Archive for the Minimalism Category

How To Stop Shopping – 5 Strategies That Make All The Difference

How To Stop Shopping – 5 Strategies That Make All The Difference

how to stop shoppingHumans are funny things, we may want to stop shopping, but when it actually comes to making it happen, we find ourselves back in the store or shopping online. The reasons are complicated, you may be shopping to deal with stress – a little retail therapy – you might find yourself among friends who shop socially, it could be a great deal or sale, or any number of other reasons.

We have lots of reasons, but whatever yours happens to be, it led you here; searching for how to stop shopping. Let that sink in, if you find yourself here, it’s a problem and we need to fix it. The good news is, I have been where you are and escaped that cycle, even going on to not buying a single thing for an entire year!

How To Stop Shopping So Much

how to stop shopping so much

Before I get into my strategies to help you stop shopping, let’s take a minute to focus on what the outcomes of shopping too much or even a shopping addiction could mean. This helped me a lot when I started my minimalism journey. Think about made you want to figure out how to stop shopping so much. What was that feeling or driver?

Next, I’m going to ask you to do something you don’t want to do. I want you to sit here for a moment and let the dread, the uncomfortableness, the emotions consume you. Notice how it makes you feel, the thoughts that spiral from it. I want you to feel the dread, the anxiety, the shame, and stress that comes from shopping too much.

The reason for this? Sometimes the best way to change a behavior is to think about what it would be like to have a healthy relationship with shopping. But if it was that simple, you’d just do that. Instead, I find sometimes it can be more effective to run from something, rather than towards something. There is something in our DNA rooted in our flight or fight response that makes this true. Unchecked it can be a destructive force, used as a tool, it can propel us forward.

How To Take Control Of Your Shopping Habit

how to take control of your shopping

When you feel the temptation to buy more stuff, I want to you remind yourself of that feeling. When you’re feeling tempted while out with friends, when you feel stressed, when you start to justify a purchase, I want you to let that feeling overcome you as a reminder of what you’re moving away from. This will start to make saying no to buying something a relief rather than a challenge.

Now to the strategies that help me break away from the consumer cycle and stop shopping needlessly.

Say “next time”

say next time

This was a really big hack for me when I was trying to stop shopping. I set a rule that if I saw something that I wanted to buy that wasn’t on my shopping list I wrote at home, I’d tell myself “next time I’m in this store, if I still want it, I’ll buy it then”.

This stemmed the flow of impulse buys majorly. It works so well because you’re not even telling yourself “No” just “not right now.” The funny thing is often when I saw the item again, I often found myself wondering why I wanted it in the first place.

You can do this with online shopping too. If you’re trying to stop shopping on Amazon, they have a “save for later” button. I do this for every purchase I make online now as a habit unless I am replacing something that was broken/worn out.

Remove The Triggers That Lead You To Shopping

remove the triggers

Think about what are the thoughts, situations, and triggers that lead to shopping? It could be that we shop because we find ourselves at the mall with friends. What if instead, we proposed going to the park on a nice day. What if instead of spending $20 on a new top, we went to a wine bar and got a bottle with the same friends.

Do you shop when you’re stressed or bored? What could be an alternative response?
The point is that when we shop too much, it’s way easier to stop the circumstance that proceeds us being at the store than to not buy when we are already at the store. Identifying the steps that lead us to shop makes us aware and thus more intentional. Recognizing the triggers is half the battle.

Ask Why To Stop Shopping So Much

ask why you want to buy something

When you’re considering buying something, take a second and ask yourself the five whys? This technique is from the engineering geniuses at Toyota, but can work wonders in everyday life too. When you want to buy something, ask yourself “why do I want to buy this?”

In your mind I want you to answer this question, then consider the answer. Take the answer and ask yourself, why is that the answer? Then keep on repeating. What you’re doing is digging deeper to the root cause of why you’re buying this item. When you get to the end and you feel you can’t break down the answer anymore (could be 3 “whys” or 7 “whys”) then think about that final answer. Does that final answer make sense with the purchase you’re about to make?

It’s easier to see in an example:


So, when we look at the above, we see how we took buying a shirt and distilled it down to “I want to be loved and accepted.” This then lets us compare the action we are taking (buying a shirt) to the TRUE desired outcome (love and acceptance). We then can ask does that action result in the outcome, in this instance we most likely would say “no”.

the purpose of stuff

At that point we have also learned something about ourselves, we can then ask, “what could I do that would get me closer to my desired outcome”. This one-two punch will let you stop your buying habit and build a new one that’s positive.

Reframe The Cost Of Purchases

reframe the cost

One of the most impactful things for me was reframing the cost of items. Let’s say you make $20 an hour and the item you are considering is $160. Ask yourself, “is this item worth me working an entire day for?” This helped me greatly and really oriented me in the right direction. This is also really helpful when you are trying to get out of debt.

Add Pain To The Process

add pain to the process

You’ll read many tips about how to stop spending money on things, but at the root, many of these will fail. Why? Because buying isn’t a painful enough process. Remember how I coached you at the very beginning of this post to sit with the dread of your shopping habit? I wanted to steep shopping with a healthy dose of pain.

Whenever I want to change something about my life and it proves to be stubborn to overcome. I recognize my lack of progress and ask myself “how can I make this MORE painful?” It’s an odd notion, but it totally works.

One personal example was me kicking drinking sodas. Instead of saying I couldn’t drink sodas, I just said I couldn’t buy at the grocery store and keep them at home. If I wanted a soda, I had to get in the car, drive to the gas station 2 miles down the road and buy a single soda. Guess what, every time I wanted a soda, I instantly weighed in my mind if it was worth all that hassle.

So, whatever it is for you when it comes to learning how to stop shopping, ask yourself, “how can I add more pain to this?”

Your Turn!

  • What tricks have you used to stop shopping?

Great Gifts for Minimalists: Meaningful Ideas They’ll Appreciate

Great Gifts for Minimalists: Meaningful Ideas They’ll Appreciate

Great Gifts for MinimalistsNavigating gift-giving around the holidays is often tricky for those with minimalists on their list. After all, how do you find gifts for minimalists when they don’t buy, need, or even want much?

After years of being a minimalist living in a 150 square foot tiny house living, I get asked this question every year. People often tell me they have no idea what to give me (the truth is they don’t need to give gifts at all, but I definitely appreciate the thoughtfulness).

So, I decided to compile a list of the top gifts for minimalists. Hopefully, you’ll find something for every minimalist on your list. Remember, it’s the thought that counts. No matter what you give, chances are they’ll appreciate the sentiment.

And if YOU are the minimalist and don’t know how to help confused family and friends figure out gift-giving this season, send them this post to give them a few great ideas!

Self-Improvement Gifts for Minimalists

Self-Improvement Gifts for Minimalists

Minimalists are often goal-getters. They’re all about self-improvement, and if you love and care about a minimalist, you want to see them succeed. You may need to do a little homework—find out goals the person is working towards. Learning about what is on a person’s bucket list is a great way to get ideas to help them achieve.

Reading and learning materials are always an excellent gift on the path to self-improvement—and it doesn’t need to be limited to ONLY tutorials and self-improvement books, either. After all, what’s a better mental health break than reading or listening to a great book?

If people ask you what you want, you can think of gifts to help achieve your own goals. Here are a few ideas for great self-improvement gifts.

Kindle Paperwhite

kindle as a gift for a minimalistThin, lightweight, and now waterproof, a Kindle is an excellent gift for someone who’s cutting back on clutter. Books on a Kindle are a great way to give someone a great read without taking up more space on the bookshelf. Yes, an electronic reader is often a divisive topic for bibliophiles, so feel out their preference first. If they already own an e-reader, then a book recommendation is a terrific gift.

Audible Subscription

audbile as a giftRight now, an Audible subscription comes with 30 days free, then $14.95/month. I love Audible because it lets me get more “reading” in when I’m driving, commuting, or on a road trip. Making the most of my travel time allows me to work on my goals with a business or self-improvement book, get in fun reading with a fiction book, or learn all about something new.

