Last Updated on December 14, 2022 by Angela Vaz

Yeah, we all have them lying around.

A box of unused, pristine notebooks that have been collecting dust for years.

Each notebook you bought was so beautiful and caught your eye but was too perfect to write in.

All of them lay unused and you now feel guilty because they’re all empty.

In this post, I’m going to help give you some ideas on what you can do with your old notebooks so that you can use them better!

Let’s get started.

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1. Practice a new language

I started learning french a year ago at my own pace in Duolingo.

I even got a grammar book to help me learn the language better. And although the grammar book is fillable, I didn’t want to fill out the exercises because I wanted to reuse them.

So I used one of my old notebooks to write down the exercises.

I also like to watch french movies or cartoons and write down some sentences that I find interesting or sentences I want to learn and repeat so that I get better at the language.

Using an old notebook to learn a new language is exciting.

2. Monitor your fitness goals

The new year is coming up and I’m guaranteeing you that there’s nothing better than writing your new fitness goals and using a notebook to keep track of all the exercises you’re doing.

This is what is going to keep you going.

Apart from the exercises that you’re completing, you can track your weight, chest, and hip measurements each day so that you can look through your progress whenever you want.

I know that there are a lot of apps that do this, but something about writing things down on paper feels more real to me.

It’s like you’re genuinely interested in your health goals when you decide to use your old notebooks.

3. Use it as a travel journal

use it as a travel journal

Have you heard of Lucy Knisley?

She is one of my favorite illustrators, and I have all her graphic novels – they’re warm, funny, and cozy.

One of her first books French Milk was originally a travel journal that she converted into a book and sold. You can buy it here.

And it’s incredible. It’s full of writings and drawings of interesting places she’s been to and all the experiences she’s had.

If you’re traveling, why not use a notebook as a journal?

You can record all your interesting notes about the places you’re staying in, the culture, and so on.

It will make a great keepsake. You can even stick tickets and pamphlets from places you visit and it will be such a precious memory.

4. Your income goals and ideas

As an entrepreneur, I like to keep goals in a notebook.

I make detailed plans of my websites and I like to plan each arena of each website.

Sometimes, I get income ideas and I have to write them down – some of these have worked out very well.

If you’ve always wanted to start a side gig, why not write them down?

5. Relationship journal

My fiance and I maintain a relationship journal.

We use this readymade one that we got from a bookstore. But if you’re creative, then you can use an old notebook for this.

On each page, write down a question like:

  • What’s one thing you like about your partner?
  • What’s one thing you’d change about your partner?
  • What’s your favorite date that you can recollect?
  • What is your favorite food?

And write down the date. Both you and your partner have to answer the question on the same page and you can do this for as long as you want – years even.

These notebooks are so special and you can read them whenever you want to reminisce about old times.

6. Gratitude journal

gratitude journal

After my divorce, I really needed a gratitude journal to help me see the positive side of life.

I was in the dumps and I couldn’t for the life of me see the bright side of life.

It took a lot of strength and motivation to get through each day.

So, I maintained a gratitude journal.

Sometimes, it would be 3 lines:

  • Grateful for my pups
  • Grateful for my parents
  • Grateful for my income

And sometimes I’d write pages. I’d talk about how grateful I was to have discovered my ex cheating within 5 years of marriage instead of 25 or 30.

That gratitude journal helped me become a better person and heal.

So, I’d recommend that everyone keep one.

7. Accounts

Are you the type of person that loves the feeling of pen and paper when you’re doing your accounts?

I used to write all my accounts in a notebook before I switched to Apple notes and I loved the feeling of that.

I’d even decorate my notes with little money stickers and post-it notes.

I’d like to make little analysis reports at the end of each month to see if I could cut down on my spending.

If you love writing down things, this is a great idea!

8. Food journal

I keep a food journal.

I like recording what I am eating since I am actively trying to become more fit.

And you won’t really know how much you’re eating unless you write it all down.

You can also plan your next meals if you are trying to monitor what you’re eating and even calculate your calories and macros.

9. Yearly bucket lists

bucket list

I always make a bucket list at the start of every year. Some examples include:

  • Number of books I want to read
  • Income goals
  • Fitness goals
  • Places I want to visit

And so on.

You can keep different types of bucket lists like summer bucket lists, and winter bucket lists.

You can also keep reminders to see certain family members or friends.

It’s a great idea to stay motivated and work on your goals.

10. Quotes and passages

I read a lot of books.

And every time I read comfort books or self-love books like Matt Haig’s The Comfort Book or 1000+ things successful people do differently, I write down important quotes and passages that strike a chord.

These are things I want to remember and writing down the words gives me so much comfort and wisdom – it’s a way to help me think about what I am writing and remember it.

