Literally the Best Thing Ever: New School Supplies

Pencils and markers and notebooks, oh my!

The almighty Lisa Frank.

I was never the type of person who looked forward to going back to school–even though I loved school—because the start of the school year meant change, which is something I don’t handle well. It always took about three weeks for me to adjust to new classes, new routines, and even—depending on the year—new hallways, new classmates, and new expectations, both academic and social. The oh-gawd-school-is-starting-soon-again dread would always sink in on July 5th, because that’s when companies start running their back-to-school commercials, reminding everyone that summer is never as long as you hope it will be.

Staples, for example, has been running the same back-to-school commercial forever. It features an ecstatic dad coasting through aisles of school supplies as his dejected kids plod behind him, all while “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” plays in the background. The message is pretty clear: after a long summer of picking your Fla-Vor-Ice wrappers out of the couch cushions and Febrezing away the lingering stench of adolescent flip-flop sweat, your parents are sick of your adorable face and can’t wait for the school bus to round the corner and take you away for roughly seven hours a day. Summer’s over, kid.

Now that I’ve been out of school for a while, though, the Staples commercial doesn’t fill me with anticipatory dread as much as it fills me with seething jealousy. What’s the matter with those kids? They should be as excited as their slightly deranged father, for they’re surrounded by the one great thing about going back to school: aisles and aisles of brand new school supplies. Pencils and markers and notebooks, oh my!

New school supplies are the ultimate consolation prize: yes, you have to go back to school, and yes, your carefree days of summer are over, and yes, this year you have Mr. Parker, who spits profusely when he talks and reportedly failed his own daughter eight times, but you also get a fresh set of art supplies in order to help you document and deal with the year’s miseries and moments. Life’s all right, you know?

Shopping for new school supplies was the only thing that helped me deal with the school’s-a-comin’ panic that was ever swishing in my stomach. I treated crayons with a special reverence, due to a Sesame Street segment I’d seen as a child that essentially made crayons seem like the most magical products on earth. Every new box was a box of possibilities: nothing was worn down, missing, or broken. Even the scent was unmistakably new—a scent that, to this day, makes me want to create something. If Yankee Candle ever put out a “New Crayon” scent, I would buy it in bulk.

I also had a special love for Pink Pearl erasers, which I bought every year, even after I stopped using pencils and switched exclusively to black pens, because something about their shape, softness, and scent made them especially soothing to carry around. I also had a habit of stabbing them with pens whenever I was bored, or drawing on them and then trying to imprint the drawing onto my skin. On particularly difficult days, I’d just rip the thing to pieces, bit by bit, until I felt better. You know how some people carry around those stress balls? I carried a Pink Pearl.

Buying a bookbag/backpack/rucksack/knapsack (I think I covered all of them, yeah?) was the only school-supply decision that ever stressed me out. In my family, you got one backpack for the year, and you were stuck with it. It was a lot of pressure, especially in elementary school, when it’s easy to outgrow things overnight. Something that seemed extremely cool in September could be super embarrassing come February or so.
I distinctly remember being unable to sleep one winter night when I was eight, consumed with regret that I’d been so immature the previous fall that I’d picked out a plastic Garfield backpack. Visions of my best friend Kate’s sleek black and neon-green nylon backpack—the kind the cool fifth-graders were carrying—taunted me as I berated myself for being “such a baby” and “not thinking ahead.” After that, I always picked a simple backpack that I could decorate throughout the year, courtesy of stickers, pins, and, by the time I got to high school, Sharpie marker initials, pen-scrawled lyrics, and Wite-Out hearts.

But the majority of new school supplies, of course, bring nothing but happiness: fresh sheets of notebook paper, strawberry-scented markers and pens, Lisa Frank folders covered in unicorns and rainbows. The uncertainty of all that is going to take place between September and June can be hard to take, but the clean spaces, the blank pages, the sharpened tips, all of these things are promises of something good, some future you’re in control of filling in.

