Why You Should Minimize Your Pencil Bag–Or Not

by Rachael Birri and Bridget Richard

Rachael’s View

My pencil bag is my purse (which is not large enough to fit a standard wallet or more than one lipstick, let alone excess clutter). Therefore, I make it my personal mission to make sure that I only carry what is vital. As a result, I rarely spend more than three seconds looking for any item within it. The pencil bag part of my purse consists of one pencil, one blue pen, one red pen, and one yellow highlighter. I have been debating disposing of the red pen and highlighter, but I’ve kept them for their rare uses.

I am not yet a minimalist, but I strive to become one. I don’t enjoy excess. I want to help you trash the useless utensils you lug around on a day-to-day basis for the “what if” cases and save you precious seconds of digging through a seemingly bottomless zipper bag.

  1. Excess pencils: You only need one pencil throughout the day. It doesn’t matter what kind, but only one is sufficient. With one pencil, I guarantee that you’ll be more adamant about keeping track of its location, and halfway through the school year you won’t wonder why all twenty of your multicolored, mechanical pencils went missing.
  2. Separate erasers: You have an eraser on the back of your pencil and you can cross out any large-scale mistakes so keeping a separate eraser that you maybe use once or twice when you remember that you have one is not worth the pencil-bag space.
  3. Scissors, markers, crayons, colored pencils: Sadly enough, we no longer use these items on a daily basis, and when they’re required, they’re provided. Say goodbye to your cluttered childhood and embrace that black, grey, and blue monotony of growing up.
  4. Pencil sharpener: First of all, if you’re 95% of the student population, you use a mechanical pencil anyway. Second, when you stand up to throw away the pencil shavings, you could be standing to go to a pencil sharpener already in the classroom that won’t break the end of the pencil off five times before “sharpening” it to a workable blunt end.
  5. Paper clips/binder clips: If you can name even two occasions since the start of the school year that you’ve used either then feel free to keep them. If not, a teacher is sure to have some in case of any paper clip related emergency.

Bridget’s Rebuttal

I would not label myself as a minimalist, in any sense of the term. There is value to behold in many of these school items that Rachael has deemed unnecessary, and I would like to justify their place in pencil bags: both yours and mine.

  1. Excess Pencils- there is no such thing as excess pencils. I currently have 8 pencils in my pencil bag: 2 are non-mechanical (the most accepted kind for standardized tests), and then I have 2 different types of mechanical pencils, 3 for each type. Why is having more than one pencil necessary? The first and most obvious reason is for when they malfunction or break. I was taking notes in math two days ago and the top mechanism of the pencil popped off and wouldn’t reattach. Good thing I had a new working pencil within seconds, or how else could I have studied that lengthy chain-rule derivative? And another thing, other students often have no pencil at all. And if I had to ask a classmate to borrow a pencil and they’re response was, “Sorry, this is my only one,” I wouldn’t believe them. I would just think that they were too lazy to get their pencil bag out, they just didn’t like me, or some combination of the two. Don’t be that person.
  2. Separate erasers: I have two large chunky erasers along with a cap eraser that I keep on top  of my mechanical pencil, of which I use all three almost daily. I’m not a perfect student that never makes mistakes. I make a lot of mistakes… a lot of big mistakes. Especially when it comes to creating graphs and diagrams, of which I make many, those mistakes can sometimes cost you an entire page of paper if you don’t erase it. And grabbing a new sheet of paper just because your teensy pencil eraser couldn’t handle is dare I say contradictory to the whole minimalist idea of getting by with less. That’s just wasting paper.
  3. Who said adulthood had to be monochrome and dull? Colors can make things interesting, exciting, and easier to comprehend. Have you ever seen a math teacher solve a problem and use color coding? For some students, it is a game changer. If colors work for you–and if that magenta marker is just too good to pass up–then go for it.  
  4. Okay, this one makes sense. Keep your handheld sharpeners wherever your parents keep their office supplies. The only time they are in dire use is during ACT, SAT, or AP tests.
  5. I agree with this one as well, but then again I don’t often see anybody with paperclips or binder clips in their pencil bags to begin with. But to further emphasize my “less is not more” outlook, here are some things that I keep in my pencil bag at all times.

-Note cards: some blank, some with vocabulary words, some with creative ideas I think of in class

-Hair-ties: for anybody with long hair who gets annoyed with it throughout the day. They come in of handy, and they don’t even take up that much space.

-Candy: Again, a small thing that doesn’t take up room in the pencil bag. Don’t try to tell me that you’ve never wanted candy in the middle of class.

-A laminated cut-out from a Dilbert comic strip: For whenever you need a good pick-me-up.

Rachael’s Rebuttal

Note cards are made redundant by the presence of smart phones. One hair tie is fine, multiple is an invitation to lose all of them. Candy inevitably leads to candy wrappers in the bag, so avoid it when possible (also not the best brain food for a mid-class pick-me-up.) “Do not keep an item unless you know it to be useful or believe it to be beautiful”; therefore, keep the comic.