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The Soothing Order of Bookish Bullet Journal Videos

Danika Ellis

Associate Editor

Danika spends most of her time talking about queer women books at the Lesbrary. Blog: The Lesbrary Twitter: @DanikaEllis

I’ve never been a great sleeper. I have trouble turning my brain off. Preparing for bed is an hours-long affair, trying to slowly lull myself to sleep by stepping away from screens, reading, having some tea, and then curling up under the covers and watching ASMR or listening to sleep meditations. Sometimes, though, even that doesn’t work, and my mind is still spinning hours later. Lately, I’ve been turning to a certain kind of video to relax me enough to finally doze off: reading bullet journal set up videos.

We’ve covered bullet journals a lot, including reading bullet journals. If you’re not familiar, it’s an organization system that is flexible and often quite artistic. Bullet journals are usually used as a variation on a planner, but there are all kind of specific directions you can take them. A reading bujo might track your TBR, the pages you read in a month, your favorite reads of the year, and so on.

There are no rules for how to design a bullet journal, and they can absolutely be stripped-down, basic tools. What they’re known for on the internet, though, are elaborate, artistic iterations, often ones that require a backlog of supplies, including washi tape and a variety of markers. They are beautiful and (hopefully) functional, and they often become a hobby in their own right.

Here’s the thing, though: I am never going to start a reading bullet journal. I am not an artistic person, I get frustrated trying to do most kinds of crafts, and I’m not very visual. I do all my planning online, and the idea of switching to a paper format, although very pretty and a neat memento, is counterproductive for me. I track my reading on my blog and Goodreads, where I can easily sort and search for the information I need. I am trying to add a spreadsheet as well, but there’s no way I’m going to start a bookish bujo.

So why do I keep watching these videos? Why have I spent hours watching people artfully tear craft paper, make calligraphy headers, and draw bookshelves to fill in? (Okay, to be fair, some of those hours I was actually asleep.) I think I know, and it has nothing to do with any interest in actually starting a bujo myself.

I watch these reading bujo setup videos when I am feeling overwhelmed and scattered, because they depict a life that appears carefully and artistically ordered. In a bullet journal, everything is in its place. TBR lists suggest that the user will dutifully follow the plan, and not wake up in a sweat because they’re months behind on ARCs and think publishers hate them now. (Not that I’d know anything about that.) It’s the same reason I will watch videos of a woman organize dollar store shelves for 45 minutes at a time — I highly recommend them, if you like that kind of thing. It is oddly satisfying (which is another kind of video I fall asleep to) for my scattered mind. I especially like watching the set ups, where they’re all potential. I don’t want to see where the user didn’t meet their goals or forgot to fill out a spread; I like to imagine that everything followed perfectly as it was laid out.

Of course, there’s no reason that I have to watch reading bullet journals to get the satisfaction of vicarious life organization. I could achieve the same end watching any kind of bujo set up. The appeal of reading bullet journal set ups in particular is that — surprise! — I’m obsessed with books. I also finding books inherently soothing, even if my TBR pile does stress me out sometimes. Having watched quite a few of them now, there’s also something comforting in the repetition of seeing similar spreads in a variety of iterations, which is exactly what I’m looking for as I begin to drift off.

If you, too, want to imagine yourself into an aesthetic and well-structured reading life, I highly recommend looking through reading journal bullet journal set up videos on youtube. I’ve watched quite a few, and no matter the view count or popularity, I’ve found them all soothing.

If you also struggle with winding down to sleep, I think you’ll like these posts:

If you want to start a reading bujo, try: