My Birthday Reminder System


I’m going to be doing a whole series of posts on organization, because, well…. I love being organized. If things aren’t orderly I can’t think clearly.

A few years ago Jake and I found ourself missing our friend’s and family’s birthdays. We wouldn’t remember until the day of, which is just too late if you have to send something by mail. Not to mention it just feels chaotic– and I like order.

I am a believer in setting up systems and automating things so that I don’t have to try and remember myself. Because, as far as birthdays go, that had already proven to not be working for me. I started to think about what I needed to make this work– and I realized that being reminded on the day of the birthday would not be enough because on a busy day getting out to buy a card is usually not possible and then having it arrive that same day in the mail is completely impossible. So, I decided I wanted to be reminded of the birthday one week in advance to give me time to drop the card in the mail and then I wanted a second reminder on the actual birthday so that I could contact the birthday person personally. And after thinking about it even more, I decided one week was not enough to actually go out and buy a card and drop it in the mail (hello LA traffic!), so I decided I needed to buy all of my birthday cards at the beginning of the year.

So, this is how my system works:

1. I started by gathering all of the important birthdays of friends and family (specifically the ones I want to contact, send cards or send gifts). I have now included important anniversary dates of family members and even a few holidays (such as Mother’s Day and Father’s Day).

2. I entered all the birthdays into iCal with an email reminder to send me an email 1 week before the event and again on the day of the event.

3. For the actual birthday cards, I went to Target and bought an expandable file with 12 pockets. I labeled each pocket with the month of the year and at the beginning of the year I put everyone’s birthday card in their respective month. I actually like to pick up random cute birthday cards during the year when I see them and just put them in a separate box, so sometimes I am almost done with birthday card shopping when the first of the year rolls around (it also helps prevent me from buying one cute card en masse and giving it to everyone when there isn’t a great selection).

4. So now, when I get the birthday reminder email I’m all set to go! I just go to my expandable file and take out the card and drop it in the mail. Voila, birthday cards are arriving on time! Also, if I need to give a gift, I’ve got a good 7 days to get out of my house and get something (or 2 days if I do Amazon Prime).

With a little up front organization, this has made birthdays much less stressful throughout the year. And I don’t have to buy belated birthday cards anymore!

– Erica

ps. When I see something that I notice would be a good gift for someone I add it to a list I keep on my phone. That way, when their birthday or Christmas arrives I already have a several gift ideas. This definitely decreases the stress at holiday time and ensures I buy gifts that feel more personable.


My Perfect Planner

I recently decided I needed a planner. I haven’t had a planner for many years. In college I LOVED my academic calendar. I loved making lists and seeing what was coming my way. Now, I have a small monthly calendar at my desk at work and the calendar on my iPhone. In general, I only use my iPhone calendar to send notifications to remind me to move my car on street sweeping days (to avoid accumulating expensive LA parking tickets), to send me birthday alerts, and to remind me which Fridays are pay day. Other than that I haven’t been overly consistent.

I also have not been able to transition to a digital TO DO list. I think I have tried every app available and I have never been able to stick with any of them. Because, let’s face it, there is really nothing more satisfying than crossing something off your list. And it just has to be done by hand.

I’ve been catching up on my blogs since I’ve been at home resting (and growing baby), and read IHeart Organizing’s blog post on printable planner inserts and started to get excited about going back to an old school paper planner.

So then, I started searching different blogs to look for reviews of the perfect planner (I mean, if I’m going to do it, I’ve got to do it right, right?). I came across several bloggers who love the Martha Stewart discbound planner. However, right now, the only one available is black leather and I wanted something more colorful.

So, I kept looking and found the Arc Customizable Notebook, which is similar to the Levenger Circa Notebooks  (but much more affordable). I love the discbound planners because you can change things around to be exactly how you want them. You can even decide how big you want the discs to be (which makes your planner thinner or thicker). And maybe my favorite thing is how flat it lies when it is open.

2014-09-02 11.31.57

I picked out a teal leather cover- and how great is it that it is quilted 🙂 ? I got the 6 3/4 x 8 3/4 inch size which holds “half letter” size paper.

2014-09-02 11.31.45

The next thing I had to do is try several different pens to see if they bled through the paper or not. And, of course, the winner was my favorite pens/markers of all time. I originally bought these in Boston at Porter Square Books, but you can find them on amazon as well. They are called Staedtler Triplus Fineliner Pens — seriously, are the colors and the package not totally awesome?

2014-09-03 13.11.29

Unfortunately (or actually fortunately), they didn’t have any calendar pages available to put in my planner (I thought they would since it is the beginning of the academic year, but, nope). So, my awesome husband is helping me create custom calendar and planner pages to put into my new planner. I’ll update you on these soon. But just to warn you, they’re awesome. And they are exactly how I want them (since I have my own personal designer).

The ironic part about this all is that I don’t really have much to put in my planner since my main job is growing baby right now, but I know that will all change very quickly. And then I will be so happy to have my perfect planner.

– Erica