How many empty new notebooks are enough?

Do you have a stash of empty notebooks in your home? If so, how long have you had them? And do you really need them or are they actually clutter?


In most of the online clutter clearing courses I teach, there’s a moment when someone mentions how many new notebooks they have in their home that have never been used. Then others chime in to say they have some too. We’re not talking two or three notebooks per person here, as this photo might suggest. It’s often double figures.

The record so far is 76 notebooks and 48 notepads of various sizes, ranging from full to pocket-size, plus 55 assorted notepads obtained for free from businesses and charities. All blank and unused.

Notebook stashes

Empty notebooks are the “just-in-case-you-need-them-some-day” type of clutter. Most people are willing to let go of items they have had for some time that have never come in useful. But it can be a very different story when it comes to empty notebooks. Here are some of the excuses I’ve heard:

  • I use a lot of notebooks so they are all sure to be needed at some time…
  • I’m saving this one for a project I’m planning to do…
  • I can’t throw this one away – it’s so beautiful…
  • Notebooks never go out of date…
    and so on.

Of course the marketing of notebooks is done very cleverly these days, targeting impulse buys as well as people who genuinely need a new notebook. They’re now in gift shops, department store, and supermarkets as well as regular stationery stores, making them even easier to find. Ah, the sweet smell of new paper! It’s pure nectar to the dedicated paperphile.

How to tackle a notebook stash

The first thing is to go around your home and gather all your notebooks into one place. Create a notebook shelf or pile somewhere. Then count them.

Next, figure out how many notebooks you actually use in one year. Divide the first number by the second, and you will know how many years of notebooks you have in stock. This is called a reality check.

Suppose you discover you have 20 notebooks and you use, on average, two per year. This means you won’t need to buy any more for another ten years. And if you do fall prey to a pretty cover one day while out shopping, make a deal with yourself that if a new notebook comes into your life, then an old one must leave, so at least the number won’t be increasing.

And what if you find you have more notebooks than you can possibly use in your lifetime, as some people reading this will certainly do? Keep the best and donate the rest so that someone else can have the pleasure of using them.

Copyright © Clear Space Living Ltd, 2020

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About Karen Kingston

Karen Kingston is a leading expert in clutter clearing, space clearing, feng shui and healthy homes. Her two international bestselling books have combined sales of over three million copies in 26 languages and have established themselves as "must read" classics in their fields. Her best-known title, Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui, is now in its fourth edition. She is best known for her perspective-changing insights and practical solutions that enable more conscious navigation of 21st-century living.
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9 Responses to How many empty new notebooks are enough?

  1. I have a love-hate relationship with notebooks. I love pretty ones but inherited ‘keep the best [of anything] for good’ and use only scrap paper for notes-to-self therefore hated using them and we know what happens next.

    Now? I kept the few pretty notebooks for longer projects and reference till I know if I need to formalise them. I gave the few ordinary notebooks to Sweetie.

    I have a love of yellow plain or lined post-it notepads which I now prefer in a few sizes instead of scrap paper. I organised them inside of a used pretty hardcover notebook after I’d torn out the pages. I got the idea when I saw a folder of pretty sticky notepads in a variety of sizes at the newsagents. Win. Win.

  2. Thankfully this is one problem I do not have. We only buy one at a time if we need them for something in particular but I haven’t had the use for these in a long time. Since a lot of people do seem to have a need for these if I ever knew of anyone who did have several of these notebooks I’d say just give them away to people who do have a use for them!

  3. How interesting…maybe it’s something about the blank pages and starting on a fresh page. I just bought a notebook for the first time in a long time (like 20 years when I used to journal) I used to write my ideas on the other side of paper and after I completed the piece on the computer I threw it out. After a recent move, I recycled all the scrap paper so I wouldn’t have to move it with all my other stuff and now use my live a colorful life notebook. Once I fill it up and use all my ideas it will be tossed. I have no room for 40 notebooks and I use the philosophy of if I buy something like a book or clothing, I go through my old stuff and always find something to donate and then it’s more pleasurable to replace the new item…like it has deserved its new place in my closet or shelf.

  4. Around here when it’s getting close to the new school year beginning notebooks are really cheap… so the kids can get whatever they might need. So… of course I always get a few. I didn’t this year but still do have some from a previous year or two. You just never know when you might need one…LOL.

  5. FYI, Karen and all, apropos of more notebooks than one can use in a lifetime: Among knitters, there is a term that I love (and relate to). If my mind were not so cluttered, I’d be able to fish it out. It’s an acronym for something like more-yarn-than-you-can-use-in-your-lifetime. The fact that there actually is such a term tells us that there are plenty of people whose “stashes” as knitters call them fall into the category in question!

    And speaking of useful terms, I love the word “release” in the context of de-cluttering my own messes. When I release a useful item that is no use to me, I’m simultaneously freeing (releasing) the item to be useful to another person and freeing myself of the responsibility of having that item.

  6. I found a big carton full of blank diaries collected by my parents. i just divided them according to useability and gave them away.

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