will my taste in office supplies seem weird or unprofessional?

A reader writes:

I’m not in the business world yet, but I figure this will be relevant for when I am: in shopping for supplies to take with me to school, my dad made a comment about “lack of maturity” in my taste and how he was concerned it would hurt my reputation. (As he put it, “you’re going to be the weird girl at the weird school.”) In the future, will things like this really affect my credibility as a worker? I know things like a pencil case that’s also a stuffed sloth is probably too much for a workplace, but what about a bright pink three-hole punch, a glittery notebook and pen, or a file folder which has a snail design on it?

Your dad is being too hard on you! And also rather stodgy.

First of all, you’re not in the work world yet, so why not have fun school supplies, regardless of how they’d play in an office? They sound awesome. And you’re not “immature” or “weird” for liking a stuffed sloth pencil case. I’m middle-aged and I want a stuffed sloth pencil case, now that I know they exist.

Second, there are lots of workplaces where all of these items would be perfectly fine — and even envied! It does depend on the office, and in more conservative ones, I’d avoid glitter and hot pink. But those would be completely fine in other offices, and I feel strongly that your snail folder can hold its own nearly anywhere.

That said, when you’re really junior, it can be better to go a bit more conservative with this stuff. When people already think of you as young and you’re trying to get them to take you seriously, it’s helpful not to reinforce that by showing up to a meeting with a glittery pink notebook.

But once you’ve established yourself as professional and good at what you do, and you’re respected for your work, you can go pretty crazy with more interesting office supplies.

Read updates to this letter here, here, and here.

{ 662 comments… read them below }

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I cannot even begin to express how much I love that this was either the first response or that Alison bumped it to be the first response.

      1. Airy*

        I just followed the link and it was marked out of stock, and boy I hope that was a result of a sudden surge of purchases by keen AAM readers.

        1. Harper the Other One*

          That was exactly what I was thinking! Some Wal-Mart analyst is probably going, “Whoa, what’s with the sudden surge of interest in sloth pencil pouches??”

    2. Clare*

      1) I freaking love sloths, and will need to purchase this for myself immediately
      2) Most of the time workers don’t need to spend their own money on office supplies, so I don’t get why LW’s dad is so worried about this anyway.
      3) Unless LW plans to be a teacher, in which case she will most likely need to buy her own supplies, which sucks, but the upside is it seems like these would be totally fine for a school environment.

      1. Specialk9*

        There’s a wonderful sloth in the Iron Druid series, especially enjoyable in audiobook. Kevin Hearne. (Fun, enjoyable, emotionally healthy, historical, funny)

        1. Camellia*

          Iron Druid! I stopped after the first eight, nine books. I’ll have to get caught up.

          1. Specialk9*

            It doesn’t end how you expect, but it ends in a way that’s unexpectedly healthy. The whole series is like Dresden Files, except for women too.

            1. Gingerblue*

              SOLD. I’ve enjoyed a lot of the Dresden books, but they just keep getting creepier.

              1. Specialk9*

                Yeah, the Dresden Files series creeped me the heck out too, as a woman.

                The Iron Druid series is quietly feminist, despite the protagonist being a guy. It felt weird not to brush up against that subtle gender stuff in a book by male author, but it was really refreshing.

                1. Emmeileia*

                  His new series (Plague if Giants) is awesome too. More than half the POV characters are LGBTQ+ and/or people of colour. (Plus many women). And he writes them all so well!!!!

                2. Gingerblue*

                  PABJ: If you bring it up in the next weekend thread I’ll give you the longer answer (I’m feeling guilty about wandering this far off topic), but the short answer is Molly.

      2. Miss Fisher*

        When I was in Costa Rica, they had these rope lines going all around the trees over streets, etc. It was really cool to watch these sloths use the ropes to ever so slowly cross the street.

      3. MusicWithRocksInIt*

        Yes to #2 – It is very unlikely you will need to purchase most of your own office supplies. You should probably make sure you have a nice black binder to bring with you on interviews once you are ready for that stage. And on the first day of a new you shouldn’t really have to bring any supplies in with you, which you can use to look around and see how personalized other people’s spaces are. You can use that as a guideline for bringing your own stuff into the office. But you will be provided with hole punches, staplers, folders and pens.

        1. Sarah*

          And depending on the office, there’s nothing wrong with personalizing your desk a little more than the average person – my office has had a fair amount of turnover and not a lot of people have decorated their desks. Personally, I have two framed photos, a ton of photos pinned up, lots of colourful post-its, a cute desk calendar, an inflatable flamingo cup holder, and a bright water bottle I keep at my desk. If I’m going to be here anywhere between 8-12 hours/day, I’m going to enjoy my space. As a bonus, it made my grandboss and our CEO really happy that it seemed like I was invested and focused on being happy here. (I work in financial services, but at a small advisory firm, so it’s not quite as stodgy as, say…a bank.)

        2. Red Reader*

          Unless you aren’t provided that stuff, in which case having unique stuff is the only chance you have that other people won’t borrow it all and forget to return it. :-P

          1. GlitsyGus*

            Indeed. You don’t want to sing anything with purple ink or anything (if you’re in a regulated industry you can’t) but a bright purple pen with black ink makes it a whole lot easier to keep track of YOUR pen and stop someone else from taking it with them after they “borrow it for a sec.”

            1. GlitsyGus*

              *sigh* you don’t want to SIGN anything with purple ink. Sing in whatever color you choose.

      4. Marion Ravenwood*

        With regards to point 3, if I was a student and my teacher had a sloth pencil case, I’d think they were the coolest person ever.

        1. many bells down*

          We had an entire Hello Kitty exhibit at the Museum. People walked around for weeks wearing paper crowns with Kitty ears and a bow. Now multiply that by every weird pop-culture exhibit we’ve hosted and … well a sloth pencil case wouldn’t even stand out.

            1. Radical Edward*

              I came here to mention Aggretsuko. She is almost literally living my life (we even take the same train to work…) Ditto not having to buy your own supplies. I have some flashy-but-professional pens because people take their personal writing instruments very seriously in Japan, but otherwise most offices are pretty conservative. Unless you work in the design world, in which case it’s a constant battle of one-upmanship! That pencil case would fit right in!

          1. Mrs. B*

            I love Aggretsuko, and actually have some notepads with her on it that I use when adding notes to things at work but I do take care to use “calm” Aggretsuko ones instead of “rage” versions!

      1. LavaLamp*

        My people! I have a well known stationery habit. My coworkers gift me with cute paper pads and sticky notes. I always use neat pens and I’m a planner addict/ bulletin journaler as well. My desk is also decorated with miniature dioramas in small tins. It works and people really like them.

        1. Formica Dinette*

          “Miniature dioramas in small tins”?! Thank you for bringing these into my life! Do you make them yourself?

    3. Laurelma__01!*

      So cute. I’m an Admin, I wouldn’t even known this was a pencil case if I saw it on a desk. You can creative in your work environment. But be young, enjoy the wild & girly stuff while in college. You’ll have to drop some of it when you first start out. You can have fun with it. I’m in my 50’s, I use cat mugs as pen / pencil holders. Have cat coasters to protect my desk, and cat figures in my window. Some of my co workers have the neatest looking USB’s with creatures. But you can have fun with your mouse pads, etc. There is a neat website out there, “Jane work” something other that has office supplies marketed for women. Expensive, but I love it. Also I have found doing a purple or pink stapler prevents the men from carrying it off. I have black now because my employer let me buy a good model, etc.

          1. ReginaPhilange*

            Those are all super cute but it bothers me that they are “marketed to women.” Gendered products irritate me, though again, I would totally buy this stuff.

              1. SarahKay*

                Now trying not to laugh out loud in front of the whole office. Those reviews are amazing, thank you so much for the link!

      1. mrs__peel*

        My mother (who works in a hospital emergency department) also buys pink and purple pens, because it tends to discourage the male staff from walking off with them, apparently.

        1. Arya Snark*

          I do the same with lighters so my smoker husband doesn’t steal them. Otherwise I’d never be able to light a candle!

        2. misplacedmidwesterner*

          I use pink and purple pens because when I’m taking notes directly onto agendas and print outs it helps me see them quicker than the black pen that blends in, even faster than the blue. Plus I love it.

          I work for government/public institution so I buy my own pink/purple/neon orange pens. Santa often leaves a pack in my stocking too. Plus I have some of the cat in the box post its from santa and a few other silly things like that. It’s lovely and fun.

        3. Specialk9*

          Someone here (I think Overcaffeinatedandqueer?) said she buys pink tools so the guys don’t steal them. Which makes me chuckle.

        4. Just Me*

          I got a hot pink mag light (used when un-jamming our temperamental printer) for the same reason. It is sad how effective it is.

        5. Harper the Other One*

          One of the retail jobs I worked the guys (there were two women sale staff versus over a dozen men) constantly swiped pens from my department because I was organized enough to keep them there and it “took too long” to go to the supply room. I was planning to buy one of those big feather pens people use to sign wedding registries in purple but I left that job before I got the chance.

          1. GovSysadmin*

            A friend of mine used to manage a comic book store, and people kept walking off with his pens after signing their credit card receipts. He ended up getting one of those gigantic novelty pens and keeping that on the counter for people to sign with. It was large enough that no one ever tried to walk off with it.

      2. ket*

        If you want an explicitly feminist with gold edging and pink script message with your office supplies, check out getbullish.com.

    4. Database Developer Dude*

      Oh! My! God!. I’m a 51 year old man, and I want this. OP, tell your Dad to take the stick out.

      1. Specialk9*

        Their dad isn’t wrong, though, for a woman. Exactly what Alison said: generally, go unobtrusive while you’re establishing yourself as competent, then you can start up with the pink, glitter, and sloths. (In some workplaces, though not most, pink glitter sloths are cool from day one.)

        1. Plague of frogs*

          But if Database Developer Dude does it, it opens the door for women to be able to do it!

          I personally like to rock a lot of pink stuff at work and I always have. This goes nicely with the other letter complaining about the 8hr interview. I went through that interview, and survived it , and everyone in my office had to agree to hire me before they made me an offer. Therefore, no one was inclined to question my competence; thus, I could have a pink glitter sloth immediately. Huzzah for the thorough interview!

      2. Elaine*

        I hope that was just hyperbole and you wouldn’t really be that rude. Fair or not, in a conservative organization, pink glitter could absolutely torpedo the reputation of a young woman new in her job. Dad isn’t necessarily wrong about the work environment; I think he just overstated it a bit.

        1. Meg Pie*

          I think that was pretty obviously tongue in cheek. Can we not needlessly attack men who are enthusiastically on board?

          1. Specialk9*

            I’m not sure it’s obviously enough tongue-in-cheek for someone with no work experience though, which is OP. (Not jumping in on the rude part, just saying that we should tell newbies the rules plainly before joking, if we can.)

    5. Michelle*

      We have a sloth skeleton in our museum so I have to get the stuffed version so coworkers will know what it looked like when it was alive. :)

          1. Just Employed Here*

            Hey, it’s not like we’ve had a *sloth* skeleton debate yet… :-)

            (I, for one, would be very curious to see what a sloth skeleton looks like! Boring old human ones are depicted in every biology book ever, but this is something new.)

      1. Marion Ravenwood*

        That’s reminded me of the museum near me that has an inaccurately stuffed walrus as one of its main exhibits. (The museum acquired the skin but didn’t know what a walrus looked like, so stuffed him too much.) He now has his own Twitter account and is on loads of their merchandise – basically he’s their mascot.

      1. Emily S.*

        I just saw that! It must have been all us AAM readers. They have an option to “get stock alerts” — hopefully they get more! ;)

        It’s so darn cute.

        1. Chinookwind*

          I just picture their stock guy wondering WTF is going on with the run on sloth pencil cases.

          1. Just Employed Here*

            They’ll be able to see where the link was where all the traffic came from, won’t they? At this rate, they’ll send Alison a complimentary sloth as a thank you…

    6. A Non E. Mouse*

      Literally LITERALLY clicked on the title so that I could come ask for the link for the sloth and behold! It’s at the top!

      Rock the Sloth, LW.

      1. Just Employed Here*

        I’m not even interested in the darn thing, but I just came to check whether someone had posted a link… I was only surpised by it being the very first post!

        The AAM commentariat strikes again.

    7. frostipaws*

      Looks like the sloth pencil pouch is back in stock. Emergency production run, just for AAM.

    8. Just Another Analyst*

      I can’t even express how badly I want this. I rarely use pencils or pens at my job (mostly just Excel) but I’ll find use for it!

    9. NorthernSoutherner*

      Must…have…sloth…pencil pouch.

      Oh OP, I’m way older but still with you on this! I’ve always had goofy stuff at my desk, even in my very junior days, but then, I’ve always worked in tiny offices with just a few people.

      On my desk today, I have a wand for times when nothing else will get the job done. I also have a rubber shark with a leg sticking out of its mouth. You’re OK, OP; keep that sense of humor, I say. : )

  1. Detective Amy Santiago*

    Your dad is wrong. Full stop. Embrace the fun office supplies. There are so few joys in the working world.

