Put Down the Label Maker and Write with a Pen


When I was in college I made a photo album and I actually used a computer to print some of the descriptions, because I thought it would look better than my own handwriting. People used to care about penmanship, but now we’re used to texting “how r u?” Any handwriting is nice to see now, no matter how messy.

Your handwriting is as personal as a finger print. Use it to add warmth and character around your home.

Put down the label maker and write the labels for your files.


I almost used the typewriter to make labels for these drawers, but then I remembered that writing them was good enough.


Even though most recipes are on the computer, it’s really comforting to see the recipe cards in my mom and grandma’s handwriting.


Make sure your kids write their names on the backs of handmade ornaments.


Crossing something off of a to do list is far more satisfying with pen and paper.


The summer I met Doug, I wouldn’t give him my email address. When summer was over and I went back to school, he had to write me letters. I saved every one.


Let Twitter have the day off and write in a journal instead.

Notes to family, grocery lists, thank you notes… What do you like to write?
About Rachel

I write about practical tips that will help you simplify at home. Connect with me on Pinterest and Twitter.


  1. I’m very big on pen and paper. I write out my goals in a notebook, and as each one gets accomplished I cross it off. (So much better than on my Mac!)
    I write out grocery lists, to-do lists and other misc notes as well.
    So simple, and so satisfying. :)

  2. I extremely rarely comment, but I feel, as you said, that handwriting is very much like a fingerprint. My grandfather who died almost two years ago left very few samples of handwriting, and so we have consequently saved things like car maintenance notebooks, shop tool inventories, and even pinochle score sheets. It is an intimate reminder of his personality.

  3. Lovely post. I completely agree, particularly on the recipe cards. I had to laugh when I saw your recipe cards — I have one of my mother’s that has the exact same stove on it.

  4. I don’t even own a label maker! I’m blessed with a nice handwriting, and I enjoy writing stuff down with a pen. All the recipes in my box are handwritten. I’ll find them online and copy them down to an index card.

    Yesterday I finished writing both my parents and grandfather letters. My grandfather has said that I’m the best letter writer. I can see why he says that, I never shut up and it seems like all my letters to him are a minimum of 4 pages long. :)

    Now I do feel like cursive is becoming a forgotten art. :(

    Leah S´s last post…First Baby Purchase!

  5. My husband and I leave little sticky notes on the bathroom mirror for each other once in a while. No “honey do” lists here! Only nice stuff: “I love you” or “Praying for you today!” or “Hope work goes really great” things like that. I LOVE seeing his handwriting! You are so correct, it is a lost art. We also make each other cards instead of buy them. For one thing, I think $5 for a card is crazy (am I the only one?!), and second, it’s so much better to write something you appreciate about the other person instead of signing your name under a pre-written, rhyming, silly sentiment.

    Anna´s last post…The Most Comfortable Heels I Have Ever Owned

  6. I am definately a pen and paper person. It is so much more satisfying to flip through my daily journal than scroll down the screen. And I love crossing things off my to-do list.

  7. This is a great post…I hand write a lot. But not as many handwritten notes as I should! There’s nothing like getting REAL mail! I am a list-maker…and I write my file names…I write in my prayer journal…I write in my bible…now that I think about it, I write a lot!

    Michelle´s last post…photo challenge: no faces.

  8. I prefer pen & paper over anything electronic (I’d hand write my comment to you if I could!).

    Recipe cards ~ When I married, my SIL gave me 3 hadnwritten recipe cards that she received at a bridal shower. They were from my grandmothers. I love them and have decided to have them framed so they can hang in my kitchen as a daily reminder of these special women.

    I am in the process of making a recipe book for each of my daughters. The book will contain their favorite recipes in my handwriting. I plan to give them to the girls when they leave home.

    Letter writing ~ my father is in a care home and I write notes/letters to him. His eyesight is poor so he’s not able to read them on his own but the nurses will and he enjoys them.

    My husband and I wrote letters to each other when he was in Iraq as part of Dessert Storm in 1990/1991. We have every letter we wrote to each other.

    One of my grandmothers kept a diary. After she died, my mother and her sister were able to read them. It has been a blessing to them. I hope to read them someday too.

    And, lastly, my brother asked the library where my grandmother lived for old check-out cards that had grandmother’s name on them. He laminated them for bookmarks. Such a great idea.

    Sorry to be so lengthy.

