Planner Review :: Erin Condren Life Planner

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I promised a review of my new planner, an Erin Condren Life Planner, in one of my last posts.  And wow!  I can’t believe the number of you that wrote me asking for this review! And…I’m sure it will be absolutely no surprise that I love gushing about just this sort of thing…so here I am!

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Just in case you haven’t already googled the gazillions of reviews already out there (and I’m going to link you to a few of my favorite reviews anyway!), the above picture is how the Erin Condren planner arrives.  Adorable box!  Swaddled in pretty tissue paper!  Complete with neat little extras that just make you feel…special…pampered!  The packaging is just so pretty!

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Fair warning:  This post will be…ahem…heavy on pictures!  But you don’t mind, do you?
This is my new Life Planner for 2014.  I chose a classic life planner in the Paisley cover, and customized the color (pattern: white, background color: pool).  (By the way, most of these planners can be highly customized, a feature I love!  Be sure to review the color choices!)
Things overall that I love about this planner.
LOVE:
  • Customization!!!  I already hinted at how much I love customizing this planner!  And really, that was the feature that really cinched this for me!  I love my planner, and I use it all.the.time!  So, I really like a planner that is ordered and built to fit my needs and tastes…and is in a color I love!  Really, it’s all about the robins-egg-blue!!  LOL!
    • Not every pattern is customizable, but most are.  Even if the pattern *seems* set, once you click over to the “customize your planner” page, you may see that you have color choice options for your planner!  Love this!
    • You can really personalize by adding your name and sometimes a second line of text on the planner.  You don’t have to add your name – this can be a favorite quote (which I really thought about doing – instead of my name), maybe just your family name – whatever.  Totally customized to your preference!  This is my first EC planner, so I wasn’t sure about the text.  I *wish*wish*wish I had added the year of my planner to the second line choice of my planner.  And, here’s a negative:  I think it would be really nice if you could choose your own font for the cover!  Even if there were only a few fonts to choose from, I would have loved something a little more “scrolly” and pretty.
    • Customize and personalize the text AND color of your stickers – fantastic!  Add YOUR CHOICE of wording!  (Note that the planner comes standard with some basic stickers already.)  As a Catholic family, I thought about stickers printed with things like *Feast Day* on them, so I could note special feasts on our liturgical calendar.  Really, this option could be super useful if you have recurring events like classes, or demonstrations, or other events.  And, I love how flexible the design choices are in the sticker section – change colors, chooose how many of a particular sticker you’d like.  VERY useful!
    • Add a family photo – right to your cover if you like!
    • Change the options for the period of time you’d like your planner to cover!
    • Add photo stickers for use in your planner – I thought this was a really neat feature!
    • Add a pen holder – more on that below…because I love this feature!
    • Add matching notepads – these will match the cover you chose.  More with pictures for my choice below.
    • Add an elastic band to hold your planner closed when you transport
More to love….
 
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  • Heavy spiral coil!  Now, if you are not a spiral fan, you may not prefer this style of binding, but I really prefer spiral binding, especially when it comes to my planner.  I just like how it opens and folds back on itself.  It works for me.  And the weight and durability of the coil is a really big deal for me!  This coil is very sturdy and heavy duty!  You won’t get any of that inconvenient flexing that you would with lighter-weight coils.  This is a metal coil, not plastic.  The classic life planners are silver in color, the gold edition planners are…well…gold, of course!
  • Heavy-HEAVY laminate on the covers!  Another really big deal for me!  Again, if you’re going to live out of a planner for a year, and you really use it (I do!) you want the cover to be heavy duty!  This is a complaint I have for almost every other planner I’ve encountered.  The cover is flexible.  I like a stiff cover because it’s easier to transport the planner, and the pages inside are better protected.  The Erin Condren planner covers are super heavy weight laminate that do not bend at all.  You can hold the planner by one corner and the planner will remain rigid.  This was a big selling feature in the practical category for me, so I definitely wanted to mention it!  So, with stiff covers and a rigid coil, this planner easily slides in and out of your bag, opens with ease, and can be carried around and written in with ease!  Please, Erin Condren, don’t ever change the coil and cover durability of your planners!  You’ve carved out a niche for yourself there!
  • The size – now, if you’re looking for a really large planner, this isn’t it.  The planner measures about 9 1/4″ (high) x 8 1/4″ (wide).  It’s a really perfect size for me – not too big, easy to tuck in my bag, and opens nicely without taking up the entirety of my desk when I’m writing in it!

(Note that my page marker is actually positioned upside down for this picture...because I like the zig-zag side better than the ruler side.)

(Note that my page marker is actually positioned upside down for this picture…because I like the zig-zag side better than the ruler side.)

