Feeling Guilty Tossing Out Half-Used Art Supplies

I find writing in my journal with colourful pens to be fun and inspiring! Except that sometimes I tire of the same old colours. And some of the pens don’t glide as nicely over the paper as I wish they would. And some of them are super pale shades and I have to press hard and even then the writing isn’t clear. I keep hoping they’ll run out of ink soon, but it seems the only ones that do so are the ones I like the most.

So when I dug out my box of art supplies the other day, I was elated! I found a set of beautiful, bright, smoothly flowing coloured pens! I was all set to chuck out the old ones when a nagging little voice in my head started to guilt me! Louder and louder…

I started arguing: But I’ve been using these old ones for so long. And I probably bought these beautiful new ones at least 2 or 3 or 4 years ago, and I really should use them before they dry out! Right? No? Okay then, so I won’t throw them out. Maybe I could donate them to the local thrift store? Or save them for when I can, after Covid, start facilitating in-person youth writer workshops again, for kids who forget their own supplies. They wouldn’t mind, would they? Then I wouldn’t feel so guilty, right? Or?

Digging around some more in that box of art supplies, I also found a package of watercolour pencils in bold, brilliant shades! So exciting! So much more gorgeous than the ones I’ve been using for my colouring recently. I mean, here I am, mucking around with a mish-mash of odds and ends from several sets of old pencil crayons, some of which crumble every time I sharpen them, while I have ground still others down to little nubs, and others are just plain ugly colours I never use. I would love to chuck most of them out, and get busy using those new, delightful shades. That seems fair, right? No? There’s that little voice again: nag, nag, nag, guilt, guilt, guilt. Aaagggghhh!!!

Where does this “guilt” come from, anyway? I wonder if anyone else has this problem? Well, it’s true I was raised by parents who grew up during the Great Depression when everything was a luxury, and then they also lived through World War II when everything had to “be saved for the war effort.” In fact, I have a couple notebooks my mom used in school; when they were full, she’d go back to the beginning and write in the margins and headers until there wasn’t a bit of space left. Even many years later, when I was a young adult away from home, and she had access for all kinds of lovely paper, she’d write letters to me on the backs and insides of envelopes, using little pencil stubs. Old habits die hard, I guess … and get passed down the generations, too, maybe?

When I was a child in school in the ‘sixties, students were expected to take good care of their school supplies and make one set of everything last the entire year—and then use the leftovers for homework and arts and crafts the following year instead of getting sets of new supplies for home as well as for school.

I suspect, of course, that writing and art materials were made better back then, and of course we labeled everything and were personally responsible for our own items. Remember scraping your pencils and writing your name on them? And wrapping your books carefully with covers made from the inside of brown paper grocery bags? And being expected to keep the contents of your desk neat and tidy? And keeping your pens and pencils and things in a sturdy wooden or tin box instead of a floppy pencil case?  (What? You aren’t as old as me?). Then we were expected to respect other students’ things—and if we didn’t, we’d be sent to the office where the principal had that long leather strap hanging on the wall… (Okay, so maybe not everything was perfect back in the day, but still…).

Oh my goodness! It’s the 21st century, girl! There’s something to be said for taking care of things. But maybe it’s okay to be just a wee bit extravagant once in a while, don’t you think? All right then! I’m going to take the plunge! Start using my lovely pen and pencil crayons. Toss out the little stubby pencils and the pens that have ink that is hard-to-see and hurt my poor old fingers with all that pressing. And put the rest with a bit of life left in them into a container for future emergency use.

So there, guilty voices! Away with you!

New supplies at the ready! Adventure beckons!