bullet journaling but any note-taking!

shannon from wellella
Shannon from Wellella writes, “I’m always looking for the perfect pen to write with. My current favorite is the Paper Mate InkJoy gel pen in blue. It’s a cheap pen, but it writes like an expensive pen, with smooth yet fast-drying ink. I have a hard time putting it down!”

The Amazon reviews support the hype on these pens as well: “These Paper Mate InkJoy Gel Pens ROCK! I have an obsession with pens, seriously! I’m left-handed and fellow lefties reading this know the struggle of Gel pens and our left hands. Nothing but smeared ink, colored hands, and smudged writing – but not anymore. A coworker had bought a single one of these paper mate pens and let me try it, within 30 seconds I was hooked. First of all, the ink dries quickly, so I didn’t smudge it at all. Ever. Second, they write so smoothly. Third, the colors are vivid and bright, and fourth, the pens feel nice in your hands! I have to hide these pens from everyone else because they are always trying to run off with them.”

best pens for bullet journaling


Highlighters and Markers

highlighters and markers for bullet journaling

Highlighters and markers are also popular supplies for bullet journaling. You can use highlighters to emphasize certain items on your list. Markers are useful for drawing, adding color, filling in grid trackers, and other bujo activities.

Again, while highlighters and markers aren’t critical to bullet journaling, they make the process more aesthetically pleasing and fun. I definitely heard popular reviews of highlighters during my bullet journal supply survey.

14. Zebra Pen Mildliner, Double Ended Highlighter

Amazon rating: 4.7 out of 5 stars

Zebra Pen Mildliner

When it comes to highlighting markers and pens, I LOVE these double-ended pens. One end is a broad-point highlighter, and the other end is a fine point, perfect for journaling and fine, steady lines. The color of these pens is a perfect mild hue, making them ideal for layering colors (without bleeding or smudging).

love from lisa
Many of my interviewees also mentioned highlighters as an important writing implement for bullet journaling. Love from Lisa told us, “I couldn’t live without highlighters, as I use them to highlight new dates and even color-code my to-dos. For example, groceries are highlighted yellow, kids’ activities blue, and priorities red.”

On Amazon, reviewers recommend these for bullet journaling, writing, “These markers are great for bullet journaling. Unlike a highlighter, these “mildliners” provide a soft, pastel-like color that looks neater and less overwhelming on the page. They also come in a wider range of colors. I use them to create simple headings on my bullet journal pages or to color in drawings. The grey color is especially cool for a really subtle effect. The other great thing about these markers is that they feature two ends, one a traditional, blunt highlighter end, and a finer point on the other end for detail work. You won’t regret buying these if you are a bullet journal fan or even a student or academic who uses highlighters while reading.”

best pens for bullet journaling


15. Stabilo BOSS Original Highlighter

Amazon rating: 4.4 out of 5 Stars

Stabilo BOSS Original Highlighter

These pastel highlighters are perfect for your bullet journal creation. The highlighters feature a chiseled tip for wide lines and fine lines. The highlighters are designed with an anti-dry out technology, so you can leave the cap off or up to 4 hours without ruining the marker. This set adds the perfect touch of light pastel color to your bullet journal or planner. You can get a dual set of pastel and primary-colored highlighters here, as well.

On Amazon, these are commended for multiple applications: “These are beyond excellent. For researchers or anyone else who highlights text, some regular highlighters are too dense and sometimes too dark. You can’t read the text you highlighted. But with these Stabilo Pastels, you can read the text easily. You can color-code your high lights in a way that can’t be done with darker-ink ones. Also, the pastel color is pleasing to look at, not off-putting like the fluorescents that are too bright and jazzy for the serious researcher. I give Stabilo an A+.”

best pens for bullet journaling


16. Feela Bible Gel Highlighters

Amazon rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Feela Bible Gel Highlighters

These highlighters are designed to highlight the super-thin pages of the Bible perfectly. Reviewers recommend them because the ink is vibrant, the color is bold and stands out, but the ink is gentle and doesn’t bleed through the pages at all. They’re designed for use on light, thin paper, so they’re a perfect option for bullet journaling, using vibrant, intense colors without ruining other pages.

One Amazon reviewer writes: “I use these for Bible journaling, but they would be excellent for a student or anyone needing to emphasize passages they want to remember. These highlighters do NOT bleed through the paper, and there is very little shadow or ghosting on the other side of the paper. These are smooth writing and no grainy looking spots when you highlight words. They glide across the paper seamlessly and deliver a consistent color layout. I love the peach color, which is a new one, and the two greens that are different hues, as well as the blues and purples being different hues. It is a real plus to have colors that vary from similar brands.”

best pens for bullet journaling


Other Supplies for Bullet Journaling

Supplies for Bullet Journaling

Throughout my survey, the other important item (besides a high-quality journal—more on those in a future post) that kept coming up was a ruler. Many bullet journalers mentioned it was so important to use a ruler to create straight lines, grids, and charts in their journal.

tales from home
Kristin from Tales from Home writes, “I really couldn’t draw a straight line on my own if my life depended on it and having a ruler handy for weekly and monthly layouts is extremely valuable.”
planning with maggie rae
Rachael from Planning with Maggie Rae writes, “The one item I NEED is a good pen. Pigmented but not one that bleeds through the paper. Also, I want it to be thin, so my writing looks neater. I have terrible penmanship. A close second is a ruler.”
life by whitney
Finally, Whitney at Life By Whitney told me, “When making layouts, I love to use a little 6-inch ruler to help make my lines straight. I’ve also been learning brush lettering and always have a small black brush pen to make quick, fancy headers in my book to add easy decoration.”