    Nancy´s last post…continuing the tradition

  9. I love this post. This year I addressed my Christmas cards by hand instead of printing labels. Whenever I have used printed labels for Xmas cards in the past, I have felt like the whole process was so impersonal–which seems to go against the point of sending out cards in the first place. It took me longer to get them all addressed, but it feels more personal. Now to add a written note to each card…there’s always next year!

    Meg Evans´s last post…Francis Revisited

  10. Sandra Gonzales says:

    I like to write “Thank you” notes to my daughter’s teacher for the little things that make my daughter come home excited about learning. I figure teachers get more gripes than praise and sometimes their work needs a little recognition.

  11. Smallnotebook is one of the few feeds in my reader that *is not* web design/development related, but I have to agree that your point here is valid even in those fields.

    If you look at the more personal sites that are coming out currently (blogs, portfolios, even startup companies), you’ll see that many of them incorporate handwritten fonts into their designs. I’ve seen entire blogs done with handwriting and only the main content is a more “normal” font.

    I always though it would be fun to draw a website design on paper, exactly as it would look on a screen, then scan it, apply HTML/CSS, and have the drawing actually BE the site.

    Hand drawn/written elements are *definitely* more personal, and your right: it doesn’t matter if your handwriting isn’t “pretty” any more!

  12. My mom passed away when I was in my 20s, and I treasure every recipe that is in her handwriting!

  13. I love writing in a notebook, but I’m not good at keeping everything. I make lists, goals, plans, and I LOVE to brainstorm on paper.

    My husband and I also wrote letters when we were dating :) Much better than email.

    Rachel´s last post…Little Christmas Home Tour

  14. A great post. I couldn’t agree more…handwriting is truly a lost art. I have pretty neat handwriting, but can be hard on myself and I never think it looks as neat as a printed label. Your post is a good reminder that personal is better than perfect. I am in the process of working on my Christmas cards and I wish I were already done with them – but I take pride in the fact that I hand-address each one. Every time I receive a card with a pre-printed label, a pre-printed return address and no note, my heart sinks a little. The point of Christmas cards used to be to send each other a personal greeting…now it seems like the point is to just “get them out.” My cards might be late, but at least I add a touch of “me” to them. And I agree about the To Do list too…it’s so satisfying to make a daily list and then cross it off!

  15. I do find myself writing my notes and todo’s on my laptop and printing out things. My heart skips a beat when I find a note hand written from my mom or a letter from my grandma who have both passed away. I want my kids to remember me that way too. I send them cards in the mail with little thinking of you and I love you notes. Something they will have forever.

    Rana´s last post…We’re Home!

  16. I love, love, love to cross something off my to-do list with a red pen. I’ve been known to add something to my list, just so that I can cross it off! I also love using recipe cards written by my mom….she can no longer write because of some health issues and I treasure having something written in her distictive script. I smile and cry while making her pumpkin bread :-)

    Danielle´s last post…Teacher Gifts

  17. I have recipes that my grandmother wrote to my mother when I was young, and I framed them and hung them in my kitchen. I don’t remember her because she died when I was a baby,but they give comfort to me and my mother.

  18. I am a major list writer and even if it is on a computer somewhere I must have it on paper also. Easier to adjust and way more satisfying to cross off.

    My handwriting isn’t that great so for things I want to look crisp, I do use a label maker.

    Renee´s last post…Tribute to the 2009 Season

  19. I love seeing those recipe cards w/ smudges on from well-loved times!

    I do really love writing – especially lists. It is satisfying to cross something off at the end of the day.


    steadymom´s last post…Accepting the Changes of Motherhood

  20. And I so love your handwriting! Since I knew you when…I still have notes we passed back and forth in high school and junior high, including one you put on my car that said “drink a sprite and be happy, love rachel.” I treasure those little things! They are stuffed in an old antique purse and pulled out every now and then. Always brings a smile to my face!

  21. I’ve stumbled upon your blog from Simple Mom and I absolutely LOVE it. With each post, it’s like you are reading my mind.

    I love writing notes in my children’s lunch boxes.

    We sent handwritten Christmas cards this year in lieu of the cookie cutter photo cards.

    And I keep a journal for each of my three children. Although I keep a blog as a form of digital scrap booking, I want them to have love letters from Mom to look back over when I am gone.