    1. Le Sigh*

      Especially when she’s not even in the workplace yet! I also just kind of hate it when people hew to a rigid notion of “mature” — short hair on older women, dark suits and legal pads only for the workplace, etc.

      Which isn’t to say dark suits and legal pads aren’t fine — I’ve worked in offices where that was the norm, and I followed it. But working in nonprofits for the last 15 years, it’s way more chill. I can wear fun 50s dresses and have a pretty planner, whatever, as long as I’m presentable and professional. Just know the norms of your workplace, esp. when you’re starting out.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Yes. They will have to claw my cute-as-hell stapler and awesome post-its and document flags and all-time-favorite pens and rose-gold planner and Muji highlighters from my cold, dead hands. And I’m in a totally conservative field. OP should live her best life, and if that includes glittery notebooks and pink staplers, more power to her!

        1. SoSo*

          Most of my desk accessories are in shades of white/black/gold/rose gold/silver- all the way down to my thumb tacks! I love metallics and most of my accessories have been gifted to me by friends, family, and even coworkers. If I couldn’t at least personalize my desk with things I like to look at, I’d go crazy.

          You do you, OP. Unless you’re outfitting all your stuff in creepy clowns, no one is going to judge you.

        2. Specialk9*

          I just feel like this is aspirational, rather than recognising that women start from a professional disadvantage, even before adding stuffed animals, glitter, and cutesy stuff.

          And I say this as someone known for my funky retro dresses with pink flamingos, and a girly office. But I ramp all that stuff up slowly, whenever I change a job. I only start once people start saying “oh Special K 9? Oh yeah she knows what she’s talking about.”

          I don’t love the sexism that I’m guarding against, but I’m practical that it exists.

          1. Specialk9*

            Oh, but when in school, do your thang. No need to constrain yourself before you need to.

          2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            I totally agree on ramping it up slowly and being aware of how women are treated vis-a-vis their supplies and office decor. My supplies are quirky, but probably not as cute, glittery, or cuddly as a sloth pencil pouch (although I think it’s totally ok for OP, as they’re a student). I guess what I’m trying to convey is that it’s ok for OP to like these things and to one day have them at work, despite the overall deficits caused by #thepatriarchy.

            But I do think most folks can begin to integrate pieces slowly after they get a sense for the culture of their workplace. I just want OP to know that her dad is not correct in being so absolutist, and she’s not weird.

            1. Zennish*

              You know, if someone was going to be so judgy as to worry about how glittery my pen was, I think that’s something I’d want to know so I could RUN THE OTHER WAY. I’d say rock the glittery office supplies, and think of them as a Geiger counter for uptight a-holes.

              1. Jadelyn*

                If you have the luxury of doing that, I agree. But sometimes, you can’t run the other way (first job and you’re only a few months in, sole provider for the household and jobs in your field are scarce, etc.), and in those circumstances, the distasteful truth is that you may need to cultivate relationships and respect from those uptight a-holes. In which case, unfortunately, it may be necessary to tone down the fun stuff for a little while until you get the relationship/respect established.

            2. MCMonkeyBean*

              Yes, my fashion sense leans somewhat childish and my favorite hairstyle is pigtails and I love nail polish and nail art. But when I started at my job I kept it a little more professional then took notes from the women around me. Now I’ve been here six years and have no qualms about wearing a dress covered in kittens or putting my hair in pigtails.

            3. Lilivati*

              Contrasting POV maybe… I work in defense aerospace, which is notorious for its lack of diversity and its conservative nature. Over the past ten years I’ve learned people who won’t take me seriously in a dress with a funky pen won’t take me seriously in a dowdy suit and my best boring dudebro imitation, either.

              Sexism in the workplace is terrible, and oh boy, could I tell you some stories. But I also think we need to stop pretending we can mitigate it by suppressing our personalities and quirks. It’s not effective, and it breeds insecurity and robs us of everyday joy.

          3. aebhel*

            It depends so much on the field, though. In my field, not a one of those things would make anyone bat an eye. Serious dark suits and plain un-decorated everything would be a little odd; nearly everyone I’ve ever worked with has random geeky/cutesy/oddball stuff in their offices.

        3. SusanIvanova*

          In the tech world, it’s widely known that you keep your hands off other people’s red staplers.

      2. Chameleon*

        I always maintain that the current (terrible) societal definition of adulthood seems to be “pretending awesome things aren’t awesome.”

        I will never think ball pits, pillow forts, nerf gun wars, and yes, sloth pencil cases, aren’t awesome just because they are “childish.” I am turning 40 next month.

        1. Specialk9*

          I only think ball pits are awesome after I chat with the people who clean them. :D


          1. Ophelia*

            My daughter’s (very cheap) playgroup has mandatory parent cleanup sessions a few times a year, and LET ME TELL YOU how fun it is to wipe down every. single. ball. in that pit (it’s only the size of a little wading pool, but holy cannoli).

            1. Kate R. Pillar*

              Corral them in a net and dunk the whole lot in a tub of soapy water? That’s what we do with the 800 balls filling our daughter’s “ball pit in an old travel cot”.

        2. Wealp*

          Yes! Similar to how so many people in the birthday thread thought that birthday decorations are childish! BS!

    2. birthdaycakeismyspirtanimal*

      So “weird girl at the weird school” — weird school? you go to hogwarts?

      I work in the business world, and I can’t figure out what school this could be.
      Gupton-Jones College of Funeral Service ?
      Web Institute (which only offers one option: double majoring in Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering)?

        1. Totally Minnie*

          No. Xenophilius Lovegood would applaud his daughter’s choice of a sloth pencil pouch.

      1. tusky*

        Also, if it’s a weird school, wouldn’t being the weird girl mean being totally “normal” (like it’s a double-negative or something)?

      2. LadyL*

        This thread of “weird schools” mentions both my undergrad and my graduate school, and now I’m quite pleased with myself and my life choices.

        OP, as a weird girl from several official Weird Schools, let me just say that nothing is better than being a weirdo who loves herself. Keep on being your wonderful weird self!

    3. Laurelma__01!*

      OP, is your father one to buy generic / no brands to save money. That might be were he’s coming from.

      1. Lily*

        Eh, I feel like he’s only coming from a place of “‘girly’ stuff is immature and unprofessional”, which is just sexist and disappointing.

          1. RUKiddingMe*

            Oh gods…I got a mental flash of him being a bullying, sexist, asshole and a sharp pain went through my head.

            1. Clorinda*

              I’d prefer to think that he’s seen other men be that way to young female employees and he wants to give his daughter all the possible armor.
              But she’s in college right now! She can get the plain black stapler later. Right now, she can have all the fun.

      2. The Babiest Babyface*

        Hi! I’m the letter writer, and you’re right on it! Dad grew up in pretty significant poverty, so even though we’re financially stable now, things like this still worry him. What’s sort of unexpected though is, all the stuff I bought is generic too! It just wasn’t the cheapest option.

        1. Le Sigh*

          That’s probably it though — to him, the cheaper generic option likely seems just as functional. The fun stuff you like doesn’t bring him the same joy, so he doesn’t see the point or value in spending money on it.

          My dad will spend money on a more expensive option (if he can), but only if he can see a corresponding value that he understands. If more money gets him a super fancy TV, he’ll pass — seems unnecessary. If it gets him a planner that meets all of his many needs, he’s all in.

          But either way, if you can afford it, have fun with it!

          1. Marion Ravenwood*

            That’s my dad, particularly with clothes. He’ll spend £50 on one really good jumper that will last for ages and go with everything, rather than £50 on five less-good jumpers that aren’t as good quality and fall apart really quickly.

          2. Lilivati*

            Hah. Thank you for this- with me it’s my mom, and it just helped me put a lot of things into perspective about her.

        2. birthdaycakeismyspirtanimal*

          Yeah, sometimes ‘the nail that sticks out gets the hammer’ is a tough way to think when you consider ‘the squeaky wheel gets the grease’.

          But ultimately, ‘don’t try to fit in if you want to stand out’

        3. cinnamonroll*

          I think you should go forward doing what you did in your letter. Listen to your dad (whose advice is coloured on his life experiences), but then question if his advice is relevant to your situation, as you are coming from a different place, different time and your challenges and opportunities are yours, and your choices are yours to make.

    4. Saskia*

      I agree, dad is wrong. I reckon he’s just trying to exert some control over LW. Kind of stationary concern trolling, if you like.

      LW, life is too short for boring office supplies. Buy stuff that makes you happy!

      1. Saskia*

        My apologies, I missed the extra comment from LW.

        Please disregard this post. Except for ‘buy stuff that makes you happy!’

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        “…But then, they switched from the Swingline to the Boston stapler, but I kept my Swingline stapler because it didn’t bind up as much, and I kept the staples for the Swingline stapler and it’s not okay because if they take my stapler then I’ll, I’ll, I’ll set the building on fire…”

      2. The Babiest Babyface*

        Hi I’m the letter writer and I know I’m a Teen but I have no idea what any of you are talking about

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          It’s all references to the movie Office Space, which will make you never want to work in an office in your life so be wary of watching it. (But it’s funny.)

          1. The Babiest Babyface*

            Oh gosh! I looked it up, and that movie came out when I was less than a month old!

            1. Autumnheart*


              But you should watch it anyway, not only for the “dysfunctional corporate office” jokes, but also the “dysfunctional customer service job” jokes too. “Here’s my flair!”

              Anyway, Swingline did not actually produce a red stapler at the time, but the movie was such a cult hit that they came out with one, and everybody (in Generation X) basically bought one as a symbol of subtle rebellion against corporate BS in cube culture. 20 years later, now you can (often) have tattoos and/or pink hair and work in middle management. You’re welcome. ;-)

            2. Jadelyn*

              Oh dear gods I feel old now. Darn kids get off my lawn! (Kidding, of course; I’m a millennial, we can’t afford homes with lawns.)

    1. CatCat*

      I got a red Swingline for my desk when I got my current job. It gives me a little joy every time I use it.

      1. Jersey's mom*

        I just found my red “cub” model in the basement. Swiped it from my first job in the late 80’s…….best part of that job…

      1. YB*

        I may or may not have watched that scene several thousand times in an attempt to figure out if the squirrels are “merry” or “married”, with no luck. I guess I’ll have to watch it several thousand more times.

        1. Dr. Johnny Fever*

          The squirrels are married, according to CC.

          I have two red Swingline staplers, given to me as Christmas presents the same year.

      2. Specialk9*

        I’ve met a few people who didn’t love that movie. None if them had ever worked in an office.

        1. whingedrinking*

          I sometimes feel like the only person on earth who actually hated Office Space (I truly found it painful to watch), though I don’t think sixteen year old girls with purple hair were really the target audience. I still haven’t worked in an office, though, so I don’t know if my perspective would have changed fifteen years later.

        2. Kirsten*

          I didn’t really like it despite having worked in an office all through college and grad school. But I did feel a kindred spirit with Milton, because I quit a job last year when my boss decided that she was going to move my office into the supply closet of the most acute part of the locked adult psych unit on which I worked (where no other offices were located). People kept asking me if she was taking my stapler too. I watched the movie at that point to understand the joke, but I think people had raved about it so much that it just didn’t quite live up to my expectations.

    2. Mallory Janis Ian*

      I also have a red Swingline stapler that I’ll burn the building down if anyone takes it. :-)

    3. Fafaflunkie*

      Alas, mine got jammed to thpoint of no return many years ago. Now stuck with some Boston stapler bought from Staples some time ago. Basic black. Rather depressing.

      1. Fafaflunkie*

        “the point…” Being on mobile commenting on this site is atrocious. I type 2 words/minute due to this editor’s awful rendering. Is this a WordPress thing?

    4. NotAnotherManager!*

      One of my team bought each of their coworkers an artist’s rendering of Milton and his red Swingline. They’re displayed in nearly every cube on that team.

  2. melting*

    I, too, want a sloth pencil case! Not that I’m ever organized enough to keep pens/pencils in a case at work. It would be a cute desk buddy.

    1. OhNo*

      Right? I want one too, and not even for my pencils. I just want an excuse to have a cute sloth on my desk!

    2. Alex the Alchemist*

      Agreed. If the LW comes back for an update, can I also request a link to where I can get this sloth pencil case please?

            1. Specialk9*

              It really really is. Those huge eyes!

              My son has this stuffed sloth. As a baby, he was instantly terrified of it and cried when it got too close. Now he loves “Sloffy”.

          1. Spoooons*

            Oh, WOW! That is ridiculously adorable. I’m in the UK and I’m now considering buying one – UK shipping costs and all.

            Letter writer, you go for it! And in the working world, depending on your office culture, still go for it. For sure in my office it’d be entirely acceptable. We have a plushie unicorn at our daily meeting, given to anyone with a reporting deadline that day – nothing like a pink and white unicorn sitting on your desk watching you to remind you to Submit the report.

            1. UK office drone*

              there are a ton of different ones (think fabric with little sloths all over, for example) on UK ebay. I predict sloth pencil cases will be selling out all over the place in the next few days.