ryans picks for audible and kindle ebooks

Tiny Houses

tiny house living book

Tiny House Living

by Ryan Mitchell (I might be biased)

a pattern language

A Pattern Language

by Chris Alexander

the minimalist mindset

The Minimalist Mindset

by Danny Dover


children of time

Children of Time

by Adrian Tchaikovsky



by Jeremey Robinson

the passage

The Passage

by Justin Cronin

Business Books

the coaching habit

The Coaching Habit

by Michael Stanier

strengths finder

Strengths Finder 2.0

from Gallup

the 100 dollar startup

The $100 Startup

by Chris Guillebeau

Young Adult

the maze runner

The Maze Runner

by James Dashner

city of ember

City of Ember

by Jeanne DuPrau



by Ally Condie




by Larry Niven

hell divers

Hell Divers

by Nicholas Smith

the martian

The Martian

Andy Weir




by Blake Crouch

orphan x

Orphan X

by Greg Hurwitz

bird box

Bird Box

Josh Malerman

lessons as gifts
If you know your gift recipient is interested in taking lessons, they are a terrific gift. There are many options available through local community organizations and businesses. A few ideas to explore:

  • Dance
  • Musical Instrument
  • Art Classes
  • Cooking
membership gifts
Fitness Classes and Memberships
Fitness classes and memberships are also excellent gifts for minimalists (assuming the person on your list is interested in the fitness area). It always helps to ask or offer up a few ideas they may enjoy and allow them to choose the class or plan that fits their preferences and lifestyle. Fitness ideas include:

  • Finding a unique fitness experience local to their town—yoga, hiking, kayaking, etc.
  • Membership to a local gym
  • Yoga classes
  • Sessions with a personal trainer
  • Standup paddle board
  • Register for a marathon (if they’re into it)

Entertainment Gifts for Minimalists

Entertainment Gifts for Minimalists

With so many subscription services available these days, there are tons of ideas for entertaining gifts for minimalists that are inexpensive and enjoyable. There’s also the option to give the gift of an experience. Tickets or another event experience is my absolute favorite gift to give and receive because it means I get to do something fun with the person I care about. The gift of entertainment could mean dinner out, tickets to an event, or another adventure. I think of what the person likes and often get two tickets. Not only is it an excellent experience, but we experience it together.

subscription gifts for minimalists
Movie, Music & TV Subscription Services

  • Hulu: The first 30 days are free then plans start at $5.99/month
  • Spotify Premium: First three months are free, and then plans start at $9.99/month
  • Disney+: Launching December 2019, plans start at $7/month or $70/year
magazine subscriptions for minimalists
Magazine Subscriptions

Check out digital subscriptions, which are an excellent option for most magazines. Look for a publication fitting their area of interest.

  • For the coffee lover: Drift magazine $52/year – published 2x/year
  • For the avid reader: Ruminate magazine $50/year (subscription directly supports literary writers and visual artists)
  • For women with a minimalist mindset: Real Simple magazine $10/year
tickets to events as gifts
Tickets to Events

  • Local sports events
  • Theater
  • Concert
  • Brewery tours or vineyard tours/wine tastings

hobbies for small spaces

Gifts of Time Ideas

Gifts of Time Ideas

Giving and receiving the gift of someone’s time is so meaningful. What could you do to help someone around the house or do something for them they would appreciate? The bonus of giving the gift of time is you often get to spend more time with your friend or loved one.

babysitting as a gift
Gifts of Time

  • Babysitting
  • Pet sitting
  • Dinner & a movie
  • Game night: bring over a meal and games
  • Helping hands: use your special skill or talent to help weed flower beds, plant vegetables, reupholster chairs, or paint a living room.


consumables as gifts

Next up are items people eat or use up. A perfect example of this is food items. We are all busy, and most of us like food, so making a treat or buying a favorite food is a great gift. Think of difficult-to-make items or gifts that are an indulgence. Here are a few exceptional items I’ve found.

candles as gifts
Health & Beauty Products

foods as gifts
Food Products

  • Wine/beer
  • Baked goods: cakes, cookies, quick breads, candy
  • Jellies, jams, and pickles
  • Homemade Jerky
  • A care package of favorite treats
  • SnackNation Box: $24 for the first box, then $40 month
  • Candy Club Subscription: $30/month (first box is 50% off)
  • Gift cards to local retailers, restaurants, and food trucks
  • Coffee and tea gift cards
  • Membership to the local co-op
  • CSA subscription (community supported agriculture/farm share box with fresh produce each week)
pet products as gifts
Pet Products

  • Rescue Box: $23/month (think Bark Box, but proceeds go to supply food and vaccines to shelter animals)