    Claire´s last post…So That You Do Not Forget

  22. Oh you are so completely right. My husband is always showing me fabulous recipe software but nothing feels as comfortable as my notebook filled with jumbled recipes written in the hand of the people I love.

    se7en´s last post…Sunday Snippet: Top Tips GiveAway…

  23. Oh, I wish! I love writing and journals and notebooks but my writing is truly terrible. Truly. I was a straight A student but I was constantly criticised for my writing and it’s become even worse since I broke my wrist seven years ago.
    I’m not being self-effacing and modest – my writing is acknowledged as the worst ever seen by most people I know :-(

    I welcomed computers and word-processors and I even have “templates” printed out for various notes to my kids’ teachers. I just add a date and the illness (for example) and sign.
    Beautiful hand-writing (basically, where letters look the same style, are roughly the same size, and there are no random gaps in the middle of words…) is something I envy.

    I went on a short psychology course when I was a teen and there was a session on graphology which actually scared me a bit as my handwriting would lead a reader to believe I was insane or at least mentally unstable.

    So, yes, handwritten notes are soulful but, sadly, in my case, illegible, and therefore not much use to anyone…

    Karen in Soctland
    (who is glad to be typing this!)

  24. Well said! I do have great affection for the label maker, but can often be a sterile replacement for the comforting look of anything penned by hand.

    Anna´s last post…Jane in Lilac Flannel

  25. Great post! I looove crossing things off my to-do list! I just received a wedding invitation that was hand written by the bride. It’s one of the best I’ve ever received.

    anne´s last post…Christmas Festivities

  26. I love hand writing in my notebook, this year is purple, last year it was a pink notebook. My new 2010 planner is pink. I find colours stimulating when writing. Reading the instalments from other women I wish I had keepsakes such as my Nana’s recipes. To this day I would of loved her recipe for Lemon Meringue Pie, she would make it a roasting dish to cater for her church on Sunday lunch.

    Tracy9´s last post…Lippy Space Savers

  27. There is just something about pen and paper. The way the words just flow from your heart and mind through the pen and onto paper. I find I am much more creative when writing in my notebook or journal than when sitting at a computer. I write almost everything. I write my blog posts on paper before I type them. I love writing my to-do lists and crossing them off. Don’t you just love seeing notes and recipes and lists in the handwriting of loved ones? They are almost alive.

    Marci@OvercomingBusy´s last post…The Hustle and Bustle of Christmas

  28. Oh girl, you’re singing my song! I love anything handwritten. If we continue at the current rate, we will no longer have face to face conversation. Scares me! (And this from a person who loves blogs and facebook–in their proper place!)

    mrs. e´s last post…The Snows of Childhood

  29. When I cleared out my Dad’s flat after he died I kept a bread recipe he’d written down. I don’t intend to use the recipe, I just had to keep it because it was in his handwriting. I kept a notebook where he recorded the painting sales he got for the same reason. It was part of him – the part I could keep.

  30. Well, I am so glad to see who the other pen-and-paper folks are!! :-) I knew they were out there. :-) Where I am located, the power goes out more often than I run out of ink or lead. I just began a Jerry Bridges book and learned that he writes his books by hand as does Alexandra Stoddard. She does not even own a computer! And here is a funny for the files. Last summer, we attended a wedding shower. We wrote out notes of wisdom/encouragement and slipped them into SASE for them to keep the notes and then send us thank you notes in the envelope. When the thank you arrived in the mail, I did not know who it was from, but thought the penmanship was pretty. Then I realized that it was MY handwriting!! LOL! :-)

  31. There is something really satisfying when you get your jumbled thoughts onto paper and just “free-write”. I love that! Typing down those random-personal-deep-thoughts doesn’t seem to have the same “healing” power in my opinion.

    Meeks´s last post…In the kitchen: Christmas Pudding Puffs

  32. I love handwriting and I love this post. When I was a senior in high school, there was a girl I sat next to who had the most beautiful print. She inspired my writing style and ever since then, I have loved seeing my own handwriting on things. Kind of weird, I thought. But this post affirms it for me!

    emily@ChattingAtTheSky´s last post…christmas change

  33. I am in love with lists! I keep a spiral notebook that I fill with to-do lists, recipes I’m working on or blog post ideas. I agree with you — there is nothing more satisfying than marking something off a list with a pen!

    Shannon @ Anchormommy´s last post…The Santa visit that wasn’t

  34. I have this love affair with pretty notebooks and pens! I absolutely love writing, I have a daily planner where I write my to-do’s & crossing them out, notes, phone numbers and addresses, do journaling, etc.

    It also helps that I have a neat handwriting. My OB-GYN saw my notes on my pregnancy book and thought it was a computer print-out!

