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What Your School Supplies Say About You

I am rerunning this post from a long time ago because we just bought school supplies. The kids and I were talking about decorating binders, and I told them I had vague memories of once writing a post about it. So rather than write this whole damn thing again, I’m running it mostly in full. Because it still holds true: Your binder is like your face; it is the face of your school supplies.


Image: jkfid via Flickr

We just completed school supply shopping; that frantic scramble through the office supply store for reinforcements and lined paper. We have our highlighters and sharpened pencils. I nixed the ChickieNob getting a second stapler as a friend for her first stapler.

As we walked through the aisle, we talked about one of the sole joys of school: decorating your binder*.

There is a science to this. I always wanted a solid coloured one (vs. one with a picture) — so I could write all over it in Sharpie. (I also wrote all over my Keds with ballpoint pen, starting with that rubbery ridge around the side of the shoe and slowly moving onto the canvas when I ran out of space.)

I usually started planning out my binder decorations in the summer. All binder decorations began with a solid base of a 50/50 split between inside jokes with friends (you know, the sort that you hoped someone in class would read on your binder and wonder what it meant and just how much fun you must be to write such crazy, amusing things) and song lyrics. If you planned early enough, before anyone had touched pen to Trapper Keeper plastic, you could coordinate the inside jokes across your binders. The same went for song lyrics. You didn’t want to have the same song lyrics — that would be stupid. But it was nice to have similar song lyrics. Such as two different Violent Femmes songs. Or maybe I’d go with The Smiths and another person would go with The Cure.

You never never never wrote the name of someone you were dating on your binder because (1) your parents wouldn’t buy you a new one if you broke up and you’d be stuck looking at that person’s name all year and (2) even if your parents were crazy enough to buy you a new binder because they felt sorry for you, you’d have to redo all of the song lyrics and inside jokes. So no names of boyfriends/girlfriends.

The other rule of the binder was that you never wrote on someone else’s binder. Writing on their pink rubber eraser — totally within the boundaries of decency. But never on their binder. Your binder was like your face; it was the face of your school supplies. (Secondary only to the paper bag book covers our mothers made for our textbooks which were also decorated within an inch of their life. I cannot even explain the horror of the year my mother purchased book covers instead of folding them out of old grocery store bags. The paper was glossy and everything smeared.)

No one wanted to save their binder because so much changed over the summer. The inside jokes changed. New songs were released. You saw movies and wanted to write a new list of actors and actresses names on the inner flap. Who knows what will be binder-worthy this year? It’s been a long summer.

How did you decorate your school binder/book covers/locker when you were little?

* The twins didn’t laugh at all when I pointed to the wall of three-ringed binders and said, “These must be the binders full of women.” I thought it was pretty funny.  I mean, it wouldn’t have been funny if I had said it in 2012.  But circling back to it in 2015?  That should have won me a snicker.

Side note: Tomorrow is #MicroblogMonday.  Get writing!


1 Charlotte { 08.23.15 at 9:08 am }

I had a denim covered binder, and I wrote The Cure and NIN lyrics on it in black sharpie. My kids like to get the printed duct tape and cover their generic composition books.

2 Working mom of 2 { 08.23.15 at 11:09 am }

I have a sudden memory of peechee folders….

3 Lori Lavender Luz { 08.23.15 at 11:40 am }

Feeling wistful.

My kids just finished their first week of school. Already their planners have friends’ names/doodles on them. Makes me happy to see that. Hopefully the friendships stay intact!

4 Justine { 08.23.15 at 9:34 pm }

I never had a binder like this. At least, I don’t remember it as a ritualistic thing. But I *did* have a Trapper Keeper. And so help you, if you didn’t have the RIGHT Trapper Keeper, you’d start the year being ostracized.

I desperately wished for glossy book covers, and hated the paper bag thing. It made me stand out. But thinking back, I also liked the brown pristine-ness of them … 🙂

I was thinking as I stood in line with my son’s school supplies that this used to be so much easier. Now, the long list of things he needs, and often the store doesn’t even carry … !!

5 Mali { 08.23.15 at 11:17 pm }

Ok, the “binders full of women” was pretty funny!

I love stationery. I hated writing into new books because I wanted them to be new and perfect, and as soon as I wrote something, it wouldn’t be. I wrote about “back to school stationery” in February this year (the beginning of our school year) here – https://aseparatelife.wordpress.com/2015/02/27/stop-a-story-of-stationery-self-control/

I did feel very sad at this throwaway phrase of yours though – “one of the sole joys of school.” Really? I loved getting back to school.

6 Jessica { 08.24.15 at 4:57 am }

I used pretty wrapping paper to cover my binder so I didn’t write on it.

7 Turia { 08.24.15 at 12:35 pm }

I discovered to my horror that E.’s school supplies what they need. (Ok, so this is a good thing that will save me time and money and frustration, but buying school supplies was one of my FAVOURITE parts of back-to-school and I was looking forward to doing it with E.)

I used to draw all over the brown paper textbook covers too. But never my binders. I liked to keep them pristine.

8 JustHeather { 08.26.15 at 5:14 am }

It was rare that we had to cover our books, but I vaguely remember doing it sometimes. As for binders, I did some scribbles on them, but I can’t remember ever coordinating with friends or anything like that. I just don’t think I was cool enough. 😀

9 Geochick { 08.31.15 at 3:04 pm }

I don’t think I ever decorated a binder! Shows how much creativity exists in my brain. :p

(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
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