  •  A page marker!  Ingenious!  I really love this feature of the planner!  The laminated (also heavy laminate like the covers) page marker pops in and out of the planner so you can move it from week to week and then easily reference where you are in the planner with your marker.  A helpful tip I read about in other reviews is to save your page markers from prior year’s planners and then you can mark different sections in your current planner – like marking the notes sections, etc.  My negative observations on this, one of my favorite features, are a few, unfortunately:
    • If you pop the marker in as designed, it doesn’t stick up very far.  It’s kind of hard for me to see the top of it.  Now, I think this might have been done so that it isn’t sticking out of the top of the planner getting in the way if your planner is in your bag or something…but I do wish I could see my page marker easier.
    • I wish the page marker matched the cover – a cutout of your customized cover selection.  I love how the gold edition planner markers match the cover choice of the planner.
    • IF…the marker matched the cover, it would be nice on that “customize your planner” page, if there were an option to order more of the pop-in-page-markers.
    • My solution to this has been simple so I thought I’d mention it – I clipped pretty paperclips to the top of frequently opened sections and to the top of my page marker so it’s more visible.
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See how the bottom of the page marker in the image below is rounded and longer than the other segment openings?  This means that you MUST position this piece at the bottom of your planner.  It just gives fewer options.
Planner Review :: Erin Condren Life Planner
If you wanted to move your page marker up higher for more visibility, you’ll have to flip the marker around and have this section of the page marker hanging out of the top.  See next picture for an example of that…
Planner Review :: Erin Condren Life Planner

(I’m embarrassed that I took so many pictures of that ridiculous page marker! LOL!)

 Moving on…more things I really love about the planner…
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  •  The perpetual calendar in the front of the planner was a “surprise-like” for me.  I can’t say it was really a selling feature for me.  But, once I sat down with my planner and really started working in it, I began to see the value of this jewel!  Why?  What happened, you ask?  My family started growing!  Not just my immediate family – but my extended family, too!  JOY!!!  I’m expecting my first little precious niece in March and just COULD NOT be more excited!  And, there are already 7 of us.  And then there are God-children…and anyway, I don’t want to forget the important dates associated with all of these people I cherish so much!  Raise your hand if, after moving to a new planner at the beginning of the year, you take out your old planner and start flipping through…trying desperately to find where you wrote down so-and-so’s birthday…or some other annual event you told yourself at the time, “DO.NOT.FORGET.THIS!” ….and promptly forgot!  Enter, the perpetual planner!  Add it all here, and you have one nice and tidy little place to refer back to as you work through the year, and also for that next year/planner when you add in important dates.
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  • I love that the tabs are all laminated for durability!
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  • I love having a full 2-page spread for the monthly calendar, and I really like that little “Notes” section – do you see it over there on the right?  I can add our monthly lists and tasks there.  I really like having that!
Now we’re getting to the heart of this planner…where I really use it!  In the day-to-day stuff! 
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  •  Here is a weekly view!  Merciful heavens – THIS (!!!) is why I bought the Erin Condren planner!  This layout.  This design.  Why?  Well, because I (quite accidentally) discovered that this type of layout is intuitive for me.  It’s how I think of a day.  It’s how I tend to work through a day.  Here’s how I discovered it…
When I ran out of my other favorite planner, the Catholic Planner by Michele Quigley, I used a Martha Stewart planner I had picked up at Staples…just for the few months between August (when my other planner ran out), and December (when I planned to purchase a new planner).  Here are a couple of pages from my old Martha Stewart planner below…just so you can see it:
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(For size reference – the MS planner is 11 x 8 1/2″, so it’s larger than the EC planner)
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I found out that I completely enjoy that morning/afternoon/evening layout!  And that wasn’t all I really loved about this Martha Stewart layout – I liked those blue shaded boxes at the bottom of each day – I could add my menus there.  And I also found out that I really, really liked having a weekly “tasks” list next to every week.  Because we all have those, don’t we?  Things we know we want to try to focus on for a particular week – seasonal clothes switcheroo, tidy the front porch, start Christmas shopping.  Anyway, I fell in love with this layout!  (Can you see that I just used my Proclick to punch the sides of what is already a 3-hole-punched planner page?  It worked fine!) So, after living with the Martha Stewart planner for a few months, and totally falling in love with HOW it helped me plan and organize our days, I decided to just get a 2014 Martha Stewart planner!  So, I went to Staples.com daily to await the arrival of the 2014 planner…to no avail.  By mid-November, I was officially irritated, and started looking around online.  That’s when I found Erin Condren, again, by accident.  I found a youtube review which compared the Martha Stewart planner with the Erin Condren planner.  I dismissed Erin Condren – who was she anyway?  what was all the rage?  and seriously?  that much for a planner?  And then…as is typically the case with all-things-I-flippantly-dismiss…I ended up right back at Erin Condren after finding VOLUMINOUS other reviews of the planner which really helped me see some of the benefits of the Erin Condren planner.  And honestly, it’s one of the reasons I’m giving this review.  Because in the realm of practical and pretty – this really IS a fantastic option.

