Planner Review :: Erin Condren Life Planner


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!


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!

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.
  • 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….
  • 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.
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…
  •  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.
  • I love that the tabs are all laminated for durability!
  • 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! 
  •  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:
(For size reference – the MS planner is 11 x 8 1/2″, so it’s larger than the EC planner)

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 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.

  •  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…
  •  …There is that really helpful little section below each day which I use to jot down my menu for that particular day.
  •  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:
  • 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.
  • 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.

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.

  • 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.
  • 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!
  • 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.
  • 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!  
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.
~ :: ~

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!

**EDITED TO ADD** If you’ve read this far and are interested in some follow up thoughts as well as a review of my 2015 Erin Condren Life Planner, click here to read that post!

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  1. What a great review! When I read your last post about the planner I didn't end to the site but didn't really get it. I think I understand the appeal a lot more now! Thanks for all the pictures ( and yes, I read to the end too!)

  2. Great review! I ordered my life planner back in August for use from Sept 2013 through 2014. I also ordered an iPad cover with magnetic keyboard. They are so delightful and inviting to use for me. I've added all sorts of extra lovelies in mine, mini holy cards fit great to mark feast days.:) enjoy!

  3. Hi Jen,
    I absolutely love everything about your blog! You are such an inspiration to me every time I visit. Sometimes I think I am living a parallel life to you on the opposite side of the world! I have been sitting on the fence about getting an Erin Condren planner, but I think you have sold it to me. I am expecting my fifth baby in the summer (a nice surprise after a big gap) and I am also home schooling my other four. A life planner is what I need to survive and thrive. Loved the detailed pictures by the way, little things matter, (especially pretty little details;-)
    Many thanks and wishing you and your family a Blessed and Happy Christmas,
    Becky (Hong Kong)

  4. Wonderful review! Your last post with the 1-2 pictures was enough to sell me. I had heard of EC planners, but didn't know much about them. When I saw the morning, day & night sections, I was hooked. 🙂 This is already how I plan my day. Mine just came in yesterday, and I'm loving setting it up and all the fun features! Thanks for introducing me to EC. A gracious and blessed Christmas to your family!

  5. I looked at these last year and your review was great… it made me want to order one again. 🙂 In the end I decided to stick with my binder planner from GraceWorks because I can customize and add in pages. Loved all the pictures and your cover choice.

  6. Wow! Now if these people would “get-together” with Michelle Quigley THAT planner would be PERFECT!! 😀 I see why you so like this planner, but I think I'd really miss all the feast days and daily readings. I know I know, I could add them, but right now it seems like “one more thing.” Hmmm, will have to give it some more thinking. ;)I do have a few questions, if you don't mind (and, of course, only when the time allows). What are these “stickers” you speak of used for? Sorry, if that's an obvious question and I'm too lazy to look through it all right now. Do you find you have enough room to right in all your “daily details” in the weekly boxes? The measurements just seem a bit small—Michelle's is not as tall, but is a few inches wider and sometimes I barely have enough room to write in all I want…..maybe I need to be less wordy?!?! ha! I didn't see a calendar option of July to July, but maybe I missed something. Am I correct in that it can only be from December to December (or similar variations of that)? I find that I like to be planning for my next school year before the next year's calendar is typically available. Does that make sense? Whew, I didn't mean to go on so. 🙂 Thanks VERY much for taking the time to write up this review (and especially all the pictures—I'm definitely a visual person!)!!
    Wishing you a very peaceful and joyous Christmas!

  7. Hi Lindsay,
    I do love Michele's planner! I've used her planner for…oh my goodness…just years! I love it! You're right, it's quite beautiful and I loved having the Feast day listings, too!

    Really, the reason I moved to a different style of planner is really because it better fits the *way* I plan.

    If you journal more than you plan (and it sounds like you do if you're filling up a full size block on Michele's planner) then staying with the Catholic Daily Planner by Michele Quigley is definitely going to be a better fit!

    I tend to list bulleted items of to-do's on my planner, and prefer having the daily breakdown in a vertical format with the daily increments broken down into morning/day/evening. So the different format just fits me better right now. By the way, I thought I was going to miss the listing of Feast days, too, but it only took me a short time to sit down with my favorite Catholic calendar and list them all in my planner. I used a purple pen and listed them all neatly across the top of each day. (I'm pretty sure one of the pictures shows that.)

    As to the stickers – they're one of those *not-necessary-but-could-possibly-be-nice* items. With each Erin Condren life planner order some stickers come standard:


    a few others. These are all pre-printed! As to their potential usefulness…

    You would just add a sticker anywhere on your planner that you'd like to really draw attention to an event. I do think the stickers are a little wide…or rather, high I guess – they take up valuable space in the planner. So, I don't use them too much. Customizing the stickers just means you can draw attention to things your family regularly does. An example might be…you know you enjoy baseball each year – you could have several stickers printed up with baseball practice, or baseball game – so that you could add those to your planner. Do the same with any event you'd like to draw attention to. Using the sticker is really just a personal pref thing.

