The * Ultimate * Erin Condren Review

Erin Condren Life Planner

Update Jan 2015: This post continues to be one of the most popular ones on Domestic Dork. But you should know that there have been a lot of changes to these planners since this review (including changes that fix almost all my complaints). Subscribe to Domestic Dork now so you don’t miss my  upcoming reviews/tutorials on DIY mods/downloadable planner freebies and all sorts of planner goodness}!

I’ve seen lots of reviews for Erin Condren planners online. They all tend to be similar, and not quite thorough enough for my taste. After all, if somebody is considering investing in a pricey planner, they want to see lots, and lots, and lots of details. Often, these reviews are written immediately after one’s planner arrives (whilst high on new planner smell and excitement)…so a dearth of first-hand knowledge is to be expected. That’s why I’ve put together my own review with my initial impressions and opinions. If things go well, I’ll re-review things midyear (in June), and at the end of the year (when I’ll decide whether I love it enough to order another for 2014)! I do feel this initial review will be very helpful, despite the limited time the planner’s been in my possession. I spent half of December 31st (the day it arrived) filling in EVERYTHING that I could. After that many hours (and I do mean hours, and hours, and hours) using the planner, I’ve definitely got a lot to say. In addition to giving you all the details on the planners themselves, I’ll let you in on how I’m using it. So, read on!

And remember…if you’re in Canada, DON’T order your planner from! {More on that later.}


So, here’s my planner. I went with a simple design in a color I hope will more-or-less match the diaper bag I want. I just put my name on the front. I thought about putting “the shumates” in big letters, with all the family members below…but since MicroDork’s name isn’t official yet, I decided not to. I guess I could have put “dork” in big letters and “” in the little letters. Sort of kicking myself for not thinking of that until now. C’est la vie.

I also picked up some pens from Staples in rainbow shades. They’re the “Staedtler ball 432 M” and cost me about $8 CAD for nine. For now I’m keeping them in a little pencil bag from Superstore and will stash it in my purse when I go out. I highly recommend getting the optional pen loop to add to your planner. I want one, but I can’t get them locally, and don’t want to pay to ship one from Erin Condren or Amazon. What I wanted were the R.S.V.P. pens (which even come in a clickable version now!), but Staples doesn’t carry them in the pretty colors, Walmart doesn’t carry them at all, and, again, I didn’t want to order from Amazon and have to pay shipping just for pens. The ink in these doesn’t flow as well as the R.S.V.P. pens (by Pentel), but the colors may possibly be more vivid (it’s hard to compare when I only have one R.S.V.P. pen on hand). They’re also a little skinnier than the R.S.V.P. pens, which leads to my hand cramping a little bit after using them for hours at a time. But that shouldn’t be a problem for day-to-day planning. Whatever you choose (and maybe you don’t color-code your calendar so a simple black pen will do), do NOT buy these:


These Zebra brand pens would be fine…except the ink colors suck. The green is an ugly olive green, not a happy grass green. And the orange/yellow is on the brown side. Yuck.

UPDATE: A day after I wrote this review, I returned the Z-Grip pens, thinking that was that. But as I ran errands that day I discovered the InkJoy pens by PaperMate (like these) and the Velocity Bold pens by Bic at Real Canadian Superstore and just had to try them out. The Bics were comfortable (wider barrel, with a rubber grip), but didn’t come with an orange pen, and the writing line was too thick for the sort of small writing I do in my new planner. So, bummer. However, the InkJoy 100 pens were an improvement over the Staedtler pens AND they were only $1.79 for a bag of fifteen. They seem to be the same barrel shape and size (triangular, which prevents the pens from rolling off a table or desk), but they write with a lot less pressure, which should help prevent cramping. The ink flow is more consistent (especially in the green and orange), and the colors are almost exactly the same, but a tiny bit bolder (the purple is a cooler purple, less magenta-purple than the Staedtler purple). The bag came with two reds, two regular blues, two light blues, two regular greens, one light green, one brown, two blacks, one orange, one pink, and one purple. So, obviously I ended up with more pens in colors I don’t need…but again, for $1.79, who cares? The other pens can go to household use. The package says that the InkJoy pens are a medium point (1.0 mm versus the Bic 1.6 mm large point). I think a fine point would be even better, but the medium point is still a thin enough line to work in a planner this size. And, for purely sentimental reasons, the PaperMates make me happy with the double heart logo on their caps. When I was a little girl I’d spy that heart logo on the pens in my grandfather’s shirt pocket and loved it. I can’t imagine how many pens he generously handed over on my request just because I liked those hearts. So now that logo forever reminds me of him. <3 <3

Ideally I’d like something that writes with the drag level of an R.S.V.P. pen, is comfortable to hold, and is clickable instead of capped. If I find something like that, I’ll let you know. I do know that the InkJoy pens come in a clickable version on Amazon, so if you’re in the States, you might want to give those a try.

