So it is that time of year again where anyone in education is either considering spending a load of money on school stationery supplies, or is nagging a parent too do exactly that! Because it is exciting, a new school year (the last in my case) where we are given a clean slate in affect in order to try yet again to keep on top of the work and to continue to be organized. You may wonder how exactly stationery comes into this. Though thinking about it, it is far more than it being about new stuff corresponding to a new year and a fresh start! Because imagine being aged 15, being forced into a very strict school uniform while being prohibited from wearing any kind of jewelry, makeup and hair dye. Now imagine being 17/18 and being close to taking your A levels, knowing that you need to level up on the studying. But you also want to buy something practical to make this more palatable, and really you don’t have many options. Finally that you are 20 and you are studying for a degree at uni. You have little money yet you are on the hunt for something which sparks joy! Sounding rather pathetic to most, yet I am sure that if you are or if you have been in one of these situations recently, then you can painfully relate.
Nevertheless stationery never used to be a gimmick did it. Therefore what wider cause has actually sparked this trend, if it is one…
Firstly it looks as if stationery is increasingly becoming a product of fashion and self expression proven by the rise of novelty stores specializing in stationery like Smiggle, Paperchase and Mustard. The products sold in these kinds of stores range from an impressive variety of notebooks and journals, vast collections of fancy sticky notes and even paperclips in the shape of the Queen! Now the reason these establishments are doing ok has obviously got something to do with the way they do create exciting, distinctive and new products which is going to spark strong excitement within any young person. As if it is a new means of self expression. Taking this further, Geradine James, manager of Selfridges, compares this to “carrying a handbag that you’re proud of”.
But there must be something else lingering behind the success of these shops. Because it is expected that people are becoming more into stationery to give themselves a break from the faced paced and never ending stress of the online world. Alternatively they seek to have at least some sense of the analogue world. Being true that it is millennial women who are “nostalgically seeking the alternative to the use of tech!” It is unsurprising though that we are craving this, because when using analogue products we tend to be able to concentrate more, maybe due to reduced distractions. Furthermore it is the relief of being able to have a break!
Yet if you happen to be a shop specializing in the “boring stuff”, then chances are you are losing out! Just like Staples having suffered as people buy less day to day stuff but are “falling in love” with some of the more specialized craft products. Most likely this is due to stationery being brought for essential reasons, as much admin has moved from the “bulk of paper” to the computer. While there are more people wanting to use it for relaxation means.
Therefore especially amongst young people, a significant proportion of money spent on stationery is for unessential purposes. And I think the same pattern is prevalent among even younger people. Because let’s face it, most adults who have their head half screwed on would be reluctant to spend more than a few pounds on “toys” for their children to have at school knowing that they would act as a distraction within the classroom. However most would find it more difficult to say no to buying their children stationery because although they are still likely to fiddling with it in the classroom, at least there is hope that it will provide some practical purpose! And I think this could be the case with older students and even those with office jobs. Because there is always the need to want to buy something which is fun and/or fashionable but at the same time we do not want to feel guilty for overspending.
Concluding from this, I have fallen a victim of this to some extent though I do think that I have a reasonable grasp of control. As whenever I walk past somewhere like paperchase, I cannot resist taking a wander in and looking at all of the various pens, notepads and rubbers (as well as the Boris Johnson dog toys) just to see what they have on offer. But how healthy is our new found love of stationery?
Well I am having to go with the boring answer in that it is a bit of both. Because how harmful can a break from the internet be, really? And if this means a hobby which involve the purchasing of a lot of stationery such as journaling, then so be it! Because it not only provides an essential break from a sometimes toxic environment and that it can improve productivity, but it actually isn’t even that expensive when we think about it. Because if the correct things are brought, then we can get many hours of satisfaction while paying a low price. However like with anything, it is rather too easy to end up spending a fortune on it which subsequently leads to us being unresourceful. Then as a result not only our pockets would suffer, but we also need to consider what the impact of buying a load of plastic pens which never get used would have on the environment.