              (“Do you remember the great sloth pencil case bubble of ’18?” — we will be asking one another in the future).

              1. Spoooons*

                There are, but the one linked to is a furry one with the most adorable big eyes, and sadly I can’t see anything similar on UK eBay.
                And Walmart doesn’t look like it wants to ship theirs to the UK :(

                1. Siobhan*

                  I strongly advise making friends with someone in the US and doing gift exchanges. You’d be amazed what an American will do for a jelly baby :D

                2. ihearditbothways*

                  I am in the US and willing to do an exchange. I am putting my email in my handle.

                3. RUKiddingMe*

                  Cadbury sells these chocolates that I have a hard time getting in the US. I have a Walmart just down the street. Just saying…

                4. Spoooons*

                  I would definitely be up for a swap, you are all awesome. Ihearditbothways, I’ve just tried emailing you at (hopefully) the correct email address…fingers crossed!

    3. Agent Diane*

      One of the positives of hot desking (yes, there is one) is I started using a pencil case again to keep my essential pens in my work bag. I wouldn’t go with a stuffed sloth, simply as it’d take up too much bag space, but I love my neon geometric bag!

      1. hermit crab*

        Oooh, I love this idea. I am starting a new job next week and they apparently don’t have a permanent workspace for me yet — time to get a cool pencil case!

    4. Thursday Next*

      OP, are you a covert operative for the sloth pencil case industrial complex? Because judging by these comments, they’re going to sell out!

  3. Wannabe Disney Princess*

    Yup! When you’re starting out, I wouldn’t show up with ALL of that on the first day. But after you’ve been there for a while (and have a read on the office and its culture!), start bringing it in. I started slowly with a coffee mug and a water bottle. From there, I’ve added other personal touches to my cube.

    My company buys all the office supplies. But if they didn’t? You bet it’d be stuffed sloth pencil cases and glittery notebooks ahoy.

    1. Kyrielle*

      This. So very much this. My windowsill currently has a few toy cars/helicopters on it (themed, related to a previous job) and a mini gargoyle with a laptop that my parents gave me. (For a while it has a bunch of Peanuts characters from McDonald’s, but they weren’t as amusing once the other coworker who liked kitsch resigned to take a position elsewhere, so they went back home to my kids.)

      1. Curious Cat*

        Me too! I color code e v e r y t h i n g and buy my own fine point colored pens since my office doesn’t supply those specifically.

          1. Jadelyn*

            Same! My organizing folders are blue, purple, and teal, and I bought a set of fine-point multicolor dry erase markers so I wouldn’t have to use the chisel tip black that was provided. Also rainbow highlighters.

          2. RJ the Newbie*

            Ditto to both. I need multicolor Uni-Ball pens and purple folders. And now, apparently, a cute sloth.

      2. Amber T*

        Yep, I have no problem asking for fun color post its or bright color (plain) file folders, but I have brought in my own fun/unique items to decorate my office or use on my own. Other than the occasional unique coffee mug, most fun items don’t leave people’s personal spaces though.

      3. Anona*

        Ditto! For Christmas a couple of years ago I decided I wanted to personalize my supplies. I have a gold stapler, gold scissors, and a gold business card holder now.

      4. Jadelyn*

        Same – I’m unbelievably picky about pens (must be 0.5mm, gel ink, capped rather than clicky-type, and blue ink), so I buy my own pens. And then put the fear of me into people who borrow them, so they know they better not walk off with them or I will come find them and get my pen back!

      5. zora*

        I’m the admin in charge of buying supplies, and while I don’t have an unlimited budget, I have been finding the basics in at least some bright, solid colors for basically the same price as black. No reason why our desks can’t have some color on them, we’re not an investment bank, even if clients see them, I can’t imagine them thinking less of us as professionals because we have lime green scissors or a bright orange calculator.

      6. Bea*

        I’m cheap AF with company funds. It comes with being in charge of said funds. So I buy my own as well. I show up with a pencil case of my basics for each new position.

      7. Beancounter Eric*

        I supply my own writing implements.

        Uni Power Tank 0.5 ballpoint from Japan, Mach Campus 0.28 rollerball from South Korea, Pentel Sharp Kerry 0.7 pencil, and a Fisher AG-7 SpacePen in fine point. My writing is no neater with these than with a BiC Cristal, but I like them and won’t ask the office to supply them. And don’t even think of asking to borrow them…..I’ll lend you one of the 10 for a dollar ballpoints I get at the dollar store.

        No sloth pencil case, though…..might have to look for a hedgehog, though.

    2. Say What, Now?*

      My office buys many of our supplies but I also bring in items that I like to punch it up. I don’t even have a window in the room my cube sits in so I absolutely have no qualms about a t-rex post-it holder. I also have a velociraptor cup from the Jurassic World promo line. People just smile because they know I love dinosaurs. Once you’re established in position and personality you’ll be smiled at, too.

      1. Anon for now*

        Nice! I have some of the dinosaurs from the Jurassic World line next to my desk. They make people smile.

        1. Chinookwind*

          My paperweight is a Funko of Roz from Monster’s Inc which I bought when I heard myself nagging people for paperwork. The welder’s and shippers all love it.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Yup, this is me. I definitely buy my favorite supplemental office supplies, including “quirky” supplies.

        OP is in school. Her dad is being unnecessarily harsh (who tells their child their supplies are weird, so they’ll be ostracized??). I say glitter and pink it up as much as you want! When you start working, depending on your industry, you can slowly bring in your favorite/quirky supplies. I mean, don’t write in pink/purple ink on work documents and shared notes, but go to town, otherwise. I think people who are conservative re: supplies are just jealous that folks with fun supplies are deriving enjoyment from their workspace.

        1. Beehoppy*

          My most recent gig was at a financial planning firm and I used my purple pen for almost everything. Including signing my resignation letter.

    3. Ann O'Nemity*

      Right. Check things out first. Then figure out what you still want or need. It’s not like school; most office jobs don’t require you to bring all your own supplies. You can if you want, but follow the culture cues.

      For example, I wouldn’t buy a three-hole punch when my work provides a bad ass commercial grade one. But I buy gel pens because I hate the standard issue Bics that my office gets. My coworkers would love the sloth pencil case, but other offices – especially conservative ones and especially if you’re seated in a public area – have restrictions on what you can put on your desk.

      1. EddieSherbert*

        +100 to gauge the environment first in your jobs.

        In my previous company, is was very ‘business professional’ and the intern with hello kitty everywhere in hr cube and old converse shoes she colored with a sharpie was totally judged.

        That would pretty much be normal in my current office (or at least not stand out among everything else!).

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          I work in legal, which tends to be very conservative; however, one of the C-level people had a large, beautifully framed piece of Hello Kitty art on her wall and no one said anything about it (but she was also amazing at her job). Attorneys would actually bring her little bits of Hello Kitty swag they found on business travel.

          Despite being a fairly staid environment (glitter notebooks or pens are probably a no), people still have more colorful supplies, interesting office decor (particularly on the intellectual property floor – one attorney did a case about sippy cup valves and had nearly every brand of cup on a shelf in her office and would explain to you whose design was best and why), and opportunity to personalize. One guy who’s now retired had a Pez dispenser collection spanning the entire history of the product in his office in a fancy display case.

      2. Beehoppy*

        My office provided an electric three-hole punch, and I still swiped a hot pink one from a woman who was leaving just to have on my desk.

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      My first thought was that usually your company buys the office supplies, so this won’t come up.

      More nuanced on top of that–when you are introducing yourself to a new environment where you want people to focus on your skills, limit it to one statement piece. If their first impression of you is going to be your pulling pencils out of a sloth, other details about your accessories should probably be less exciting.

      So new person with a troll doll in their pocket: Weird.
      Keisha, the person who can make the software sit down and behave, is today wearing a jacket comprised solely of troll dolls: Ask her if she can fix the printer.

      1. Specialk9*

        This is perfect.

        Though I still would hold off on the troll doll until people knew me, and I had a read on the culture.

    5. Dragoning*

      My company lets us pick out whatever on Staples. I mean, obviously, we can’t go crazy, but I’ve never been given a budget and they certainly wouldn’t blink at a bright pink notebook.

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        Tape dispenser that looks like a cat playing with a ball of yarn…

        Even if I worked for someone else or had a corporate gig I would still have some of the stuff I use on a daily basis. Aaannnddd I quite like when staff personalizes their areas. As long as they don’t go all Penelope Garcia about it, I’m fine with troll dolls and unicorns here and there.

        1. Specialk9*

          Is it bad that my Google search of Penelope Garcia had me going “ooooh!” more than “ooh no that’s too much”? Just her outfits though.

          1. Marion Ravenwood*

            I’d say no. But then I basically take all my fashion cues from Penelope Garcia and Bernadette Rostenkowski-Wolowitz, so I may not be the best person to ask…

            I’d totally decorate my desk like Garcia’s too if we didn’t hot-desk at my place (although my desk at home isn’t that far removed from hers!).

        2. RES ADMIN*

          I have that one too! And the Post-It note holder that matches. :)
          There is also a pink Hello Kitty cup on my desk and at least one bejeweled notebook… and an Easter chick that lights up if you bop it on the head…

    6. FTW*

      I always say you have to show you know the rules before you can break them.

      When you are more senior, your level confers you know the rules. When you are junior, you have to demonstrate it first.

      I would start with one ‘weird’ thing, and add slowly. You want to be the new person with the cool pencil case, not the new person with all the weird crap.

  4. Annie*

    I’m a professional writer with a play on in the West End and I bring sequinned and glittery notebooks into rehearsals and writer’s rooms. Dgaf.

    1. AdAgencyChick*

      I also do glitter or fun print notebooks. Not only are they fun, it sure makes my notebook easy to find when I leave it in a conference room by mistake!

      1. Curious Cat*

        So true – I’ve left one of my Lilly notebooks behind in a meeting room and had someone bring it back to me later when they found it!

      2. Safetykats*

        I have all my references in flowered binders. I find that in my mostly male office they are less likely to walk when they aren’t generic black or white. Back in the days when we routed documents for manual signatures I also had a nice stock of flowered folders; everyone knew which document was mine.

    2. Specialk9*

      Creatives have a whole different set of rules. I feel like you might get judged if you were too corporate and not out there a bit. (Just guessing though)

    3. Mad Baggins*

      From my desk I spy a Disney character thermos, a dog-shaped calendar, (both mine), ballet-themed thermos, two panda pencil cases, a seashell, a tiny Godzilla with a bow, a stuffed animal keychain attached to a phone, a Disney mug, another keychain attached to a phone, two more stuffed animals… this is a male-dominated office and yes many of these are owned by women, but there’s no rule you need to own BLACK BUSINESS SUPPLIES FOR BUSINESS in an office!

    4. Marion Ravenwood*

      Off topic, but what’s your play called? I’m in London and a big theatre fan so would be keen to see it!

  5. Youngin*

    This letter and response made me smile. I think we take ourselves a little too seriously sometimes and Allison’s response was awesome. Enjoy your fun supplies! I so wish that I could buy new stuff, especially a stuffed sloth pencil case.

    1. I'll think of a clever name later...maybe.*

      At the last Parent/Teacher conference at my kids school they had a Scholastic Book Fair and I bought the most fun pen. It’s an owl’s head and when you squeeze it the eyeballs kind of bug out a bit. I love this pen and kept it long after the ink was gone just for the squeezing part. I love fun office supplies and desk decor. I currently have little pokemon and disney toys all over my desk…and I work in health insurance.

  6. ThatGirl*

    My office supplies are fairly ordinary, but my desk is decorated with multiple Timid Monster figures, a Hannibal Funko Pop, a few stuffed animals, a calendar with photos of my dog, and a framed picture of the dog (who is named Link) drawn to look like Link from Legend of Zelda. It very much reflects me and is awesome.

      1. Opting for the Sidelines*

        Lego Architecture here.

        Plus every weird, unusual, and awesome note-card sized artwork I can buy on Etsy.

    1. Becky*

      List of random things I have seen on coworkers desks:
      3 inch long 3d printed Zelda Master Sword
      Miniature German Cuckoo Clock
      Kylo Ren and Captain Phasma Funko Pop
      Miniature zen garden
      Semi-precious stone collection
      Magnetic toys
      3d wooden puzzles
      Thinking putty

      1. not really a lurker anymore*

        I have the Doctor Who Lego Dimensions Cyberman and Dalak on my desk, along with a bunch of kid toys. If I put my kids stuff in my purse and it’s still there when I’m digging around in my purse at work, it goes on my desk for a while. Right now there are at least 4 packs of restaurant crayons!

    2. Lindsay J*

      I’ve got a bunch of model planes (plastic snap together and diecast) an old camera, a leather box that I put change in, a little tree with crystals on it, a balloon from the Paris casino, a Post It dispenser that looks like a Polaroid, some branded mugs from suppliers, and a pretty mousepad and desk calendar.

    1. Naptime Enthusiast*

      Oh good, I’m not the only one thinking it! Apparently it’s a plush at Walmart.