Practical, Buy Once-in-a-Lifetime Gift Items

Buy Once-in-a-Lifetime Gift Items

I do this a lot, since I don’t need much and I don’t buy much either. So, when there’s something I need to replace or buy new, I hold off and suggest it as a gift when others ask. For example, I’ve needed new shoes for a month or so, but I’m holding off. This way, those who want to give me a gift can do so, and it’s something that I really need to replace a worn-out item.

buy once in a lifetime products

When I do need to purchase something, I get the highest-quality, longest-lasting product possible. For more ideas, check out my post on how to find items you only need to buy once in a lifetime.

rugged mountains bullet journal printables
pendleton blankets

Charity Gifts for Minimalists

Charity Gifts for Minimalists

If you absolutely can’t think of anything to give (or anything you want to receive), consider a charitable donation. Asking friends or family to donate to a cause you’re passionate about is a meaningful option, especially around the holidays. Giving back is something everyone (minimalists and non-minimalists alike) can appreciate!

charitable giving ideas
Charitable Giving Ideas

  • Donation to a favorite charity
  • Sponsor their team for a charity walk
  • Volunteer time with them at a local non-profit (walk dogs, serve meals, sort food at a pantry, etc.)
  • Museum memberships (Check out the North American Reciprocal Museum Association for a membership that allows privileges at a favorite vacation spot, too.)
  • Botanical garden memberships
  • Ecology center memberships (They often offer tours, birdwatching, even canoe rentals.)

As you see, gift-giving doesn’t have to mean giving someone more “stuff” to clutter up their homes and lives. There are plenty of gifts for minimalists that are useful, meaningful, and even give to the greater good.

Your Turn!

  • What’s your favorite gift to give to others?
  • What’s the most practical gift you’ve ever received?

Bullet Journal Symbols: Taking Your Bullet Journal Key To The Next Level

Bullet Journal Symbols: Taking Your Bullet Journal Key To The Next Level

bullet journal symbolsIf you’ve started your bullet journal, you’ve probably wondered what bullet journal symbols you should use in your key. The symbols you use in your bullet journal key let you codify different items in your tasks to quickly identify where you’re at with tasks.

The Genius behind bullet journal symbols

When I first came across the concept of bullet journaling, I was like “great another journaling how to, whoop-de-doo”. Then something caught my eye…

It was how they took the symbols and then modified them to keep track of how things progress. Why does that matter? One downside to paper journals over digital is that you can’t “edit” things. This comes into play when you want to monitor a to-do list.

Before I started with my Bujo, the best you could hope for was a checkbox . If left blank it was incomplete. If checked it was done. But what about other states of completeness? It was only an either-or option.

The way the bullet journaling approaches it, you can neatly “edit” the symbol to have multiple states (which we get into down below) by adding to the base symbol. It was simple, elegant, functional and looked good at the same time.

Here’s an example of how your base symbol is modified as you need it:

basic bullet journal migration symbols

Using Bullet Journal Symbols To Make The Most Of Your Key

Bullet journals are a great way to bring some intentionality to your life. By using a tool like a bullet journal, we can begin to master how we spend our time, stay focused on the important things, and keep important items at the forefront. Like any system, the bullet journal is just one way to manage your time. Continue reading our post on how to manage a busy schedule using a bullet journal.

What is unique about a bullet journal is it’s more than just a way to organize yourself, it gives some structure to common ways we like to organize that, in my mind, really helps you master your productivity. The system helps address a lot of the shortcomings of a paper planner over a digital solution while giving you the tactile feel of a journal or planner.

Basic Bullet Journal Symbols

basic bullet journal symbol

The most common symbols are To-Do, Started, Completed, Canceled, and Migrated. It’s important to note that your To-Do symbol is your “base symbol” meaning you start every item with that and then it’s modified to your needs.

  • To Do: The starting symbol often a dot, circle, or square.
  • Started: this is something that you have begun work on, but it’s still in progress.
  • Completed: A task that you have finished. Who doesn’t like checking things off your list!
  • Canceled: Sometimes you decide something doesn’t make the cut for your limited time.
  • Migrated: When you have an item that you didn’t complete, but moved to a new to-do list.