Moving on…


Here’s what you see when you open to the first page of the planner. I saw, in one of the many random Erin Condren reviews I’ve perused, that somebody put their personal info here, and I couldn’t think of anything smarter to fill that first space. After all, this planner is going to be my brain in a book. If I lose it I will be in big trouble! The cover is laminated, so I had to use a permanent marker to write in my info. But if you’re not worried about losing your planner, you could write in a favorite quote, or your “word of the year” or whatever inspires you.

Since I ordered my planner via Tiny Prints the title page has both the Erin Condren logo and the Tiny Prints logo. Cute as that little elephant is, I don’t need a page in my planner that is, essentially, a commercial. I ripped it out right after taking this picture. The back of the title page is just a grey pattern – pretty, but why keep any extra bulk if it’s not useful, right? I also ripped out the pages for December 2012 which, I guess, were automatically included. On the Erin Condren site you can indicate when you want your calendar to begin, but the options on Tiny Prints aren’t quite as extensive.


After ripping out the logo page, this became the first page in my planner. Nice little saying.


The first section of the planner is the perpetual calendar for recording birthdays and anniversaries. It’s got two months to a page and each month’s color matches that month’s color under the monthly and weekly views. There was a bit of squeezed writing for the days on which our family has multiple birthdays/anniversaries. But I wouldn’t want any more pages used for this feature, so I’ll roll with it. I use little stickers (from Staples) to mark the really important birthdays. With how many siblings, nieces, and nephews ManDork has, his family doesn’t send presents or cards for each person’s birthday. Stickers are reserved for birthdays and anniversaries that do require a present, card, or at least a nice e-mail. For the more casual celebrations, Facebook will remind me to message whomever is having the birthday. After I filled in the lists, I transferred all the sticker events to the monthly and weekly views, so I won’t forget to buy gifts and/or send cards.


Next up is a two-page, two year at-a-glance layout. Mine gives me July 2012-December 2013. I would have preferred January 2013-June 2014, but whatever.


And now we’ve come to the actual calendar.  It’s organized in my favorite way, where each month has a tab (laminated for durability). Go to the tab and you get the month-at-a-glance two-page layout, followed by the weekly layouts (also two-pages each) for that month. I don’t like how a lot of planners with both months and weeks will put all the month layouts in the front, followed by all the week layouts. This system of keeping the pages by month (instead of layout) just makes more sense to me. The tab pages are also laminated where they’re hole-punched and bound, to help keep them from ripping when you use them to turn to the section you need. The rest of the page is left un-laminated, so you can easily write on it, and to help keep the weight and bulk of the planner down. On the right-hand side of every month is a column for goals and to-do lists.

For the monthly goals I’ve listed more abstract, long-term projects and to-do items (such as reading a book) and may also include a list of certain kinds of photos I want to take that month (such as my favorite ideas from this printable list). As I finish hashing out the details on my 2013 resolutions, and split them into smaller tasks, I may list them in the monthly goals space as well…so, basically, to-do items that contribute directly to the success of my year-long goals.

So the goals list seems great to me, but the to-do list seemed odd at first (who has a monthly to-do list that short?!). I used my first month’s to-do list as a space to record my color coding guide (see below). But as I filled in other parts of my planner, I realized a good use for this monthly to-do spot is to record the sorts of things you know ought to be done in a certain month…but can’t schedule on a specific day just yet. For example, I won a $100 gift card to the online Disney Store. Shipping to Canada is (no surprise) expensive. So I’m waiting to use it until I know whether we’ll be moving to the US for medical school or not. That way, if we are moving to the States, I’ll be able to use the full value of the card on products instead of shipping (US shipping is free for orders over a certain amount). So I flipped to the May tab (the month by which we should know where we’ll be living for the rest of the year) and wrote “use $100 Disney Card.”