  7. Mediamaven*

    I would say in an open office floorplan it can be a good idea to be somewhat conservative with how you add personal touches to your workplace. Some people in our workplace are a little excessive with glittery items and toys on their desks and it’s not the most professional or mature look when we have clients or partners in the office.

    1. Seriously?*

      Although I think amount also matters. Having one or two items that are more interesting is almost always fine, even in an open office floorpan.

    2. Antilles*

      It’s really about the amount, I’d say. Even in open office plans and conservative workplaces, you can usually get away with a couple of personalized touches…it’s when your desk is all toys or glittery items that people start to raise their eyebrows.

      1. UK office drone*

        however, dear OP, please note that this means, there are multiple people who have done it to serve as the ‘to be avoided’ role models. So you wouldn’t be the first.

        (I hope you are sharing these replies with your dad.)

        1. Chinookwind*

          Yup. Don’t be my friend who covered her cubicle completely in ladybug stuff. True, it was easy to find her on the floor and definitely showcased her quirky personality, but it didn’t shout “professional judgement.” If she had stuck to a more subtle, ladybug theme that still allowed you to see the cubicle surface and wasn’t distracting, it would have been another story.

          It is like fashion accessories – add a few bits at a time until it seems too much and then remove a few.

    3. Anon4This*

      An intern’s desk is currently in front of me hosting a complete wall-paper job of personal photos. No less than 10 stuffed animals, and practically every piece of her office supplies is bedazzled. It’s just too much and it makes it hard to take this woman seriously. To clarify, if she just had a couple quirky things I don’t think it would be a big deal.

      I agree it looks really fun, but its also signaling to management that she doesn’t have great judgement. Not exactly the message you want to send when trying to get hired on after graduation. You can always save the fun designs for your home office.

    4. CMart*

      Yep! And it’s definitely “know your office/floor/area”.

      I’m in finance and accounting and used to be located on the same floor as the C-suite. Cube decor was tasteful and our “business casual–yes you can wear jeans and gym shoes every day kind of casual” dress code was much more “businessy”. It was something I was warned about when I started. Didn’t want the CFO to think we aren’t serious.

      I’ve since moved desks to a different floor surrounded by Marketing and HR and my goodness is life more comfortable and cheery here. Lots of plants and random toys or other fun things decorating people’s cubes, far more cubicle walls covered in family photos, and way more jeans/polos/open toed shoes. A glittery pink stapler wouldn’t be out of place in the least here, but it would have been in my other cube.

      1. Bea*

        I look forward to being a CFO without this uptight crappy personality. I take financial operations serious and internally am kind of cutthroat business wise. But for fks sake, wear flip flops and collect rainbow teddy bears, I’ll take you serious.

      2. Teapot PR consultant*

        In one open plan office I went to, the PR department could be spotted across the floor because of their glitterball.

    5. RUKiddingMe*

      Yeah, being judicious is key. I mostly meet clients off site, but I’ve never had anyone complain, freak out, or even comment in a negative way at all when they’ve been in the office and seen things. “Oh wow the *CEO has a Hello Kitty paperweight…how cool is that?”

      I’m not really a CEO exactly. We are an LLP not a corporation (that may change) but basically I function as the CEO, COO, CFO…basically I *am* the C-Suite. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    6. zora*

      True, I would say the quantity does matter. I said above that I purchase brightly colored supplies for our office, and no one in our company feels it’s unprofessional to have some colors on our desk, or a couple of personal items. But I would definitely keep the quantity to the standard in the office. And I think there’s a difference between fun versions of office supplies you are actually using (stapler, scissors, pens, notebooks) and having a cubicle covered with pink items when no one in your office displays personal items at all. There is a bit of a “know-your-office” element, where you want to make sure you don’t stick out as being way different from every other person. But if everyone has a few things on their desk, you can have a few glittery things without seeming out of place.

    7. SKA*

      Open offices don’t always mean conservative desk decor, though, either. (So, OP, you don’t necessarily have to cringe if you see one on future interviews… well, not for this reason anyway.)

      My company has an open area (and we have an office where customer visits almost never happen), and the eccentric decor has gone beyond the desks and extended to items suspended from the ceiling.

  8. Meliza*

    My parents are also very conservative (and a bit stodgy, if we’re being honest) and my mom constantly hassled me about my clothing and jewelry choices for work when I was fresh out of school. It was never an issue then, and continues to not be an issue today. It’s one of those things where I mentally roll my eyes at them and just keep on doing what I want. You’re fine! I, too, am very interested in this stuffed sloth pencil case.

    1. RUKiddingMe*

      I think some of it is generational:

      “In my generation we wouldn’t think about doing/wearing/displaying XYZ ergo it must be the same forever and ever, amen.”

      Kind of similar to the job seeking advice parents give their kids that doesn’t really resonate in the modern business world.

  9. Aurion*

    For both my professional outfit and my work desk, I only have 1-2 “fun” pieces. 1 if it’s really noticeable, 2 if it’s relatively subtle. So for example, I could have one hot pink, glittery lanyard with Hello Kitty all over it, or I can have a black pen with Mashimaro clip and a sterling silver Mickey Mouse silhouette necklace. Everything else will be conservative and mature.

    Now, I dress casual (because my office is awesome) on normal days and this side of stodgy on important days, so I’m not exactly at the cutting edge of fashion. You definitely do get more leeway on quirky things when you’re more established in a workplace, but it’s good to be mindful of your optics, especially as a newer entrant trying to establish themselves as an adult professional.

    For the record, I currently have a fist-sized, round Mickey Mouse plushie that doubles as a stress ball. The entire rest of my desk is professional (and messy, ha).

    1. Opting for the Sidelines*


      My work and office are conservative. My method of being fun is, in the summer, get the brightest most unusual colored toe nail polish possible when getting a manicure. (It’s a fun test to see who has the guts to comment.) In the winter, I wear the wildest and crazy socks I can find. No one can really see them, but I know they are there.

      You have to find fun and make fun where you can.

  10. TheWonderGinger*

    *sips coffee out of her heat activated Wonder Woman coffee mug*

    Like someone else said, I’d introduce your personal touches slowly but overall they are a great way to connect with people and be memorable. Like, Oh Suzie Q from accounts? The one with the sloth pencil case? Yeah, she really helped me on that last project.


    1. Alex the Alchemist*

      Yes! I had a boss who had a map of Middle Earth as her chosen office decor which I thought was amazing!

      1. TheWonderGinger*

        There is also a sign on the outside of my cube that says, and I quote,

        “She’s beauty and she’s grace, she’ll punch you in the face…

        And then turn around, trip over her own feet and fall upon her face”

        Again, I wholeheartedly embrace owning your quirks. They make you memorable.

        1. Specialk9*

          I think I love you.

          And your mug – is it black when cold and Wonder Woman only appears when it’s hot? Or is she doing a Clark Kent in regular clothes when cold?

          Also where can I get one?!

          1. TheWonderGinger*

            I have two, this one is blue and gets a pink fill up bar when it’s hot that aligns with a graph that says Shhhh, then Almost There, and then Wonder Woman at the bottom.

            My second has check boxes for tiara, lasso, and coffee. The coffee check box fills in when hot.

            Target, my friend. They get all my money.

      2. LSP*

        My old boss had a “DeMotivational” poster of a Storm Trooper holding his head in his hands with the words, “Regret. Those were the droid you were looking for.”

        For his birthday one year, the whole team each pitched in $5 and got him a picture of Bane from The Dark Knight Rises with Tom Hardy’s autograph. (He was both a huge Chris Nolan Batman fan, and a Tom Hardy fan.) He keeps it in his office.

      3. Jadelyn*

        My grandboss got me a Marauder’s Map soup mug for Christmas a couple years ago, and I use it all the time to heat up my lunches. Moving up the corporate ladder doesn’t mean losing your sense of fun or your nerdy tastes!

        1. Marion Ravenwood*

          I have a Marauder’s Map heat sensitive mug too! It starts with ‘I solemnly swear I am up to no good’, then turns into the map with heat, and says ‘mischief managed’ at the bottom of the cup. A friend got it for me as a birthday present last year and I use it almost every day.

    2. Elemeno P.*

      I work in a theme park so toys all over desks are the norm, but… *sips tea from mug from Rival Theme Park*

      I also have unicorns as a desktop background, which shows when I end presentations. My position requires me to be kind of stern with people sometimes, so I like to show that I’m actually a fun person and they can ask me things without fear.

      1. SometimesALurker*

        Elemeno P, “sips tea from mug from Rival Theme Park” is my favorite line of today.

    3. asleep or maybe dead*

      Once I became financially independent my quirkyness grew exponentially. And it helps my softspoken self to be somewhat more memorable.

      I also work at a somewhat conservative environment, but you’d be surprised how much weird stuff you can carry as long as you tone down the color saturation and texture. Try changing shiny plastic-y to linen, leather, matte or grain finnish and everything looks elegant.

  11. Katastrophreak*

    Almost every desk at OldJob had a PopFunko at it, ranging from Harry Potter Potter to Deadpool, so… glitter it up. (I had a picture of Nicholas Cage on my cube wall, everyone loved it. )

    1. Mockingjay*

      A few years ago, my cubemate and I built a shrine to Michael Jackson. She put up a monthly calendar of him and I strung multicolored Christmas lights around it.

      (We’re still pissed about Facilities making us take the string down because it was a “fire hazard.”)

    2. CMart*

      I knew I was going to fit into my new team just fine when I moved all my things from my old desk and saw my Linda Belcher (Bob’s Burgers) figure would have company with my colleague’s Obi-Wan and my new boss’ Voldemort

    3. Hello Sweetie*

      I have a Fuzzy microbe (Mad Cow Disease), a 3D printed Groot (adult version, I plan to get baby Groot soon) and a Charles Darwin finger puppet. I also always have “fun” books next to my scientific text books (Cartoon Guide to Genetics and Flatland).

      1. Red Reader*

        I have had a plushy MRSA (he has a cape, because he’s a SUPERBUG) on my desk for the last fifteen years. At hospitals. :)

        1. TheLiz*

          Me too! I split a Petri dish of the minis with friends, then took it with me to visit a hospitalised friend. (Who is fine, and thought it was pretty funny).

  12. Murphy*

    This has swayed my decision on whether or not to use my T-rex with headphones notebook as my next work notebook.

    1. uranus wars*

      I have a few Captain America notebooks. My kleenex boxes are Avengers – I bought a 3 pack.

    2. Totally Minnie*

      I worked with kids and teenagers at a previous job. We did a back-to-school program where the kids could decorate their own school supplies. This was when the Vampire Diaries was in its very early seasons, and one of my sample pieces was a spiral notebook covered in pictures of Damon Salvatore that I had cut out of Entertainment Weekly. I took that notebook to meetings with my department head on a regular basis and she liked it so much she asked me to make one for her with pictures of Stefan.

  13. HMM*

    I LOVE stationery and office supplies. While I don’t always *use* them, I do love looking at them and they bring me joy. Plus offices usually buy terrible pens (and notebooks, and highlighters, etc.) , so I just bring my own.

    Going to work in most places doesn’t mean being devoid of personality! I’m in a role where I’m working with lots of different people and if, when people see my sloth pencil case, they warm to me slightly, then it’s probably worth more than the hypothetical negative points I’d get for my “lack of maturity”.

    Get them. Enjoy them. Work is hard enough as it is, why not make all the optional pieces fun?

  14. Curious Cat*

    Your taste in office supplies sounds fun and gives you some personality! I am a very devoted fan to all supplies themed Lilly and it’s all bright, flowery printed fun. I’ve received many compliments from coworkers on the notebooks and planners I take to meetings! When clothes often have to be professional and standard, why take away one of the only things that you can express yourself with in the workplace?

  15. ihearditbothways*

    I had to google stuffed sloth pencil case and found a site with a bunch of different animals. I want the dinosaur.

    I have an alligator pencil case at work – he isn’t very useful for pencils/pens but I have him as decoration. I also have a labbit (he changes his smile as I feel like it) and a bunch of small zombie figures that slowly are making an incursion on my desk. Whenever i get something cute from a kinder egg it just goes on my desk somewhere. I don’t think it is a problem…. but i have been here about 20 years. I would play it a little safer starting out and keep an eye on what other people are doing. but also there is nothing saying you can’t have those things at home.

  16. Kir Royale*

    One of our technical officers ordered new tall red transparent plastic chairs for the science lab instead of stools, the window trim was painted red to match, and the workstop was re-finished in a sparkly granite. Unfortunately, the red plastic is cheap and cracking, so they will need to be replaced in the near future with boring stools. However, all the tour groups come through that lab as the big showpiece. Maybe there will be painted wooden stools next time? She also gave me the go ahead to get hot pink and bright green waste bins.

  17. Just Me*

    I work in an office and while there is one co-worker who rolls her eyes at my awesome geeky pencils, notebooks and cases, I get many more compliments and have even converted the owner of the company who now likes to bring his geeky purchases in to show me. Enjoy your supplies and have fun with it! Life is too short for blue Bics.