So, as you can see, a ruler is another vital tool for creating bullet journals.

sheena of the journal
Sheena from Sheena of the Journal also wrote among her critical supplies is, “My pen bag! I have a million different pens I like to use, from fountain pens to colorful markers, calligraphy pens, etc. It keeps journaling fun for me. Without a place to keep all my pens, I’d be losing them left and right!”

Again, bullet journaling is as straightforward or as complex as you like, but like any task, it’s easiest if you use proper tools. If you’re ready to start bullet journaling, I recommend exploring the many pens and tools to help you create a beautiful journal that you’ll love to use!

Your Turn!

  • What’s your favorite pen for bullet journaling?
  • What bullet journal supplies are your must-haves?

200+ Stunning Bullet Journal Page Ideas To Organize Your Life For Good!

200+ Stunning Bullet Journal Page Ideas To Organize Your Life For Good!

stunning bullet journal page ideasSo you’re looking for some creative bullet journal page ideas? One of the great things about bullet journaling is that it’s a very flexible way to organize your life. It’s helped me tremendously with my tasks and time management, but the trouble with being able to do anything is to figure out where to start.

After using a bujo for years now, I figured I’d share some of my go-to bullet journal pages types that should be in every journal, plus some extras that others find super helpful when adding to your notebook.

How To Organize Your Bullet Journal Pages?

How To Organize Your Bullet Journal Pages

Keep in mind that your pages can be in almost any order because, with your index page, you’ll be able to keep track of where everything is. As you get more experienced with journaling, you’ll figure out what your first starting pages should be.

For me, I start by numbering all the pages if they aren’t already. After that the first page of my bullet journal is usually a “this journal belongs to” page, then I add my key and index so they face each other.

From there I usually think broadly and then narrow in scope. So I start with yearly planning and goals, then narrow to months and, within the months, I narrow again to weekly.

Start planning your bullet journal by writing different types of bullet journal pages on post-it notes, place them on the pages in the order you think you want. After you’re done, start to flip through your journal and see if the flow makes sense. If something needs to be changed, the post-its let you quickly rearrange.

How Many Pages Should Be In A Bullet Journal?

How Many Pages Should Be In A Bullet Journal

There is no hard and fast rule: Include your index and key, then start with a weekly spread. Add more pages as a need arises.

For most people they’ll often have your standard bullet journal pages, then add weekly spreads as the months go by. Some people like to insert monthly cover pages to delineate the weeks. In January I’m usually doing a lot of goal setting and yearly planning, so I often will layout pages for items like bucket lists, workout trackers , or other trackers to keep a record of new habits I want to build.

bullet journal printable sticker pages

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Bullet Journal Cover Page Ideas

Bullet Journal Cover Page Ideas

Use fun doodles, sketches or designs to dress up the first page of your bullet journal. If you aren’t super artistic consider using stamps, stickers, stencils and washi tape to do some of the work for you. This is a great place to get really creative with your BUJO!

yearly cover for bujo

A simple font cover can kick off the year. Hand letter with a fountain pen or use a stencil.

nautical monthly cover for bullet journal

Theme your journal covers each month to get excited for what’s coming up next month!

citrus journal cover page idea

Use some great pens to add some color to your cover pages.

monthly cover floral wreath

Floral wreaths can be drawn black and white or later colored in.

mini calendar bullet journal cover page

Add a calendar on the cover page for quick reference.

citrus fruit bullet journal page idea

Choose a theme for the month: Citrus designs, tropical plants, or the next trend.

fall bullet journal page layout

Find cute play on words to get into the mood. Seasonal title pages work great for this.

fall season cover

Choose thematic colors to sketch in your journal.

simple minimalist bujo cover page

Go with a super simple minimalist bullet journal cover page.

koi august monthly page design 10

Use a stamp to create repeating elements, then color them in to make them unique.

This Journal Belongs To Page Ideas

This Journal Belongs To Page Ideas

Don’t put in all this work only to lose it! I usually start my journal with a simple page letting people know who’s journal it is if they find it. Since you will often include this is every journal, consider getting a stamp as a simple way to label your journal. Some journals come with a pre-printed place to fill out your name like Moleskin notebooks.

simple text bujo page title

No need to get really fancy, All you really need is a simple text and graphics!

Can’t draw? Try out a printable version of bullet journal pages!

mountains journal index
plants belongs to notebook

Bullet Journal Key Ideas

bullet journal key ideas

The Key is what makes your bujo super effective. Different bullet journal symbols let you further organize [LINK] your to-lists, tasks, and other collections. Use these different signifiers to code your different pages and keep track of it all. The key page is where you reference your symbols to keep it all straight.

color coded bullet journal key page layout

Use colors to further codify your items

basic bullet journal key layout

Most keys keep it pretty simple: tasks, in-progress, completed, canceled or migrated.

black pen outline for bullet journal key

bullet journal printables

Flip Out Bullet Journal Key Ideas

Flip Out Bullet Journal Key Ideas

This is a really great hack for your key or index. Using a bit of heavier stock paper, you can keep it right in front of you just by flipping it out, no matter what page you’re on! Anchor the tab with some Washi tape to dress it up.

mini tabbed key for journal

Your key can double as a book mark to make it easy to find your current spot in your journal.

washi tape flip out bullet journal key

Use washi tape to dress up your flip out key or index and reinforce the edges.