By the end of the year, they’ll all be broken, used up, stuffed and bent and ground down. They’re the reminders of all the work you’ve done, all of the stories you’ve written, all of the worlds you’ve created, all of the doodles you’ve drawn, all of the ways in which you made it through another year. When the last bell of the year rings, you’ll dump them from your locker and into the trashcan, and you’ll give your heart to summer. But when it’s time to head back, and you can’t quite steady the butterflies in your stomach, they’ll be there again, helping you face the unknown with a brand-new set of tools. ♦


  • TessaTheTeenageWitch August 28th, 2012 11:32 PM

    The week before going back to school is pretty much what I live for. It’s the best because it’s like Christmas, but PRACTICAL. And It’s a great excuse to collage book covers.

    • kendallkh August 29th, 2012 2:05 PM

      Oh my god, I have been collaging like a fiend.

  • Maggie August 28th, 2012 11:50 PM

    Pixie, your links are the best. That crayon segment was truly hypnotic.

  • Leanna August 29th, 2012 12:08 AM

    I somehow ended up in a store on the last Sunday before public schools started back up last week, calmly walking up and down the aisles, touching each sparkly notebook and crisp folder. Parents and kids were freaking out around me, trying to get everything on their lists. I probably seemed pretty out of place when I picked up a Hello Kitty accordion file (I mean, I’m a 27 year old lady), and a dad asked me “Are YOU going back to school? Or do you have a kid?” In my mind I was thinking “Err, well, I’m an art teacher so…” but actually my love of school supplies has nothing to do with the kids I teach, so I just said “Neither, I just really like school supplies.” The guy gave me a pretty weird look, but hey I have a sweet new Hello Kitty file, so it don’t matter.

  • Leanna August 29th, 2012 12:09 AM

    Also I’m glad that Sesame Street piece on crayons touched someone else the way it touched me as a little one.

  • -alexandra- August 29th, 2012 12:59 AM

    this post just prompted me to go and order almost 2,000 lisa frank stickers online.

    basically, i shouldn’t be allowed to know my mom’s password.

    but STICKERS!!! they are arriving on or around september 6th!!!

    • julalondon August 29th, 2012 4:30 AM


    • dianeisnotmyname August 29th, 2012 5:48 AM

      yeah- I spent some of the money I’ve saved up on Lisa Frank stickers and my mom was like, “Really? These? Are you sure?”

    • TessaTheTeenageWitch August 29th, 2012 6:57 AM


  • asleeptillnoon August 29th, 2012 1:28 AM

    YES! I’m 25 and I still walk through the back-to-school aisles at stores once the end of summer nears. I almost always have to stop myself from buying Lisa Frank products that I know I will never use. School supply shopping and summer reading was the best part of August for me.

  • starpower August 29th, 2012 3:33 AM

    September still fills me with the strong desire to buy supplies!

    I had an American pencil when I was a kid so I used to get Lisa Frank stuff all the time!

    They still make that?

    why don’t I have any?!

  • starpower August 29th, 2012 3:48 AM

    That unicorn picture was the first one she ever sent me!

  • Lucille August 29th, 2012 6:10 AM

    Oh, right now I’m going to buy my new school year’s supplies!
    Love this article, wooo wooo!

  • ♡ reba ♡ August 29th, 2012 6:27 AM

    it’s nice to know there are other people in this world who get as excited about stationary as i do :-)

  • eliselbv August 29th, 2012 7:53 AM

    My favorite supply is by far the datebook! I always buy a simple one and customises it myself. This year I scanned a beautiful edition of pride and prejudice from penguin book and replaced the title by “Year 2012 / 2013″ and Jane Austen by my name.

  • bookworm123 August 29th, 2012 8:15 AM

    I LOVE NEW SCHOOL SUPPLIES. Everything is so crisp, and the pens are full of ink… Then I always love organizing everything. Sadly, I have to wait to go shopping until school starts, because we don’t get lists mailed to us anymore:( Still, SCHOOL SUPPLIES.
    P.S. I think you meant to tag this post with literally the best thing ever, but it is just tagged with literally the. Not sure if that affects anything, or I am just OCD. :)

  • HollieLillian August 29th, 2012 10:24 AM

    Ahhhh this is fab.

