Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Pens and Other Multiplying Entities: Part 1, Capture

I always have a pen and a scrap of paper with me in case the Muse hits. Correction: Usually. I don't have them with me in the shower, or if I walk out to the mailbox, but 99% of the time, you'll find I have a pen. People who know me know that. ("Ask Morven. She usually has a pen.")

The problem is that pens don't stay with me. They move. The two pens and a pencil that I keep in my handbag can dwindle down to one or multiply to ten. Some of them end up in my work bag. Or on my work desk. Or vice versa: Sometimes when I'm gathering my stuff together for work the following day, I'll realize that I have brought all my work pens home.

At home, pens that were perfectly happy sitting behind the keyboard or in that cute little pen groove on my monitor stand suddenly disappear. I grab one out of one of my pen holders -- what, you have only ONE? Confess, you have more, don't you? -- and, when I straighten my desk the next time, I find twenty. I think they deliberately go off somewhere where they can have some privacy and, um, get to know each other. By the time I find them, they've multiplied.

This can drive you crazy, distracting you from your writing, besides creating a clutter problem. Even worse, while some of them are hiding, they dry up!

So here's what I suggest. This is going to be one of those bite-sized decluttering tips that will help you get in control and ease the pain of decluttering, whether it be the pain of taking the time to do it or the pain of letting things go.

Trapping the Pens

I'm not going to tell you to go buy desk organizers because the last thing you need right now is more Stuff. Instead, find some things around the house that you can use to hold pens just while you get them under control. This might be a good time to go through your coffee cups. Any that you don't absolutely love or that are chipped or otherwise aren't making the grade are good candidates.

Don't have any extra cups? Okay, just while you're getting your writing implements in line, consider using glass jars or even empty produce containers (you lay the pens on their side). (Tip: Remove the produce first.) You need one for each room. Yup, one for every room, including the bathroom, garage, and basement, if any.

You don't need to bait the pen trap, though seeding the trap with a pen or pencil will help other residents of the household remember that those are pen traps, not things that need to go in the recycling bin. If it helps, label the trap. This is a good use for scrap paper. Can't find any? Ah. I see another blog post in the future.

For a week (or month, if you're really serious), every time you find a pen, pencil, or marker, put it in the nearest trap. Make it a game. While you're waiting for the coffee to brew, look around the kitchen and see if you can find any. Pens are wily creatures; they can be hiding in the junk drawer, the medicine cabinet, or, if you have a cat, under the refrigerator or sofa.

In my next blog, I'll tell you what to do when you've captured them.


I disagree with her suggestion to leave a bunch of pens in the car, but otherwise the suggestions in the link below are similar to mine.

Pens & Pencil Clean Out

If you don't want to craft your own pen cups, here are some interesting ideas.

Organizing the Pens and Pencils: Pencil Cups and More


  1. I think my pen/pencil/felt tip/sharpie collection would be radically reduced if I just took the time to methodically go through and test them all. I would not be surprised if there were writing implements in my desk drawer as old as I am. WHY DO I HAVE BLUE PENCILS I INHERITED FROM MY EDITOR MOTHER WHO HAS BEEN DEAD FOR 46 YEARS?!?!? Because they still work.....even though I never. use. blue. pencils.

  2. Exactly! Testing them is in part 2. But first you need to corral them. The method I describe has you doing it over days or weeks, but you could make it a family "treasure hunt" with the person who rounds up the most critters getting a prize! Then you can follow the rehab instructions in part 2 over pizza or something. (PS Yeah, I found a dozen blue pencils. I gave all but one away. Couldn't part with it for some reason...)


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