    1. Emelle*

      “Life is too short for blue bics”

      I think you just wrote my life motto that I didn’t even know I needed.

  18. Rocket Engineer*

    Personalized office products are the tiny things that make the office more enjoyable. I would probably nope out of a place if I was told I could not use my purple pens and purple file folders.

    1. Rocket Engineer*

      We also have coworker who won the NASA safety award that drinks out of Chewbacca coffee mug that has sound effects. It’s the best!

    2. It's Pronounced Bruce*

      Yeah, I was gonna say– I have worked in a couple places where having any amount of colorful or quirky stuff at your desk would get you judged, and those places suuuuuuucked.

      I’m not colorful, I don’t like having decorations or nicknacks in my office, and you know… A place where people will actually judge your personal competence and judgement based on you liking embellished items? Sucks even if you don’t! Because as you may guess, having people placing that level of scrutiny and rigidity on you from all angles at all times is really, really unpleasant.

      People will play the “it shows you’re not reading professional norms” card, but let’s be totally honest. Not giving people the wiggle room to have a pink notebook without you affixing layers of meaning to it is dumb and probably toxic. I personally like going to work without being turned into a semiotics study by the rest of the office.

  19. Robbie*

    Your only mistake is not sending us a picture of the sloth pencil bag, because that sounds adorable.
    I agree with the others. A few adorable office items is totally fine, except in the most conservative of offices. My mom was an office manager at a big company for years and she kept a tiny teddy bear on her table (it was the subject of a few pranks. But I digress).
    There is also the added bonus of not mistaking your supplies with someone else’s, or vice versa.

    1. uranus wars*

      I think even in the most conservative offices you could still get away with a fun pen or coffee mug, don’t you think? I mean maybe not a talking Chewbacca but……

  20. Jane*

    I have a flowered mouse pad and matching drink coaster. A pale blue ceramic business card holder. A flowered inbox. A pineapple patterned cell phone stand. I’m in my 40s. Director-level. No one cares.

  21. IL Jim P*

    I think the only time any decoration or personal item is weird is if you cover your entire desk on the first day or first week. It feels like that’s more important than the job but after that bringing stuff in over time is what makes work tolerable.

  22. Lizzy*

    I’m suddenly wondering how many other people after reading this letter also started google searching for the Sloth pencil case?!
    There is no reason to try to grow up to fast. And no reason to feel bad about being “the weird one”. When my tween starts complaining that people find her weird we tell her “You are. You came from weird parents, so what else could you be but weird?” And some of my best friends have been “weird”. Enjoy what you enjoy, and don’t worry about what your dad says.

    1. Daisy Avalin*

      The phrases in our family are: ‘Weird isn’t wrong, it’s just different.’ and ‘Everybody’s weird to somebody else.’ I grew up with the phrase ‘Normal is relative’ (and my family is the example of the end of that phrase – ‘And mine aren’t’!) and have encouraged Child to explore what interests her without caring what people say/think.

  23. That Is All*

    I have a stapler on my work desk shaped like a shark and it makes me smile every day.

    1. Elemeno P.*

      Is it a full-size stapler? I have an otter tape dispenser and really want a fun stapler, but the only ones I can find are mini staplers. I have glitter tape on my stapler instead, but…it’s not the same. :(

    2. LBG*

      I have a laser pointer shaped like a shark (with a laser attached to its head). I rarely need to use a laser pointer, but it amuses me.

          1. Thlayli*

            Haha that was an autocorrect! It was supposed to say “I want”. I hadn’t even noticed.

        1. Anonymosity*

          I think it’s a ThinkGeek product. Or it was–don’t know if they still have it.

          1. Thlayli*

            I had not heard of this company! Thank you! They are out of that product but I am totally asking for some of their stuff for my next birthday

  24. Melissa*

    I have been in a Fed job for a decade, am 31 years old, and my notebook that I carry into meetings with political appointed leaders has animated dinosaurs on it. You do you!

    1. Asbv*

      I came here to say something along the lines of what you wrote.

      I work in Congress. I have a bright pink arc notebook that I take with me to meetings. The business card holder I keep in my bag is rose gold as is the planner I use for *everything*. The penholder at my desk is white with colorful polka dots. I use fountain pens, sometimes with colorful inks for note taking when I am the only one who will see them, everything else I type. I wear red lipstick often. Do people take me less seriously because of this? Not one bit!

  25. Minocho*

    I have a cup with a bright purple top. On the side is picture of a persian kitten, color retouched to be rainbow colored, with a unicorn horn. And stars. And the very professional phrase “You are as special as a cat-i-corn”.

    I am a middle aged professional software developer, and respected among my peers. I didn’t start with the cat-i-corn cup. But after a year, it is now here to stay.

    Long live the CAT-I-CORN!

    1. SkyePilot*

      Inquiring minds want to know…where on earth did you find something that fabulous???

  26. Michele*

    My dad tried to get me to dress “professionally” when I was in middle school, so that I would be taken seriously in my later career. He bought me a blazer to wear. I was 12. And now I am a high-powered woman executive on the go go go! Thanks Dad! ;)

      1. Michele*

        Thank you! I didn’t because I removed the blazer the minute I walked on campus. I still tease Dad about his guidance…

  27. Roscoe*

    On one hand, I do say embrace the fun. However, I’d also say don’t stroll in on your first day with a PowerPuff girls backpack, sloth pencil case, and glittery lisa frank esque notebook. If that is the type of office where it plays well, great, but you need to feel it out first. Also, maybe limit it to a certain number of items. I may think one of those things was fine, if someone had all of your office supplies like that, it may make me question whether we hired an adult or a tween.

    1. neverjaunty*

      This. Walking in dressed like you’re going to an anime convention, at most workplaces, is going to signal “Hi, I’m not aware of workplace norms but I am super focused on cutesy gear”, which is… not a good message for a younger, junior person to send.

  28. Kate*

    For my birthday this year, my co-worker gave me a yeti tumbler custom painted with the Wonder Woman log and my name in glittery gold paint. It is the envy of every meeting. My other co-worker is famous for changing out of her heels into fuzzy purple slippers to keep her feet warm at her desk. Yet another co-workers makes tea from loose leaves in a little metal robot that clings to the side of her cup. You spend 40+ hours a week at work, you might as well make it a little bit fun!

    1. Specialk9*

      I have a silicone guy who holds looseleaf tea, gently peeing tea into my water while clinging to the side of the mug… Except he’s top heavy so often ends up head down in the mug, which is morbidly amusing.

      Every time I use it, I think, the friend who gave that to me just really GETS me on a profound level.

      1. Tau*

        I have a silicone guy who is clearly relaxing in a “pool” of hot tea which I got via office Secret Santa. I also have Nessie the tea infuser. The annoying thing, I find, is that they’re not as good as tea bags for loose leaf – bits of tea tend to escape and end up at the bottom of the cup, and I’m pretty sure the permeability is worse. The sacrifices I make for cuteness.

  29. LSP*

    OP -I’m 38 years old and a government contractor who has received kudos on my work from state and federal leadership. I also have a screen cleaner shaped like a lion on my desk, right next to little Borg and B-MO toys (which serve no purpose except to make me smile). I also have a bright green portfolio that I take to meetings, and the purse I carry daily is made to look like dragon skin.

    You can be both respected in your field and have fun with your office supplies and work area.

    Tell your dad to relax!

    1. MuseumChick*

      I have a stuffed animal on my desk. It was given to me by a client after he learned about the unique pet I have. The only feed back I’ve gotten on it is “Oh! It looks just like *my pet’s name.” It’s only purpose is to make me happy when having a rough day.

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        I have a dolphin screen cleaner. He comes in handy when I need to point to something on my screen.

  30. gecko*

    I have 3 different sizes of tiny prank hands in my cubicle. (Prank hands like the Archie McPhee finger hands, and finger-hands-for-finger-hands.) Some people are freaked out by ’em so I don’t flaunt them around, but I like them!

    I also have a string of watermelon lights and a million different tchotchkes. Desk tchotchkes and fun office supplies are a long office tradition. In your dad’s office, maybe that stuff is unprofessional, but you’re not going to work at his office, you’re going to school.

    1. swingbattabatta*

      I have one of those finger hands as well! I like to knock on someone’s door, out of sight, and then slooooowly poke the hand around the corner and wave. Sometimes they scream, sometimes they laugh.

      FWIW, I work in a law firm.

        1. swingbattabatta*

          Ha, you should see the reaction when I ever so casually tap someone on the shoulder with it.

  31. cactus lady*

    At my internship in college I got introduced to felt tip pens and since then I have made every workplace order them for me. Everyone thinks it’s weird until they use one and then they want felt tip pens too (try it, you won’t regret it). I’m in a senior role, but even when I was junior or at a super conservative workplace, I had felt tip pens. I agree that life is too short for blue Bics! Office supplies and your desk area/office are your place to bring your personality to work! How much of it is appropriate is an office culture thing, though.

  32. Project Manager*

    I write exclusively in purple ink because it makes me happy. Lots of people carry colorful/funny design notebooks in my office. Glitter would probably stand out, but more in an “I like your notebook” way than a “You’re so immature” way.

    Honestly, the only desk decoration/office supply situation that I’ve ever noticed as being incredibly weird/immature was when a new employee had way too many personal photos hanging up, including beach photos of her and her fiance (skimpy bikini and all). Most people in my office have, at most, 1-2 professional looking photos of their spouse and/or children. Don’t be like her.

    1. skunklet*

      yassssssssssssss PURPLE!! my car is purple, my water bottle is purple, my phone case is purple and my most frequently used pens are purple – at work! i have blue and black for when the need arises, but hey – live a little!

      1. Specialk9*

        Staples has mermaid purple pencil cases right now. They’re soft sequins and when you brush them this way, purple scales; that way green. I spent way too long petting that thing.

      2. Anonymosity*

        Whenever I ordered office supplies at OldExjob, I would always get purple highlighters and purple sticky notes for myself.

      3. starsaphire*

        Separated. At. Birth.

        *puts down my purple mouse on its purple mouse pad to pick up my purple pen and write a note in my purple notebook*

        p.s. I’m fifty. And my office does provide all supplies… but the emotional comfort of having my own purple post-its, pens, etc. is more important to me than the $10 I blew at Office Staples Max Place. :)

    2. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

      I have a notebook with a (non-shedding) glittery blue cover (they were out of purple, alas), and I can confirm the reaction it gets is indeed “I like your notebook”, occasionally followed by “Where did you get it?”

      (It’s the notebook I take with me to tech conferences to track my schedule and take notes in about presentations, people’s names, and whatever else I feel the need to write down.)

  33. Iden Versio*

    I say own it. I’m an older law student (well, older than most of my peers) and I bring metallic, sparkly notebooks to class every day. No one cares at all.

    That might change slightly after I graduate, but in the meantime, you can pry my colorful fineliner pens out of my cold, dead hands.

      1. Specialk9*

        Yeah me too.

        I’m also looking for a unicorn mug with horn. Walmart had one but the rainbow tail handle was too small for my hand.

  34. PM Punk*

    This gave me a chuckle. I have a Sailor Moon calendar on my office wall and an Avengers lunchbox that I bring in daily. If anything my coworkers seem to get a kick out of these cutesy things.

  35. CanuckCat*

    My current work notebook has penguins on it. And even though the design is black and white, I compensate for that by writing in only purple or pink ink (gel pens if I can get my hands on them).

    Granted I work for a children’s charity so a little bit of whimsy is a-ok (I also have a teddy bear on my desk that, no joke, was given to me for a work assignment and since no one has reclaimed him, he lives on top of my file folder now).

    All that to say I agree with Alison – tailor the amount of fun/whimsy to the tone of your office but I’d be willing to go out on a limb and say that even in more conservative offices, you might be able to get by with some “fun” stationary, possibly more like notebooks with geometric designs or fun colored post-its.

  36. Rachel*

    I am a 36 yo accountant with a Totoro pencil holder (which holds brightly colored quill pens), a My Little Pony coffee mug, a Chaos figurine (also from MLP), a Harley Quinn figurine and countless plushies in my office. IDGAF!!!!!

    1. Eco-Jen*

      I also have a Chaos (I think you mean Discord) figurine in my cube! He oversees my small army of plushie microbes. In addition, I have framed Dr Who cross-stitches and HeiHei (from Moana) guarding my inbox lol. I also work in the government and I only get compliments on the nerdy stuff I have in here.

      1. Rachel*

        Yes, Discord (face palm). He oversees my 2 Totoro plushies, Calcifer, the giraffe planter that contains no plant, Simba, OH and the Ice King!!!

  37. Cranky Librarian*

    I work in an academic library and I can assure you most of us would ask you were you got the sloth case so we could buy our own. I currently have a bedazzled clipboard, dinosaur shaped pen holder, and cats doing yoga calendar in my office. All of which I’ve been complimented on. Own it!