    By the end of the school year I always end up just carrying a solitary biro around (probably melted in chemistry by the bunsen burners or half snapped, too, i’m not even talking about a good biro), I won’t even have a pencil case anymore and just will use my blazer pockets because I lose all my pens and stuff throughout the year, scattering them throughout all my classrooms most likely, I’m awful with not losing stuff. So buying school supplies and stationary to replenish is magnificent. I will spend 10 minutes deliberating between two almost identical pens, literally. Decorating and personalising folders and school diaries/planners is also a highlight of summer, despite the looming idea of returning to school that comes with it!

  • Taylor WM August 29th, 2012 11:06 AM

    This is honestly the only thing that helps me cope with the back-to-school feeling of dread… Hahaa Great article! :)
    Taylor x

  • vanguardinspace August 29th, 2012 11:13 AM

    Only positive thing about going back to school: buying school supplies and tearing up magazines to make collages for binder and book covers. I’m actually considering trying to sell them this year because people always compliment mine and say their binders look boring…I don’t think they know how easy it is.

  • clairee August 29th, 2012 12:10 PM

    Yes. This was always my favorite. I loved clutching that list and running through the aisles and grabbing what I needed and checking it off as I put it in the cart. Notebooks were my favorite.

  • aud85220 August 29th, 2012 1:36 PM

    I remember when I was 11, Walmart was selling crayons for 0.25 a pack. I dragged my dad and grandma (who was visiting) to the store and bought (as I remember) 22$ worth of school supplies.

    Also, I’m not even in school (I’m unschooled aka home-schooled (and not the kind that aren’t in school because they’re terrified of gay people or sex ed classes)), but come every fall, I find myself twirling around the aisles of stores caught up in the joys of new Crayola markers. <3

    And I need to tell someone this who will understand my joy – my sister's birthday was at the beginning of the month, and she got one of those toothbrushes that comes with stickers, and my mom gave me the extra stickers. I HAVE STICKERS WITH DIAMONDS AND HORSES ON THEM. OHMYGAWD. I AM THE LUCKIEST 14 YEAR OLD ON THE PLANET (and it's all because of my stickers)!

  • Abby August 29th, 2012 1:37 PM

    CRAYONS. OMFG CRAYONS. Crayons in and of themselves are literally the best thing ever. I’m nearly eighteen and I love crayons SOOO much… I love the texture, the scent, the giant-ass boxes with the sharpeners that were the shit in elementary school… And ALSO, you don’t need Yankee Candle to make a New Crayon scent, because you can MAKE YOUR OWN. Melting crayons into candles is super easy and OH SO FUN. Just google how to do it and revel in the wonderful scent of childhood.

  • Abby August 29th, 2012 1:41 PM

    ALSO, you don’t have to melt crayons to make candles. If you have a bunch of broken crayon pieces, you can put them in those mini muffin tins and melt them in the oven to make a cool-shaped multi-colored crayon. BEST THING.

  • ShakespeareRules August 29th, 2012 3:42 PM

    This is so true, and actually makes we want to go back to school. I totally used to imprint doodles onto my skin from my rubber.
    OK, so I still do.

  • CharlieTR August 29th, 2012 5:52 PM

    Okay so I don’t know where to write this so I’m gonna do this here.
    Your blog rocks. I mean, not in a “meh-not-so-bad”-way, it’s really freaking awesome. I’m french and I’m 21, and I’d love reading a blog like this when I was 13 (Or 14.)(Well, you get it.) and not only because it’s creative, smart, cute but also because it pushes us to be creative, smart
    I read it with pleasure because this is the only blog where nothing is considered like a normality (shape, weight, taste, sexuality, money)(it’s kind of sad to say but, hey, it’s true.) and I can be here and not feel ashamed because I haven’t enough money to buy last prada shoes or because I haven’t the good body or because I don’t like Rihanna.

  • mariaantoniavs August 29th, 2012 9:17 PM

    I couldn’t agree more! I love new school supplies, and by the end of summer I’m supper excited because I’ll get to go buy them! The first couple of months I keep everything organised but after that, it all becomes a mess.

  • SweetThangVintage August 29th, 2012 10:22 PM

    I love this so much! Fresh crayons are the best.