I used teeny-tiny stickers for marking important items. AS you can see:

  • pink = appointments (or errands) that take place outside of the home
  • green = appointments (or tasks) that are done at home
  • yellow (with black text, because, come on, yellow ink is impossible to read) = things ManDork has to do
  • orange = Everything else that’s important (such as birthdays)
  • blue = blog tasks (posting schedule, content ideas, to-do items, etc.
  • purple = all other to-do items, notes, and so on

Now, I don’t imagine most people will want to use separate colors for out-of-the-home events vs. in-the-home events. This works for us because, as a one car family, it’s important for me to see, at a glance, which days I need the car (which requires dropping ManDork off at work in the morning, and picking him up in the evening). I think having this particular color split will work well for me, and if it doesn’t, I can always revamp the system later. Last year I color-coded based on which family member an event applied to. But I found, at MiniDork’s age, that wasn’t all that helpful because even if an event “belongs” to her (such as a doctor’s appointment), she still needs at least one of her parents to go with her. Ultimately, all of her events were also my events. If your children are older, or you have teenagers, than one color per/family member may be more useful for you.


One of the things I love about the monthly layouts are the quotes. Every month has a nice little saying or quote (none of which are religious, thank you very much). And many of the months have a thematic quote that references an important monthly holiday or vibe. So January fits New Year’s, March fits St. Patrick’s Day, February fits Valentine’s Day, etc. Is it important for being organized? No, of course not. But it’s pretty damn cute.



After the monthly layout are the week-by-week pages for the month. I like that when a month changes mid-week, the planner doesn’t split them onto separate pages. But by putting in the cutesy little divider column to highlight the change from the previous month to the next, they sacrificed that weeks goals and to-do list column. Not good. It would be easy to highlight the change by lightly coloring the background of the new month’s first day. And I hope in the future they’ll do that, or find some other way to draw attention to the transition without taking away the already limited to-do/goal planning space (which you can see to the right ->).

My other main complaint about the weekly layout is that on the weekly view, the week starts with Monday. That’d be totally fine with me except…on the monthly pages, the week begins on Sunday. The discrepancy confuses my brain every time I flip from a monthly view to a weekly section. Hopefully, I’ll adjust in time. But I think consistency would be better for future versions of this planner. Ideally, they could offer people the choice of when the week begins and print it to order. But I also understand that could drive the cost up while also slowing down processing and delivery times.

What I love is that each day is divided by morning, day, and night. I used to plan my days by fifteen to thirty minute increments because I was scheduling in routine items (like showers, cooking, etc.). But I’ve been setting up those routines in one of my favorite iPad apps instead since those routines almost always exactly the same. Now I only need space for appointments that vary. By not dividing the day into specific times, it saves space. After all, how often do you need to record an appointment for every hour of the day? For most of us, the answer is never. So, instead of having a bunch of empty lines marked 8:00 am, 9:00 am, etc. I can just write in the times I actually need, and use the rest of the space for to-do tasks, and any notes I want to make about my day. Plus, I find that when a calendar does have printed times, they don’t end up matching my actual life (for example, they’ll start the day earlier than I get up and stop providing lines for times in the evening well before my day is done). As for notes, you can see in my photo above that I made some notes about MiniDork feeling ill. I’ve found, in the past, that if she gets sick enough to need to visit the doctor, I can’t always remember what symptoms began when. So, from now on, I’ll record any signs of illness so I’m better able to answer the doc’s questions. Plus I can mark down notes on special happenings (funny things MiniDork says, baby milestones for MicroDork once he’s here, etc.). Obviously I won’t be able to use such limited space for in-depth diary-like entries. But it’ll be nice to write in basic details about my day and such to help refresh my memory when I do sit down to actually journal (journaling more is one of my 2013 resolutions).

You might have also noticed I’ve made a note about tracking resolutions. Some of my resolutions involve regular, small tasks (like taking pictures for “project life”). I’ve written that down so I don’t forget to do them.

Something cute about both the weekly and monthly pages are how holidays are marked:


Instead of just words, each holiday has a cute little icon…and I don’t mean every holiday has the same icon. Each holiday has a matching icon! Valentine’s day has hearts, Halloween has a pumpkin, Hanukkah has a candle, Christmas has a tree, etc. Some of the less major holidays just have an asterisk (like Grandparent’s day), and the even less major ones have no icon (like Earth Day). I suppose it’s not surprising (though disappointing none-the-less) that non-Christian holidays tend to be left unmarked. I mean, yes, it’s nice that Hanukkah got a candle, but none of the other Jewish holidays got an icon or asterisk (even the one’s more important in Judaism than Hanukkah). None of the Islamic holidays got even an asterisk. The solstices and equinoxes all have cute icons though, which made me happy as we celebrate those seasonal events along with the more mainstream holidays.