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  •  Ok…I digress.  The weekly view, I think you’ll see, is remarkably similar to the Martha Stewart weekly view which I really like.  It has separate sections for morning/day/night, and…
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  •  …There is that really helpful little section below each day which I use to jot down my menu for that particular day.
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  •  And the little “goals & notes” section which is present on every weekly layout page.  Super helpful!!
Beyond the “meat” of the planner, which are the monthly & weekly sections, there are a few other really useful sections:
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  • Notes section – Fabulous addition…because we all have random jottings to add to our planners.  I use mine to jot down goals and home ideas for the year.  This section has a fair number of pages for notes, all with a different Erin Condren design on each page layout.  Little negative:  again, it would be nice if the notes section of an individual planner had a little embellishment that matched the cover choice/color.  Or no embellishment at all.  I like the simplicity of the light gray lines.  Also, worth noting is that some pages are blank, while some pages are lightly lined.  I prefer lined. 
  • One  of the things I liked adding to the notes section was the Christmas planning printable I made.  I just taped the left side to a page, and it’s been nice to flip back and forth and always have this in my planner for reference as I worked my way through gift planning and purchasing.
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  • Pocket – this is directly behind the notes section…and again, I’m not in love with the design printed on the pocket…which is why I added my custom note pad here to the front pocket.  The note pad is supposed to be taped (it comes with little sticky back tape pieces attached to the rigid cardboard backing) to the back cover, but I really like the back cover with the 2015/16 calendars printed on it, and refer to those often, so it was an easy decision to slip the cardboard back into the front of the pocket for me.
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It’s worth noting here that whatever you choose to put on the front of your planner will also be printed verbatim on your custom note pad.  So…if you choose a quote or something, that’s what gets printed on your note pad.

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  • Here is the pen holder, which you can add to your planner order for a mere $2.50.  Money well spent, my friends!  In fact, I’m really wishing I had ordered a couple because who uses just ONE pen color in their planner?  {Ahem…sheepish grin}  Anyway – I love having this little pen clip here.  By the way, that is a teal color Le Pen from this set which I love using with my planner.
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  • This is the back side of the pocket, which in spite of my nit-pickiness about the visual design, the practical design is actually REALLY useful in the planner.  We all have those little cards and pieces of paper-stuff that we’d like to stick in our planners…if only there was a place for them to land.  This pocket is it!  Perfect!
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  • Are you still with me?  We’re almost done going through this planner!  In the very back is yet another very useful tool – the little zipper pocket!  My goodness, those Erin Condren people have built a useful planner!  Another place for little bits of paper stuff to land.  I keep my extra stickers stored in here.
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  • And here is the back cover – with the terribly useful calendars printed for the next two years!  I really didn’t want to cover this with the extra notepads!

Now, if you looked at every single picture of this planner review and actually read this crazy review, I finally get to reward you!  :)  Two things which may help you if you’re really considering this planner, but might still be on the fence:

  1. It’s helpful to break the cost of this planner down by month!  And not just for personal-rationalization reasons!!!  The classic planner is $50.  There, I said it — I ripped the band-aid off.  That means that if you purchase this planner it will cost you:  $4.16 a month to plan your month and stay organized.  Now, when I considered that, it was more reasonable for me to consider the cost of this planner.  I don’t like wasting our family money, but right now, I’ve got a lot going on!  And I need a tool that works well to keep up with things.  This is it, and $4.16/month is a good investment in our family organization.
  2.  You can click here and go set up an Erin Condren account and you’ll get $10.00 off your first order.  Which effectively reduces the monthly cost of organizing your family with this planner down to $3.33!  
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I did want to show you one thing that isn’t “Erin Condren,” but I do really love using in my planner!  Washi tape!  My collection comes from a variety of sources, and you can find Washi tape at Target, Staples, Etsy, and Amazon.  Pictured above is mostly 10 mm washi, which is easy to find.  But, if space is at a premium, I do really like the 2mm and 5 mm sizes so that I can just add a thin line of emphasis.  Because I know you’ll ask ;) , the organizers are from the Martha Stewart Staples line.
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And…if, by some remarkable miracle, you’re like me and could possibly want to see more Erin Condren details and reviews, here are a few of my favorite reviews that helped me take the plunge:

  • Favorite review at PrettyShinySparkly – after this review I really sort of wished I had gotten the Gold Edition Turquoise planner because I loved how it looked in Kristina’s review…and here’s where I figured out that in the Gold Edition planners, the page marker MATCHES the planner cover.  I know.  I’m silly.
  • Review at whimsy at heart
  • Review at domestic dork
  • Review at Meet the Sullivans – which really helps you see and compare the gold and classic planners side-by-side.
Happy planning and many prayers for all of you as we fast approach 2014!