Playing Favorites

How I Decluttered My Giant Stack of Notebooks, Once & for All

The Afrominimalist's Christine Platt on overcoming her biggest source of paper clutter.

January 18, 2022
Photo by Rocky Luten

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I began my journey to declutter the volumes of paper I’d amassed like I do most daunting tasks: with equal parts trepidation and determination. After spending months sorting through, organizing, and recycling my excessive paper belongings, I knew I never wanted to (nor could I mentally and physically) commit to such an undertaking ever again. The primary culprits? Copies of old manuscripts, drafts of books in various stages of progress, and dozens of notebooks where I’d written out the stories before I typed them.

I put myself on a moratorium, committing to use or gift the paper products I had before purchasing more. I became more mindful of my habits, waiting to print almost-final drafts for review instead of first or far-from-finished versions. But it wasn’t enough. Notebooks and journals continued to find their way into my house—just at a slower pace. My stack of completed manuscripts and works-in-progress was thinner, but it was still a stack and one that would only continue to grow taller over time if I kept using paper.

I just couldn’t imagine giving up paper!

I loved the feel as my pen glided across the page. When I’d read my printed drafts and manuscripts, I discovered errors that I hadn’t seen while editing onscreen. And what could replace the joy of writing in a new notebook or journal? Younger friends often laughed at my antiquated methods, claiming that not only was I wasting paper, but I was also wasting an even more precious resource: time.

As a '70s baby, I didn’t grow up with a computer or the Internet, so I viewed tech advancements with equal parts awe and suspicion. It's taken years for me to stop saving files on a thumb drive and desktop (just in case!), so the idea of 1) writing my books on something besides paper, and 2) saving files to something called “the cloud” didn’t sound appealing. When I got an iPad Mini, I constantly struggled with writing on the slick screen. After searching for paperless writing solutions, I came across Paperlike, a screen protector with a texture that feels like paper (hence the name). It’s been a game changer.

Photo by Paperlike

The Paperlike comes in eight different sizes for your iPad. The whole application process took less than five minutes; if you’ve ever put a screen protector on your phone, it’s intuitive, but I still watched a video online to avoid any air bubbles. Then it was time to write. Much to my surprise, the matte finish mimicked the feel of paper. Even better, when my Apple pencil glided across the screen, it felt like I was actually writing on paper!

Each Paperlike set costs about $40 and comes with two screen protectors, but after several months of regular use, I haven’t had to use my replacement. This might be different for artists or other creatives who use their devices beyond writing, but for me, the few visible handwritten scratches are just fine and don’t affect continued use.

I use GoodNotes and Notability and haven’t had to adjust how I write with Paperlike. In GoodNotes, I can create as many digital notebooks as I want (bonus: I can also select the style of paper I need from lined to grids to dotted!). Notability is great to scan in already-printed pages, and for taking notes and organizing projects. Both apps can convert your handwriting into text. And with the screen protector, I truly feel like I have the best of both the written and digital worlds.

I’ve recommended Paperlike to several writers and artists, all of whom love how the screen protector has made their work feel a bit more traditional while cutting down on actual paper. I mean, if it feels like paper, it must be, right?

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Written by: Christine Platt

Author of The Afrominimalist's Guide to Living with Less


Maurizio L. January 20, 2022
I have Paperlike on my iPad and love it as well. I use it mainly for diagrams and quick notes, but if I was an artist, I could see myself using it for sketching as well. It transformed the iPad for me; I often think why Apple doesn't have a screen with a similar texture. The only issue is it can be a bit of a chore to apply the film to the screen, especially if you're a little obsessive like me ("is that a speck of dust? nooooo").
Christine P. January 26, 2022
Hahaha I watched the tutorial several times because I also cannot deal with air bubbles and dust under screen protectors. It would be great if devices had options to purchase a textured vs an untextured screen. I would definitely choose the former!
Liz S. January 18, 2022
I am a '50's baby :) ... BUT, I am a computer programmer (still working and love it), but often get what I call a technical comeuppance ... suddenly see something that I had no idea existed. Not the Paperlike ... but the Pen, specifically Apple Pencil. Several years ago I happened on a youTube of a medical student's note taking with the pencil. AND, the other thing I'd been unaware of was that schools were using PDF textbooks as well as college profs making lectures available. Anyway, it opened my eyes to the ability to combine various documents, images, text in a way that was easier than pencil and paper, but still involved handwriting.

Fast forward, I do keep a small pad of paper on my desk for super quick/not going to keep type of notations. AND, I have a journal which I use when I feel like being away from a device and writing, but mostly I type/write/draw/annotate in OneNote. I screen capture recipes, bits of articles, quotes, a photo of a hairstyle, etc. and organize via OneNote. I make notes on the recipes as I experiment, annotate articles with thoughts for my own writing and thinking.

All above contributes to less paper, less bits of paper floating around to file or put in a binder.

I solved the writing comfort problem via practice - just kept at it as I didn't want something on the screen, but that is me. Also my experience with Apple Pencil 2nd Gen and my current iPad is much better than my first Pencil. But, all individual preference, of course.
Christine P. January 26, 2022
I love this so much! Especially using e-devices for recipes. I used to always write down ingredients to buy at the store. And then one day, I was like, "Why do you just purchase e-cookbooks?" And voila! That was I solved the problem of having an excessive amount of cookbooks on top of my fridge. hahaha
M January 18, 2022
I was looking into Paperlike. It's worth noting that while great for the experience of writing and drawing, it is not made for photo/video and will decrease the visual quality of both and defeat the purpose of paying up for a higher quality display.
Luv2eat January 22, 2022
Is it also harder to read books on your ipad?