As I have written many times over the years, I am a man with poor impulse control, little willpower, and questionable financial sense.
At times (such as right now) I’ve owned dozens of pens, keeping pens to review in one case, pocket pens in another, my cheaper ‘toy’ pens in another… But at the constant heart of my pen habit is this little drawer here. My ‘main tray’.
It turns out, this tray and its arbitrary, unplanned number of pen slots has become an important guardrail or anchor for my behaviour, getting me back on track when my impulses threaten to leave me drowning in stationery.
It is obvious to anyone and everyone that a reasonable man’s pens should fit in a tray like this. If they don’t, it’s not because there’s too little space. It’s because there are too many pens.
When I spend my hours agonising over which pens to sell, this tray is the yardstick. The question I ask is: which pens would ‘make the cut’ and belong in this main tray, sitting side by side with my Nakaya and Agatha and other greats?
If I can’t make the case for a pen to live here, but decide instead to store it in some overflow pouch in a drawer, I am really only deceiving myself. I know full well that when it’s tucked away in a drawer, a pen won’t get used much. If it’s not in my top 26 pens, why am I even keeping it?
The best thing about the tray is that it’s hard-sided. You’ll note the Murex in the photo above rests uneasily at the top of the tray. That’s because I’ve not truly finished with my latest cull. Unlike with a soft-sided case or pen pot there’s really no way to ‘sneak in a couple more’. The rules are firm. And this is important: in the past when I set myself challenges to stick to 10 pens, or 12, or 20, I lacked those true boundaries. There was space available, and I filled it.
But now whenever I feel my pens have got out of control, I can put this tray in front of me and fill it, one by one. The rigidity helps me make those hard decisions (pun intended). For every pen I choose to include, another pen gets excluded. It’s as simple as that. I can’t afford to waste a single choice. And I can make the best choices this way. Like Marie Kondo recommends, I have it all laid out there in front of me in the cold light of day. Looking at the whole collection at once helps me to optimise for variety and to put pens in context, rather than just asking ‘do I like this pen?’ in isolation.
After thinking about it, I was surprised to realise just how important this tray has been in shaping my collection. Of course, as I’ve just described it has helped define my habits of acquiring and selling. But it has also governed how I arrange and evaluate and pick from my pens on a daily basis. I wonder what would have happened if I had never started using it?
How do you store your pens, and how has that shaped your behaviour? Do you think it has?