More from the Moving Files

Liz here, with more from the moving files. 

I used to have a giant desk. I loved it, too. It was from Pottery Barn and apparently 10 or 11 years ago when I first moved to Connecticut I believed I needed a desk this large in order to fulfill my dream of becoming a “real writer.”‘

One could say it helped, although secretly I know better – most of my books have been written in my bed with the covers over my head, crying through another deadline crunch, but you’ve all heard those stories before. The point is, if I’m going to write, I’m going write with or without a ginormous desk.


So now I have an adorable, small desk. Which I love, and I do write at it a lot. But it also meant that when I moved, I had to clean out the many drawers associated with having such a large desk, and figuring out how to shoehorn in all the things. I threw a lot of things away, but I realized something I’d only had a sneaking suspicion about before this: I’m a junkie for notebooks and writing utensils and basically any kind of office supply. And notebooks are apparently just as hard for me to get rid of as actual books.

Some things I found: An entire stash of reporter’s notebooks – unused. At some point, I’d been in a phase of “needing” those old-style, 3- or 5-subject spiral bound notebooks, so there were a few of those. Then there was the stack of legal pads, in both letter size and the smaller size – not sure where those came from.

Then there were the items from my Levenger phase – the full-sized notebook with only one or two pages filled out that I’d planned to use for those character bibles. And the smaller sized ones that I planned to carry around with me for brainstorming purposes. Then I apparently turned to Moleskin to solve all my writing problems, so I have at least three empty journal sized notebooks to help me with all that plotting I’ve been meaning to do. (As a side note, I have been using one for plotting – it even came to the Wicked Cozy retreat with me last week. Aren’t you proud?)

And then there were the pens. Good grief, all the pens. From my multi-colored ballpoint phase. My gel pen phase. My black pen phase. Lately, I’m into the Flair pens, so have those in every room. And Post-its! Of every shape and size. Since Dead Fred is my go-to post it guy lately, I had to think long and hard about what I need.

So like with the books, I had to make some decisions. There was no room for all my notebooks in my new desk, which has four small shelves. Since my days of reporting are pretty much done, I gave up my Steno pads. All the legal pads, gone. The old-school spirals – I have to confess I kept a couple brand new ones, but mostly gone. I kept my Levengers and Moleskins. And the Post-its – I do use them for my day job, so they got a reprieve. Anything journal-ish went into a special place, since I do a lot of journaling. And it eliminated the need for them at my desk.

So, another task (almost) conquered. What do you think?


Readers, anyone else have a must-have writing tool or other desk necessity? Or just a ginormous desk? Let us know in the comments!

32 Thoughts

  1. Liz, notebooks, pens…you’ve described the cupboard in my office. I look at it thinking, “I really need to go through this and throw stuff out.” Then I close the door and forget it for another day. We need to create an organization called.Paper Hoarders Anonymous.

  2. I like it! And now I am looking at my extremely cluttered not-large desk and wondering why I have the Chicago Manual of Style, Roget’s Thesaurus, and American Heritage Dictionary on it – when I never open them! As soon as I send in the current book (by Thursday), this desk is getting a clean sweep. It’s also hard for me to throw out pens, but luckily once they start running out of ink, I hate them, so that’s not too hard.

  3. I use a knee-hole desk that my mother bought for my father in the early 1950s (I think I still have the receipt somewhere in the house). He was a tall man, so at least I fit (and the keyboard hits at the right height, which is a bonus, since the things hadn’t been invented when the desk was new). It has nine drawers–all stuffed full, of course. And the top surface is buried under Really Important Stuff that I can’t throw away. But it works.

  4. I don’t have a desk for writing, so…no. Someday I’ll get the desk in The Boy’s room (heck, that’s gonna be my office once he leaves for college). I might be in trouble then. But I’m a desk minimalist, so maybe not.

  5. I soooo identify with your desk story! I bought a huge desk from West Elm when I was professor-ing (and secretly dying to write novels, not scholarly books and articles!). I now write on a tiny Parsons-style table barely large enough for my laptop and a lamp. The only other must-have for me is graph paper on which do some early timelines and drawings and list-making. So simple! 🙂

  6. I love my desk — a thrift shop find. Fortunately it only has three drawers but they are all filled to the brim. And I do most of my writing there. I used to have far too many notebooks but now I use my phone for sudden inspirations so it’s cut down on the notebook need.

  7. At home, I no longer use my old wooden study table (from university days). My laptop sits on a small square coffee table which is just big enough for it and the mouse, so there is little room for clutter. Which is a good thing. Just a few Post-it notes, pens and hotel-sized note pads to jot things down.

