Keep These 7 Affordable Office Supplies In Your Bag So You Can Work Anywhere

By: Kathy L. Nguyen | Published 1.31.23

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For the last few years, I have been trying to transition away from paper and digitizing my professional and private documents as much as possible. It's faster, more legible, more efficient to store, and reduces waste. I've come to find, however, that in certain contexts or in certain situations: nothing beats handwriting.

I don't like clutter in my home or workspace. Clutter is never chic nor inviting. I want the fewest items possible around, good quality items that I can keep up with affording. Based on how I like to work, this is what works for me. I've narrowed my list of favorites, what I like to always keep on hand or in my bag to just these 7 items. 

Although it might sound a little silly, you'll find that you work more efficiently and enthusiastically when you are using good supplies that feel good and work well. I'd compare it to the effect of how wearing an outfit you love boosts your confidence. For me, these items just look and feel great.

Most people probably don't put too much thought into erasers and that's completely fine. I happened to have studied fine art at a serious level since high school which extended to college so it's something that I've had to consider pretty seriously. This sounds like a brag but believe me, that's not my intention. 

A bad eraser can ruin a drawing that you've spent hours and hours working on. Low-quality, hard erasers can lead to un-erasable, deeply embedded graphite smudges on a piece of art. You could destroy a drawing you've invested hours on, destroy drawings make on expensive high-quality 100% natural fiber, hot-pressed paper imported from Europe even... pardon me for digressing into deep trauma.

A bad eraser can smear and smudge graphite or rip your paper. You don't want to ruin your NYT crossword puzzle, just use a soft eraser like this one to cleanly lift your mistakes. Trust me, it's just more efficient. 

I was introduced to this pencil by a former South Korean student whose father owns and operates a stationery store. This special mechanical pencil was literally ergonomically designed by uni to reduce writer's fatigue. This thing carries itself and drives like a Lexus, elegant and smooth.

You'll notice immediately that this pencil feels great in the hand. It has a wider grip than what you might be used to but don't worry, you'll like it once you feel it. She's girthy. The grip is padded too and this contrast of textures just adds to the luxurious "vibe" and feeling of writing with this pencil.

Just like a high-end imported Japanese car, there's another unique feature that's definitely unheard of in American or Western mechanical pencils. There are 2 ways that you can get the pencil to extend more lead you can click at the top like a "normal" pencil or by giving it a few (literally 1 or 2) shakes. Shaking out the lead is very, very satisfying. This motion is less disruptive than moving your hand to click at the top and then adjusting to the writing position. It's streamlined. 

You might think such a minor adjustment is superfluous but just as the accomplished classical musician aims to reduce his or her fingering to only what is necessary, you'll find that you're less likely to break concentration if you don't need to constantly be adjusting your hand position while writing. 

This is the ultimate draftsmen's pencil. Designed for the use of industrial designers, engineers, and architects, this pencil enables unparallel clean mark making. I use uni's Alpha-Gel Shaker Mechanical Pencil for journaling and essay writing while the Pentel Graph Gear 1000 is what I grab for notetaking and office administration. Any time that precision is necessary, this is the pencil I grab.

The Graph Gear 500 will produce the same type of clean, precise marks but it's the weight of the Graph Gear 1000  and how it feels in the hand that makes it a favorite for me. It feels weighted, it's sleek and elegant. 

I don't really know how the mechanics work but I believe that this pencil was also designed internally to reduce lead breakage and this isn't propaganda. Although the Alpha-Gel Shaker is a great pencil that offers amazing streamlined writing, I have noticed that I experience lead breakage more often than with the Graph Gear 1000. 

We love gel ink pens because they offer a smooth ink flow and produce bold, dark writing. High-quality gel ink won't smudge, which is the problem with inferior made pens. Your writing will be bold, clean, and crisp.

You might see many gel ink pens that like this one on the market so exercise caution when purchasing. Asian discount stores offer many dupes at lower price points but you'll learn that they aren't the same.

These BEMLP pens are sturdy too, I've never had one break in my purse or even worse in my hands. Nothing is worse than ink all over your fingers and hands.

I know it might seem a bit over the top to have a highlighter preference but these subtle differences can be meaningful if you work in education, office administration, or commercial writing.

These highlighters are so popular that there are many dupes in the Western market and I have made the mistake of purchasing some I thought were Staedtler! Those who know, know and the highlighters are beloved by all those who work with printed text in a professional capacity. 

Dealing with wet ink, smudging and ink bleeding is very annoying. Especially when you are just trying to get work done and are under a time crunch. The differences in highlighter quality are very minute but if you edit printed text in any academic or professional context, you'll notice how good these highlighters are right away. They also last far longer than inferior highlighters and their design makes them feel great in the hand.

A cult classic and a crowd-pleaser, perfect for anything from on-the-go notes to brainstorming. 

I like to get the multi-color packs because I am a very visually oriented person. Having multiple color options allows you to organize ideas in basically any framework you create for yourself. I've also used them right in my journal when I need a pop of color to emphasize a point or to insinuate urgency.

Of all the items on this list, this would have to be the most indulgent. If your line of work or lifestyle does not require you to keep significant notes this is an item you probably don't need.

For me, there is something about the dignity of investing in my supplies that keeps me motivated and engaged. It's just a great pleasure for me to write in my bright red moleskine and to reference the writing I've done in the past with all of the notebooks I've collected over the years. I also like seeing them around, they look elegant stored.

The paper quality in these notebooks are great and writing that I've done in my notebooks from college over 12 or 13 years ago is still preserved as if it was written today. I don't always use pens to write and over time, graphite has the ability to lift off cheap paper.

When it comes to office supplies, it's not about brands, aesthetics, or conspicuous consumption for me. I am motivated by design and the quality of an object's functionality.  These are the tried and true products that I have been using for over 10 years and personally love to use. I encourage everyone to find what works for them personally since we all have different preferences however I hope that if you are in the market and are overwhelmed by choice, this listicle can offer you just a little guidance and get you thinking about office supplies in a way that you might not have before.