A Stationery Field Guide

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Typewriters. Polaroid cameras. Turntables. Things. Great big clunky things that, despite the obsolescence suggested to them by the feature-creep of what our ancestors called “tele-phones”, they endure. Is it simply a fetishisation of the way things used to be? Possibly. The analogue world presented to us by That Show With The Suits And Secretaries And Smoking is so alluring.

Things are no more prevalent than in the office, in the lair of the stationery. In theory, all you need is a computer, a big hunk of glass and aluminium screaming light into your face all day long. But the dream of minimalism, of the paperless office, continues to be undone by stationery, the Apps of the twentieth century nestling into the corners of our offices. Anachronism be damned. And just look at the varieties, the shapes and sizes and functions on offer – who could resist such wonderful toys?

If you're just starting out in the exciting world of filling your life with clutter, or should ever find yourself lacking in stationeriments, here’s a handy field guide to get you on the right track:

Adhesive tape

It’s sensible to have one roll of each of the masking, double-sided, gaffer, useless, packing and regular varieties. Each straddles the functional/infuriating divide in its own special way.

Bulldog clips

Oh bulldog clips are just lovely. Sturdy, stubborn, dependable. Like placing your important paperwork into the fist of Michael Ironside. Also quite dangerous (see staple remover).

Clipboard

Not just any old clipboard. Oh no. There are few things more elegant in this world than Muji’s aluminium clipboard. Imagine an iPad without a screen or internal gubbins or inherent air of smugness. The ultimate analogue tablet. Sam Rockwell uses one in Moon. What more do you need to know?

Elastic band

See: rubber band.

Eraser

Do you ever do something dumb in the real world and think, “ah, no worries, I’ll just undo that”, then make yourself a little glum when you realise the universe doesn’t (yet) work that way? Yes? Well the eraser is for you, chum. It’s like a pocket cmd-z.

Eraser shaped like a burger that smells of watermelon for some reason

Don’t use it. Don’t smell it. Definitely don’t eat it. It’s simply there amongst the rest of your stationery to ward off evil spirits and to act as a magnet for dust.

Hole punch

BAM. Two holes in that! Immensely satisfying.

(The best bit about hole punches is the leftover holes they produce. I used to collect these holes from hole punches – not just my own hole punch, but the hole punch of every single person I worked with in the Westminster City Council Commercial Waste office. I’d wait until everyone went home, and then I’d go from desk to desk, emptying their holes into jars I had. Jars. I have no idea why I did this. I just liked the look of lots of holes, all gathered together. Collections of thousands of identical things always look great, no matter what they are. Especially in jars. If they ever make a film of my life, I’d like Kevin Spacey to play me please. Moving on …)

Mechanical Pencil

Steampunk version of a regular pencil.

Notebooks

Plural. If you’re just using one notebook at a time, you’re doing it wrong. If you want to jot something down or diddle a quick doodle and never want to find it again, what better medium than the notebook?

Paperclips

No, sorry, paperclips are evil. They’re like little beetles. Especially the stripy ones. Only slightly less repulsive than used Blu-Tack. You simply don’t need paperclips. If you think you need a paperclip, it’s only because you haven’t yet decided whether you need a staple or a bulldog clip.

Pencil

Lots of these. Mostly pilfered from Ikea. To be sharpened with a knife, so you get those nice angles on the point, not with a pencil-sharpener. What are you, a communist?

Pens

So many pens. More than you will ever use. Biros, fountain pens, felt tips pens, highlighters. And, of course, rollerballs – the only item of stationery to be made into a film starring James Caan on roller skates. FACT.

Popular brand name adhesive note squares

For making notes and to use in that clever animated short film you plan to make one day and put on Vimeo and get famous, but not proper famous, internet famous and then secretly hope that the idea gets pinched for a Sony Vaio advert just so you can bore your friends for the rest of time with how your artistic integrity was like, so violated.

Receipt spike

It’s a great big spike that sits on your desk. Perfect for those days working alone at home the day after watching Final Destination.

Rolodex

It’s good enough for C. C. Baxter, it’s good enough for you, buddy boy.

Rubber band

See: elastic band.

Ruler

The bigger and metal-ier the better. Get one with a hole in the end, so you can pin it against the wall and work out which way gravity is going.

Ruler (lenticular)

WATCH THE DINOSAURS FROLIC! SEE HOW THEY NOD AT EACH OTHER AND AVOID EATING EACH OTHER LIKE NATURE INTENDED! OH JUST IMAGINE WHAT DAVID ATTENBOROUGH WOULD SAY IF HE WERE WATCHING THIS RIGHT NOW!

Scissors

Worth owning just so you can say “sciissuurrs” in your best Winona-Ryder-pretending-to-be-an-old-lady voice.

Stapler

Years of research went into developing the stapler we know and love today. Drawing on the results of inhumane experiments and blackboard-filling equations, top stapologists managed to create a device that would fasten together exactly 99% of any given bundle of paper, leaving the back few pages (or “null sheets”) to remain unfastened yet be-holed. Impressive stuff.

Staple remover

Handy for clacking gently in your hand whilst deep in thought. Unfortunately, science has taught us that the natural rumination pose is hand-near-mouth, for activities such as beard-stroking and pipe-clenching, so the proximity of the staple remover often results in absent-minded lip piercing. Can also be used to remove staples (and if you’re removing staples, it just means you should have used a bulldog clip – lesson learnt).

So now you know.

Originally written for issue five of So & So, December 2011.