  8. Looks like a great workspace now! I have to admit I’m very conscious of space when I write, though it’s more about organization than size of desk…. And like you, I’ve got notebooks in various sizes here and there, but I do have a couple I actually use, so that’s good. Congrats on your work here!

  9. I love my desk. Sadly, to be able to use my desk with the laptop and keyboard and larger monitor and monitor stand and notes, I can’t see what I love most about it.

    As for notebooks. I’m addicted. But I never use them because I’m a perfectionist. So I buy beautiful ones but use plain black marbled composition books. And not even the Mead ones. The cheap dollar store brand.

    1. You’re so funny. I worry about “wrecking” my nice notebooks too – or using my Levenger paper if I’m going to scribble things out.

  10. I too am a junky for office supplies. Do you think it has something to do with writing? Also, I was a librarian for many years, both public and in corporate world, and we do love our files! My tiny office is also the family office, where the household records live and filing gets done. Though I love a tidy work space, I hardly ever have it. My life is a constant battle with piles of paper. And the truth is that it mostly bothers me when I am struggling with the writing. I somehow believe if I clean up the outside clutter, the brain clutter will go away too. When I am deep into writing, I don’t notice the mess at all.

  11. I, too, am a junkie for office supplies. I wonder if that early notebook thing was the search for the magic item that would turn us into writers. Now, I’ve been strictly Levenger for at least fifteen years. I envy your small desk. It seems only possible now that the bills and banking are electronic. There used to be all that “stuff.”

    I’m happy to write on a small surface, but when it comes to initial plotting and later big revisions, I turn to the dining room table. Somehow big surfaces let me “think bigger.”

    1. When I paper read a manuscript, I have to go to the big table. Which means I’m working in the main room of the house. Hugh has learned that when I’m at the table with a half ream of paper in front of me, he’ll get the stinky eye if he tries to talk with me. It’s retreat rules – if I don’t look up, keep your mouth shut!

    2. I think that’s true about the early notebook thing, Barb. Honestly, I usually end up writing on the bed or couch anyway.

  12. I can never find a pen when I need one around here, so obviously I don’t have any of those. And I certainly don’t have pads of paper.

    My desk? It’s the one I had as a kid, and my printer takes up most of it. The typing table I got for my dorm room in college is also covered with stuff. My laptop and I are usually out in my living room, and there is a tower of books I’ve read next to it. Yes, all but one or two have been reviewed, but I’m waiting for the pile to become so high it’s about to topple over before I decide where to try to put them away.

  13. I go to using only black ink pens and then only blue ink will do. Every couple of years I switch from one back to the other. No rhyme nor reason!

  14. Such a fun post! I have an addiction for office supplies too! I am ‘neater’ now as an empty-nester, except for my desk top. And despite my numerous pens and pencils, I constantly lose them as I write in all different places around the house and leave the pens there. About once a year, I collect all the supplies, cull through them and start afresh.

  15. I have a fairly large desk and I really make an effort to keep it neat, but among other things on it, I have a 3-tier bookshelf, a desktop computer, a telephone, a dictionary (yes, a real paper dictionary), tape, stapler, pen holder and misc tall skinny things holder (actually both are coffee mugs, note paper, a New Yorker desk calendar, and a Rolodex (yep, the real thing). I can’t stand not having a stapler, tape, pencils, pens, a scissors, paper clips, etc. all right at hand. I really love my workspace.

  16. Fellow office supply junkie here! I just love it all – I’m looking at a set of Post Its I just bought, with colors from the Marrakesh collection (I see some pretty blue and pink ones in your picture!). I don’t know if I can bring myself to use them. We just bought a new house and I’m going to try having an office for the first time in years. But truth be told, I’ll probably just migrate to the dining room table and corner of the couch, where I really do all my writing.

  17. I’m a retired math teacher who is a reader but I still accumulate office supplies, different types of pens… When I first retired from teaching I would find myself combing the back to school Ads and picking up new supplies. Ten years ago I started taking my young neighbor to pick up her school supplies and then we would have a nice lunch. She will be a Junior in HS next year so it will soon come to a close. I’m always going to get more organized but never really finish the job. I also started creating and building my own desks and cabinets for my equipment and supplies. The pieces have grown smaller as equipment size and need has shrunk. However, I still manage to fill every space in every piece. I cannot leave an office supply store without some type of pen or pencil regardless of my original reason for shopping.

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