Why Do Some People Get Real Joy From Office Supplies?
If you are one of them, you probably have your own reasons, but here are mine
“The smell of new office supplies is so satisfying while being kicked out of Staples for inappropriate behavior with a file folder is so embarrassing.”
― Ryan Lilly, Write like no one is reading
I opened a package of brightly colored Post-it pads and felt a shiver go up my spine. How exciting! New Post-it notes to scatter around the house where I can capture all the important things that float around in my brain all day, like “scoop the cat litter.” Because, truth be known, if I don’t write it down I won’t think about it again until I am brushing my teeth before bed, and that is NOT when I want to be scooping the cat litter. Post-its are my life-line to order and sanity.
This thrill over office supplies is not a new thing with me. I have loved office supplies since I was 8 years old, pretending to be my daddy’s secretary at his office. I would sit at his desk and scribble things on message pads, pushing the buttons on the phone pretending to answer with my most grown-up voice.
Once, in my enthusiasm for the game of “office”, I opened the drawers of a 4- drawer metal filing cabinet. What I didn’t know was you should never open them all at once. The darn thing fell over on me and I found myself pinned beneath all those drawers full of manila folders filled with important papers. I wasn’t hurt too badly, and it didn’t dampen my enthusiasm for the game, although I was careful to only open one drawer at a time from then on.
What is it about office supplies that is so intoxicating? Upon reflection, I realize that my excitement over colorful post-its is probably a bit unbalanced. I mean, really. How ridiculous is it to feel a frisson of pleasure over Post-it notes?
I don’t think I am alone. A quick search on the internet yielded quite a few articles about others’ obsession with office supplies. I think there are some very good reasons why some of us are in love with all things office. Dakota Duncan is a kindred spirit and explains her obsession with office supplies here. I have riffed on her article and come up with my own reasons.
If you love strolling through Office Depot, you may relate. If you don’t get the infatuation, let me try to explain why so many of us are obsessed with office supplies.
They Make Us Feel Competent
Playing with office supplies was my first foray into the world of adults. When I sat at my daddy’s desk, I felt powerful. I could make things happen by scribbling with a pen on a pink pad and moving papers around on his desk.
Of course, sometimes what I made happen was a frantic search for something he really needed that I had hidden in the bottom of the stack, but nonetheless, I was putting my toe across the line into the grown-up world and it was intoxicating.
As an adult, it still feels empowering to have at the ready all the things I need to make things happen — like really good pens and a stack of dazzling sticky pads.
They Feed Our Need For Order
I have spent my entire life trying to whip my world into a pristine order that is always just beyond reach. Life needs to be organized to keep it within the bounds of my comprehension. Too much disarray causes me to get overwhelmed and shut down.
Enter office supplies.
When I walk into the office supply store, I feel renewed hope that the secret to creating order in my life is waiting for me on the shelves. New file folders in bold prints, a stack of fresh notebooks, and pens that don’t leak are surely the keys to finally achieving the neat, orderly, and comprehensible world I am trying to create.
They Feel Like a Fresh Start
When I was in college, I had an eccentric professor who would walk around the room while he lectured, peering over your shoulder while you took notes. If he started a new topic, even if you only had one sentence written at the top of the page, he would reach over, tap your notebook and say “New page” in his heavy Egyptian accent.
We all love a new page. It is why we love the New Year, the first day of school in the fall, the fresh start we get when we move to a new home.
Office supplies can give you a mini version of the fresh start. When I come home with new notebooks, I feel ready to start life anew on a blank page. Now I have permission to leave the past behind and start over in any way I want to.
New file folders give me a reason to clear out the old and organize what is relevant to my life now. New pens send me to the drawer with all the old pens that leak, skip or don’t write at all, to clear them out, making space for the new improved pens that will be ready to write when I am. For very little money I can get a mini fresh start.
They Spark Our Creativity
When we have a drawer filled neatly with glue sticks, scissors, washi tape, colored sharpies and great writing pens, the world is our oyster. There is nothing we can’t create, cutting up magazines for collage, creating greeting cards for friends, pinning inspirational quotes onto our bulletin board.
The creative urge is in all of us, though it may be lying dormant. All it is waiting for is the right supplies, and a cruise through an office supply store is all it will take to spark your imagination. Add a few blank notebooks and you have the makings for some hours of diversion from the world’s craziness.
They Remind Us of Simpler Times
We all remember how exciting it was to get new school supplies. I loved that shopping trip even more than the school clothes shopping.
A new box of 64 Crayolas was pure ecstasy. I can still conjure that smell in my memory. (Sad note: They don’t smell the way they used to. Crayola must have changed their formula.) New pencils, sharpened to a perfect point, notebook paper in a three-ring binder decorated with my favorite band and a new ruler and compass ( because I lost last year’s), were always necessities.
If there was extra money, I could choose a pack of scented markers or some erasers shaped like cartoon characters. All these things made the prospect of all the work ahead a little easier to bear.
I Will Never Fall Out of Love With Office Supplies
Office supplies spark my imagination about the kind of world I can create for myself. They take me back to those happy times in my daddy’s office and they give me a reason to retool and reorganize my life. They feel like a special little indulgence when I am feeling overwhelmed by the world. They are a gift to myself.
Some women love shoes, but for my money, a trip to the office supply store fills my need for life’s little indulgences. And the best thing is, they never go out of style.