What I’d ultimately like to see, and would be willing to pay extra for, is custom options for holidays. A simple multiple choice question in the checkout process to select which holidays are included (and emphasized with little icons) would be more inclusive for people of different beliefs. And, as a Canadian resident, it’d be nice to just be able to check a box that would then mean my calendar will include Canadian holidays too. But what I’d really love to see, on top of that, is the option to add in your own printed holidays (for a fee of course, I don’t expect that much extra printing work to be just given away). I spent quite a bit of time writing in all the weird, obscure holidays we like to observe for fun, such as Hobbit Day, TARDIS day,* Pi Day, etc. Having them pre-printed would not only look prettier, but would help prevent carpal tunnel. ;)


Plus, with the option to have your own important dates printed in your planner, you could even have all those birthdays and anniversaries pre-printed instead of writing them all in on the perpetual calendar, and on the monthly and weekly sections. I use the included blank stickers to mark them on the weekly sections, but printed versions would take up less space, look better, and allow me to save the stickers for other uses…but more on the included stickers later.

I’m still working out how best to utilize those precious weekly goals and to-do sections. My problem is that my to-do list is never, ever, ever short enough to fit on a list that size. For now I’ve got it written on a piece of paper being kept in the rear folder (more on that later). To-do items that I need to completed on a specific day are getting written in on that day based on when in the day I’d like them done. In the photo above, for example, you can see that on Tuesday evening I listed all the things I needed to gather for the following day’s errands. Then on Wednesday I listed those errands based on the general time of day I hoped to accomplish them (so a few errands before lunch, and a few after lunch). What I’m thinking of trying is this:

Keep a running to-do list in the folder. Each week chose a limited number of the most urgent and important tasks to list on the weekly to-do list and COMPLETE them. If I don’t get them done, they get moved to the next week and anything else languishing on the list just has to wait (no matter how much I want to do them) until I take care of the more important stuff and make room on the little weekly space. In the goals space I can record an idea, a quote, a word, etc. – anything that helps outline a theme for what I want to focus on that week or something (such as a mantra) that will help me stay motivated. In fact, to give this system a try, I’ve since added in my own little saying “A loud voice will be heard, but a quiet voice will be listened to” to help me work on not raising my voice with MiniDork (especially since there’s no school this week and we’re likely to bump heads more often). Next week I’ve written “What kind of daughter, wife, mother, friend, writer, neighbor, PERSON do you want to be??? Be that.” Hopefully that will help me remember to think, and to act purposefully instead of letting little things distract me from the big picture.

But enough about that, let’s get back to the planner features. Each planner comes with a laminated bookmark/ruler. I’m using mine to mark my place in the current week so it’s easy to flip the book open to where I’m most likely to want to write or read something. You can see the front of the bookmark above, and the back below:


The problem with the bookmark is that there are only two sections of the little clip-in gripper things to latch it to the spiral binding. I think the grippers should run down the entire length of the bookmark, or at least there should be a third section of them at the bottom. I’ve already had problems with my marker popping out of the book when I open to my weekly page and then fold the book so it’s cover against cover (does that make sense?) – it’s sometimes easier to have it opened that way when writing in my lap, than it is to have it laid out flat to the two-page view. There was also a bit of warping from the lamination process (nothing drastic, just a little bit of curve). However, I have not yet had any problem with the bookmark popping out while the book is closed, or open flat. And I do like the width of the bookmark. It’s the same size as a single day column, which means that, unless you write past the space allotted per column, it won’t interfere with your handwriting when it’s beneath a page on which you’re writing.

One idea I think the folks at Erin Condren might want to consider for future planners is a full page size divider. It could have the ruler at the edge, and a blank or lined space for the rest (or a clear area for the rest so as not to block one’s view of the week). That way people who need a little extra scribble space could use a wet-erase pen to write to-do lists, or notes each week, then erase for the next week. Or, even better, use it as a shopping list!

Speaking of page dividers…I’d like to see a few more laminated tabs added to future planners to mark the sticker section and the section of lined and blank note pages. It’d make it easier to navigate this thick planner. I’ve managed to improvise by using the cute, circle-shaped paper clip to clip the sticker section, and added Martha Stewart tabs to mark the note pages I’m using. Built tabs would be much, much nicer though.