  35. I treasure the hand written recipes from my mom and grandma so I’m planning on putting together a recipe binder for each of our children. These recipes will be on recipe cards and written by hand by either my husband, myself, or the relative/friend the recipe was from.

    Allyson´s last post…It’s My Birthday

  36. I couldn’t agree more. I like the efficiency of having everything filed on the computer, but I still hold on the those handwritten items from ong gone loved ones. I’m not quite as sentimental about my own handwriting, but I should remember that my family might be.

    Emily´s last post…Small Home Living: Advantages and Disadvantages

  37. Valerie R. says:

    I agree wholeheartedly! I do everything with paper and pen, much to my hubby’s dismay. :) I’m glad to see that I’m not the only one left.

  38. I enjoy writing too, although my handwriting is far from lovely. I’m a BIG fan of handwritten notes. Funny, my new years resolution for 2010 is to create lables for Christmas cards. But never fear, that will give me more time to write a personal note inside!

    After several years of frustration, in 2010 I’m going back to a handheld planner with a calendar. The list maker in me doesn’t jibe as well with a palm pilot. I’m VERY excited about shopping for a new planner and writing birthday and special events in my calendar. :)

    Juice´s last post…Odds-N-Ends

  39. I have both of my passed on Grandmother’s recipe boxes (and cookbooks) they are very special to me. I also have a stack of snail mailed letters between my husband and I that chronicle a long distance courtship a year before we got married. One other thing, my calendars are like a journal, I’ve kept them since 1990 just the other day I went back through 19 years looking at the month of December, I could not believe how each year the calendar got fuller and fuller with more entries…I plan for December 2010 to be less hurried more like the ‘good ole days’.

    Tina´s last post…Mindful Monday

  40. To all of my pen-and-paper friends, do you like back-to-school as much as I do? All of that paper and writing instruments!! Oh my! :-) It reminds me of the movie “You’ve Got Mail” where they talk about New York in the fall and he’d send a bouquet of sharpened number two pencils to her if he had her address. I just love that line! :-) :-)

  41. I’ll admit to the fact that all my storage in the basement was typed up and printed from the computer. It’s just so consistent and legible.

    I hear you, though. Maybe I need to work on doing more handwriting and it would be easier to read. :)

    Wendy´s last post…Cooked Sugar Christmas Trees

  42. At the end of the day, I find myself sitting on the edge of my bed, brushing my teeth (I have no idea why, but that’s what I like to do), and ALLLL of these thoughts just start piling up: things that I need to get done, people to call / email, lists to make, etc. and for some reason I forget about all of those random thoughts as soon as I’m done with my teeth; they never make it out of my head & into my computer or a calendar or anything.

    So I remedied the situation by leaving a pen & pad of paper by the bedside. When I’m done with my teeth, the next thing I do is a “brain dump” & I write down every little thing I can think of that’s filling up my brain & not allowing me to settle down for the night.

    I put the filled sheet of paper on the bureau closest to the bedroom door & in the morning, I take the paper with my brain dump on it & put it on my desk. Then, I can see what I need to really get done, what can wait, what was just emotional stuff, etc.

    And I’m able to fall asleep much easier, all thanks to a pen & piece of paper :)

    Vicki´s last post…It’s tough praying to Jesus when Santa is all around

  43. My grandmother wrote her recipes in longhand in a school composition book. what a treasure. And as I look through my recipe cards, I can recall which friends wrote those out for me. It brings back memories of good times with good friends, many of whom are gone now.

  44. LOVE this post. I love writing by hand. I have a huge collection of purple pens (all the same kind), and I love the way they feel in my hand and gliding along the paper. Mmmm…

    Marla Taviano´s last post…a very S-C-R-A-B-B-L-E christmas

  45. Rachel, this was one of the best posts I’ve read in a long time! I needed the inspiration- I love handwritten notes and whatnot, too! Thanks!

    Nicole aka Gidget´s last post…12 Pearls of Christmas: Just God

  46. This was a lovely reminder to hand write more. I do a lot on the computer and I’ve always disliked my handwriting. Maybe that’s why I’m so intent on teaching my children good penmanship. I don’t particularly like to (because I can’t go fast enough) but I handwrite in my journal and the children’s school portfolio (keeping track of their learning progress), the occasional cards I send are handwritten. I handwrite labels etc… but I still don’t like the way my writing looks.

    renee @ FIMBY´s last post…I know that feeling

  47. I love all things paper – and ink – and fountain pens – and am passionate about calligraphy. I would never send a thank you via email. I love sending and receiving notes on beautiful paper. And personalized cards – don’t get me started! Thanks for the post.