11. Goals

I write down a lot of goals and some of them are long-term while some are short-term.

Some goals could be to lose a few extra pounds by next month and some long-term goals are places I want to visit in the next few years.

You can create different types of personal goals like physical goals, mental goals, relationship goals, spiritual goals, financial goals, and so on.

I talk about the different types of personal goals you can aim to think about in this post.

Sometimes, I look at old journals and read through my goals, and smile.

It was just a few years ago when I wondered if the day would come when I would be making $100 a month from my blog and I have surpassed that goal by leaps and bounds.

12. Anxiety journal

keep an anxiety journal

I have anxiety and sometimes I need to pen my thoughts down.

It helps me calm down and it helps me see what I’m worried about.

I usually write down what I am worrying about and then write down the worst possible scenarios that can happen.

If I am able to do something about it, I write down those solutions, otherwise, I make my peace with the inevitable and move on.

It’s a great trick I learned from Dale Carnegie’s How to Stop Worrying and Start Living.

13. Lettering and Calligraphy practice

Are you trying to practice new handwriting or do you want to learn calligraphy?

Then, take a calligraphy class like this one and use one of your old notebooks to learn how to write like a pro.

Learn calligraphy

14. Regular scrapbook

You can decide what kind of scrapbook you’d like to make.

You can make a scrapbook dedicated to a certain person like your mother or your dogs, or you can make one that is totally random and something you treasure.

I made one in college and stuck all the things I got from friends like:

  • Notes we passed in class
  • Shopping receipts when we went shopping together
  • Ribbons from presents I received during Christmas

And lots of post-it notes and scribbles.

I even had my friends write little notes in the book – it was beautiful and I still have it.

15. Lists

You can make a book dedicated to only lists.

You can make several lists like:

  • Places you want to visit
  • Favorite foods
  • Hobbies you want to try
  • Favorite things in your home

Here are some list ideas to inspire you to create your own!

Go nuts and have fun!

16. Pen doodles

I used a ballpoint pen for this. The Bic pen is the best but I didn’t have that in India and I used a Dollar Pen.

Just doodle with a pen.

I used to make elaborate sketches in notebooks and use multiple methods to create drawings. My favorite was the cross-hatching method and I honestly spent so much quality time drawing in class.

pen portraits

If you love drawing and don’t want to waste resources or money learning how to pencil sketch, just get a pen and an empty notebook and get started.

It’s a wonderful hobby if you want to draw. Here’s a class that you can take that teaches how to draw realistic portraits with a ball-point pen.

Pen Portraits

17. Vacation Planning

My fiance and I made a New Year’s Resolution to travel more this year and planning our vacations have been so useful!

We write down everything from the dates to the places we’d like to visit.

We use a notebook to keep track of our itinerary and it’s such a good idea to write things down on paper.

I even add little doodles and keep a countdown because travel vacations excite me.

18. Chores Journal

I keep a track of my chores and when I am supposed to do certain things.

I like maintaining lists but chore charts help me so I use pages from old notebooks and stick them on the fridge.

I like to keep each day of the week for certain things like:

  • Monday for watering plants
  • Tuesday for changing the sheets
  • Wednesday for cleaning toilets

And so on.

We even use little post-it notes sometimes when my fiance and I want to keep track of our responsibilities.

19. Wedding Planning

wedding planning

Although I am engaged, it’s going to be a long time before we get married.

But both of us are planning our wedding and it’s really fun to put down all our ideas in a notebook.

I’m using the Budget Wedding for Dummies book along with a notebook to plan my wedding.

20. Cataloguing things in boxes and drawers

I don’t know how many people do this but I like keeping things in boxes.

I use old notebook pages to catalog what’s in each box especially if the box has a lot of things.

When the item is discarded or donated, I strike out the item from the list.

For instance, if I have a huge box of candles, I write down what scented candles I own on the paper and my plan is to use them all up so I can finish using my candles.

21. Write letters to yourself

I write letters to my future self. I describe how I do this here.

I even keep a reminder on my phone to open the letter on the date I am supposed to read it.

It’s a wonderful way to talk to your future self and see how far you’ve come.

It helps me remain grateful for the life I am leading and all the loved ones that I adore.

22. Sleep journal

sleep journal

I have an app that records my sleep but recording your sleep is a great way to keep track of your health.

You can combine your sleep and dream journal in one if you want something more inclusive.

23. Recipes

My mom used to cook a lot.

And whenever she cooked a dish that came out amazing, she’d write the recipe down on a piece of paper and stick it to her home encyclopedia.

I still have that encyclopedia and sometimes I cook some of her recipes.

I now write down recipes of dishes that are a success in my home and I’m upholding that tradition.

