Saturday, January 8, 2011

Do you hoard?

I'm not talking about the wackos on TV who haven't seen the color of their carpet in years. I'm talking about those of us who believe we aren't wackos but who, perhaps secretly or inadvertently, collect certain items compulsively. I'm willing to bet that we have seemingly legitimate reasons for having said items, or at least we did at one time, and they probably aren't causing too much clutter in our homes. If they were that cumbersome, we'd probably be smart enough to give them up, but since we have the space, why not keep a slew of whatever it is?

Mine? Pens.

It might have started in 5th grade. I remember having a variety of colorful markers, highlighters, and pens because my friends and I would doodle and write notes to each other, and having a unique writing utensil was cool. This continued into middle school, and by junior high I'd become accustomed to having a variety of ink each day.

I used my book bag as storage for all my pens. I understood that I certainly didn't need a dozen pens with me each day; I just chose to keep them with me anyway. I didn't have a desk to keep all my spares at home, so I just stuffed them all into my backpack. In high school, it seemed practical because our lockers were basically a waste of space (they were never anywhere close to where our classes were), so the extra pens just went with me, and I was never caught without an appropriate writing utensil. I developed habits based on this, such as using a different color of pen for each day in my notes, so (I told myself) it was easy to see where one day's notes ended and another began.

Now that I'm a teacher, the habit is still with me a little bit. (I tell myself) I always have to have about 4 pens that are not blue, black, or red (for grading papers) in my stash, but I of course need blue and black pens for regular writing. I also keep a couple pencils around. I'm better about not carrying them all with me, but I'd say that in my bag at any given time, I have at least 4 writing utensils plus a dry erase marker. Right now, as I sit at my desk typing, I count 10 "spares" in my holder. That comes to 14 in my regular rotation.

Sadly, though, there are more than 14 pens in my possession. I keep a few in a kitchen drawer--not sure how many, but they seem to multiply without my consent. I also have one in my sudoku book in the living room. Then I think I have 2 in my purse and at least one in my car. And I just looked in a container with some extra paper and cards and found 5 more plus a purple marker. When I travel, sometimes I put a pen in my suitcase.

Just like before, I am completely aware that I don't need all these utensils. If I used just a few of them at a time until they were no longer functional, the other ones would surely run dry before I had a chance to get to them. Yes, having a pen with me all the time is not a bad idea, but clearly I have a problem. I just wrote 5 paragraphs on pens.

My point! Right! I'm going to get rid of my pens. I don't know what to do with them, though. I would bring them to class with me and give them to students, but classes don't start until Jan. 31, and I'd like them gone right now. Any ideas?

I've tried getting rid of pens in the past, but I usually end up just replacing them. I'm pledging to not do that anymore. Pens are especially tempting because they're cheap and sold in multiples, but I must remind myself that quality is better than quantity. I look around my house, and I think I'm pretty good about not accumulating stuff, but this is my one thing. I want to let go of it. By Feb. 1, I pledge to cut the number of pens and pencils I have by half or more.

Now I ask you: Do you hoard anything? Is there something you keep around only because it's a habit or because it offers a sense of false security? Can you let it go?