Chinese New Year is rolling around (February 5th this year)! Jon and I are both second generation Chinese, and while we don’t follow as many traditions as I would like, one tradition is to deep clean your house before the new year, so you can enter with a fresh start. And, in case you’ve missed it, Marie Kondo and Netflix just released a show based on her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.
All that to say it seems like the perfect time to offer up some of my own favourite, personal tips on storing your stationery supplies. As someone who, for better or worse, has created a life wherein I have constant and immediate access to abundant stationery, I can tell you things get out of hand quickly.
I’m a big supporter of using your stationery: ink up those limited edition pens with that special edition ink, sharpen up those pencils, break out that washi tape. Wouldn’t it honestly just be the worst if in 20 years you opened up that bottle of Dark Lilac you’ve been saving only to find something sludgy in there?
Thus, most of how I personally store my stationery is vaguely centered around making it easier to use, whether it’s physically storing items in a way that make it more visible, or group items together in a specific way.
I have two places where I try to keep my stationery, other than on my desk, which is where I keep things I use daily or have a (relatively) imminent use for.
One is in this cubby.
It’s actually quite deep, which is slightly problematic for easy access. I used to store Caleb’s books in there, since he can reach this shelf himself, but we would only ever read the front row of them, so we moved his books elsewhere.
Because it’s so deep, I keep my Wood Drawer Box and a Medium First Aid Box, both from Classiky in the front. It makes it look slightly tidier, but also makes it much easier to access the back – I can just pull out either unit and see everything.
In my boxes I have more crafty things, my Chinese chop + ink paste, washi tapes, art supplies. The first-aid box in particular is nice if I’m going to bring some crafty supplies for journaling out on the terrace or downstairs.
I have to admit behind doesn’t look super organized, despite having attempted to tidy up for the photos. Behind my Classiky box I have inks, boxes of pencils, smaller items. Behind my wood drawer box I have pads of paper, boxes of loose-leaf, notebooks.
This green bin is my basket of supplies for correspondence: birthday cards, thank you cards, loose envelopes, postcards.
This box is the slightly more disorganized collection of immediate use stationery. This is where I’ve got half-used pads of paper, envelopes, stickers, stamps, cards, and alas, where I keep the correspondence that I need to respond to. I’ve found it extremely helpful to keep all of this in one place because nothing derails writing a letter like having to search for a stamp. It’s also great because once I finish a letter I can dig around in here and find all sorts of goodies that I forgot I put in there, whether it’s stickers to put on an envelope or little things to include for fun, like Fortune Teller Fish.
The second place I store my supplies is in this chest – the top of which you might recognize from photos on our social media.
Underneath the tray are books. It’s fairly difficult to lift up the tray as it’s sort of a one-and-a-half person operation, depending on how long your arms are. My arms are definitely not long, so typically we don’t access the bottom very frequently.
In any case, I use the top to store some more frequently accessed items.
I keep some inks here, some personal favourites, some just randomly placed here. The bulk of my inks are in the cubby. I have a few tins of used TN inserts, cue cards, boxes of pencils. Partially because of the shop, items are constantly circulating – for photos, for a display, for a sample.
I also find I accumulate a lot of non-saleable items from the shop: notebooks on which someone’s child wrote their name and their parents slipped back into the middle of the stack, items we had to open for photos, ink bottles that were stained from a broken bottle in transit. I sometimes feel a little like that slightly deranged Gollum, hoarding all of my precious, slightly damaged stationery, but it’s nice when everyone is looking for just that thing and would-you-look-at-that-here-it-is-albeit-with-some-ink-stains.
These Pilot pen boxes are excellent for storing pens. We get them from our distributor, and they’ve really revolutionized how I store and access my pens. They’re neat and tidy, the pens are safe and visible, I don’t have to wrestle with pen boxes, they stack nicely and squarely, they don’t take up a lot of room. And they’re free!
(Don’t ask how many boxes I have.)
And this fishing tackle box I got from the Wal-Mart near the cottage has also served me well. It has also been very key in storing all those small pen items all together and I couldn’t recommend it more highly. There are many different sizes and versions out there, and this coincidentally has ended up being a good size for me, as it’s relatively portable enough to, say, bring up to the cottage. It’s double sided and clear.
Nibs and feeds and camera memory cards on one side, ink syringes, converters, paper clips, brass sheets on the other. I typically also keep some emergency Q-tips for inside of pen caps and the like, but apparently I’ve had a lot of pen cap emergencies lately.
So that’s about it – my storage for supplies that I access relatively infrequently. This obviously excludes the notebooks and pens and (on my desk, in my bag, etc.).
Some extra tips include:
Consider making a basket or bin of supplies for your kids. Washi tapes, markers or gel pens you’re no longer using, stickers, smaller notebooks. Caleb is only four, so I find having a smaller basket of just a few items makes it easier for him to make decisions on how to use things. He has a little tool box with compartments for crayons, pastels, cards, pencil crayons, etc.
If you have a lot of a type of item, such as washi tape or bottles of ink or pencils, consider selecting a reasonable number and putting those into rotation for a month or six months or a year. If you have a lot of fountain pens, consider selection maybe 10-15 and putting them into a box or tray as the ones you’ll use regularly, even if not all of them are inked up at the same time. It cuts down a little on the decision fatigue, while also giving you a chance to really use your stuff.
Would I ideally like one cupboard in which I could store everything? Yes! Of course. However, it sort of is what it is right now. If you ever come into the studio shop, there’s a metal cabinet with glass doors that I used to use when we were back in our Carlaw location, but it was, evidently, seconded to a higher purpose when we opened the shop.
And in case you wanted a peek behind the scenes: Caleb is now in school all day, so I mostly spend my days trying to squeeze things in and around Naomi. I spend a lot of time saying “agh!” or “ugh!” or “uh-oh.”