The cool people who make college student life vlogs always do these big “school supplies haul” videos showing all the stuff they got for going back to school. I’ve watched a bunch over the years and have gotten a lot of great ideas from them about new products and ways to stay organized.
And now, I have my very own school supplies haul!
Since I’m not a YouTuber, I’ll show my haul here. By way of context, I’m taking three classes at City College this fall, all online because that’s how colleges are doing it in California.
Also, I already had a lot of stuff, like Post-It Notes and sticky flags, highlighters and erasers, markers, index cards and paper pads – the accumulated ballast of having an office for 30 years. So I’ll just focus on the new stuff.
You can see that my haul included one of my Human Osteology textbooks, cable clips, and a headphone hanger. I’m using two cable clips and the rest were claimed by others. The headphone holder sticks on under my desk to keep my headphones out of the way; I picked this one because it’s recyclable aluminum instead of petro-pollution-forever plastic.
The first consumable supply item is a pack of three-subject notebooks. I didn’t use multi-subject notebooks my first time through school. But then, I also didn’t put much effort into organization.
Prior to the lockdown, and based on those videos, I’d bought a super-cheap three-subject notebook from Walmart and used it for my three summer classes. It was almost life-changing for someone who’d been using legal pads forever. Amazon had this three-pack for a decent price; I’m using one for the fall semester, my wife claimed one for her writing projects (dividing it into writing tips, short story ideas, and poetry), leaving one left over for me for the spring semester.
My Walmart Pen+Gear three-subject notebook, which was much cheaper than these (and highly recommended if you want to try the multi-subject notebook life), had only 120 sheets, or 40 sheets per section. It came up short in two classes, so I’m glad the Amazon notebooks have ten more sheets in each section for a total of 150 sheets. Both notebooks are slightly undersized, 10.5” x 8”. The Amazon notebooks have much heavier covers with a glossy outer finish front and back. Because Amazon’s notebook page has a higher first line, it has one line more per sheet than the Walmart notebook. The subject dividers are slightly stiff sheets of slick yellow paper.
I didn’t actually buy the Paper Mate Clearpoint mechanical pencils; I had them already but I wanted to show my favorite pencils. These are back-ups because so far I haven’t lost or broken any of the ones I already have out. I’ve been carrying one in my pocket every day for the past three years, along with a small journal, and other than the clip breaking off (which made it less snaggy) it still works like new. I prefer the 0.7mm version because the line looks darker and the lead is less prone to breakage, but it comes in 0.5mm and 0.9mm as well.
I like these pencils for the girth, the rubber grip, the side advance, and the huge eraser. Some people complain that the twist-up eraser twists back down when you use it, but I’ve found that if you extend it about twice as far as usual, the torsional force of erasing is taken up by the length of the extended eraser and it stays in place better. The other essential feature about the Clearpoint vs. other mechanical pencils is that its metal tip retracts so it doesn’t poke holes in your pocket, pouch, or pack.
During the summer session, I took notes in pencil, which worked fine until it came time to study them. Then, I learned that penciled notes are hard on my eyes. So I’m a late convert to pens for notes, leading to …
… new color pens! Several people talked about color-coding their classes to easily distinguish notes and scheduling notations in their planners. I tried a little of that with an old four-color ballpoint, and liked the system enough to go ahead and buy these Paper Mate InkJoy 100 RT ballpoint pens on sale at Amazon. I bought two 20-packs, each pack has two of each of ten colors.
These InkJoy pens are another revelation, my new favorite ballpoint pen. They are so smooth and fast and clear! I gave one set of ten to my wife, and have one set for myself. They’re a bit fragile; I dropped the orange one and it stopped being able to click retract under its own power. The orange, light green, and light blue are a bit light for my eyes (the light blue is almost the same as non-repro blue), but the other colors are bright and dense. The pen shaft is a bit thin, but the triangular shape is nice because it doesn’t roll.
My gold standard for pens has been the Pilot Razor Point (not the ultra fine); I’ve been using those and legal pads to develop ad campaigns for 35 years. Lots of ideas in those pens. I still use Razor Points for concepting and creative work, but the InkJoy ballpoint is a thing of wonderfulness for left-brain stuff like taking notes. The downside to both of these pen models, is that neither is refillable or recyclable.
Now on to the planner. But wait! There’s no planner shown in the haul! That’s because, after a lot of watching haul videos and reading articles and comparison shopping and thinking, I decided … to keep the planner I have. For now.
This is the planner I’ve used for at least 30 years. It’s a long-discontinued pocket-sized leather planner folio from a defunct accessories company called St. Dennis. The thing is, it’s refillable with standard At-A-Glance 70-008 calendar refills. So, I’m sticking with what I have because it’s worked ok so far and doing so has less impact on the environment.
That said, now that I’m using the calendar pages for organization rather than business appointments, I’ll have to see if it continues to do the trick. It is a little small. My old trick was to write business stuff in ALL CAPS and personal stuff in regular case, something I did in the address book as well. Hey, that’s an organizing tip you can use!
But color-coding with my new pens may help me use the space more efficiently.
As you can see, I have two classes starting Monday, with the third starting in October. And I think I’m ready!