Index Pages To Keep You Organized

Index Pages To Keep You Organized

One of the first pages you’ll include is your index page. Your index page will let you catalogue where things are and easily find them later. Every time you create a new spread or collection, add it to your index. This simple method overcomes one of the major hurtles of paper journals: searchability.

simple gold and black index page idea

Write what the page content is, then next to it write the page number.

ribbon bullet journal pages

If you need to continue with a certain collection, use a page range with a dash “–” or call out pages by number with a comma “,”.

bullet journal printable sticker pages

bujo printable stickers

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Daily Spreads And Layouts

Daily Spreads And Layouts

Sometimes you need to get focused on a single day: daily spreads and layouts can be used to plan your day and keep track of your to do lists. Using a daily planner spread gives you some extra space on the page to write down all the little things you need to keep track of. You can do a page per day or choose a layout that has multiple days per page.

washi tape and simple text bujo page decorations

Dress up your daily spread or other layouts simply with some washi tape.

weekly spread fall

If your journal has a dot grid follow the pattern for simple setup.

simple weekly spread with sketch blue pen

Include a mini calendar for quick reference.

black page bullet journal page ideas for weekly spread

Use black pages and opaque markers for some real eye-popping color!

“I currently LOVE having a daily page. While I also use weekly spreads, a daily allows me the ability to be creative and write whatever I want about the day. I don’t feel locked into a small box that you’ll find with the weekly layouts. My weekly layouts are crisp, clean, and structured. You will literally find a little bit of everything in my dailies, from art, to journaling, to stickers, to quotes, to lists, and more.” – Rachel of Planning Mindfully.

Weekly Bullet Journal Spreads

Weekly Bullet Journal Spreads

This is my preferred format; I find that a one-page weekly spread is the perfect size for most of my needs. The question of daily vs weekly is a matter of preference, so don’t be afraid to try different layouts for a few weeks, then switch it up until you find something that works well for you.

index card weekly spread design ideas

I really like this one=page spread because it uses the dot grid to quickly make the boxes.

fall weekly spread page ideas

A simple highlighted background can dress-up your headings quickly and easily.

simple box weekly spread with mini calendar

I like this one because it includes the weekend and a dedicated to-do list area.

basic weekly spread with washi tape

Simple black and white scheme can be very attractive.

Monthly Layouts

bujo Monthly Layouts

Laying out a whole month can be tricky, but sometimes you really need a view like this for planning. Use this month view to map out what’s coming up in your schedule, mark important dates, and list important deadlines. During the holidays it can be really helpful around Christmas or Thanksgiving with all that goes on in these months.

monthly calendar view for your bullet journal

Use a simple monthly calendar layout to mark important dates.

august month cover page for bullet journal

A simple numbered list that corresponds to the days can work well too!

Monthly Cover Page Layouts

Monthly Cover Page Layouts

Monthly cover pages are a great place to dress up your journal. While weekly spreads are working pages, taking some time at the end of each month to create a new title page for the start of the next month is a great way to reset. I find that getting creative with your pages once a month is about the right amount. Some people spend days creating gorgeous pages in their journal, but realistically once a month strikes a great balance of getting things done while also bringing some creativity to the mix.

water color monthly bujo

Don’t be afraid to try different pens, watercolors, or other mediums.

super simple monthly calendar page with mini calendar

Get creative with cut paper designs.

bullet journal printables

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Year At A Glance – Yearly Spreads

Year At A Glance bullet journal page ideas

Come January I’m thinking about what I want to get done in the coming year. A yearly spread can help you get organized and pointed in the right direction. Outside of January planning I don’t often use these “year at a glance” layouts, but see what works for you!

yearly floral wreathes

Thematic monthly pages across two pages give you a yearly view.

minimalist calendar bullet journal

I like this one because the lines continue across to the next page for notes.

Bullet Journal Goals Page Ideas

Bullet Journal Goals Page Ideas

A bullet journal is a great way to keep focused on what you want to achieve. Bullet journaling really helps me get things done and move ahead more than other journaling options. Use some of these layouts to outline your goals, track your progress, and celebrate your success! Get your year started off right with goal planning in your BUJO!

yearly goals career self fitness financial

Use a 4-up layout to set goals for the major areas of your life.

yearly goals fitness creative happiness money

Get healthy, save money, follow your passions, and live intentionally when you track your goals!

the fabs 20s

“It is so powerful to always see your goals laid out in front of you and work towards them on a regular basis.” – Claudia of TheFab20s.com

Workout and Fitness Trackers

Workout and Fitness Trackers

Work up a sweat, stay motivated, shed those pounds, and build those muscles. People who track what they eat often eat a third less calories, so use workout and fitness trackers to keep you moving forward with your health goals. Trackers like these help you stay accountable and look back at all you’ve achieved when all you want to do is watch Netflix on the couch.

bullet journal health goals

Keep track of your critical health stats month to month.

workout tracker

Color code your workouts to keep track of what you do and when.

tracker page

Keep it simple with a dot grid layout, add color hatching to track your workouts.

monthly exercise tracker page

What could be simpler than highlighting a day with a highlighter?