    I made a collage for my ‘everything binder’ this year. ^_^

    You have noooo idea how exciting it was for me to go school shopping for college! I was home schooled. haha

  • MR August 29th, 2012 10:25 PM

    I loved that Sesame Street crayon film short so much that about 6 years ago, I found it on youtube and watched it obsessively over and over until I could play all of the music from it on the piano. Then my sister found the video of maestrojosh of youtube playing it ( and I had a big-time crush, hahahaha!
    This past Christmas, my husband got me a CD of music by the original composer.
    Sorry for the long story, but that crayon short is probably my favorite movie ever. And literally the best thing ever!!!!

  • suriKatka August 30th, 2012 5:04 AM

    There is definitely some kind of magic about stationery departement during back to school! Now it feels so nostalgic, but every time I pass it I still just WANT new set of colored pencils…
    But you were lucky to have 1bag for 1year. I had to carry mine till it literally fell apart. Once my parents talked me (I am like really indecisive) into a kinda cool, but HUGE bag with hard back covered in sort of black soft fabric, which tended to magnetically attract every hair in the room. Mind you, we had a golden retriever. I looked like kind of a hairy beetle with tiny legs sticking under that bag… Oh well, sweet childhood memories :)

  • neenah August 30th, 2012 3:21 PM

    Even though I am long past back to school time, I get nostalgic about my favorite back to school memory:
    My next next door nieghbor was friends with the amazing Lisa Frank (they went to school together). There exists in my family archives a picture of my youngest sister on her lap. Ms Frank is rocking an epic early 90′s mullet.
    As a treat she sent my sisters and I a huge box of stickers, folders, notebooks, pencils, fancy erasers, pens, markers…just about eveything you could ever want. It was magic. My sisters and I went insane opening and dividing up the loot. It was one of the best back to school experiences ever! Even though this was back before Lisa Frank became the household name she is now, so I couldn’t turn anyone green with envy.

  • HypnoPants August 31st, 2012 5:50 PM

    Oh Staples/Office Depot/Office Max/any other store like these that I may have missed, how I love you. Pens and pencils of any type are awesome, especially purple pens, Smencils, and Papermate Flair pens. I could spend all day shopping for school supplies. I love you too, Blick. I’d never forget about you.

  • marengo August 31st, 2012 7:15 PM

    School supplies are my only consolation for going back to school…especially this year, when I learned two weeks ago that I was switching to a private school an hour away for my last year of high school :o

  • Gaby S September 1st, 2012 2:24 AM

    Demeter does make a new box of crayons perfume!

  • stellar September 3rd, 2012 1:25 AM

    i remember the roll-back top of plastic pencil boxes (oblong) that seemed so chock full of fun “stuff” to look at as well as use later –cool, see-thru colored ruler, etc. just so much of a treat to take in all the doodads to play with.
    also there used to be a binder called a Trapper-Keeper that i never found tho they were really popular (but maybe that was why)…the smell of fresh pencils, etc. just the whole sensory experience of back-to-school things!

  • uaresoawesome September 3rd, 2012 7:35 PM

    I AM NOT ALONE. In fact, on Rookie, I’m certain I’ve NEVER been alone. Anyways, I’ve always been addicted to school supplies. I still have my old Lisa Frank genie notebook. it was so freaking psychedelic, I JUST LOVE IT. Too bad I used all the blue and pink pages, though. Great LTBTE :)

  • VivaViviana September 4th, 2012 1:31 PM

    Omg Omg Omg, I just bought a Hello Kitty Multi-ink pen. I looked at it and thought, “THIS is the BEST thing EVER”. And I paid 2.50 for it. And with this pen, I will shape my destiny! I really really hope I don’t lose it, along with my favorite Burt’s Bee’s honey Chapstick.

    Thanks so much for this article/post/thing I just read. I really thought I was the only one or one of a few who got excited for new notebooks, colored sharpies, neon post-its, those tiny colored paper clips, and freshly sharpened Ticonderoga pencils!

    Oh! And Lisa Frank! OMG, Lisa Frank. My fondest memory is falling in love with a 20 dollar back to deluxe school set complete with vibrant folders, gel pens, a key-locked journal, fuzzy topped pens, and stickers galore!

    I’m trying really hard not to buy these right now. Broke college student, broke college student, broke college student….

  • meels September 5th, 2012 3:11 AM

    On my way to the first day of school reading this. I don’t feel well enough equipped