  38. Antilles*

    I’m just enjoying all the randomness that commenters are reporting that they keep at their desk. Would probably be a fairly interesting open thread to Ask the Readers about some of the wildest (most inappropriate?) items of office decor around the office.

    1. Antilles*

      (For the record, my desk/office is fairly bland and vanilla – I’ve got a fidget cube and a couple other toys, plus my tervis tumbler with an obnoxiously oversized Ohio State logo on it, but it’s pretty much all work related items otherwise.)

    2. Database Developer Dude*

      I’ve got two Funko-pop Bobble heads on my desk at work right now: the original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Black Ranger, and Black Panther. I don’t care who sees them.

    3. Decima Dewey*

      I used to have a few personal items on my desk, but the patrons kept stealing them when I got up to help a patron find a book.

      Also, I buy my own cheap pens, ones that actually write. Back when I came into the system, the storeroom had some awful office supplies. Pencils you’d sharpen, go to write, and the lead would fall out of the pencil. Ball point pens that had been in the supply closet so long it took me three of them to finishing signing a packing slip.

    4. Chinookwind*

      My last office had The Green Arrow and Felicity (Funko Pops) guarding my wall of paperwork as well as a a stuffed Anger (also Funko) doll. The last one would often get his hair styled by a coworker and used as threat (as in “don’t make me throw my Anger at you).

      Another coworker had a collection of dragons that she had accumulated over time as well as an “executive sandbox” with tiny construction vehicles in it.

    5. Cat Herder*

      Academia, but not faculty: talking Mr Incredible, Harry Potter, Edna Mode, Theodore the Chipmunk, and No Face monster from Spirited Away (my newest acquisition); wind up toys, a crocodile puppet, sequined Minnie Mouse ears headband, plastic tigers (because I love tigers), box of magnetic poetry and some amusing poems, frieze of tigers cut from Bengal spice tea boxes around the desk shelving, a Barbie “school is fun!” fashion card, miniature etch a sketch, my very favorite Lynda Barry cartoon (Beauty and the Beast/Met Him at a Party), magic 8 ball. Among other things.

  39. mkt*

    Penelope from Criminal Minds, anyone? :)

    I think showing your personality via small touches like office supplies is never a bad thing, with the caveat that you should gauge your company culture for the fit. For what it’s worth, there may still be people like your dad who think it odd, out of place, immature, or whatever, but I think as long as your work quality is not impacted then more power to you.

  40. loslothluin*

    At my Old Job, no one cared. When I started a New Job, they care and don’t want to see anything “quirky.” They actually fussed at one paralegal for having a rotating background of her family for her desktop screensaver. My sister had to get rid of her “quirky” stuff at her job not too long ago, and she’s been there 6 or 7 years. One day it was fine and the next it wasn’t.

    1. Chinookwind*

      I hate the places where I couldn’t customize my screensaver or desktop, especially since I am often the only one who sees them. It is really hard to stay grumpy when you have a wet monkey grinning back at you (see my thumbnail pic). My current screensaver is a bunch of different funny monkey pics and I love how it catches people off-guard when they see them (and how so many of the guys ask where I found of picture of the employees here).

      1. loslothluin*

        I’m only allowed to have a nebula for a background. You’d think we were skinning animals alive given their reaction to the rotating screensaver. All three attorneys chewed her out for it since it was “distracting.”

    2. Miki*

      Raises hand (at paralegal girl)
      I’ve got a rotating background of Simon’s cat photos and clouds (storms, sunsets, sunrises, panoramas…); used to have photos of me rock climbing (200 m up on the rock) but now it’s all Simon’s cat and clouds. No one bats an eye. Academic library (cube farm) is place of employment.

      1. loslothluin*

        TPTB up here have about as much personality as a wet piece of cardboard. They’re the only ones allowed to have “quirky” anything and even that is boring. One has a golf ball collection, one has a rug made out of some animal he likes, and the other one has a giant ass globe and a chess set. No one else is allowed anything like that.

    3. Database Developer Dude*

      Rotating background of her family? THAT is what got her fussed at? What, is she supposed to be a robot? Her boss sucks.

      1. loslothluin*

        I almost fell out of my chair when she told me. He said it was “distracting” to see when he was went by her desk and had a closed door meeting about it. I’d say they’re more unhinged than sucks, tbh.

  41. CatCat*

    I had a sloth ornament that hung from a branchy houseplant in my office. I accidentally threw it away when the little limb dried and fell off. It made me so sad when I realized it the next day. I need to replace my sloth!

    I also have a chameleon and an orangutan hanging out in the same plant.

    1. Anonymosity*

      I have little knickknack animals I picked up at the flea market in my planters. There’s a puppy, a frog, and a tiny big-headed fawn.
      These are at home, but I would totally do it at the office.

  42. neverjaunty*

    Your dad is being a massive square


    It is absolutely true that this will vary from industry to industry, and how quirky you can be (while still being respected and taken seriously) is going to change with age and seniority.

    Also, can’t second enough the advice to make quirky stuff an accessory, and not your brand.

  43. Alton*

    Unless you go to a very traditional or stodgy school, I think your dad is overestimating how judgemental college students are about “weirdness” (I’m guessing you’re in college, or will be soon). A lot of young people use school as a time to have fun and express themselves. I remember seeing one girl who had a backpack shaped like a lion’s head.

    In the work world, I think it is a good idea to gauge the culture of a new workplace and how much you can stand out. And there might be some (occasionally unfair or illogical) nuances to it–for example, I can see some offices thinking nothing of a notebook with a brightly-patterned cover but finding it odd if an adult used a SpongeBob SquarePants notebook, and I feel like things that are seen as very feminine or “girly” (like sequins) are sometimes judged more harshly.

    But there are definitely offices where it’s fine to have some quirkiness!

    1. uranus wars*

      I was thinking the same thing about the classmates and was going to comment something similar, but I’ll just reply here.

      I remember a friend of mine who went to a conservative school and they had to wear uniforms. Her accessories/notebooks/pens, etc. were the way she expressed her individuality and stayed sane! She said they all did it.

      In regards to the office just read your environment and insert fun “you” items at the appropriate level for the office.

  44. MuseumChick*

    You know what happened when I brought a three-ringed binder that was bright blue with gold flamingos on it to a work meeting? Here are some quotes:

    “That’s nice to see during the winter”
    “You must be happy when you look at it.”

    Your dad is weird.

    1. Specialk9*

      I probably shouldn’t tell you that Staples has some awesome pink flamingo stuff right now. (Not that I stopped in and ended up buying way too much fun stuff I didn’t realize Staples had.)

    1. Tiny Tiger*

      I had to go and look and Google image search did not disappoint! I would love to work somewhere like that, or possibly at the Blizzard Entertainment headquarters in CA (they let you bring your dogs and apparently Corgis are a running favorite amongst the staff).

  45. Nea*

    Non-company lanyards are all the rage at my office. We’ve got various Hogwarts houses, the Batman symbol, and at this very moment I am rocking a couple of dragons.

    The only reaction to a stuffed sloth pencil case would be what’s happening right here in the comments: “Where did you get that? I waaaaaant one!”

  46. Canonical23*

    Embrace the fun for school! I had /professors/ who had weird and bright and funky office supplies.

    In terms of work, unless you plan on a super conservative field, I don’t think it matters. I’m in libraries and have coworkers with all kinds of glittery and flowery and what-have-you pens/post-its/mugs/etc. I have a blue glittery notebook that I use for planning – the only time I use stodgy office supplies is if I am interviewing or meeting with an important member of the community (I have a leather portfolio and a few nice pens that I keep in a drawer for such occasions.)

  47. Cedar*

    Oh wow, I definitely judge people’s office supplies! In the same way that I judge their clothing: insignificant in comparison to their performance/ what they produce, but there is still some minute judgment there. (For context, I have mostly worked in Washington, DC which tends to be on the conservative side with those things, in environments that require business attire most of the time and business casual during the summer and on Fridays.) That said, I’m the kind of person who is only punctual when I really need to be and eats at her desk all day long. Would I have a more professional image if that were not the case? All other things equal, yes– but I do much better work when I’m not tired or hungry, so for me, it works. I guess what I’m trying to say, is that if the joy that the stuff brings you outweighs that little bit of judgment and makes you a better, happier worker, then it’s worth bringing the crazy office supplies. It will be your little quirk. Doesn’t matter if you’re great at what you do, especially if you work for sensible people. Nonetheless, if you’re looking to do everything you can to put yourself ahead and be as professional as possible, especially if your image is important in how you are judged in your work, I would avoid it.

  48. BRR*

    Even in my last job which was pretty conservative some fun supplies were ok.

    A lot of this is moot to me though because so many office supplies are company provided and I don’t care enough to spend my own money on post it’s.

  49. glitter writer*

    I’m a journalist and a woman, and started my career in a sub-field that’s overwhelmingly dominated by men.

    The notebooks I used to carry with me to interview subjects were usually glitter-covered. Sparkly. Not super-annoying and they didn’t shed, and all my pens were “normal” and usually my notebooks were open anyway to take notes, but usually whoever I was interviewing would catch a glimpse. And every single person who noticed had a *positive* comment, that I think made us both feel better.

    You do you; the world needs more fun and colorful things.

  50. SkyePilot*

    All the office supplies I purchase for myself definitely fall in the “fun” category (like who could pass up a dinosaur tape dispenser???) that being said, I do have a much more toned down notebook I take with me to vendor/client meetings. I look young anyway, no need to reinforce the idea.

    If anyone works in a more conservative environment but still wants a bit of fun, would highly recommend Poppin desk products. They are all clean lines and solid colors, but they have a huge variety of fun colors – and a pretty reasonable price!

    1. Spooky*

      I recently stumbled upon a fabulous list of hilarious things to include in your D&D campaign. My two favorites were “a sword that inflicts emotional wounds” and “a hat that, when left alone with another hat, will mate and produce hybrid offspring.” Amazing.

  51. Lily Rowan*

    I do think it’s easier to be silly the older you get, when you are tempering your experience with some fun, but by all means — get a read of your office and then do you!

    I’ve never been comfortable going quite this far at work, but in grad school in my 30s, I almost exclusively used Sanrio pens.

  52. Be Positive*

    I was told I was immature by a coworker and will never move up. Now I’m senior team member and he still working trying to catch up to ME.

    And I still have my Avenger lego minifigures displayed proudly

    Own your individuality

  53. SuspectedDragon*

    My mouse pad has a T-Rex wearing a top hat and riding a penny-farthing. It’s the little things!

  54. The Other Dawn*

    I think fun office supplies are just fine, as long as they don’t overtake your whole office/cube.

    The supplies companies buy tend to be super cheap and they suck, so I bring in my own stuff. I’ve got a Grumpy Cat mug that I had personalized: “Rotten, with no emotions.” (inside joke); my cousin bought my a cat mug that says I’m Cat Mother of the Year; a flowered candy dish my friend’s mom gave me; a candy dish in the shape of the head of a black cat–the candy goes in the mouth; a cat Post-it holder; cat paperweight from my sister; a stuffed AFLAC duck that wears a hardhat and quacks “AFLAC!!!!” when you squeeze him; a stuffed frog slingshot that croaks when you use it; a donkey figure that says “CYA” on it’s butt; and my cartoon board, which has been with me for 15+ years. I also have lots of colored pens and pencils, which sit in the mugs I mentioned.

    1. RES ADMIN*

      My one caveat on personalizing your space/supplies would to not have so many that you are mistaken for a gift shop. There was a receptionist many years ago that had so many beanie babies that she was regularly mistaken for a gift shop (the office was near a hospital)–and she had to move them in order to write/type/answer the phone… She was very upset when her boss finally told her that it was Too Much and the majority needed to go home.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        No, these are spread out over the office and a few aren’t even visible unless someone comes into my office and around my side of the desk, which doesn’t happen because there isn’t a lot of room on that side.

  55. AnotherAlison*

    I feel like I’m going to be the lone dissenter. I agree that you can personalize your office & supplies, but I think you start off with only a few personal knick knacks, which can be toys or glittery decor, or whatever you like and then stop for a while. A lot of young women who start off in my company think their cube is an extension of their former dorm room, and decorate it as such, which doesn’t really fit the culture and makes them stand out in a bad way. Build your reputation, and then when you are known as being awesome at your job, personalize as much as you want. You don’t want to remind your coworkers of their daughters.

    Now, if you are in the type of place where personality is more accepted, go for it, but read the culture first.

    1. Victoria, Please*

      No, you’re not the lone dissenter. I’m cringing with embarrassment at the memory of my first job out of grad school where I papered the walls with photos and memorabilia, similar to the dorm room thing that AnotherAlison mentioned. None of it was inappropriate, but it was definitely out of touch with the We Are Very Serious People Doing A Serious Job Here vibe of the office. And I was out of grad school, old enough to know better…blush.

      Bring stuff in slowly, and don’t get a bunch of tatty crap that you are going to throw away in a year or so when the urge to Konmari strikes.