Do this.

If you find a good recipe from an Instagram reel or Youtube video, write it down – it’s easy to fetch and it’s easy to read and follow when cooking.

You can separate the book into sections like Appetizers, Main courses, and Desserts.

Or you can use different notebooks for each if you like.

24. Health journal

I have frequent headaches and migraines.

And my doctor actually told me to maintain a health journal and write down how long each headache lasts and what triggered them.

She felt that certain foods are triggering my migraines so it’s a good idea to write down specifics like that.

Think about a particular health problem you want to target and use your notebook to write down all the specifics.

25. To-Do list

to do list

I need a to-do list every day because I tend to have some responsibilities that I forget like:

  • Drinking water (I actually need to be reminded to stay hydrated)
  • Give my dogs their medicines/vitamins
  • Morning and evening skincare

And many more.

I make a to-do list on my phone or a notepad – whatever’s available and it really does help me get the job done.

So, you can take down things that you feel you will forget and it will help you stay on track with all your to-dos.

26. Summary of books

I read a lot.

And I like to maintain notes from each book I read.

I have no habit of penning down my thoughts in the book itself, so instead of writing in books, I keep a separate notebook for my notes.

Sometimes I write down passages or summaries of each book and I also maintain a list of books I’d like to read in the future similar to this book.

This is an excellent way to cultivate a habit of reading and enjoying what you read.

I also rate each book and give it a “reread” or “don’t reread” stamp because as much as I love certain books, I couldn’t reread them again.

27. Music

You can either write songs if you love writing music or you can keep lists of music you love.

You can make playlists in a notebook.

You can write down the lyrics of songs and what they mean.

Because I am learning french, I write down french songs and try to decipher the meaning before looking at the translation.

This helps me learn better.

28. Grocery lists

grocery list

Never go shopping without a grocery list if you have the tendency to over-shop.

I am so guilty of this so I am very careful to make a list of things I need before going on a shopping spree.

I use pages from old notebooks to write down my grocery list and it really helps me curb my expenses.

29. Something you’re studying

Whenever I am studying something, I like to take down notes in a notebook.

I take multiple online courses and it’s nice to write down all my notes in a notebook.

So instead of buying fresh notebooks, just use an old notebook to write down whatever you’re studying.

30. Poems

You can write all your poems in a notebook.

The older, the better.

You can also write riddles or things that you don’t want people reading in the form of a poem.

It can be something that only you understand and know of.

My fiance does this and he likes writing in riddles. Only he understands what he writes and he even creates little drawings next to them that will help him decode the riddles.

It’s quite cute.

31. Creative or Impromptu writing

If you want to write essays or write creative passages, then use this opportunity to get to work and let your creativity flow onto the pages of an old notebook.

You can use this list of creative writing prompts to get started.

This is a good way to work your brain.

32. Nature notebook

Do you love nature?

You can keep a notebook to track bird-watching or plants.

Maybe you love exploring nature or you like going on treks.

Instead of buying a new notebook use one of the old ones to write down all the birds and wildlife you spot.

You can also click pictures and stick them next to your notes.

33. Pregnancy Journal

pregnancy journal

You don’t need to get an expensive pregnancy journal.

You can record everything in an old notebook.

Write down all your feelings, what you eat, and what you crave in an old notebook.

You can make a new entry every day. You can even plan for the baby’s arrival in your notebook. And also keep a track of doctor’s visits and so on.

34. An autograph book

Every time I left a school or college, I’d pass around a notebook. We don’t have concepts of yearbooks in UAE and India.

So we’d use cute notebooks and write down our wishes and notes for friends.

You can do this every time you leave a place of work too.

My fiance passed around his basketball and had everyone write a little note on it.

35. Stickers

I have collected many stickers over the years and some of them have been given to me by friends, parents, and artists whom I am friends with.

You can decide to keep them in a box or you can stick them all in a notebook and write little notes next to them.

36. First-time certain occasions happened

I suck at remembering dates.

And I write down the first times. I have all the dates recorded:

  • Date I moved to India
  • Date I got my first dog
  • Date I got my second dog
  • Date I said I loved my boyfriend

I like keeping lists of these dates and I go through them from time to time just to reminisce about old times.

37. Accomplishments

accomplishments

Since I work from home, I need to motivate myself a lot.

And whenever I’m lacking inspiration or just feel down, I go through my list of accomplishments.

I love looking at my list of accomplishments – these actually make me feel inspired and make me want to pursue something.

No accomplishment is too small or big to go into a notebook. It can be something as little as losing your first 5 pounds or as big as toilet training your dog.

It’s good to keep yourself motivated.

