How many pens do I actually need?

That was the question that was posed to me when I was supporting a client to organise her stationery.

At the time the client had well over 100 pens, yes we counted them. And we were both convinced there were many more in her unit, playing hide and seek.

So, how many pens does someone need? Some might argue that 100 is way too many, while others might say not enough. The total amount of something, somebody needs will depend on the individual.

My client is a writer, which was evident with handwritten notes and quotes displayed throughout her home. Pens are her tools, and I wanted to be respectful of this but at the same time support her goal to get her unit in order.

Rather than coming up with a suitable number of pens she should have, I wanted to see if we could say goodbye to some of them. After attempting a few decluttering techniques with limited success, my client stopped, paused and told me she no longer liked pastels.


Not so great for the pastel pens though, which quickly went into the donate bag. Once I placed the unwanted pens in the donate bag, I knew my client wouldn’t be willing to let any more go. With almost 100 pens now calling my clients unit home, there was only ever going to be two situations:

  1. pens my client is currently using and;
  2. pens she wasn’t using

We needed to create a system for containing them.

I asked my client to select some pens that she currently uses and to place them in a pen cup. The pen cup would live on her desk.

Next, we had to organise the pens she wasn’t using.

I had to put my creative hat on.

Getting an unused make-up bag, we placed all the remaining pens in it and labelled it Pen Shop. Pen Shop would be the place that the excess pens and other ink-related products would live.

Why Pen Shop?

My client loves stationery, and also loves to buy it. Now instead of going out and buying pens from a store, I encourage my client to visit her Pen Shop and to use items that she already has. And if she gets bored with the pens in the pen cup, she can swap them for ones in the Pen Shop. I don’t know any store that does that.

Pen Shop makes it easier for my client to find all her pens and also helps to control the number of pens she buys, helping her to save money. The make-up bag housing the pens now lives in a cupboard labelled Officeworks (my client’s favourite store) with all the other stationery.

The pens now have a permanent home in either the pen cup or the Pen Shop, with a few living around the house for impromptu note-taking. Now my clients home is not overrun with pens, and she can easily find them without feeling overwhelmed.

Today, when I talk with my client about maintaining her pen collection or buying pens, we don’t apply a one in one out rule (which can work) or question how many pens she actually needs. I simply ask the question, can the new pens live in the Pen Shop? and if they can, my client is free to buy as many pens as she desires.

A simple make-up bag repurposed into Pen Shop has been an effective system in keeping the pens under control.

The takeaway.

Organising doesn’t need to involve fancy storage solutions; instead, effective organisation consists of understanding the person and developing a system that meets their needs. Being able to think differently and being creative is what makes being a professional organiser so enjoyable.

If you need some creative organising solutions or support, please contact me on 0401 149 185 or via email

Cover Photo by Andrew Seaman on Unsplash