A self-care toolbox, in tangible form, matchbook-size

A self-care or mental health toolbox or toolkit is, most simply, all the healthy coping mechanisms at ones disposal. These are the things we pull from to remind and guide ourselves through changes, healing/recovery, crisis management, pursuing goals, and being our best selves. Many of us spend much of our adult lives building our individual toolkits, even if we aren’t aware that we’re doing so. It is empowering to think in terms of a toolbox/toolkit because it shows us that even when it feels like things are hopeless, we do still have options and resilience–always!

The hardest part of putting these tools to use, though, is remembering to do so! It is easy to forget about the most simple of self-care tasks, let alone the tips and tricks we learn along the way.

So I wanted to create a literal, physical toolbox I could refer to rather than relying on the overstuffed-filing-cabinet of memory. There are many excellent options out there for structuring one’s toolkits for specific needs and preferences, and I’ve tried some but wanted to try something different too. My hypothesis is that having a visually appealing, portable and unique toolkit that I put time into crafting might get me to remember mine and look through it periodically.
Here’s what I ended up with (plus matching Smurf hands):

The design needed to be compact, sturdy, pretty, and accessible. My first thought was to model it after my beloved Rolykit toolbox, which has held my miscellaneous crafty bits for over 15 years.

It is compact and portable, but it takes some space and maneuvering to get into the inner compartments. I’m less likely to get into those compartments, so the things I use most get placed in the most accessible outer compartments. Likewise, I put instructions for crises in the the innermost portion of my new toolbox. I can browse all the other options first. Keeping up on those things prevents crises altogether, when self-care is a lifestyle.

I wrote up my long list of self-care tasks and tips in a Word document. I am sure I’ll recall others I forgot, and learn additional ones, but those can be written in later. Once printed, each item got snipped out and roughly sorted from basic first strategies to outright crisis-mode strategies.

I cut a poster-sized sheet of one of my favorite matbled papers into narrow strips, and glued them end-to-end. The marbled side I left as-is and put all my additions on the back.

At the outermost edge I attached a cover, made out of folded paperboard covered with the same paper.

I started a scroll with the same paper, but quickly decided that would be too unwieldy (I’ll use the scroll for some other project). Like the RolyKit, I wanted it to unfold one section at a time but not go rolling out the door, and be as tightly wound as possible. That meant folding the paper into an ever-growing rectangle. Getting this shape meant scoring and folding twice for each segment: first with the folded area lying flat,

And again with it standing on its side, with that first fold already covered up.

This paper I used is very thin so it doesn’t hold the sharp folds well, so it is rounder than I had intended but it still works.

Gluing down the words had to be done at the same time as the folding (I learned that the hard way). And once they were all in place, I smudged various yummy finishes across the surface at random: interference and pearlescent mediums, iridescent glitter paint, and thin metallic silver paint. Just seeing those has a positive effect on me!

All the edges got gilded with gold paint marker. And finally, doodles throughout using various pens and markers.

I may add a thin magnetic closure, or tie it shut, but for now it stays closed well on its own. And I want to try some other prototypes since it is definitely possible to go even smaller.

I hope everyone finds a way to build and engage their own self-care toolkit, in whatever form, and that this project sparks some ideas! Though we all have different needs, I am happy to send anyone the list I made for myself if it would be useful.


What a wonderful gift to oneself…

I have seen versions of this type of book made from fabrics and paper…some on spools, some folded…each unique…

I love your process and how you individualized it to suit your life…the gold edging and the inside doodling is just lovely!

I would love to have the list…I am sure many of the things you have would also be part of my self-care routine!


What a wonderful gift to make for yourself!
Thank you for explaining and showing all steps. Inspiring!


This is beautiful in all the ways.


Lovely! We all need a pick me up sometimes and this is such a pretty way to get one!


This is excellent!!

How long is it all together?
How many helpful notes to yourself were you able to include?

I wonder if something like this would be helpful to my son with ADHD. It certainly would be an amusing way to make use of the real fortune cookie fortunes that I have saved over the years! :wink:

Great project!!


We all need a reminder once in a whole. This is beautiful reminder.


Thanks! I forgot to include that: it’s about 7ft. long with 71 sections - though several include multiple suggestions that are similar to each other, to save space. There was a balance to strike in specificity.

For a general purpose toolkit that is also a good fidget object, I think a Jacob’s ladder structure would be great. A hard surface like chipboard, lightweight wood, or thicker matboard is best for that. Another possibility just right for fortunes is a structure that works like mini-blinds, or the first couple books on this page: Book Structures 2 — Diane Harries


I got lost in that link…now I want to make a toothpick bound book…

When I finish my current envelope book…I also loved those venetian blind type of books…

I had no idea that your little book was that long…wow!

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This is so beautiful @calluna! It’s so true that we forget our own lessons in the heat of the moment and end up learning them again and again. Thank you for sharing your idea and process!


That’s a great site!! Wonderful to see so many different binding variations that people have created!!

For my son it would have to be something that would fold back up very easily!! He would have difficulty managing your 7 foot long book!! :wink:


Wonderful reminder that you are worth it

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Positively lovely, the paper, the statements, the construction and additional creative elements. I love every bit of it.
The link you posted has an example of a Zhen Xian Bao, Chinese thread book, which has been on my list to try for ages and would make a lovely version of your project. One of these days…

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I love this! So wonderful. The paper is fabulous.

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The paper is so fabulous that I adhered a full sheet of it to an old canvas and made it my wall hanging back in the day (now my mom has it on her wall and color-coordinated the room to match it!).

Thanks, all! This weekend I unearthed a 1-page self-care plan I wrote in 2009, with even more things I had forgotten, which goes to show that a project like this is only supposed to last a little while, as one continues to learn, grow, and gather ideas. Update those self-care plans periodically the same way we update any other emergency plans!

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Oh wow, I love this so much. Like all of it, the colors are gorgeous and so soothing. Having it in tangible form and in such a lovely presentation is genius.

I have had to work on my definition of self-care over the past year or so. Society and social media had really tainted the term for me. One of the exercises I did was write out some of my self-care routines/items and rank them from immediate/low cost to higher items. Writing out a whole list is such a great idea for when you are drained and just need to pull one from your toolbox without having to analysis anything.


This is such a great idea (and beautiful execution, btw). It seems like the constructing of it could be its own act of self care.

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Congratulations! This has been selected as one of this week’s featured projects.


Thank you very much!

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simply beautiful- both the words and the craftsmanship.

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