    2. lapgiraffe*

      Consider me a dissenter! All of your sparkly animal dinosaur sloth tchotchkes are weird and immature and speak, to me, some sort of arrested development. There would have to be some major professional ability and affectual personality traits for me to overlook them in a professional setting. I don’t work in an office or cubical and I am trying to understand that this is the work equivalent of purple hair and loud jewelry to jazz up a school uniform, but that just adds to the immaturity element for me, a big fat NOPE.

  56. michelenyc*

    I work in the fashion industry and there are some companies that are really weirdly controlling over what you use in the office. One of my friends that worked for a major Italian brand was only allowed to use black ink and they all had the same boring notebook that they had to put away every night in of their drawers. They weren’t allowed to have anything on their desks. Other companies do not care. Almost all of my office stuff has dachshunds on it and I even have a stuffed beanie baby dachshund I keep on my desk that a good friend gave me after a bad day at our old company.

  57. Spooky*

    For years I had a small stuffed bunny and two plastic dinosaurs on my desk (the dinos now reside on my coworker’s desk). Currently I’ve got a tiny plastic sheriff with an impressive mustache that I designed and made at a 3D printing workshop. His name is “The Law.” He’s frequently used for comedic effect in the office.

    Point being: Anything goes when it comes to desk accoutrement, as long as you act professional most of the time.

    1. Spooky*

      Perhaps worth pointing out that the little bunny and dinos came from a former client, although it was several companies ago.

    2. Specialk9*

      Do you know the Lyle Lovett song Long Tall Texan?

      Well I’m a long tall Texan
      I wear a ten-gallon hat
      (he rides from texas with a ten-gallon hat)
      Yes I’m a long tall texan
      I wear a ten-gallon hat
      (he rides from texas wearing a ten-gallon hat)
      Well people look at me and they say, oh Lawd oh Lawd,
      Is that your hat?
      (he rides from texas wearing a ten-gallon hat)

      Well I’m a long tall texan
      I ride a big white horse
      (he rides from texas on a big white horse)
      Yes I’m a long tall texan
      I ride a big white horse
      (he rides from texas on a big white horse)
      Well people look at me and they say, oh Lawd oh Lawd,
      Is that your horse
      (he rides from texas on a big white horse)

      Well I was walking down the street
      With my shiny badge
      My spurs jingling there at my feet
      I seen a man a’coming
      Coming with a gun and
      I just can’t be beat

      Yes I’m a long tall texan
      I enforce justice for the law
      (he rides from texas to enforce the law)
      Well I’m a long tall texan
      I enforce justice for the law
      (he rides from texas to enforce the law)
      Well people look at me and they say, oh Lawd oh Lawd,
      Is you the law?
      (he rides from texas to enforce the law)

      Well I’m a long tall texan
      Yes I’m a long tall texan

  58. Bun*

    I say enjoy the fun and colorful stuff, no matter how old you are – at my office, there are lots of desks with all sorts of fun stuff on them. My desk is covered in Sailor Moon and Star Trek stuff, and one of my co-workers has a desk with lots of Lego stuff on it. We didn’t immediately cover our desks with all this stuff, it took us a little while to determine whether it’d fly or not in our open office space, but I’ve gotten more positive comments than anything when people see my ridiculous desk. :)

  59. Guacamole Bob*

    I think there can be a difference between what you have sitting on your desk or in your drawer and what you take with you to meetings, especially external or client meetings. A fun stapler that stays in your workspace would be fine at every office I’ve ever worked in, (I’ve never been anywhere that’s super-strict about personal items in workspaces, or in a front-facing reception area, though). For outside meetings I’d keep things more subdued, especially at first, and maybe stick to one item and not have a backpack, pencil case, notebook, pen, phone case, and sticker-covered laptop that are all really offbeat and noticeable, because you run the risk of being remembered for your accessories and not your work.

    1. Sarah*

      Good point. I have the most colourful/personalized desk in my office, but when I travel for work I’m far more conservative – I even have a black phone case I can switch my phone to so it doesn’t attract notice. The fact that I love glitter and bright colours and metallics for my desk is definitely not something clients need to know. They’re paying us for expertise, not personality.

  60. Doctor What*

    When I was in grad school, I used a big fluffy pen, like Cher from Clueless (it was 1996). It made me happy, and no one seemed to care.

    Once I got a job in my field, I had stuffed animals, themed pencil holders and Funko Pops at my desk. I look at it as, you spend most of your waking hours at work, might as well make it the way you like it!

    Have FUN!

  61. PIVOT*

    Fun office supplies brighten my life at work. I use colorful, glittery-inked pens, Martha Stewart file folders, pink staples, bright teal scissors….the list goes on and on. Obviously, I wouldn’t be filling out permit requests with pink sparkle ink, but the only comments I’ve ever gotten have been, “That is so cute, I want it!” Plus, bonus – no one will ever be able to steal my supplies because they’re so unique.

  62. Catabodua*

    I agree with the bring things in slowly after you scope out the place and be moderate. I think it’s fine to have some fun items, but when your whole desk is toys and gadgets it’s odd to me.

    I’m in a conservative workplace and it’s easy to be colorful with office supplies and desk accessories (note my purple scissors), but having something that looked like a stuffed animal on your desk would be seen as childish and unprofessional, especially for a young woman.

    But, as seen above, there are a variety of types of workplaces and in some they won’t even care.

    1. Thlayli*

      I second this comment. It’s definitely different in different workplaces. I work in a Male-dominated conservative field and I think that sloth pencil case would definitely be a step too far. I have a pink pencil case with butterflies on and a load of different coloured pens. But that’s really unusual and gets commented on. Not negatively, but people are surprised by an engineer having something so frivolous.

      I can “get away with it” coz I have established myself pretty well in this job and had done so before I brought in the pencil case plus I’m one of the oldest in the office. if a young woman engineer who hadn’t yet proved her worth brought in a glittery notebook and fluffy pink pen it would DEFINITELY make people take her less seriously.

      I’m in my 30s now but look like I’m in my twenties. When I was in my twenties I looked like a teenager. Trust that I speak from experience when I say that seeming young and frivolous can definitely hold you back in some careers. You can counter it by being flipping awesome, but it is still a negative.

      Like I said above though – very office dependent.

  63. DataGirl*

    I’m in my 40’s, work in a conservative field, and am currently wearing a Supernatural lanyard and drinking from a dinosaur mug. I think you are okay.

  64. Laura*

    Conservative organization and my boss is probably one of the 50 most powerful people in this medium-large sized city. Our department is probably 85% women and it’s Vera Bradley central here.
    You can very much have fun/pretty things. I might recommend going more the Vera/Lilly side rather than Lisa Frank, but you should be fine.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I hate Vera Bradley with the passion of a thousand burning suns.

      But, hey, if you’re into it, have at it.

    2. AdminX2*

      Interesting. Fairly conservative financial here and it’s all Kate Spade as far as the eye can see.

      1. Close Bracket*

        Vera Bradley and Kate Spade are both pretty expensive. So there is a certain upper-middle class cache that is afforded by those brands that is on a whole other level than sloth pencil cases and anything from ThinkGeek.

        1. Lindsay J*

          There’s really not a huge difference between the cost of Kate Spade and Vera Bradley office supplies, or the Think Geek ones.

          Vera Bradley: Mini notebook with pouch $12
          Kate Spade: Seersucker concealed spiral notebook $14
          Think Geek: Pikachu finding ditto notebook $9.99

          Vera Bradley: Brush and pencil case $12
          Kate Spade: Scatter Dot Pencil case $24
          Think Geek: Rugrats Reptar Bar pouch $19.99

          Vera Bradley: Mechanical Pencil Set $12
          Kate Spade: Gold Stripe Pencil Set $20
          Think Geek: Unicorn pencil and eraser 4 piece set: $14

          Vera Bradley: Ink Pen Set $12
          Kate Spade: Gel Pen $14
          Think Geek: Opalescent 2 piece Mermaid Pen Set $11.99

          There are also generic/rip-off versions of all of the above that I have seen at Office Max/Staples

          There definitely is a difference between those and the $.98 notebooks and other cheapest options at Walmart and Staples, though.

    3. Specialk9*

      Your boss is powerful and a lot of women work for them. How many of the women would you call powerful? I’m curious.

    4. Mike C.*

      50 most powerful people in this medium-large sized city

      So basically this is a complete nobody.

  65. aubrey b*

    I keep mini Super Deformed Gundams in my cubicle and there’s a Toad from Super Mario made from paper sitting on my monitor. A friend embroidered “Treat Yo Self” with pizzas on a little hoop thing and that’s also hanging on my cubicle wall.

    Definitely no one really cares in my office, although I do try to show up to meetings with the public/developers/outside consultants a little bit more polished looking. (I’m young, female, and a POC in a field dominated by older white men, so I’m always conscious of how I come off when I’m with people not from the office.)

    But back to the OP – get a feel for your office first! (one of the supervisors here has a rock collection and a ton of plants in his cubicle and we call it a museum, so I figured some trinkets wouldn’t hurt in my case).

  66. Free Meerkats*

    Absolutely go with the stuff that you love (or even like!)

    But please, don’t be the admin we hired who spent literally half her first day arranging the bankers box of Beanie Babies she brought with her in her workspace. She didn’t last the week (not because of the BBs) and had to pack them all away on Thursday, took a lot less time.

    But definitely go with the Stuffed Sloth! Be yourself; this from a 62-year old male with pink hair and beard.

    1. Vicky Austin*

      Your screen name gave me the need to point out that I have a tiny ceramic meerkat on my desk.

  67. sj*

    literally just talked about this in a meeting. my boss has a bunch of stickers on her laptop (think apple and other apps and vendors, her alma mater, etc.). She also does things with fun notebooks, fun pens and colors, etc. we’re in marketing, so all of that is totally usual for our crowd. But she’s also a VP now and has to go to meetings with the C-suite and worries they’ll think she’s wierd. but most people at her level and above have said not to worry about it. her role and function are part of that, as is the fact that she’s been with the company more than 15 years and has a stellar reputation. tbh, she’s basically leslie knope. so it’s all about context.

  68. PNW Jenn*

    I bought all pink office supplies for my cubicle. It was very effective at preventing them from “walking away” in a cube farm of black office supplies.

    1. Kara*

      SAME. Pink for Breast Cancer may be problematic, but it does help you stock up on pink office supplies.

  69. Kara*

    During Pink for Breast Cancer (I know, it’s problematic), I stock up on my supplies. Like the Pilot G-2 pens I really like. Because if they’re pink, the men in the office won’t accidentally walk off with them.

    I also have a Rainbow Brite Funko on my desk, and a golden Homer Buddha. I’m 40, and I’m one of very few females in the office, but I run the finance department.

    1. Database Developer Dude*

      You would think that, wouldn’t you? I’m about as straight as you can get without actually being homophobic, but if you worked with me, you’d need to keep an eye on your pens. (Of course, I’d leave money for any pens I swiped, but I’d still be sorely tempted to swipe them. Pilot G-2s are the bomb in any color).

  70. Lady Kelvin*

    Its tradition for people on my team to bring back treats from our international travels (cheap, usually food/chocolate) I think I spent $6 on some cookie/cake things for the group on my last trip. My coworker went to Peru for a meeting and he and his family visited Manchu Picchu before coming home. He brought $1 pens with alpaca’s on top of them. They are awesome and I use mine every day.

  71. lb*

    Your dad is no fun. I agree with everyone else that you shouldn’t show up to your first day with a big box of accessories, but there’s no reason not to bring in stuff with more personality over time. If the rest of your office is more plain, you might find that some of your items would be over the top. But as Alison says, if your work is impeccable nobody will care about your stapler. (Although, of course, depending on your field you may not be working with paper much and the staplers won’t be necessary anyway.) Don’t worry, you’ll figure out what works best for you — and you can definitely show a bit of your personality if you want to.

  72. strawberries and raspberries*

    Possibly a non-sequitur, but is your dad also one of those dads who punishes you for sleeping in and criticizes your hobbies for not being “productive” enough? I knew a lot of really high-performing young women in high school and in college whose dads would have similar critiques and ultimatums about their interests and tastes and how they spent their time, and they all suffered from a ton of anxiety around performance and impostor syndrome and being perceived as smart or competent enough. I’m really struggling to think of any field where (taking for granted that your work is strong and you’re otherwise demonstrating mature behavior) a snail notebook or a glittery three-hole punch is going to be a strike against you, and I think it’s strangely punitive and more than a little gendered to make you feel anxious that anything showing your personality would make you look “weird.”

    1. tusky*

      Yeah, this raised my hackles a bit, particularly since the letter writer is just getting supplies for school. It’s hard to know from the letter whether it was intended to be light-hearted or serious, but it’s such a weirdly nitpicky thing that it comes across as criticism for the sake of control (much in the same vein as parents who attempt to police their grown children’s clothing or other choices).

    2. Lindsay J*

      I don’t know if it’s gendered per se.

      Probably a form of toxic masculinity though.

      Plenty of guys with these types of parents get ragged on for their interests that are not “adult” enough or “productive” enough. Anime, video games, comic books, sound stuff, legos, making models.