OK, let’s address these event stickers. Stickers are great. I love stickers, even better if they come in cute colors (most of these do, one color is sort of a muddy Dijon mustard color). But whoever decided how to allocate these stickers deserves a gentle smack to the back of the head. There are exactly SIXTY birthday stickers and ZERO anniversary stickers. As you can see a couple of pictures above, I’ve used blank stickers to hand-write anniversaries with little heart icons. But really now, wouldn’t fifty birthdays and ten anniversaries, or even fifty-five birthdays and five anniversaries been doable?

But it get’s weirder:

  • 6 “play!” stickers Are these are for play dates? Not too many people attend the theatre often, unless we’re talking movie theatres.
  • 6 “concert!” stickers If you’ve got a kid in band or orchestra, these could be handy. But I can’t help feel there’d be a better single term that could apply to plays, dance recitals, and concerts and could then replace “play!” and “concert!” for more versatility.
  • 9 “hair appt. @ _________” stickers
  • 3 “no work!” stickers
  • 4 “no school” stickers
  • 3 “mani/pedi” stickers
  • 2 “girls night” stickers
  • 2 “sale!” stickers Seriously? Sales merit a sticker? Unless this is supposed to be for garage sales (in which case, print “garage sale!”), I really don’t think a sale is important enough for a sticker…especially considering that stores have sales every other freakin’ week. Trust me, I know. I get those damn Old Navy e-mails telling me about the latest sale more often than I get e-mails from my loved ones.
  • 2 “vegas!” stickers Dumb. Dumb. Dumb. Why would you assume that, even if your customers can afford to travel, they will travel to Vegas? Twice?! Just add a couple of “vacation!” stickers and be done with it.
  • 2 “camping!” stickers Ditto the camping stickers. Don’t get me wrong. We DO go camping. In fact, it’s the only “travel” we can really afford to do together as a family. But the “vacation!” stickers will do just fine for me, and then customers who prefer hotels to tents don’t end up with two useless stickers in their planners.
  • 5 “vacation!” stickers
  • 3 “wedding!” stickers
  • 3 “bridal shower!” stickers Do people really go to this many bridal showers a year?
  • 3 “baby shower!” stickers Again, am I just super lame and friendless, or does this seem like a lot of baby showers per year? I don’t think I’ve been to three baby showers in my LIFE (including my own). And why not just make a few stickers that read “shower for _________” instead?
  • 2 “date night!” stickers What? Huh? I’m supposed to go need six shower stickers per year, but I’m only going to go on two dates? How does that make a modicum of sense?
  • 2 “massage!” stickers Ha, I wish! Here’s what I say…take the hair appointment stickers, mani/pedi stickers, and these massage stickers and change them to say “salon!” or, even more versatile “appt. @ _________” – that way they could be used for salon visits OR doctor visits.
  • 2 “babysit!” stickers
  • 1 “vote!” sticker
  • 23 “party!” stickers I must just be socially inept, because I don’t think I’ve ever attended 23 parties in a single year.
  • 12 “game!” stickers OK. Useless for me, but to be fair, they’d be super useful for a very large number of families who either have kids in sports, or family members that watch college or professional ball on TV. Maybe I can use them for board game nights or something.
  • 24 “pay day!” stickers  I tend to think that something as predictable and routine as pay day shouldn’t get marked with a special, pretty sticker but I guess some people will want to mark pay days with a bright, bold color block.
  • 60 blank stickers

I guess I just find the options and amount per option to be odd. Obviously, custom stickers would solve that, and there are blank stickers of course. But I still think the stickers need an overhaul. Ditch the weird baby-puke green for something else (even grey or khaki would be way, way, way prettier), and rework what sorts of events are included. There’s not a single doctor’s appointment sticker for example. And while daylight savings time switches are printed on the pages, some stickers for things like “check smoke detectors” or “change oil” would be far more useful, in my opinion, than “girls night” (which should be written “girl’s night” by the way – as it is a night belonging to the girls). After all, if girl’s night is a thing you do, you probably do it a lot more than twice per year…so why bother having stickers for just two nights, if you’re only going to have to hand write the rest of them? And if girl’s night isn’t a thing you do, then those stickers are even less useful. But everybody should check their smoke detectors twice a year.

/sticker rant

Now, back to the tabs. Like I said, a few more built-in tabs would be really, really, really handy. Fortunately, I had some of the Martha Stewart adhesive tabs on hand (you can get them at Staples). So I stuck those on the first two pages in the lined notes section.



