Diaries for your dates

It's worth investing a little money to keep your life in order and choosing the right diary is a cru

This time of year reminds me of going back to school. Girls, in particular, have a real thing about new stationery. I still love claiming ownership of a new book - exercise or address - by writing my name on it. But what I really like is buying my new diary each year. I'm not talking about the "Dear diary" kind, although I've kept one of those since I was seven (then it was all descriptive: "I am wearing my M&S knickers with the rosebuds on and had cornflakes for breakfast"). No, I mean a diary for appointments and notes that has a section at the front for your name, address, blood group and so on. Each year I've played around with new ones until, quite by accident at the end of 2003, I fell upon the most perfect one of all.

Guerlain had sent me a Christmas present of a Smythson Portobello desk diary (life is tough when you're an award-winning beauty journalist). It was bound in fuchsia leather, and one of the most decadent things I'd ever seen. I shall be honest and say I thought of selling it, or giving it away, until I convinced myself that it was OK to actually keep it. But I assuaged the guilt by gifting it to my three-month-old daughter and would write in it, every day, what had happened to her: "first tooth", "first taste of Yorkshire pudding", all the important things. But as I worked with it, I realised it was the perfect diary for me, and every year since, I have bought myself one.

This causes a lot of people angst because the diary costs - depending on the colour - about £150. Seasonal colours cost about 25 per cent more on top of that, but luckily I don't care about such things. I once justified its expense to a friend with a two-paragraph email, whereas now I just say, "Yes, expensive, isn't it, but don't you think I'm worth it?" I use it several times a day - it's the most practical diary ever - and it keeps my life in order. It also gives me a tremor of excitement every time I use it. Now that ain't bad going. But there are cheaper, smaller, handbag-sized ones available.

If you like to run a brisk kitchen and pantry, then the Daylesford Kitchen Diary is for you: recipe ideas, tips on organic gardening, seasonal food to watch out for. And all at a much more affordable £15. I plan to use mine as a gardening diary, however, which I think makes much more sense, because my actual kitchen doesn't need an agenda.

Organised mums or dads (though the latter will have to live with a name which, basically, says that dads can't be organised) might like the Organised Mum set of diaries: a Life Book or pocket-sized version, which helps you organise your whole household. You get tear-off shopping lists - fabulously useful - and you get stickers, which I find really rather exciting.

Annalisa Barbieri was in fashion PR for five years before going to the Observer to be fashion assistant. She has worked for the Evening Standard and the Times and was one of the fashion editors on the Independent on Sunday for five years, where she wrote the Dear Annie column. She was fishing correspondent of the Independent from 1997-2004.

This article first appeared in the 10 December 2007 issue of the New Statesman, How New Labour turned toxic