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The Obsessive Bookseller Simplifies Life [2]: Book Journaling

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In case you missed my Introductory Post, my world was in such an upheaval that I was forced to take drastic measures by simplifying and organizing all the things that caused me stress. Each month, in 2017, I’m tackling different aspects of my life that are clutter-stressors by organizing and altering them into things that bring me joy.


February 2017: Book Journaling

A few months ago I came across a blog post for bullet journaling for the first time… O_o!! Where has this been?! I’m clearly super behind the times, because how can uber-organized color-coding, creative awesomeness that allows you to track goals and see progress have not popped on to my radar before now? Sign me up!

As it happens, I was in some desperate need of organization (see Introductory Post above). I also had a million cute notebooks just waiting to be used in a meaningful way. Unfortunately, most bullet journaling topics weren’t things I felt compelled to keep track of on a daily basis. But there was one topic that definitely sparked my interest:

The Bookshelf:

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If you search Pinterest for bullet journaling ideas about books, this is pretty much what you get (many a lot more creative than my own). You can “stack” your books anyway you’d like, but I discovered pretty quickly that I like mine orderly. Also, with the straight up and down approach, I can add little boxes underneath each book to track reading completions. This bookshelf ignited a bunch of other book related tracking ideas that I’m excited to share with you. Instead of bullet journaling, I’m book journaling!

The Book Journal:

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I have so many different bookish things to keep track of and my Book Journal has completely revolutionized how I do practically everything. Before, I was relying on a complicated mix of jotted notes, half-assed Goodreads lists, and memory. Now, everything, and I mean EVERYTHING I could possibly need to reference is organized in one place – a cute little notebook that I carry everywhere with me (because, you know, books are life). Here are some of the things I track with it:

The Blogging Schedule:

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Not only has this tracker allowed me to schedule posts ahead for the first time in my blogging career, but it has also given me a quick snapshot of titles I need to review. It also helps me remember which Thursdays I’m supposed to review for The Independent (a local newspaper), which often used to slip through my memory. The Blogging Schedule is definitely the Book Journaling component I’ve referred to most often.

The TBR Tackler Shelf:

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I do my Tackling the TBR every month, but I’d have to come up with titles on the spot (which wasn’t working well with my intent to spend less and utilize the library more – many titles have to be put on hold weeks before I want to read them). Now, I can plan ahead. But the BEST PART is that I now have a quick reference to see what’s on my reading list without having to log on to my blog and navigate to the post every time. I love being able to check the boxes underneath each title when finished and see my progress over each month. I put a little half slash in the box of the currently reading titles. I also use it to track upcoming Buddy Reads with my Goodreads group so I don’t overbook myself… no pun intended. Of all the things I track in my Book Journal, the TBR shelf is by far my favorite.

The Currently Reading Shelf:

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I used to take copious notes about the books that I was reading, but found that I was spending way more time on the notes that I was the review itself. Also, I’d write them in any handy notebook, which means when it actually came time to write the review, I’d inevitably be without the correct one. All I really needed was a place for notes to jar my memory, and this element of my Book Journal works perfectly for that.

The Unfinished Series Shelf:

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THIS! I have a nifty Incomplete Series List over with my Goodreads group, but this format was a lot more fun to create and refer to. It allows me to see if I’m up-to-date on any given series instantly, which definitely helps me prioritize going forward, as I usually look at these pages when planning out my upcoming TBR Tackler Shelves.

1500 for 1 challenge:

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I’ve been referring to this for ages. Basically, I get to buy 1 book for every 1500 pages I read. It’s an amazing system which helps me moderate spending, read books I already own, and feel like I’m accomplishing something. I already tracked pages just like this in another notebook, so there was no doubt that this had to be included in the Journal.

The Wish lists:

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Bring on the Bookshelves!!! I think about books a lot. I found myself spending several hours a week logging on to audible or my library’s website just to remind myself what I had in the wishlists. It was a weird compulsion and total waste of time, but for some reason it bothered me not being able to remember the 100+ titles in each one. In any case, since I transferred those titles to the Book Journal, I haven’t been back since! This, more than anything else, was a time and sanity saver.