One page is where I track thank you notes. Whenever MiniDork, or ManDork, or I get a gift, I record what it was, from whom, and for what occasion (I was doing this in my previous planner/binder set-up on a sheet I designed and printed, then hole punched). Once the thank-you card has been written and mailed, I cross it off the list. We don’t always write notes the very second we’ve received a present, and forgetting to do it later is just not something I’m OK with. I want people to know their generosity is appreciated, and I want MiniDork to learn to not only be grateful, but to also express that gratitude. The opposite page is for tracking my personal spending money. ManDork and I decided ages ago that we should each be allotted a monthly allowance which we’re free to spend on anything we want without having to discuss it as a couple. It’s a small amount (because we have a small budget to begin with), but makes us feel good to have that freedom to treat ourselves without guilt, and it helps us keep track of any bonus income we get (such as birthday money) that is intended specifically for one of us. This is also something I was tracking in last year’s big binder, but I’m looking forward to having it in this smaller planner (which I can carry with me).

Turn to the next page and…


 …I’ve listed my 2013 New Year’s Resolutions. Because there are a very limited number of note pages, I wanted to make sure I used them for important things. Having my goals with me will serve as a handy reminder, year long, to keep working on them. In the past I’ve written down resolutions, but not necessarily with my day-to-day calendar. That makes them easy to forget. It just makes sense to me to keep them close, where they can stare me in the face regularly. And it will serve as a handy reference when planning monthly goals.


There are unlined note pages too (with a few different cute borders along the top). I have no plans for them yet. It’s possible they’ll end up serving as scratch paper when I need to scribble something down quickly, while out and about…but it seems like such a waste to use such pretty paper for scribbles. And, just FYI, there are eighteen lined pages (that is, eighteen sides of pages with lines) and sixteen blank pages (again, I mean sixteens blank sides of a page, not a sixteen pages with blank fronts and backs). The first lined page is the back of the very last weekly planing page (January 2, 2014-January 5 in my planner). The last lined page has the first blank page on its back side. And the last blank page has the quote page seen below on it’s reverse.


Behind the notes sections is another quote (against a colored pattern that somehow seems to not fit the rest of the planner colors – can’t quite put my finger on it, but it just doesn’t feel like it belongs), and a page for important numbers. The important numbers section leaves a lot to be desired (kind of like the stickers in the next section). There are a lot of categories I will never use, which means a lot of wasted space. I don’t have a lawn service, or lawyer, or pet groomer, or gym. But I know wealthier people likely do (and at this price point, these planners are probably being purchased by wealthier people). I don’t eat out much, but even if I did, I don’t think I’d need to keep my favorite restaurants’ numbers on hand (though, I admit, the take-out section is handy for people who often order take-out…you could call in an order before leaving work or as you’re finishing errands and pick it up on the way home). The only reason I can think you might need a restaurant’s number regularly is if they are often so crowded that there’s no seating, or fancy enough that you have to make a reservation. But even if you dine out at those sorts of places, do you really need five lines of space for it? Wealthy enough to have  a contractor, and handyman, and cleaning service (which…currently, I do have, but only because I won it), or not…I think this page would be better used with fewer specific categories and a little more blank lines. I only added our landlord, my midwives, and the voice mail number (because, even though it’s only three digits, I always forget it), I’m pretty much out of blank space already.

The little list of credit card customer service lines (in case you lose your card) is a thoughtful touch. After all, if your wallet is stolen or your cards are otherwise lost…it’s hard to check the back of a missing card for the customer service phone number.

On the back of the important numbers section is a single page for addresses.


Now, most people have cell phones and really don’t need much space for this sort of thing. So I’m just fine with there only being one page. Even I have an iPod touch, so I’ve got that for keeping an address “book.” But I do like having certain numbers and addresses in the planner, especially in case my iPod battery runs out, or I’ve not got it with me, or whatever. My beef with this page is that there is only one line for phone numbers. In today’s world that just doesn’t cut it. People have multiple numbers (work, home, cell phone, fax, etc.). It’s possible to cram two numbers per line (but not two numbers with a label like “cell”), but that’s it. I’d rather have fewer spaces for people, but more space for phone numbers per person (especially since, like I said, these is just a most basic list of addresses and such – the rest is digital).

Then there’s the stickers, followed by…


 …the previously mentioned folder pocket. It feels pretty sturdy so far. Right now I’ve got a few loose pages in. Along with my to-do list, I’ve got some notes/a meal planning project in progress, a post-it note with the hours of a store I need to visit, and a coupon I need to use. It’s a nice little pocket to have, especially as I transition from the old binder/planner thingy to this new thing. I can slide old pages I’ve ripped out from my 2012 calendar and notes into here until I finish them up. On the back of the folder is a two-year view (see below).