“I always include a wellness tracker on every monthly spread to track how I’m taking care of myself.” – Nicola of MyInnerCreative.com

Savings and Budgeting Layout Ideas

Savings and Budgeting Layout Ideas

Get your finances in order by tracking your spending, staying on top of your savings and sticking to your budget. Pages like this will help you do just that!

money tracker

Add a graph to show the breakdown of your spending each month.

budget bullet journal

Use a budget to track income and expenses to stay on top of it.

expense tracking sheet bujo

Use your dot grid to create a graph for month to month tracking.

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Brain Dump Bullet Journal Pages

Declutter your brain quickly with these brain dump spreads. I find that if an idea is sticking in my brain and I can’t get it out, putting my ideas down on paper really helps. I usually spend around 5 minutes writing down everything that is going through my mind, outlining ideas that I’m excited about, or things that bug me. In the end I usually feel better and can move on with my work.

notes page in a bullet journal

A bullet journal is as unique as you are, so call it notes, brain dump, thoughts, ideas, etc.

brain dump science sections

Give yourself different areas to explore different ideas.

simple blank page for brain dump bullet jouranl page

Go minimalist with your bujo with just a blank box.

life is messy and brilliant

“A brain dump page is useful for whenever I have too many thoughts running around in my head.” – Jenniffer of LifeIsMessyAndBrilliant.com

Contact Lists And Address Pages

In the age of digital I still find a place to write down contact info helpful. How often does someone lose a phone, drop it in the water or your contacts get erased by accident. A paper contact list and address book is a great solution to all these modern problems.

bullet journal printables

Birthdays Tracker Ideas

If you’re anything like me, you’re terrible at remembering when people’s birthdays are. A list of birthdays helps you keep on top of them. Also consider important dates such as anniversaries, holidays, etc.

birthday trackers

Try to view the entire year in one view so you can know what’s coming up next.

two page birthday page

Split up your tracker by month, then list birthdays in order.

printable bullet journal stickers

Mood Trackers Ideas

For those who are trying to improve their mental health, not just their physical, a daily mood tracker can be really helpful. Fun designs that you color in to indicate your mood keeps it fun, but also lets you spot trends and patterns.

fall leaf tracker for mood

Use a black and white outline to serve as a template to fill in with colors to match your mood.

coffee cup coloring mood tracker

Use a stencil to repeat icons that you can color in later.

bullet journal printable sticker packs

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Habit Tracking Pages

A daily habit tracker helps you keep up momentum when your trying to establish a new pattern. Keeping a log of it lets you keep on top of it and get back on track when you start to slip.

cactus habit tracker

Color code your habits to trak them and spot patterns.

habit tracker bujo spread

Use a simple dot grid pattern with color coded hatch to track patterns.

sticker for bullet journals

Level 10 Life Wheel

Create a level 10 life wheel or worksheet to master different areas of your life. I’ve found this to be really easy for me to use, there is some actual science behind it, and it quickly shows you what areas you are deficient in.

level 10 life bujo spread

Choose any 10 areas of you life that you want ot focus on them rate them.

level 10 graph design page

Instead of a wheel use graph bars instead.

level ten life bullet journal spread

Using a dot grid journal you can quickly make a “wheel”.

printable bullet journal stickers

Bucket List Page Ideas

Set lifelong or seasonal goals for yourself. Think about the big things you want to do in life and write them down, then start checking them off. You can find countless seasonal bucket lists like “fall bucket list items” to make sure you do all the fun things during the season.

“I keep a wish list in my planner. This isn’t entirely out of the ordinary, but I use it for more long-term goal items. As a plant fanatic, I also include a plant section in my wish list!” – Elizabeth of ElizabethJournals.com

Packing List Ideas

Don’t forget a thing for your next trip with a packing list collection. Group like items in fun ways, use check boxes to make sure you pack everything you need and don’t worry about forgetting anything.

bullet journal printable sticker packs

Blank Bullet Journal Pages With Decorative Borders

Sometimes you just need a blank canvas to get your ideas down, but that doesn’t mean it needs to be boring! Use these blank BUJO pages with some flourish for your next spread.

printable bullet journal stickers

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Gratitude Logs

There is a lot to say about focusing on the good things and a gratitude log does just that. Life can get messy, but a way to keep track of the good things keeps your day a little brighter and focused on what’s important.

“I love my monthly Gratitude Log. It helps me to reflect on each day and always try to find the good.” – Blogger Kara of Boho Berry

Books To Read Log

If you’re anything like me, you’re a major book person. I constantly have 10-15 books on deck to read next and I’m often reading more than one book at a time. Keep track of the books you’ve read, the ones you want to read next, and rate them once you’re finished.

bullet journal printable sticker packs

Movies To Watch

This is a great way to keep a list of movies you want to see, movies that are coming out soon, or movies that you’ve already watched.

stickers for bullet journals

Sleep Tracker/Log

The older I get, the more I realize how important sleep is. Use a sleep track to log when you go to bed, when you get up, and how rested you feel after a night’s sleep.

printable bullet journal stickers

Quotes Page

These pages serve as reminders, inspiration, and even add some wisdom to your bullet journal.

bullet journal printable sticker packs

Post-It Notes Bullet Journal Pages

Using sticky notes in your bullet journal is a really great way to design a single page and reuse the design over and over again. You can design boxes to “hold” the post-its for you. Consider using different sizes, shapes, and colors to organize your journal and stay flexible while doing it!

