Back-to-School Goodies Aren’t Just for Kids

You might call them office supplies today, but pens, pencils, journals and lunchboxes still rock, and we won’t let you deny it.

back to school office supplies

In the fall, a child’s fancy turns to thoughts of school supplies.

An adult’s fancy turns to thoughts of school supplies, too, but once you’re out of college they’re called office supplies. And admit it, you love office-supply stores. Not the aisles of dreary paper clips, printer paper and manila folders – that stuff just reminds you of a cubicle farm.

We mean the thrill you get from displays of tape dispensers shaped like minimalist cubes and cupcakes, 24-packs of multicolored Sharpies and Wonder Woman mouse pads. That stuff makes you as happy as an 8-year-old sniffing the waxy promise of a Crayola 64 box.

Why let the kids have all the fun? Buy some goodies for you. If you have kids, you just spent around $500 each for their school stash, so your wallet is thin. But to hell with it. We live in times so stressful that the sight of a lit tiki torch gives you a headache in your eye. Self-care is key to your mental health, and shopping is better for you than #sheetcaking.

So let’s go shopping.


There’s so much promise in those blank pages. You could do some plein-air sketching. Make notes for the novel you’re going to write, eventually. Write haikus. Most of us end up writing our to-do lists in them instead, but that’s okay – aspirations are good for the soul. Splurge on a journal with handmade paper or a handcrafted leather cover, or a handbound journal that’s artisan-made from cover to cover.


Making marks with a pencil is so satisfying. The feel of graphite on paper. The smell of wood. You can get fancy pencils shaped like drumsticks or matchsticks, or pencils with barrels made of recycled newspapers. You can order pencils with a custom message. Or you can buy a 12-pack of the good old yellow No. 2 pencils you learned to write with. Be sure to get a pencil sharpener, too, the kind you hold in your hand that makes curlicues of wood.

Multicolor ballpoint pen

You probably had one of these in seventh grade. You need one now. Why buy six pens when you can get one pen that writes in six colors? You never know when you’ll want to sign an important document in purple ink.


The lunchbox you had in elementary school was more than a way to tote your PBJ to the cafeteria. It was a statement of identity. Plus, just because you’re an adult doesn’t mean you have to carry a sensible, square canvas lunchbox. Get a Bento Box, or a lunchbox shaped like a metal cafeteria tray. Consider a retro version from the ‘70s, especially one sporting a classic TV show theme. Starsky & Hutch! The Bionic Woman! Welcome Back, Kotter! There are plenty of these relics in antique stores and on eBay. Bonus: If you’re mugged on the way to work, that baby could double as a weapon. Think of the story you’d be able to tell about the time you whacked an assailant in the head with a 40-year-old Flintstones lunchbox.  

Tablet computer

You probably have a tablet already, but this is an opportunity to consider a new one, as they’re on sale at back-to-school time. Get the best brand you can afford – #noproductplacement – but check out the 12.9-inch iPad Pro loaded with iOS 11, a better camera, advanced Retina display, ProMotion and an A10X Fusion chip. Samsungs are nice, too.


You’re not using a lot of paper these days, but you still need a cool stapler on your desk. They’re more art than tool in the digital age, so go for fun, not functional. Get one shaped like Pac-Man, a piece of sushi or a dachshund. A retro Swingline with mid-century mod lines is goals.


Yes, it’s a throwback to an era when the stacks of paper on your desk could be blown away by the brass-bladed fan sitting on your credenza. But a paperweight still works as an objet d’art or a conversation piece. Try one crafted of Millefiori glass, or one made of an acrylic block with a trinket sealed inside.