How To Figure Out What Bullet Journal Signifier Is Right For You?

bullet journal signifier

The power of bullet journaling is that it’s very flexible and customized to your needs. With that said, it is just a matter of figuring out what is right for you. Below I have a lot of bullet journal symbol examples for you to get inspiration from, but before that, a few words on figuring out what’s right for you.

1 There is no one right way

A bullet journal is just as unique as you are. Its flexibility means you can build a Bujo that’s right for you. It can be tempting to see what others do and copy them – I’m certainly guilty of spending hours looking at stunning spreads on Pinterest too – but in the end, find what works for you and don’t feel like there is one right way.

2 Experiment with different symbols

There are many different ways to do symbols. Most often people start with a base symbol of a dot, a circle or a box, but you find what works for you. I have my own unique way of doing things that won’t work for most folks. The great part about bullet journaling is if you try something, you can switch it up each time you migrate your tasks forward. That means you can try new things weekly/monthly until you come up with the perfect mix.

3 Start simple, then layer in more

When people start, they often go overboard with symbols thinking more is better. This is definitely a place where we want to use only enough to cover 90% of cases. Too often people start making complex symbols in their journal for edge cases, things that only happen a few times vs every day. Start with things that you use every day, then expand as certain needs start coming up over and over again.

Bullet Journal Symbol Ideas

bullet journal symbols ideas

Appointment Symbols

Events should use a unique signifier that stands apart from your normal symbols so that it’s clear they have a specific time and place that they need to occur in. I tend to use the little clock symbol because I use a base symbol of a dot. Then I add the two little clock hands from that dot, then circle the whole thing. That makes it clear when it’s an appointment, not just a task because I purposefully don’t keep a lot of meetings, so it’s important to make it really obvious when I need to be somewhere.

Migrated tasks symbols

A core part of bullet journaling is how to migrate tasks. Below is a little gif I made to show how migration works. The genius part of this is when you get most of the things on your to-do list completed, you can migrate them forward to a new weekly spread to start with a cleaner list. This lets you focus on the remaining tasks that you need to complete.

Important Tasks symbols

A list of tasks is great, but a list that is prioritized is even better. Symbols that let you highlight important items on your to-do list are a great way to manage this. While I think digital organization options have an edge here (you can reorder lists easily) you can use these signifiers in your Bujo to keep an eye on what is important and then reorder when you migrate tasks later on.

Canceled Symbols

When you’re trying to get stuff done, it’s often the case that it’s just as important to know what you aren’t going to do vs what you will do. Saying “no” is a powerful time management technique that you should take seriously. You can use these for to-do list items or events. Just remember these are for things that are no longer going to do, as opposed to things that will be migrated. The latter are things you still want to do, just not now.

Ideas Symbols

Sometimes you just need to get something out of your head and onto paper so you don’t forget it. That’s what these are for. I find that if an idea is floating around in my brain and I can’t focus on what I’m doing because I’m so enamored with the idea, writing it down somewhere safe lets me move on. So if you want to keep track of things, use these bullet journal symbols to keep track of your next brilliant idea.

bullet journal ideas symbols

Communications Symbols

How often have you though this “oh shoot, I meant to email ____” or “I really need to call ____ and ask them about”. That’s what these symbols are for. Keep in mind these are symbols for later in the game once you’ve honed in on your basic bullet journal symbols, but if you’re someone who does a lot of correspondence these might be perfect for you.

bullet journal communications symbols

Work Specific Symbols

When it comes to the work we do, there are some specific things we do very often. For me it’s writing blog posts, creating an email blast, or posting on social media. All these things come up a lot for me and so they derive their own specific symbol. Here a few examples of other symbols you might use in your work.

bullet journal work symbols

Bullet journal symbols for life

Work-life balance is important so don’t just think about how your bullet journal can be used for work, but also for your life outside of work too. Think about the big things you spend your time on and also what your main goals are. For me it’s time with family, working out, and reading a good book.

miscellaneous bullet journal symbols

Using Colors to further organize your bullet journal key

We can add another layer of organization. If you’re like me I wear a few hats. For some people, they like to break out work between different clients, for family life vs work life, or different major projects.

However you decide to codify your key, using a standardized set of symbols for your lists adds another layer of organization to any page in your bullet journal!

Download the Complete Bullet Journal Symbol Guide as a PDF.

Your Turn!

  • What symbols work for your bullet journal?

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

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.


“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

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

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

 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?