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To sum up, a bullet journal is super flexible so you can pick and choose bullet journal pages that suit your needs. I hope these page ideas helped you choose different layouts and spreads that will suit your needs when you design your own journal!

Genius Ways To Use Washi Tape In Your Bullet Journal

Genius Ways To Use Washi Tape In Your Bullet Journal

genius ways to use washi tape in a bullet journalUsing Washi Tape in your bullet journal can help take your spreads to the next level with ease. If you’re anything like me, you look at stunning bujo spreads online and wish you could do the same. Some of you might be super talented, but for those like me, I needed a leg up and Washi Tape did just that!

What Is Washi Tape

what is washi tape

For the uninitiated, Washi Tape feels similar to masking tape, but it’s also flexible and durable. The biggest distinction is that Washi Tape often comes in fun patterns used to decorate your journal. There are a ton of solid color options as well as patterns of all kinds. You can find just about any design you’d ever want, only for a buck or two.

What Is Washi Tape Used For?

what is washi tape used for

At its simplest, use it as tape! Washi Tape can be used in your journal or planner pages to add some color, to quickly decorate a spread, be a border on a page or whatever else you can think of. Many people also use Washi Tape to organize themselves, creating a color-coded system to quickly label and organize their pages or tasks.

Is Washi Tape Removeable?

is washi tape removable

Washi Tape is Removable, one of its key features is that you can peel it off and not leave [much] residue. This makes it great for people like me who sometimes need to adjust things later. Depending on your tape, you’ll sometimes find that some residue is left behind, but I find this is pretty minimal. You can lightly apply the tape at first, when you are happy with its placement, go ahead and press it down in place.

bullet journal productivity

How To Use Washi Tape In A Bullet Journal

how to use washi tape in a bullet journal

What is really great about using Washi Tape in your bullet journal is you can pick up a bunch of rolls for very cheap. This gives you a lot of options on how to use it. Using Washi Tape can also help make good looking pages pretty quickly, there are some people who spend hours making a single page, I just don’t have time for that!

Here are some genius ways to use Washi Tape in your bullet journal


 

Using Washi Tape To Color Code Things

Washi Tape can be used to dress up your designs, but it can also be used to color code things to add a whole new level of organization! You can use different colors or patterns to tie different tasks, events, or even whole pages to a certain topic. This can be a great way to quickly find things.

washi tape flag clips

Make little flags attached to paper clips, you then can move your flags around as need be.

washi tape calendar schedule

Show extended time frames on your weekly spreads.

washi tape page tabs

Make color coded page tabs with your Washi Tabs.

color coding key with washi tape

A flip out key to color code things.

Time Block Your Weekly Spreads

One thing I really like with digital options is the ability to have bars that extend across multiple days to track certain blocks of time. Using Washi Tape lets me quickly do this in my weekly or monthly spreads.

printable bullet journal stickers

Cover Up Mistakes

You make an awesome page that you spent a lot of time and effort on, then all a sudden, you make a mistake. Channel your inner Bob Ross and call it a “happy accident”! Washi tape lets you quickly cover up a mistake that could have otherwise ruined a great page. Using a solid color or dense pattern will let you block out the mistake, while giving you a new surface to write on.

sticker for bullet journals

Color Code Pages With Washi Tape Tabs

Are there certain pages you want to highlight or you refer to a lot? Add a piece of Washi Tape along the edge to make the page stand out and reinforce the edge you’ll be flipping to a lot.

color coding mind map with washi tape-in-journal

Washi Tape Stickers And Shapes

If you have a paper punch or are just talented with a pair of scissors, you can take washi tape, apply it to a piece of paper or ideally wax paper, punch out a shape and bam! You have yourself a sticker! With this technique you can make a ton of different looks to quickly dress up one of your bullet journal pages.

bullet journal printable sticker packs

Create Washi Tape Flags or Clips

This is really helpful to flag your current weekly spread or an important collection such as a to-do list. Take your tape, fold it around one side of a paper clip and if you want, use some scissors to cut little flag angles into it. What’s great about this is you can then move the flags to a new page when you’ve migrated a collection or moved onto a new weekly spread.

washi tape flag clips
printable bullet journal stickers

bullet journal printable sticker pages

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Cut Out Elaborate Quotes Or Titles

Have a quote or piece of text you want to call out? Print off a stencil of it, then apply bands of overlapping Washi Tape, then use a X-Acto knife to cut it out. Peel it off and you have an instant text treatment for your next page.

bullet journal printable sticker packs

Make Quick Work Of Common Elements

I just discovered they make Washi Tape with checkboxes ! Make a to-do list quickly with this tape. They also have Washi Tape days of the week and Washi Tape monthly Calendars.