Unlike the section in the front of the planner, this two-years-at-a-glance page, this is 2013-2014. These sorts of references always seem sort of superfluous initially. But thinking back over how many times I’ve Googled long term yearly calendars as a reference for one reason or another, I know better. This will definitely be useful. And the folder has to have something on it’s back. Quotes are nice, but I’m happy to have one less quote in exchange for this handy reference. After all, it’s not exactly like there’s a dearth of quotes in this planner.

Next is the little clear baggie thing. It feels very sturdy, which is very good, since I can’t exactly replace it if it falls out or rips. At first I was worried about the opening, which is like a heavy duty Ziplock. I feel that bags with the zipper closure are more secure (for ensuring you’ve truly sealed the bag). But, this is flatter (which means it won’t interfere with writing like a zipper bump would) and this snaps audibly to let you know it’s truly closed. I don’t think it will pop open on it’s own as it’s actually very, very difficult to pry open. I keep feeling like I’m >this< close to breaking a nail prying it apart. I’ve heard that it will get easier to open in time…and I hope so. I just hope that it will continue to be as secure once that happens. Right now all I’ve got in my bag are my little stickers and a couple of sample contact cards that came with the planner (you hand write your personal info on them). It also came with sample gift labels, which are super cute…but I defiantly don’t need those in my planner. I’ll stash them with all our other gift wrapping supplies.

And that’s it! That’s all the nitty-gritty, inside details. The planner itself is slightly thicker than I expected, but still seems like it will fit OK in purses and diaper bags, and I certainly wouldn’t want it smaller (as that would mean either cheaper, thin paper, or less space for writing on the pages). The colors are bright, pretty, and happy. Anything that makes you WANT to use your planner is a good thing, and the pretty factor will definitely make you want to use this!

Now, I want to remind you that I ordered my life planner from Tiny Prints, because forces Canadian customers to drop $40 on shipping. Tiny Prints offers $15 shipping ($5.50 with the coupon code I shared). And even though I got the cheaper “standard” shipping from Tiny Prints, it was shipped at express speeds. My planner actually arrived on the last day of 2012 (over a week before the estimated delivery date Tiny Prints provided and before the expected delivery day wanted me to pay $40 for), which meant I got to start my new year with my new planner! That made me happier than a normal person should feel about a planner. I may have also uttered a “TAKE THAT ERIN CONDREN!” into the cosmos in reference to their ridiculous shipping options. It arrived via FedEx (I may have tracked the package like a maniac) in a nice, sturdy box (which I’m hoarding for when the next time I need to ship something similarly sized). Inside it was wrapped in pretty purple tissue paper with a cute little “enjoy!” sticker. Personally, I’d rather do without the pretty presentation. It only gets trashed nine times out of ten anyhow (unless you’re like me and you fold the tissue paper up to stash in your wrapping paper supplies), but those little things contribute to driving prices up. Companies like Mommy Necklaces have nice packaging (which is great for gifting), but they allow you to opt out of the fancier packaging at checkout. You don’t get a discount for opting out, but you just know that the less the business spends over all, the lower they can keep their prices in general. Plus, with smaller business (especially Mom-run businesses), I like how it feels to help keep their expenses down.

So there you have it. I’m pretty sure this is the longest, most thorough Erin Condren review you’ll find out there on the great wide web. I’ve already added “re-review EC planner” to my June and December goals, so I can better evaluate how it works over time. That way, those of you who aren’t convinced, after reading this review, that you want to buy one, will get further information in time for getting one for 2014. Of course, you don’t have to wait until the end of the year, you can order anytime and the months included will reflect what you need. If we move back to the US this year, and I still love it at the end of 2013, I’ll definitely place my order from the Erin Condren site. You can get a lot more specific with personalized color options for the cover, and you can access more of the accessory options (like the pen loop I keep mentioning).

Overall, based on my initial impressions and the hours I’ve spent with the planner so far, I love it! I definitely feel, at this point, that it was Christmas money very well spent. 

UPDATE: {Jan 2015} This post has been updated to include affiliate links. Please subscribe to Domestic Dork so you don’t miss future posts about how I am currently using Erin Condren Planners.

