Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Improg word: Stapler

Did Hayley send me stapler because she knows about my love of office supplies (a love, by the way, that she shares) or because she was stuck for words and looked around her office for inspiration?

I own three staplers: a tiny one that lives in the kitchen junk drawer for those need-a-staple-in-a-hurry jobs, a run-of-the-mill one that we’ve owned forever, and a be-careful-or-it’ll-take-your-thumb-off one that I bought a couple of years ago for work, when I got fed up cutting my fingers on the not-quite-closed staples that were my poor old stapler's best effort on 50-page documents.

So I can justify the three staplers. But what about the fact that I own so many notebooks that I’m scared to count them? And can I rationalize the mountain of Post-it notes (especially the heart-shaped ones)? The rainbow of Sharpies? Do I need half a dozen tape dispensers?

The volume of office supplies in my house is not entirely my fault. My mother is also a sucker for anything that’s both cute and functional, but she positively hates clutter, so she gets her fix by buying stuff and then passing it on to me. Then, at the end of every school year, my kids each haul home a pile of school supplies that are too good to throw out but too used to last through another school year. And Hayley, that paper-clip and sealing-wax pusher, sends me stuff, too.

But, no matter how hard I try in this blog to blame things on other people, I always come back to myself. Office supply stores are like candy stores to me, except I don’t eat paper products anymore (I say “anymore” because I did regularly eat my straw wrappers at snack time in kindergarten. I guess the graham crackers and milk weren’t quite enough. I do wonder whether there’s any relationship between my eating dioxin-laden paper and the fact that I flunked kindergarten).

It’s not just office supplies. It’s books, yarn, fabric, craft supplies, note cards, and magazines, too. I have enough dental floss to make a macrame plant hanger. But I don’t buy these things for the sheer pleasure of spending money. If that’s what I were looking for, I’d spend the money on a plane ticket to Hawaii.

No, I’m a squirrel. I call it my “just in case” hoarding. The things I’ve piled around me are all items I use on a regular basis (although nowhere close to the rate at which I’ve acquired them). When I feel insecure, I buy them as a hedge against future misfortune, just in case. It’s as if I’m thinking, “Well, I may lose everything and not be able to buy food, but I’ll have something good to read. Plus I’ll be able to send Hayley a plea for help on a funky card.”

I’ve figured out just why I do this, although the reasons are too long to go into here. I’ve also realized that Post-it notes are not going to keep my family safe from impending doom and that this stuff was costing me more in money, time, space, and the stress associated with having too much than it was worth in feelings of security. So I’ve stopped buying things just in case. As with the take-your-thumb-off stapler, I have to be able to convince myself that I need this in my life as it is now, not that I maybe just might need it three years from now.

(Hayley, if you’re reading this, send colored paper clips. Quick!)

1 comment:

Hayley Townley, Breast Cancer Survivor Extraordinaire! said...

I have been redoing my desk space (for days, as you know) and the only way I can think to help me finish is a quick trip to the office supply place. I'll pick you out a real nice present!