Overall, this project has been one of the most rewarding I’ve ever undertaken. I treat this journal like it’s a work of art in progress and find myself flipping through the pages just to appreciate what I’ve done. Honestly, once you figure out spacing and formatting for each type of tracker, it doesn’t take long to create. I spend maybe ten minutes a day updating it (which my boss would probably call shirking). But compared to how much time I was wasting trying to find information spread out all over, it definitely is the most efficient thing I could have done. It’s literally a one-stop shop for everything book related in my life – what could be better than that? :-)

Project Status: Book Journaling Simplified!

by Niki Hawkes

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The Obsessive Bookseller Simplifies Life [1]: Blog Love

simplifies-life-2017

In case you missed my Introductory Post, my world was in such an upheaval that I was forced to take drastic measures by simplifying and organizing all the things that caused me stress. Each month, in 2017, I’m tackling different aspects of my life that are clutter-stressors by organizing and altering them into things that bring me joy.

January 2017: Blog Love

The first order of business in my goal to simplify life in 2017 (i.e. January’s goal) was to take control of my blogging experience. Before I dive into my observations, here’s a relevant side story: I have this really fun karaoke singing app called Smule Sing, which I’ve been on for about a year and a half now. At one point I followed over 400 people, which caused me to wade through hundreds of open calls every day just to find ones from my favorite singers. One night I got fed up and started paring down the list until I was following only my favorites, and it was the best thing I could have done. Now every time I log in, I only have about 5 to 20 quality open calls to scroll through rather than hundreds of miscellaneous ones, which allows me to spend more time singing and less time scrolling. That’s when the epiphany struck – I wondered how much more satisfying my blogging experience would be if I applied the same tactic.

I love reading other people’s posts, but find the endlessly scrolling process incredibly frustrating. I couldn’t tell you the last time I logged on to my wordpress reader and actually enjoyed looking through the feed (heck, I couldn’t even tell you the last time I logged on). Only after my Smule Sing experience did I realize what my problem was. I thought it was just laziness or a lack of interest, but discovered following too many people makes it impossible to pay attention to and even differentiate between all the blogs. It was time to clean house! So I took a closer look at who I was following, and here’s what I discovered:

  • Of all the blogs I was following, I only recognized about 20%.
  • 75% of the unrecognized blogs were guilt-follows.
  • I was only genuinely interested in the content of about 10%.
  • 15% of the blogs I was following don’t exist anymore.
  • Another 30% hadn’t posted anything new for at least two years.
  • Most importantly, I had built and maintained genuine relationships with only about 5%.

That’s not the blogging experience I signed up for.

Over the last several months, I’ve been successfully surrounding myself with an amazing community of readers on Goodreads. To be a part of such a supportive, group of people who love the same books I do has been amazing. It’s the type of feeling I’m hoping to also nurture with my fellow bloggers and I have just the plan to make that happen.

You see, by paring down the number of blogs I follow to a more manageable number, not only will it be more fun and rewarding to log on to the reader every few days and see what my favorites have been posting, but I now know exactly who’s posting what and can start becoming an active blog buddy (and don’t worry, if I’ve already been a half-assed blog buddy by commenting on your blog more than once in the last 6 months, we’re still buds). I am certain I will add more blogs in the future, but I’m definitely going to take care to add only those I’m prepared to interact with. I vowed after this process to never guilt-follow again… that’s how I get into trouble and I hate how disingenuous it makes me feel. Once I get used to my new system, I can slowly start adding more blogs. My starting point is 40 blogs (pared down from 150).

The moral of the story is, I want to be a good blog buddy, decrease my stress by organizing and decluttering, and improve my overall blogging experience. I think I’ve accomplished all three.

Project Status: Blog Love Simplified!

by Niki Hawkes

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The Obsessive Bookseller Simplifies Life in 2017

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My life is in an upheaval. In early October, my husband and I decided it was time to move into a bigger place. You see, we welcomed our first little one into our family in June and it was clear that our tiny townhouse just wasn’t going to cut it anymore. We listed our home, figuring we’d have at least a month or two to find a new one before it sold. WRONG! We had three offers within 48 hours, and that “month or two” turned into three weeks. Stressful, right? Trying to find our new “forever” home while taking care of a baby, working full-time, and orchestrating the headache that is buying/selling property was enough to make me a basket case. Fast-forward two months – we never found anything we liked, so we decided to build the “dream house.” Luckily, my in-laws are amazing people and allowed my family to move into their vacation condo for the seven month wait until our new house is finished. All of our crap is in boxes, but at least we have a roof over our heads. Things are working out, but my life is still a cluster-f*ck (or clutter-f*ck, as the case may be).

