Binder-Style Organizer vs Bound Planner

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Ring Binder vs Bound Planner

Pic above shows my A5 Filofax Chameleon in Raspberry and the Erin Condren 18 Month Planner

I have a colourful past. At least in regards to my planners hehe…I’ve tried a myriad of styles, brands, sizes and formats. One thing that I really do prefer and cannot let go of is the ring binder style of planner.

I’ve been asked quite a bit through comments on my Life is Crafted YouTube Channel, Facebook Page and emails about why I prefer Filofax to Erin Condren (which really translates to why I prefer Ring binder/loose leaf page organizers over bound planners).

I love the designs and colours of some brands of stationery notebooks and diary planners. Unfortunately, even though some of them are truly beautiful, they just aren’t functional for me. When I’ve used them in the past I justย found myself ‘hacking’ them to suit my needs which often ended up messy and disorganised.

Here are some of the aspects to look at when choosing between a bound planner and a loose leaf ring binder organizer (and I admit I am totally writing this with an obvious bias…).


Okay this is where the bound planners could have an advantage! Bound planners are often thinner than ring binder folders because…they don’t have rings…it’s really just the width of the pages.

It can mean they are a bit more portable in relation to their similar-page-sized counterparts (ie an A5 Filofax is larger than A5 but an A5 bound diary is generally A5 plus a couple of millimetres). Unfortunately if they don’t have a section where you can write down your notes and lists you may end up carrying another notebook around with this information in it (or it could just be your phone!).

The bound planner below has 18 months worth of pages so it is thicker than normal!



This is where I feel the main advantage lies in ring binders. We are all different and have different planner requirements. With a loose leaf planner you can add the pages you want and remove the ones that aren’t useful for you (which can make it lighter or perhaps heavier, to carry around).


There are a lot of different types of pages out there. Packs for travel, medication, finance, health, menu planning, family specific pages etc are available. ย Invite the ones into your life that are relevant and helpful.


If a certain type of page that you would love to have doesn’t exist yet, you could put something together yourself. With just a little bit of creativity and something like word or excel you can have your own unique pages. All you need to do then is print, holepunch and add it to your loose leaf binder.


Some people want note paper up the front. Others don’t need to have an addresses section. They want a fitness tab at the back and their goals section up the front. The ring binder planners allow you to organise and arrange the sections in an order that works for you.

Get some tabs and name them whatever you want them to be.


You finally have a place where you’ve collected everyone’s birthdays and special dates. Plus you’ve spent numerous days collating and brainstorming your lists. Then the year ends and you have to spend hours transferring all the info into your new bound planner. Arrrrrrrgh!

With a ring binder you keep all your carefully crafted birthday and life lists and just add in the new year’s calendar pages. Yippee!


We love adding our own touches to things – we decorate with stickers, include pictures of loved ones, add gorgeous quotes that inspire us and have a page or two of our inspiration or mood boards. This is all more easily done in a binder.


There are a lot of accessories you can add to your planner to make it what you need to be. Rulers, business card holders and index tabs are just some of the items you can add or take away as your needs change. I love having pictures in the business card holders and use a few rulers to bookmark important sections.


I’ve found it hard – when I’ve jotted lists, scribbled notes and planned project on bound planner pages – to process and archive them . Bits of information that may still be relevant or could be better collated together with similar information, is all over the place. With the folder organizers I can just remove the relevant pages and put them in another part of the planner or in a separate file where they make more sense. Then I just archive the old calendar pages in another folder or box.


So, if you like being able to craft a planner to suit your individual needs I would recommend a binder style. Filofax is one brand of many, with its own pros and cons, but I love my Filofax Chameleon in A5!

I love you Filofax A5 Chameleon


Are there any advantages or disadvantages of bound vs ring planners that you’ve found? What do you prefer and why?

Life is crafted. Craft yours.

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18 thoughts on “Binder-Style Organizer vs Bound Planner

  1. Rochelle

    Fabulous post! Some great points there, I love my personal Filofax but I also love my bound planners, I think it comes down to availability. In Sydney we are really limited in our choices when it come to ring bound planners, sure you have officeworks (which I find just focus on functionality more then pretty items). Kikik has lovely stuff I sadly haven’t found their bound planners worked for me although I have tried numerous times in different sizes, smiggle which caters to the younger crowd, and I have issues with its quality.

    Also shops like typo, forever new, sports girl have cute things, I just don’t find them practical. I live in western Sydney and the lack of availability of Filofax items, even just trying to source note paper or plain personal sized paper is proving a bit of a challenge.

    While I know we can purchase them online I get great satisfaction of being able to take it home straight away.
    I have been eyeing off a few items on the Franklin covey site, but there is nowhere to actually go and see it in the flesh before purchasing it. I know it’s a bit old fashioned, but I love making informed decisions when purchasing what I consider a high priced item of stationary.

    To combat my frustration I use my Filofax to plan my over all picture of what I have on, my company bound planner for work and my wire bound planner to add in extended details about my clases at Uni.