  48. You know, I love writing. I seriously handwrite pretty much everything. I didn’t have a computer printer until very recently so I still forget I have it and handwrite all my labels.

    I really think thank you notes should absolutely be handwritten, I think it’s almost rude to send a typed note. Although living in a foreign country means I usually have to email my thank you notes and that makes me sort of sad.

    Satakieli´s last post…Oh, Hello Winter! pt.2

  49. I agree completely. I love to write. I write notes, cards, lists, etc. I prefer to write out most anything even if it is long.

    My middle child is the same way, she prefers writing and keeps journals to write poems and such.

    Lisa Q´s last post…BOLD

  50. Your labels are great because you write very nicely, but unfortunately for me I don’t. My son would make me print out things for him because he couldn’t read my handwriting. So for labels & writng for other people, I prefer to either print or type on the computer.

  51. I had to smile too when I saw the recipe cards…my mom had the same one with the stove on it…must’ve been popular in the 70’s! I love receiving a handwritten letter. I try to write a note or letter to friends when I get the chance.


  52. Cool idea – Another one that has the same recipe cards with the stove on them – I have some my grandmother wrote on and cherish them. Seeing this picture brought a smile to my face.

  53. i love pen and paper so i write my to-do lists. my morning pages, goals and dreams, addresses….anything that i don’t really have to use a computer for, i don’t :-)

  54. You’re right, Rachel, seeing any sort of handwriting really is a pleasure.

    I do my bit to keep my own hand writing alive. I write a journal, well, more of a notebook of ideas, which is always handwritten, with all the scribbles and doodles that go along with it. Your photograph of that journal page very much reminded me of my own.

    I do find myself having less of a ‘stamina’ for handwriting, from an overuse of keyboards and not useing those pen-weilding muscles too often. I guess ‘use it or lose it’ holds good in this too.

    Thanks for a great post, and for the wonderful photographs.


    Samir Bharadwaj´s last post…Rocket Singh – Salesman of the Year – movie review

  55. I could not agree with this more. So many people “dislike” their handwriting but it is a fingerprint that should be left. I write to-do lists, notes to my kids and tons of journaling in scrapbooks. I love fining something written in my mom’s handwriting (she passed in 2005). I treasure the handwritten note or card. Great post.

    Catherine B´s last post…Biggest Loser Inspiration

  56. What a great post — I’d never really thought of this issue in this way before (and, after all, my label maker is one of my most cherished possessions!), but — you’re absolutely right. When I find items (recipes, labels on old boxes, captions on photos) in my late mother or grandmother’s handwriting, it warms my heart. All my recipes are typed, and all boxes have labelmaker labels on them. And photos? Well – all my photos are digital, with typed captions! What will my descendants recognize long after I’m gone — the font from my label maker?! Yikes!

    You’ve given me something to think about. :)

    Plain Good Sense´s last post…Merry Christmas!

  57. Excellent piece! No label maker here, but I agree that handwriting is becoming a vintage art… love the advice in this article. However, I do enjoy the look of old-fashion typewriter font as well. Both are a quite nice change from the current technological methods of writing.

    Jules @ Lovely Las Vegas´s last post…Eiffel Tower Restaurant, Las Vegas Paris Hotel

  58. i love your blog and often adopt your ideas. they are so simple but so great too!
    and because i love notebooks and pens i am so looking forward to the microsoft courier!


  59. I have been thinking the same thing lately (I think having a baby has made me a bit sentimental for simple things)

    I have been invited to a few weddings lately and each time have been disappointed by the invitations that are usually very beautiful (and expensive i presume) but they reveal nothing about the couple’s personality or the celebration of their love.

    I have decided that for my wedding I want to write the invitations like a letter. It is going to be a lot of work but I am hoping the result will be extremely personal and beautiful.

    what do you think?

  60. I love the feel of pen in hand and ink on paper. I write everything even those that I have to transcribe to my computer, later such as articles for my weekly column, query letters to editors, replies to emails readers send, in response to my column. I also enjoy writing letters to my friend Jan, grocery lists, shopping lists for mall visits, wish lists, Christmas to-do and shopping list, household projects list… Everything. To facilitate this writing passion/obsession, I buy more-than-I-need pens, journals and handbag-sized notebooks.

    Cheryl Wright´s last post…Joanne DeMaios take on Breaking The Rules