19 Responses to The * Ultimate * Erin Condren Review

  • Sarah says:

    Excellent product review! Can’t wait for your mid and end of year.I have about 23234902 things I want to tell you! So glad you like it. I love love love love mine and I’ve spent way to much money on refillable planners. Maybe we should plan to chat? Let me know when!

    Oh and AMEN on the stickers. I am reading this at work (shhh) and I was crying in my cube from laughing so hard. HILARIOUS.

    Also – as someone who had a 2011/2012 14+ month calendar, I can tell you they have made a lot of improvements in the past year. I imagine that next years will be EVEN MORE AWESOME.

    PS. Love you color choices.

  • the team says:

    Hi Holly!

    WOW, what a thorough and detailed review… i must admit, some of it was hard to read… parts made me laugh and parts made me cringe…. but we truly do love to hear feedback, both positive and negative as it really does help us improve our products.

    Regarding the shipping options, we did switch to a less expensive freight company for our International companies for a short time to help reduce shipping costs, but we were told that they will not be able to provide tracking information with the flat rate ($19.95) International offering. This was not disclosed to us initially and we had many many problems during our busy holiday season with customers not receiving their packages or receiving them extremely late… it was a headache for all concerned and not the sort of unreliable service that we are used to providing. So we switched back to our more expensive, yet reliable service. Tiny Prints is a huge organization and subsequently they are able to negotiate much better shipping rates with the carriers based on their volume…. our little boutique firm is just not doing that type of volume yet, so we are unable to get those rates…. we wish we could… the minute we do we’ll be passing along those savings to our customers.

    Anyway, hope that helps you understand why the shipping costs are so different.

    Again, thank you so much for taking the time to write your review…. I’m trying to send you something via DM…. :-)

    Hope you have a fab new year!

    Samantha Kuhr
    Media Manager for

    • It’s so great to see a company that provides feedback to bloggers. Thanks for taking the time to read the review. I do hope that it’s clear that even with the few complaints I do have, I’m still in love with the planner and can’t think of a better option I’ve ever purchased or even seen.

  • Darnee says:

    Loved your review! :-D I had the 2012 version of the planner with the paper tabs & plastic binding. I loved it, as the year went on it got bulky, so I’m curious to see if some of the bulk was diminished with the upgrades. I’m going to try & get better about cleaning out the planner weekly as well, that added to my bulk considerably. I’m obviously still waiting the arrival of mine, stalking the tracking page hourly it seems ;) For now I’ll drool over her Pinterest Life Planner Hall of Fame board until mine arrives, lol.

  • Laura says:

    What a fantastic review. It is the best I have seen and I have been scouring the internet for them as I anxiously await the arrival of my EC planner. I love the amount of detail you went into. Seriously, 60! birthday stickers. That is insane. I think the target audience of these planners are rich moms who do get their hair done 9 times a year. I’m lucky if I’ll use those stickers twice. Anyway, great review. Thanks.

  • PlanningPrincess says:

    What a fabulous review! LOVE your attention to detail and those pastel annotated notes are adorable. Just ordered mine today – thanks for all the tips on how you use it, can’t wait to try them out :)

    P.S Sweet to hear that you got the pen holder in the end…

      • PlanningPrincess says:

        Went for zig zag in the turquoise colourway. Was pretty tempted by the ‘favourite things’ option but fairly sure it would have taken the little perfectionist in me days to finalise a list!

        Cant wait til it arrives… ill let you know what I think!

        Not sure if its intentional – just realised your pencil case and blog banner coordinate, cute!

        • Ha! Nope, not intentional! But I’m happy about, now that you’ve pointed it out.

          I hear you on the “Favorite Things” cover. I love it, but I think I’d take days and days too. I actually started it, got overwhelmed, and gave up! lol

  • Rebekah says:

    I’m contemplating getting one…and your review was very helpful. I’m hoping you or some of your readers who also have the life planner can help me with this question: I work as a professor at a College of Pharmacy and while I think the planner has a lot of great features and is really cute…I’m not sure it’s ‘professional’ enough. Does anyone have any experience or thoughts on this? I’d clearly pick one of the more subdued covers if I do decide to order one. Thanks so much ahead of time!

    • DomesticDork says:

      I’m not working, but I’d say professional is as professional does. If the planner works for you, I don’t think any colleagues will notice or care if the pages are more colorful than the garden variety planner you can buy at Staples.

  • zenon bulbs says:

    To be honest this is an excellent detailed report nevertheless like all wonderful authors there are a few points that could be labored upon. However never ever your a smaller amount it absolutely was intriguing.

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