Decorate Your Bullet Journal Pages With Washi Tape

The most common way to use the tape is to dress up a page in your BUJO. Here are some Washi Tape ideas for your bullet journal.

creative washi boarders in journal
wahsi tape frame

Make Your Journal Yours

Dress up the cover of your journal to quickly take any mass-produced journal into something that’s uniquely yours.

diagonal washi tape journal cover

journal cover with washi tape design idea
printable bullet journal stickers

Washi Tape Collections

A simple way to start with Washi Tape in your BUJO is to make a simple spread that you can use to show off your favorite Washi Tapes. For a quick way, find a stamp that you can create a repeated pattern that you fill in with Washi tape patterns.

washi tape catalogue page layout

A common way people make a catalogue is by making a spread with hanging flags icons.

washi tape swatch page layout

Use a repeating pattern, consider a stamp to make it quick and easy!

washi tape bullet journal spread idea

You don’t have to make it complicated, just a simple layout to quickly reference.

washi layout

Make them look like polaroid pictures hanging.

bullet journal printable sticker packs

Use It As Tape

It may seem simple, but don’t forget that you can attach things easily with the tape itself.

flip out key made with washi tape

Tape in your flip outs.

taping photos into bullet journal with washi tape

Attach photos with your Washi Tape.

washi tape bullet journal pocket

Add extra storage by making a quick pocket with an envelope.

sticker for bullet journals

Get Creative With Washi Tape Ideas For Your Bullet Journal!

get creative with washi tape

The thing I like the best about Washi Tape when I’m bullet journaling is that I can quickly add a good-looking pattern to a page without needing a lot of artistic skill. Beyond just decorating, it lets me color code important things, cover up mistakes, and create grids for lists or calendars quickly.

Your Turn!

  • How do you use Washi Tape in your journal?

Bullet Journal Printables

tropical leaves PDF printable

Start your bullet journal today with these tropical plant inspired printable journal pages.

Rugged moutain masculin printable PDF bullet journal downloadable

Get organized with these mountain inspired printable bullet journal pages.

Why Is Simple Living So Hard? 5 Tips for Simplifying Your Life (From Someone Who’s Done It)

Why Is Simple Living So Hard? 5 Tips for Simplifying Your Life (From Someone Who’s Done It)

why is simple living so hardLast year, I did a no-spend challenge. For an entire year, I didn’t buy anything except food.

It doesn’t get much more “simple living” than living in a tiny house and spending nothing for a whole year, but even after I got into the groove of buying nothing, I still felt the pull of the busy world around me. So, throughout my no-buy year, I kept a list of all the items I wanted to buy when the year was over.

Ryan living simply in a tiny houseI live in a 150 square foot tiny house. I follow a minimalist lifestyle and own less than 1000 items to my name, but at the end of my no-spend year, there were 30 items on my wish list! However, as I went through my list and prioritized, I realized there was only ONE item I truly wanted. Despite my commitment to simple living, even I get tripped up by advertising traps and marketing. We live in a world where we’re constantly told that we need more things to feel happy.

It’s no wonder the simple life has so much appeal. Most people are stressed out, overloaded, and working themselves to the bone. If you look at the way American society has changed in the last 50 years or so, it becomes obvious. When I was growing up, I was told you go to school and get a degree. From there, you get a good job, do a good job, and build job security. You add money to your 401(k), buy a lovely little house with a picket fence. You’ll meet your future wife and create a family, living out the American dream lifestyle. Eventually, you retire fat and happy at age 65.

But in 2009, I graduated with my masters. I got a job and the company I was working for folded six months in. The rug was completely pulled out from under me. I realized the narrative I had been living wasn’t realistic, something had to change.

what's right for you, question to ask when you want to live a simple lifeNow, society is really good at pulling you back on the conventional path. For example, when I was looking for flexible employment I could do anywhere, I saw hundreds of options for jobs that would have tied me to a 9-5 corporate ball and chain. It was daunting to realize I had to create my dream job for myself. It would have been easier to follow society’s path.

What you should ask is what’s right for you…and also, what’s wrong for you? Simple living means different things to different people. Those definitions don’t work for everyone. Often, it’s easier to define what you don’t want. Most people hesitate to say exactly what they want, but they can quickly pinpoint EXACTLY what they don’t. “I don’t want to work for this jerk anymore,” or, “I don’t want to trip over clutter around my house,” or, “I don’t ever want to hear from a debt collector again.” Then, what you want is the opposite.

What You Need To Know BEFORE You Try Simple Living

what you need to know before you try simple living

Do you think you’re ready to rise to the challenge of simple living?

Before you try simple living, you must explore your reasons. People are often hoping to leave their old life behind but embracing a simpler life won’t magically erase your past. Simple living isn’t the ultimate solution to every problem in your life.

It’s important to unpack your baggage and deal with it. When people see others in tiny houses, they often say, “Look at that person, they look so happy! Tiny houses are the secret to happiness.”

Honestly, happiness doesn’t have anything to do with a smaller home. It’s because the person in the tiny house has decided, “these things are important to me” and “these other things aren’t.” When you see people living a simple life happily, it’s because they’ve gone through the pain of unpacking their emotional baggage.

simple living requires introspection

Simple living requires introspection. One affliction in America is the busyness culture. We are so afraid to slow down because we would be left alone with our thoughts and for most people, that is terrifying. So we put a screen in front of our face. We jam-pack our schedules. We keep our homes filled to the brim. We don’t allow ourselves to slow down and think. We can’t enjoy the experience because we’re too busy taking a selfie to show others how much “fun” we are having, so much so, we haven’t had a substantive conversation with the people we are with that would make a memory, but later that week we’d tell our therapist we don’t feel connected.

In my experience, the best investment I’ve made is time alone with myself. It was the most productive time I’ve spent, and it pays dividends every day.

