Office Supplies Anonymous

by Taffy Cannon

office supplies

I have … well, it certainly isn’t a problem.  No indeed.  I can stop any time I want, and sometimes I go for weeks or months without acting on it, or even thinking about it.

It’s never kept me from doing anything I need to do, and in fact assists me in getting quite a lot of things completed in an orderly fashion.

But apparently my passion for office supplies isn’t entirely normal. In fact, not only do a lot of people not share this perfectly reasonable interest, many don’t even attempt to understand it. The good news is that I’m not alone, as I confirmed recently.

I  put a status update on Facebook that I thought was perfectly matter-of-fact: You know, there’s nothing that kickstarts a new project better than an infusion of office supplies, in this case jewel-toned file folders and a neon rainbow of Super-Sticky Post-its. Is there a 12 Step program for Office Supplies? I fear I’m on a slippery slope…

Then after a few responses from like-minded souls, I shared what I considered a wonderful revelation of the day: I also discovered that SS Post-its now have a tape version that comes in a roll so you can rip off as much as you need. (Mine is hot  yellow.)

And the floodgates opened.


Booksellers chimed in first, cheerfully outing themselves, followed quickly by high school friends with “relatives” who had similar issues and a wave of writers, one of whom cautioned: Step away from the pencil sharpener. Somebody else suggested: Society should intervene EARLY. Perhaps Electro-Convulsive Shock Therapy whenever a child goes beyond 16 Crayolas.

An artist said: First step – buy a new 3-ring binder and several pens to take notes about the 12 steps to freedom from office supplies? How about subject dividers and circle reinforcements?

Clearly I was on to something here, though I can’t explain why I was surprised.  A few years back I started a professional organizing business, and have worked my way through many a client’s overabundance of file folders, writing implements, legal pads and other office miscellany.  People with too many office supplies often also have a lot of organizing supplies that never quite got into operation.  The key to helping a client in this situation is to figure out realistically how much of this stuff will ever be used and then help the client determine how and where to use those containers and supplies to efficiently store what remains.

Donating the excess can be the toughest part of the process.

file folders

My own story goes way back.

I think maybe it started with the blotters.  When I was four or five, my mother was in charge of assembling and printing the directory for the Women’s Auxiliary to the Medical Society. (Yes, it was a long, long time ago).  Every year, we’d make a couple of trips to the printer, a real printer in an ink-stained apron, with big old presses rumbling in the back of the shop.  While he and my mother discussed paper stock and deadlines, I played with piles of blotters.

This was an era when folks used fountain pens, which sometimes required lots of blotting, both with handheld blotters and the big, green, poster-sized ones in leather frames centered on every wooden desk in America. These printer’s promo items were wonderful little floral blotters the size of postcards, their tops cut around colorful bouquets and baskets. The bottoms had space for your company or business name.

The printer invariably gave me a stack of those blotters when we left, and while fountain pens were not part of my own writing regimen at the time, I spent plenty of time looking at those blotters and sorting them and … well, nobody needs the sordid details.

An Ohio uncle worked for Mead Paper, and we exchanged gifts by mail with that branch of the family.  One Christmas when I was eight or nine, my sister and I each unwrapped a ream of colored typing paper.  One was bright yellow and the other hot pink—at least as hot as pink paper got back in the fifties.  I clearly remember the feeling of incredible bounty and euphoria that descended on me as I connected with my first full ream of paper, and how carefully I rationed it. [We will save the subject of subsequent reams of paper for some future meeting.]

 Anyway, it’s been like that ever since, but I’m truly ahead of the game this time, I swear. In complete charge.  The jewel-toned file folders that began this confession are all labeled and color-coded in the wire file basket to my left, and the neon Post-it rainbow is right here, next to the hot yellow tape roll, because it gives me pleasure to look at them and I’m not ready to put them away just yet. The project that triggered the whole office supply orgy is moving right along.

And as a little bonus, it’s almost back-to-school time, when all the office supply stores feature great specials on colored paper clips in interesting shapes, and packs of great pens in cool ink colors and, of course, Post-its in a world of shapes and hues.

But hey, not a problem. I can stop any time I want to.

colored paperclips