There are a few things I need to explain about myself: I like order, I like calm, and I like well-laid-out plans. None of these things have been prevalent in my life for the last three months. I don’t have control over anything and it’s driving me crazy. Being so continually displaced is also causing me no end of stress, to the point where I practically snarled at a rude customer service representative the other day – something I’d NEVER have done in the past (and still feel guilty about). That was the moment I realized I wasn’t handling all of these changes as well as I thought I was. It made me take a long look at my situation and, after chanting The Serenity Prayer for ten hours straight, I came up with a game plan:

I’m going to organize the shit out of my life to help alleviate some stress.

When I’m stressed, I organize. It’s how I cope. I find the process of focusing completely on a task calming and I always look forward to that satisfying pump of endorphins after completing a project. There are too many things about my life that are uncontrollable right now. In 2017, I’m going to focus on the things I CAN control and de-clutter my life as much as possible. Stress relief now, happier, more organized life later. Win-win.

Therefore, I’m dedicating every month in 2017 to a single aspect of my life that I’d like to simplify and will share insights and updates as I tackle each stress-inducing item. Since I can’t really dig into a lot of household stressors until we make our move halfway through the year, I’m going to start with as many digital things as I can.


January: Blog Love
[Over the years I have clicked “follow” on so many blogs that every time I log on to read posts, I get overwhelmed. My goal is to reduce the number of blogs followed and establish a system to be a better blog-buddy.]

February: Book Journaling
[My version of bullet journaling that focuses solely on organizing books and blogging]

March: Goodreads
[Where I revamp my shelves, my friends lists, and figure out how to utilize Goodreads to its fullest.]

April: Food
[This might seem like a weird topic, but if one more thing falls out of the freezer onto my foot, I’m going to scream. I’ve also been wanting to get more serious about my eating habits, and that requires planning and organizing]

May: Freebie
[To be determined]

June: The House Project
[June is when our house is projected to be completed, but I’m not holding my breath. Whatever month sees it’s actual completion (I’ll rearrange topics then), I’m going to take the opportunity to hyper-organize my new living space as I unpack.]

July: The Forgotten Junk Files
[One month after I organize my new house, I’m going to focus on getting rid of things I don’t remember owning. Also, if it’s not useful or beautiful, it goes!]

August: Clothes
[In which I take a long look at my closet and get rid of things I never wear but always seem to hold on to. This will also be an excellent opportunity for me to pull myself out of that “new mom” wardrobe, which primarily consists of jeans and sweatshirts (notice I’m in no hurry to get to this one). ;-)]

September: Books, Books, & More Books!
[I’m lucky enough to have an entire room in this new house dedicated to books. My particleboard shelves are looking pretty shabby these days and have been bowing under the weight of all my books. I want to beautify and downsize my library until it’s something I can be proud of again.]

October: Photos
[I made a ton of progress in early 2016, organizing all the digital photos on my computer. I even got ahead of the game, printing out photos and putting them into scrapbooks within a month of taking them. Being displaced has knocked me off my game, and I’m hoping to get back into a routine by the end of next year.]

November: Another Freebie
[To be determined – probably a follow-up on one of the other topics that I didn’t complete to my satisfaction.]

December: Keepsakes
[By now, my new house should be organized (hopefully), and I’ll be into somewhat of a normal routine, it’s now time to go through the dozen or so “keepsake” totes I’ve been hauling around all of my adult life. This is going to be the most difficult because I’m incredibly sentimental, but the weight of all of this stuff following me around has finally cracked my spine – I’ve had enough!]


I normally do a top ten goals post at the beginning of every year and, although I usually end up completing most of my set goals, that type of post doesn’t really give specific calls to action (and I’m feeling incredibly proactive). This new format is hopefully going to keep me occupied all year. Each month I’ll share my progress and insights on each topic as I move closer to regaining my sanity. :P

What are your goals for 2017?

by Niki Hawkes