    And yes…I have enough room on each day for all the things I list.

    Happy planning!

  8. Thanks for the in depth review! I'd kept hearing about these planners but didn't quite get the hype. I do get it now, though I think I'm still too picky and will continue tweaking my homemade versions…because it's fun to waste time like that 🙂 I love the pen holder idea, it looks like it's just elastic glued onto the tab thing, I might need to try that with my planner! I love how sturdy and customizable these planners seem, definitely nice quality for the money.

  9. Hi Jen! I love your in-depth Erin Condren review! I read the entire blog post and enjoyed all of your photos. Your idea about adding a fancy paperclip to the bookmark is genius! I really appreciate you linking to my review at Whimsy at Heart. 🙂 Happy New Year!

  10. Hi! I am an avid Erin Condren lover and I just want to let you know that you can now personalize the font on your cover too. I don’t know if you could in the past as I just discovered them last year, but I know after reading probably as many reviews as you did that it is an available option now. Great review with the pros and cons and I love how you utilized your folder for your notepad! That’s all! Plan on!

  11. BEWARE–Erin Condren’s customer service is awful. I have been trying to contact them about my order for days now and no one responds to email as they promise to do within 24 hours. Their phone number–if you can find it–answers with a recording and hangs up. Seems like they have forgotten who made them so big–the CUSTOMER! This is my first experience with them and it will be my last.

  12. Hi Jen,

    Just reading this now and wondered if you were going to use this planner again in 2015 or something else? Having so much fun reading through some of the older blog posts today:)

    1. Thanks for asking, Kelly! YES – I’m a huge fan now, and I am definitely going with the Erin Condren Life Planner again next year! It has been so useful to me these last several months! I love the layout, look, size. I bring my planner everywhere…and it has held up so well…and surely you know that in my bag…with diapers and goldfish and sippy cups of juice — that is saying A LOT!! I’ve gotten into a great routine with my planner – I’ll share:

      (1) Monthly – I love sitting down with my planner every month, adding significant dates for the liturgical year for that month, noting when the boys serve Mass, looking at our commitments and appointments, planning a date night with my husband and adding it to my planner!

      (2) Weekly – And then each week, I sit down with my planner, open to the week ahead and map out my menus and my goals and to-do lists for the week. In doing the weekly mapping, I look to the Feasts of the Liturgical Year and any appointments we have scheduled and consider those as I plan meals and daily goings-on. I also make notes if there are special sales I’ve been waiting on and I check out offerings if I want to take advantage of a special sale.

      (3) Daily – I jot down chores and projects I’m currently working on in the specific parts of the day I’m working – so for this morning I listed that I wanted to clean the sink, and start boy laundry, then this afternoon I made a list of some conference talks I’m working on. I just map out the day.

      ** I really like to highlight special events with washi tape and I do color code with different color pens!

      1. I think you have me sold! Now to make room for that in the budget, not used to spending that much on a planner but your point about it being less than $5 a month to be organized (and spending that much $$ will ensure that I use it!) is a good one. Thanks, Jen!! Since I have you here:), I’ve been searching all over your blog and cannot find a post about actually making your weekly schedule sheets that you print out for the children. I want pretty ones like yours, can you help me out with that? Thanks!!

        1. Do you mean – how do I actually go about making them? If so, that is a FANTASTIC question and one that really does deserve a post of its own! I’d love to zing that to the top of my list of planned posts, Kelly!

          If you mean – where can I find some of your forms and planning sheets? Scroll all the way up to the very top of this page…see that blue navigation bar up there…click “The Paper Stuff.” I have all of my shared forms uploaded as pdfs and categorized and grouped – you’ll find lesson plans, booklists, planning forms. My late summer project is to convert all of my forms into Microsoft Word documents and upload them here as well, so that y’all have some editable forms to grab and use! So keep an eye out for that soon!

          I know what you mean about the price of the planner – that one had me for a long time! Initially, I just completely discounted it for that reason alone! I’m glad I bought it though. It was expensive!! And if you click through my link in the post to make a purchase, you’ll get the $10 off, and that does help a little! It has been one of THE best investments I’ve ever made in my time!!

          1. Yes, actually making them;) And, converting them over to Word files will be extremely helpful! In your “spare” time, of course:)

  13. This review was so great for me since I am trying to get into organizing my life and new to Erin Condren! Thank you so much for doing this and the pictures. I LOVE the pictures~

    1. Anastasia, my site is, as we speak, migrating…which may mean that some of the links are temporarily broken. I’m not even sure my comment will work. Right now, I can’t even see my own site. :/ Everything should shake out just fine in a day or so. If you would do me a favor and check back in a day, and then if you can’t find it I can either link you or email it to you! 🙂

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