38. Event planning

I like to plan events with notes – whether it’s Christmas parties or Birthday parties, I am a huge sucker for notebooks.

I like to make an invitee list and then go through all the things I need to get ready before the party.

So, if you love to organize your planning, then you can use an old notebook for planning parties.

39. Work

work related

Of course, this depends on your line of work.

But you can use your notebook for basically any line of work where you need to remember things.

For instance, I write down blog post ideas and even use a notebook to write down blog post titles or write down my keyword research.

Sometimes I use the calendar to write down meetings or deadlines when I should send reports.

So, if you have an old notebook, then you can use one of them for your work.

40. Things you want to remember

There are many things I like to note down like:

  • Places I go out to eat that I absolutely love
  • Dishes I like to order
  • Feel-good things that you want to remember on a rainy day
  • Medications for dogs during different ailments
  • Movies that lift up my mood and make me feel amazing

I keep a namesake notebook like this to write down all these things.

I think everyone should have one of these notebooks.

41. Things you’ve learned

things you've learned

Whenever you learn something new and exciting, write it down – it’s the best way to remember it for a long, long time.

The other day, I learned what a windsock is and I wrote that down – I’d never known it was called that.

I also write down things I’d like to remember especially historical facts.

42. Therapy Journal

If you are going for therapy, then it is best to keep a journal.

My fiance has a journal that he writes in to maintain his meetings and notes with his therapist. He even likes to write what happened in each session and then note down how he feels after a session.

He says it helps him feel calm and find clarity.

And I think it’s a lovely idea to work with your thoughts and feelings via a journal.

43. Create your own language

I’m not kidding when I say that a lot of people do this.

My fiance and his mom made up a language when he was little as an experiment and wrote it all down in a notebook.

Even the creator of Avatar created a language to use in the movies.

This is intricate work and if you’re dedicated to working on a big project – this could be it!

44. Dream journal

I used to maintain a dream journal when I was younger because I was studying dreams.

I wanted to understand how they linked to my subconscious and I’d write them down just as soon as I woke up.

It was such a fun time because I realized that I have very weird dreams.

45. Habit journal

habit journal

This was a fun trick I used to develop a new habit.

Every time I try to start a new habit, I fail miserably if I don’t maintain my streak.

I write down the days of the calendar and for each day I maintain the habit, I mark it with a big fat cross.

This is such an effective technique because if I don’t feel like doing it, seeing the habit tracker without a cross really bugs me and forces me to get off my lazy behind and just do the task.

It has helped me stick to the following:

  • My skincare
  • Drinking 2L of water every day
  • Exercising for 20 minutes every day

And so much more.

Try it, you’ll be surprised at how wonderfully it works. Thank me when you’ve built the habit.

For me, personally, I need to do this for 90-100 days at a stretch for the habit to form properly.

46. Movie reviews

If you are a movie buff, then this is definitely for you.

Apart from writing detailed reviews and ratings on films you’ve watched, you can also make movie lists for specific occasions and even cross-reference them by the actors if you have favorite actors.

You can create lists based on mood, celebrations, and whatnot. And it’s a fun way to study movies too.

47. Decision making

If you have trouble making decisions, why not write them down in a notebook?

Make lists of the pros and cons of each decision you are stuck on. And once you have it all down on paper, you can make a decision.

Remember, there is no turning back once you’ve made the decision!

48. Anything and everything

anything and everything you feel like writing

If none of the items on this list are resonating with you, make a scratch pad with all the pages from your notebooks.

Staple them together or use a binder clip to hold the pages.

We often need a scratch pad when we’re trying to note down something quickly during a phone call or when we are in a rush and need to jot down an address or a phone number.

This is a great way to use your old notebooks.

49. Donate them

I had a lot of notebooks that looked way too childish and had lines too close together.

These were notebooks that I’d bought as a child and just couldn’t force myself to write in them.

Deep down, I knew in my heart that a child would appreciate it better, so I packed all of these notebooks along with some colored pencils and stationery and donated it to a nearby orphanage.

My heart sang at the thought of little children using them.

So honestly, if you have lost interest in writing or none of these ideas suit you – just donate the notebooks.

Some children will appreciate them and you’ll have made the world a much better place.

Conclusion

I know this list was long and exhausting.

But hopefully, I gave you tons of ideas that will help you use your old notebooks.

Most of these ideas are based on my own experiences and yes, I do write a lot and keep a lot of notebooks and sketchbooks.

Here are some more posts you may enjoy:

Angela is a 30 year old Illustrator and Blogger living with her 2 adorable labradors in Bangalore, India. She has a degree in Psychology and Human Relationships from the University of Toronto. When she's not writing her heart out or drawing, you'll find her sipping chai and reading non-fiction books.

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