    1. ariennegorlach

      Hi Rochelle! Great reply post! I so agree with you in regards to the immediate availability of stationery items here in Australia. We really do have a limited range and also not being able to see things like folders etc properly before we buy them is tricky.

      You sound very much like me in terms of trawling through all the shops in Sydney trying to find items that are functional and gorgeous! I’ve visited Typo, SMiggle, Kikki K and Officeworks numerous times seeing if they have something for my style of organising. It is one of the reasons I started Life is Crafted – to have a product that works for me!

      I admire your ability to work between 3 planners. I find I can really only work with one! You seem to have found a solution that works well for you – at least as a creative solution for now!

      Happy planning!.

  2. Lily (@Lily_Actually)

    I’ve reduced the size effect of ringbound planners by using a Compact Filofax (personal size, smaller rings). I can just about fit in everything I need and I’m not tempted to carry around useless crap.

    1. ariennegorlach

      Hi Lily! That is a great way combat the size effect! I’ve not tried a compact or smaller size before. I already seem to be bursting at the seams with my A5 – though I probably am carrying things around that aren’t really helpful to my everyday. Though when I’ve taken things out before I end up needing them!

  3. homemakersdaily

    Definitely prefer ring bound planners. The calendar is a small part of my planner and bound books don’t allow me to have the extra pages I need. I do like the flatness and small size of bound books but I need rings!

    1. ariennegorlach

      Oh I sooooooo need rings too! Those extra pages are so important to me ๐Ÿ™‚ I guess we are Ring Advocates ๐Ÿ™‚ PS I love your blog. I tried leaving a comment, but completely my fault, I stuffed up my profile login and then couldn’t recreate what I was trying to say! Hopefully next time I’m a little better with my login details ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Jo

    Thank you for visiting my blog and leaving a comment. I much prefer ring bound planners, they’re just so much more versatile. Pages can be added or taken away at will, and they can be customised to exactly what you want or need. I’ve got an a5 Chameleon in red and I love it.

  5. skybluepinkish

    Tempted by the erin condren I put my ring binder away. Within less than a month I had missed two meetings and didn’t have half the information I was used to having to hand. All in all, my usually highly organised life was disappearing down the pan at a rate of knots. I bought a plum osterley and normal service was immediately resumed.

    1. ariennegorlach

      Oh no, that wasn’t such a good impact! The Erin Condren planners are really gorgeous but the ring binder style is just a necessity for me too. I love that you’re back in ‘normal service’ – Yay for the Plum Osterly ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. andreamocko

    I bought an Erin Condren planner for 2011-2012. Everyone raved about them. I fell in love with the design, and before I knew it I had one ordered. I loved all the colors, the room to write and the amazing stickers, but for the life of me, I could not get the layout to work for me. My life isn’t broken into morning, day, and night. I used it for about 2 months when I got it but failed miserably. I tried again a bit later because I wanted to buy another one for this year since it was too cute and my life had changed so I figured maybe it would work, but it didn’t work that time either. I think Erin Condren makes some really cute planners, and I know a lot of people swear by them, but quality-wise and given the layout it had, I couldn’t justify the outrageous price.

    1. ariennegorlach

      I still use the lovely stickers I got with my Erin Condren planner but I agree with the layout. I hacked mine trying to include all the lists and to dos that pop up in my life. I sounds like you gave it a good try though!

      I think having a design that you love is really important – whether it is the folder or the pages. If you love it and it is beautiful PLUS functional you will definitely use it and hopefully feel much more organised overall ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Sarah Syhakhoun

    Hi Arienne!

    First of all, you have a gorgeous name! Secondly, I love your website! Thirdly, I actually just did my first ever Youtube video (actually it’s two videos because I split it into two parts) comparing my brand new Filofax (personal size) to my Erin Condren Life Planner. I completely agree with you – I LOVE my Life Planner times a million because of how cute it is, how I can customize the look of the front, the colors, etc. However I had to give it up because of its size, the limitations to the spiral bound system, and the lack of customization options for the calendars.

    You can see my videos below if you are interested:

    Have a wonderful day!

    1. Arienne Gorlach

      Hi Sarah! Thank you so much ๐Ÿ™‚ I love how there are options out there for us to use and see which way things work better for ourselves. I think my love of freedom and flexibility translates into so many areas of my life – especially in my planner! I’m looking forward to see your video – feel free to share the link here ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. Barbra

    I really want to use a ring binder planner but the huge problem I have is I don’t like the “closure” tab it’s nice for keeping it closed but when you open your planner to view it I don’t like how that tab is in my way. …I need smoothness and got it to lie flat on each side and that little tab it’s just annoying do you know of any ring binder planners that don’t have to closure tab?

    1. admin

      Hi There Barbra! Unfortunately I am not sure of any that dont have the closure tab unfortunately! Let me know if you come across one ๐Ÿ™‚


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