One saying I follow is: people are happy because they’re happy people. It’s not because of the stuff we own, the house we live in, the place we travel to, or the job we do. We’re happy because we choose to be that way despite the bad things in life that inventibly come up.

The Pros and Cons of Simple Living Like A Pro

pros and cons of simple living

After my company folded, I did a lot of soul-searching. I realized I wanted a different, less-traditional job—basically, a job that I had to create for myself. Could I have taken the cube farm route? Sure! But I know I wouldn’t have been as happy or satisfied.

But building my simpler life didn’t happen overnight. It was a slow and steady process. If I had to take away one lesson from the experience, it would be:

it takes time to start to live simply

Simple living requires time to transition, but it’s so worth it!

There were plenty of bumps along the way too. Like, when I told my parents that I was going to take a simpler job, scale back, and blog full-time. I remember my mom was seriously worried (even though she’s incredibly supportive).

Then when I started to build my tiny house, I found that many people were curious and some of them critical. One day as I was working on my place a lady stopped at watched for a while. She started asking me all kinds of questions about my home. I’ll never forget her parting words, “Good luck finding a wife who will want to live in your tiny house.” I remember thinking maybe she was right. Perhaps I was making a mistake. Which brings me to the second point:

You need to question everything when you want to live a simple life

Simple living means people will question and critique your life.

But the truth is, those people are questioning you, because there are aspects of their own life they’re struggling with. That’s when I learned how self-centered people truly are. They may look at how you don’t need as much “stuff” or how you’ve chosen a less-traditional job, or a smaller home. You may hear, “I could never do that!” And the truth is, they probably couldn’t.

simple living isn't for everyone

Simple living isn’t for everyone.

I also discovered this as I started dating. I found out that there are pros and cons of living a simple life. Yes, people question your choices (and maybe even your sanity), but those who stay in your life are really worth keeping. I’ve found the women attracted to the simple life are really grounded. They aren’t hung up on superficial stuff, and they’re aligned with my worldview. Being open and honest about wanting to live simply, attracted women I wanted to date, and dissuaded those who wouldn’t have been a match anyway.

The same is true with friends. I’ve found that as my life has become simpler, I’ve found more time to spend with the people who really matter to me. It helps you narrow your focus and figure out who is truly supportive and needed in your life.

relationships are important when you focus on what's important

Simple living helps you form closer relationships.

Today, my friends sometimes joke I don’t work at a real job. I just “run a blog.” But then they see me headed off to other countries. They look on when I get to spend a few weeks (or months) in Croatia, Australia, Stockholm, or the UK. They ask me how I take morning hikes on a Wednesday when they’re working their 9-5.

The truth is, because I’ve chosen a simple, less traditional path, I’ve been able to accomplish many big goals. I blog for a living. I write books. I spend time with those who mean a lot to me. My time is more valued, and my life feels more meaningful. Although I’m not a trust-fund kid, by any means, I don’t have debt, and I travel often.

to live simply you need to know what your goals are

Simple living helps you achieve a life you design and remove obstacles.

When it comes to simple living, if you want it, it’s achievable. There’s no secret sauce or trick to simple living. It’s about deciding on the goal that’s right for you, figuring out how to align it with your lifestyle, and then pursuing the goal single-mindedly.

You might think, “Being my own boss, living debt-free, eliminating clutter, cutting back stress—those all sound awesome! I want that!”

And indeed, simple living is possible in some form for everyone. But there are a lot of misconceptions about simple living out there. A lot of people get an idyllic notion stuck in their head that isn’t accurate or aligned to their needs.

farm cabin tiny house

I’ve met a lot of people who jump into living in a cabin in the woods, or they go out and buy a full-fledged hobby farm in the country. They haven’t found out what’s right for them. They’re subscribing to someone else’s definition of simple living, which is a dangerous mistake that will only leave you searching for answers.

When you jump into a new lifestyle out of nowhere, you’re basically saying, “I don’t like my life now. I’m going to live a new life.” But what happens is you end up importing all the problems your former life had: all its definitions, labels, and problems.

understand who you are at your core

Simple living doesn’t change who you are at your core.

So, you want to become a homesteader. You go out and buy land and a barn in a spot you’ve never been to. You fill the barn with animals you’ve never raised before. Then you wake up one morning, and your life is not simple at all. In fact, you’re stuck with a pretty big problem. You never leave the farm because you need to milk the goats, tend chickens, and put the cows out to pasture.

It’s all about finding the simple lifestyle that’s livable for you. For example, I would love to own a few cows and goats, but I also love to travel. I can’t commit to animals that need milking twice a day, every day, or they go off milk. I couldn’t even leave for a weekend trip, and it wouldn’t work with my life.

its not a magic bullet

Simple living doesn’t make your life perfect, but it helps you find more meaning.

In fact, sometimes simple living is really challenging—even difficult. But, it’s in that struggle we find the beauty and satisfaction of a simple life. Research has found that when things come easy for us, we don’t derive as much value out of it. Although a life free of stress sounds terrific at first, it’s struggle and adversity that bring us meaning. I’ve found this very accurate for myself. The things I’m most thankful for were the most difficult. Striving and strife make us value it more. Simple living isn’t easy, but it also brings us a great deal of meaning.

