My Secret Pen Box of Shame

If you’ve followed the blog for any length of time at all, you’ll know that we recently moved both our home and our shop across the city into a live/work unit.

The actual move itself was physically gruelling (for Jon), but it was the packing and organizing and unpacking and re-organizing that was one of the most mentally draining exercises I’ve ever done in my life – so mentally draining that there are still a few boxes that remain unpacked, left to an uncertain fate.

One of the positives from the move is that it forced us to evaluate how much we wanted certain items – were we really willing or even able to move so much stuff? As we got closer to the move date, things got a little hairy, and I think a lot of things just ended up in boxes to be dealt with “later.”

Over the years, and now over the last few months, we’ve tried to pare down the amount of “stuff” we have. It’s always been a bit of a balancing act – there is truly some stuff that we enjoy using and that brings value to our lives: we all know that old chestnut about not having anything “that we don’t know to be useful or believe to be beautiful” in our home. We’re trying to reduce the amount of stuff we have that we just truly don’t use.

(Incidentally, one of my favourite things about fountain pens is their longevity – if a pen happens to fall out of favour, you can clean it out and store it, and often when you bring it out again it feels like a completely new pen. You would likely never throw away a fountain pen unless it was broken, because a fountain pen is something that can be used indefinitely. This is another reason why this community is so great – there’s always someone to trade or give a pen or a bottle of ink you don’t like to, and you’ll know that they’ll either use it or pass it on.)

But we’ve been working a bit on clearing out some of the clutter. I’m not a real rip-the-bandaid-off-and-purge-everything-at-once type, I like to take it nice and slow, so we’ve been going through old clothes that don’t fit and books we don’t read and random junk over the last little bit.

I generally consider myself being pretty good about wearing almost all of my clothes and not having too many tools in the kitchen that I don’t use. While Jon has historically been more of the pack rat, I must admit that I have held onto a few stationery items over the years. I mean, I sell fountain pens, and I have my collection of fountain pens, and inks and notebooks and pads of paper, but I also have notebooks and pens and paper that I don’t sell, and a lot of medium and low and horrible quality items that I’ve collected along the way that I just…have.

And the worst of it is this: I have a box of ballpoints! Before we left the house, I was packing up the office, and I initially thought it was just a handful of ballpoints, but when I put them all together, it was actually a pretty large box of pens. On this lazy Sunday afternoon, it was finally time to weed out all the duds.

In case you’re not familiar with fountain pens, you might not know that many fountain pen users would cut off their dominant hand before using a ballpoint, unless writing something in triplicate. The use of such a vastly inferior writing tool might seem unfathomable once you’ve spent a significant amount of time bonding with a fountain pen, which I can definitely understand. It just seems like you need so much more effort to use a ballpoint.

However, despite selling fountain pens for a living, I have been hoarding ballpoints and rollerballs and markers and highlighters for basically the last two decades. I’d like to say that it mostly stopped after I started using fountain pens, but I’m not sure I can really say that without lightning striking me.

“What are these…things, Ma??”

I finally bit the bullet and sat down to sort through some of these pens, both to minimize the junk in my life and to prevent deep confusion and potential identity crisis as Caleb grows up, the young heir to this fountain pen “kingdom.”

I invited Caleb to take part in the organizing mainly because I thought it was so cute that he was capable of such focus in the “organizing” and moving of the pens back and forth between the keep and donate and trash containers, but of course that rapidly grew old and spiralled out of control.

“Young Jedi, that is a ‘dry-erase marker’ – we’ve not yet come to that category of office supplies, but one day you will be ready.”

“Downward dog, ma, you’re surrounded by pens, it’s your life’s dream…”

I found some real gems in the pile.

A small selection of my hotel & freebie ballpoints. I think I can safely say these were among the worst writers of the crew. Some of them were actually non-writers. That is correct: I packed up and moved non-writing free hotel ballpoint pens across the city. I’ve also included in this pile, my favourite, a pink “fashion stick.”

There were a few pens that ended up in the trash pile, and quite a few that we’re going to donate, but there were also some nice re-discoveries in the box!

This Lamy ballpoint I received as a gift from Jon when I first entered the fountain pen world and started talking about how much I liked my Lamy Safari. I think he was a bit confused as to what exactly I liked about my Lamy (that it was a fountain pen), because he got me this Lamy ballpoint. At that time, I was just discovering fountain pens, and I was all, “what is this, a ballpoint?? Into the junk drawer!” but now I’m actually kind of liking it!

I used to love these Pentel R.S.V.P.s. Oh, the memories 🙂

So there it is. The truth: not even a being a ballpoint can stop me from buying a pen. Although I am stopping now, with the ballpoints. For now. I draw the line at ballpoints. Unless they come in a really cool body. Or they can take a gel or rollerball refill. Rollerballs are still on the okay-list. 🙂

10 thoughts on “My Secret Pen Box of Shame

  1. ceewilson

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who steals hotel pens. Even though I’m a fountain pen user 95% of the time…it’s hard to turn down a free pen.

    1. Liz Post author

      I’m with you there – it’s hard to turn down a pen I’m paying for, and you want me to say no to a free pen?? Although, I must admit these hotel pens are really, really terrible… 🙂

  2. mfranks

    My partner asked me the other day what I was going to do with all of my Pilot V5 Techpoints (that I used to buy by the boxes when they went on sale because they were all I ever used) now that I was mainly using fountain pens. I find though that whenever I write on crummy paper (copy paper out of the printer, post it notes), I’m often annoyed with the fountain pen because it either starts to skip (the fine points pick up bits of the paper) or the ink feathers (the wetter broad nibs lay down too much ink). I’m sure that one day I’ll discover a perfect ink/pen combo that preforms well on all the post its and copy paper in my life (I did buy Platinum Preppy refillable highlighters and am done forever with everything else) but until then I guess my vast collection (that includes unopened boxes) of Pilot Techpoints will remain handy!

    1. Liz Post author

      Haha! I must admit I had some new boxes of pens, too. In ten years, we should compare our bug-out-pen-boxes and see what kind of dent we’ve made in them 🙂 There’s room for all kinds of pens in this world 😉

  3. Josiane

    When you said that to someone who’s used to writing with fountain pens “it just seems like you need so much more effort to use a ballpoint”, I was reminded of this article I came across a couple of days ago: “How the Ballpoint Pen Killed Cursive” You may have read it already; if you haven’t yet, well, I think you’ll enjoy it.

    Years ago, I was gifted a Waterman Hemisphere ballpoint pen and, as ballpoint pens go, this one is several cuts above anything else I’ve ever tried. It’s so nice to write with that pen! I love it. I’ve not yet experienced the magic of fountain pens, though (soon! I know I won’t resist much longer!), so I can’t compare yet. I suspect I’ll quickly start favoring fountain over ballpoint pens, but I believe there will always be times when a ballpoint pen happens to be the most appropriate tool for the job, and I think I’ll always be happy to pick up my trusty Waterman on those occasions.

    1. Liz Post author

      Thanks for reading! Yes, there really is something about having a pen that is just a pleasure to write with, like your Waterman. While I use fountain pens most of the time, I think you and I are kindred spirits in knowing that there are pens that are just made for our hands 🙂
      And thanks for the article! It’s always interesting to see how many articles come up now and again about handwriting – I guess it’s curiosity about whether or not it’s truly “dying”! 🙂


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