The Logistical Challenges of Simple Living

challenges of simple living

Aside from the philosophical pros and cons of simple living, there are a few logistical challenges as well. It’s important to understand these barriers and consider all aspects BEFORE you move toward a simple life.

the space that you live in might not be largeSpace: When people consider moving into tiny homes, they think they have to live in a tiny house of 200-300 square feet when it might not be right for them. The truth is, 200 feet isn’t going to work for some people, particularly if you have a family. You won’t feel happy with five people in a super tiny home. So, maybe instead, you sell your 4,000 square foot house and buy a 1,000 square foot house. Find something for half the mortgage and use the money to travel as a family.

living simply might actaully cost more moneyMoney: It sounds counter intuitive, but even a simple life costs money, there are times where simple living may even cost more than your old life depending on certain factors. If you want to live simply in a city, you still need to earn an income. You still need to understand your budget. On the surface a simpler life may seem cheaper, but you still need to look at your relationship with money. Why do you spend? How can you simplify your finances and still feel satisfied? Is spending X dollars a month in rent or on your mortgage getting you closer or moving you further away? What steps can you take to get your money under control?

understanding why you buy thingsWants: You need to get down to the underlying reason you want an item. After all, no one buys a $100 designer t-shirt because they NEED it. They buy it because they want to show they can afford it. Why? Because they want a girl to like them? Why? Because they really want love and companionship. Many people are addicted to (fleeting) happiness they think they can buy, which doesn’t actually satisfy their needs. We’ve all heard of retail therapy. It’s a hard habit to break.

cutting out toxic relationshipsRelationships: People run into the obstacle of relationships because they don’t know how to prioritize and say no. Simplifying your life doesn’t only mean tossing out belongings you don’t need and downsizing. It means finding ways to get more control over your schedule. You want to spend time with the people who mean the most to you, doing things your love, in a way that is on your own terms. When I simplified, I cut back to only the people who were important to me and who I wanted to invest time in. The others, I cut out.

figure out what you do and don't want to spend your time onTime: Simple living takes time. One of the biggest obstacles I faced when simplifying was realizing I had to go through the process of figuring out what I wanted. I had to get out of debt. I had to figure out how to become location-independent, own my own business, and deal with my own baggage. It took me years from the time I started my blog to quit my job. During that time, I was downsizing possessions, building my tiny house, and navigating my path. What seemed so simple ended up taking me 6 or 7 years to achieve. And guess what, I’m still working at it even today.

simple living means making choices that are hardSacrifice: When I started to simplify, my family announced they were going on a trip to Italy. Now, family time is extremely important to me. But I had set really aggressive financial goals to pay off my student loans. I decided between the goal of paying off my loans or going to Italy with my family. In the end, I didn’t go on the trip. I’ve faced many of these hard choices over the last 6 or 7 years. I had to recommit every single day.

you'll need to redefine who you are in some waysIdentity: Many of us define ourselves by our career. It’s how we earn money. It’s what people pay you to do. When you introduce yourself, you say something like, “I’m a banker.” Well, you might be a banker now, but it doesn’t mean you need to be a banker tomorrow. If living a simple life means finding a fulfilling career path, you may wrestle with your identity. What are other ways to earn money, and what’s holding you back?

When I started living in a tiny house, my rent went from $1,500 to zero. That allowed me to take risks and follow new pursuits. I could start a company. Most of my pals were like, “I can’t do that because I have a mortgage and bills. I must stay in this cubicle.”

5 Tips To Simplify Your Life (from Someone Who’s Done It)

tips for simple living

No matter where you are with simplifying your life, there are 5 practical tips I recommend that you can apply today. These tips really apply to any new situation or significant lifestyle change you’re considering. If you’re wondering how to destress your life and build a life you love, it starts here.

1
Ask What You Want More Of – Look at your current lifestyle and write a list of all the positive aspects that bring you joy. What do you want more of in your life? Maybe it’s time, family, travel, health, or something else. What makes you the happy and what would you like to expand on?
2
Ask What You Want Less Of – Now it’s time for the flip side. Sometimes it’s hard to nail down what we do want, but people are pretty clear what they don’t want. What are all the aspects you’d like to eliminate from your life? Write down anything that drags you down, makes you unhappy, drains your energy, or causes you stress. It may include debt, your dead-end job, too much clutter, toxic relationships, or something else entirely. What do you want less of in your life?
3
Define Your Ideal Day – This journaling exercise really helps you pinpoint how your perfect life looks. Imagine your ideal day (or even your ideal week); walk through each moment from the time you get up to the time you drift off to sleep. What is your morning like? What’s your routine? Do you work? What type of work? How would it look? Get as specific as possible—what clothes would you wear, what would you eat, what people would you spend time with?
4
Define Your Goals – Behind every single success is a goal. Goals give us a marker to move toward. When you pinpoint your targets, write them as clearly as possible. Set SMART goals and define the parameters. Any time you want to achieve something big (or small), a goal will guide your way.
5

Write Out the Steps – This will look a little different for everyone. There isn’t a clear point A to point B roadmap and sometimes it seems like such an overwhelming task that you don’t even know where to start. The question is, what do you need to do next? Do you need to break down your goals into smaller steps? Do you need to set a budget?

If you ask yourself these questions about your ideal life, your vision will start to come together. You’ll match up your idea of a simple life with the reality of what works for you. Life doesn’t need to be complicated. Many people find the simpler their life gets, the more satisfying it becomes. Make time for the lifestyle that really matters to you.

Your Turn!

  • What does simple living mean to you?
  • What’s your biggest challenge when simplifying?