      Pretty much anything that won’t get you one of the high-profile scholarships/raise the kids value within the parent’s per group is frowned upon (so sports, academics, some types of music are okay. Everything else is not cool.)

      That carried into appearance too, so a male student wanting a Super Man or Naruto notebook or whatever would have been frowned upon as well.

      But yeah, I got that same vibe about the parents.

      Mine were the same, and both me and my younger brother heard about it whenever we wanted something out of his perceived norms.

      (I also never got how working from 9-5 was super productive and awesome, but working from 7pm-7am was lazy, but whatever.)

  73. caryatis*

    Please no glitter in the workplace. No stuffed animals. Minimal pink. Office decor should be functional and reflect your identity as a competent professional, not a 7-year-old who needs to be bribed with stickers to do her homework. Why risk your reputation just to have “cute” throwaway junk? Keep it at home.

    1. Rae*


      Maybe if you’re in an office of stodgy 60-year-old men with no sense of humor you may need to adjust your expectation, but everywhere where I worked where the majority of people were in their 20’s and 30’s and putting your mark on your area was expected.

    2. Alton*

      While it’s not going to be appropriate for every workplace, calling cute items “throwaway junk” sounds pretty judgmental. The basic black ballpoint pens my office buys are “throwaway.” They cost less than a dollar apiece and you won’t find me too upset if someone accidentally walks off with one of mine.

      My pencil case with reversible sequins, on the other hand, is a little too flashy for my own work style but is still a treasure that I’d be sad to part with.

    3. Violet Fox*

      My boss is pretty much “you can pry my pink glitter from my cold dead hands”. He very much is not a 7 year old. Nor is my grandboss with his rose gold iPad (colors all cost the same so folks get to pick their color).

      1. Anonny*

        Yeah, unless it’s loose glitter (I work for an LGBT+ youth org and we just had Pride so the office kinda looks like someone exploded a unicorn right now) it’s really not going to be a problem.

    4. J.B.*

      I have pictures of my kids all over. They’re not functional but they make me happy. And I make my paycheck for them. Anyone who doesn’t like it can jump off a cliff.

    5. Courageous cat*

      Well, it costs exactly $0 to let people express some small degree of individuality at work, which tends to make for a happier employee overall.

    6. Mike S*

      I keep toys on my desk. At my last job, I met a VP because she picked up one of them while she was in the office one Saturday, and her team made her return it and apologize. (They all knew whose it was.) I ended up working for her on a couple of projects.

  74. Tiny Tiger*

    You kidding? I carry around NyanPan bag that has a screen print of melon bread loafs with cat faces, ears, and tails on it to the office. My old manager got me a Nightmare Before Christmas themed bookbag for my birthday the one year. Before that I had a Harley Quinn themed bag, and no one ever said a word about any of them except to say how cool or cute they were. I’m guessing at most offices the only comments about bright, sparkly office supplies will either be ones of envy or interest. I wouldn’t go way overboard until you know just how receptive the office is to these types of things but I can’t imagine too many outside of lawyers and government offices would make a big deal out of it (and maybe not even those ones would).

  75. Positive Reframer*

    One thing about glitter in all walks of life, make sure it doesn’t leave a trail.

    I’m sorry that your Dad called you weird and your school weird, I hope he meant it in a “Keep Austin Weird” kinda way. Otherwise although I’m sure he was trying to look out for you he did it in a really jerky way.

  76. AK*

    good grief, not only do I have fun supplies (monster pens, rainbow tape, dinosaur pushpins, etc), I’ve got more toys on my desk than your average toystore. Don’t bring it all in on day 1, but the kind of personality you can show through your stuff is going to really depend on your actual job and not your dad’s opinions!

  77. MuttIsMyCopilot*

    As long as you’re not manning the front desk of a funeral home and take some time to get to know the office before moving everything in, I say go for it. I have no qualms about being the Penelope Garcia of the office, and pink glittery office supplies tend not to be “borrowed” which is an excellent bonus.

  78. Anonymeece*

    Start with conservative, but you can slowly start edging into wacky office supplies as you get more comfortable with the place. I have a stone dragon pencil cup on my desk and no one’s said a word. There are certain fields where it may be weird, but unless you’re signing official contracts in glittery pink gel pen, most people are not going to care.

    Have fun with it!

  79. Violet Fox*

    I wish I could show you a picture of my group’s head sysadmin’s desk. It’s rose gold and hot pink and purple. He makes my purple all the things with the hand-made knit stuffed toys and glitter fox and dinosaur stickers look downright tame.

    There is also the woman down the hall with a ton of owl stuff, the guy with a mug that says “I wish I was a unicorn”.

    Also you are in school, not in an office, have fun with it! I really hate the whole “you can’t do this in school because the work world isn’t like that” thing. Some offices, some places maybe, but far from everywhere and formality is something that people get to think about when saying yes to a job and to an industry.

  80. Andy*

    When I make tea for the directors of the var departments when they visit I ALWAYS make it in my Mana-Tea. Her name is Moira and she is wonderful and floaty. Woe be unto the person who ask for a bag. a BAG? No sir. You shall have Mana-Tea. As is befitting of your station.

  81. Workerbee*

    I have a Lego pen/pencil holder on my desk, an owl, an accidental elephant collection, and I stick googly eyes on everything (the desk fan, the mini fridge, the mini Keurig…). When you’re stuck somewhere for 8+ hours a day, you need some of yourself around you!

    1. Argh!*

      About to leave for home. Remembered a place where I can buy googly eyes. Tomorrow will be googly eyes day chez moi!

  82. Rae*

    As long as you keep it to personal supplies and NOTHING that anyone else could need to touch (desk phone, actual desk, non-laptop monitor and keyboard) then it’s fine.

    What I always found gag-worthy gross was my co-workers who put those plastic sticky rhinestones on their phones. You can’t clean it well.

    1. bonkerballs*

      Personally, this feels a little strong. Anyone who looks askance because they ask for a stapler and the one I hand them is hot pink is someone *I’m* going to start judging as immature.

      1. Rae*

        I guess I would consider a stapler personal property, especially if it’s not provided by the office. My issue is with people who decorate essential, expensive equipment that is office provided with any sort of non-essential glue backed sticking thing…especially excessively.

        For the most part even my personalization crazy workplace respected this, but there were a few sticker queens and bedazzlers who went way too many far. Notebooks, hole punches, tape dispenser, scissors…things generally under $20? Who cares.

  83. It's the little things*

    I work for a very large international conglomerate, which is known for being quite conservative. My colleagues and I (who are mid to upper mgmt for reference) spend a lot of time comparing our amazing coloring book notebooks, stripy folders, rose gold staplers, globe tape dispensers and unicorn erasers. I’m being that specific as those are the things I can literally see from my desk right now. I agree that you need in your early career to thing about how you are perceived, but being the person who is great at their job and has an array of unusual stationary items is not a bad thing – the more junior members of the team also have this kind of stuff, it helps to take a very high stress job and add some pretty accoutrements to make it more bearable :)

  84. Aitch Arr*

    I’m 43 and have a shelf in my office which contains:
    – Darth Vader Pez dispenser
    – Eeyore Pez dispenser
    – Small Eeyore plush
    – a Mardi Gras mask (from an HR event I put on)
    – a plastic tiara (from the same event)
    – a Dilbert mug
    – a deck of “HR Against Humanity” cards
    – a Tech Support Magic 8 Ball
    – a rainbow slinky
    – a small glitter lamp

  85. This girl has a name*

    Girl I say go for it! I once had a Hello Kitty calculator. It was hot pink and so cute! I got it because office manager had gotten a great price on the bulk purchase of identical calculators so people were constantly accusing others of having “their” calculator if it got left behind in a meeting. I was shopping one day saw it for 10 dollars and snagged it. That thing found it’s way back to me all the time. There was no question it was mine. In fact over time I have acquired other Hello Kitty office supplies and they were all purchased for me by office mates.

    1. annuity*

      I have a pink calculator :) Makes a nice change from the grey/black ones everyone else has. My coworkers loved it!

    2. Just Employed Here*

      In 1983, my dad brought me a battery powered Hello Kitty pocket calculator from a business trip. It still works (my mom uses it regularly), and we’ve never had to change its batteries…

      I bet Elon Musk would like to get his hands on it!

  86. Naymerica*

    I’m a 32 year old PMP with a blue stuffed sloth keychain on my work bag… you be you girl!

  87. Clever Name*

    I have an ergonomic wrist rest that’s shaped very realistically like a loaf of bread. And I do this as (until this week) the only woman at my office. Don’t let being corporate steal your soul. No one cares (unless you’re in a VERY conservative office).

  88. Wendy*

    Fun office supplies are just that – they’re fun! I’ve just about always had them, and never had it be an issue or a problem.

    The comments I normally get on them are things like, “That’s so fun!” or “Where did you get that? I love it?” or “That’s really cute!” or “that’s so you!”

    I’m sure there are super conservative offices where it might be a problem, but I think in general, having fun pens/folders/notebooks isn’t going to result in anything but pleasant small talk and a happier you.

    I work in healthcare and get the most comments on the highlighters shaped like large pills in a fake pill bottle on my desk. People love to start a conversation about them, and they’ve made customers smile more than once.

    I say go for it. Be you.

  89. librarygal30*

    I go for fun Post-It notes. I currently have “File this under someone else’s problem”, “From the desk of the unrecognized corporate genius”, “Masquerading as a normal person day after day is exhausting!”,”I’m just here to maintain the chaos”, and “If anyone needs me, I’ll be under my desk”. Usually, I only use those for notes to myself, but if I need to write a quick note, and I grab one of those, they always get a chuckle from the person who sees the note. I’m still new to my job, and people are starting to discover my quirky sense of humor, so it’s nice.

    1. Teapot librarian*

      I love fun post-it notes but use post-its so infrequently that it isn’t worth having them :-(

      1. Argh!*

        I draw faces on mine when things are slow and I can go hours without seeing anybody. I put them on my monitor. I define “use” quite liberally.

  90. Dragoning*

    Having fun things on my desk and office supplies I think are cute are vital to me feeling happy at work and not like an office drone. And it gives me coworkers something to talk to me about, since I can be a touch awkward, and so can other people.

    Heck, I brought anime plushes to work one day I was feeling awful, and the only comment I got was a question of who they were (they didn’t stick around).

    You’ll be fine!

    1. Dragoning*

      Heck, one of my coworkers started wearing enamel pins on her lanyard after I did it and she realized it wouldn’t get anyone in trouble.

  91. MicroManagered*

    Fun office supplies can be a great ice-breaker when you’re new to the workworld. I will say, though, that I think for many industries, as paperless becomes more the norm, a glittery pink tape dispenser is less common. I don’t know the last time I stapled something but I’m sure I did it with an employer-provided stapler.

  92. Compulsive Overexplainer*

    I’m in my mid-5os. I have a hot pink planner, and use a bazillion different color pens, some of which are for color-coding, others just for fun. I also quilt, and hang a rotation of brightly-colored quilts in my office. I use wide-mouth pint canning jars for storing pens and pencils, and I have a vintage 40 quart milk can with a big spray of dried flowers in the corner of my office. I don’t go overboard, but I have a rather stodgy job, and these things make me happy on a daily basis. No one’s ever given me the side-eye for them.

    There is a quote attributed to the late chef Anthony Bourdain that goes, “Celebrate weirdness and innovation. Oddballs should be cherished if they can do something other people can’t do.” We need all kinds of folks in this world.

    Make sure you demonstrate your commitment to excellence in your workplace, but be sure to let some of your weirdness show so that you don’t lose yourself in the process.

  93. Lentils*

    OP, you are fine! One of my supervisors (mid-late 30s? older than me who is mid-20s) describes her desk as “a little girl’s room that exploded.” She has an adorable baby animals calendar, a Hello Kitty calculator that’s pink and purple, and a bunch of Beanie Babies as decorations. She also used to change her computer’s version of our company’s internal catalogue system to lavender, but they updated it so we can’t change the colors anymore.

    Side note oh my god that pencil case, I need it and I don’t use pencil cases.

  94. Teapot librarian*

    I’m 41 years old, the director of my office, and Every. Day. I have to talk myself out of buying “dress” shoes with cats or dogs or owls on them. One pair of kitty sneakers is enough. But if I didn’t have regular meetings near the CEO? I might have more cat shoes. It’s totally okay to have a personality, though you do need to know your environment in case you need to make adjustments. But you’re still in school! Have fun and be yourself!

  95. Vicky Austin*

    I have a little knicknack on my desk where I put paper clips, coins, thumbtacks, and other misc. little items. It is ceramic and it looks like a small plaid cap that someone placed on the ground to collect coins. It even has a few fake coins in it. However, the thing that truly makes this item unique is the two adorable little golden-brown colored mice, also ceramic, sitting on the hat! They are extremely realistic and have gotten their share of compliments over the years.

  96. Cube Diva*

    2 cents from an “older Millennial” in a creative role– I’m on my 6th day at a new job, and so far here’s what I have on my desk (in addition to laptop, water bottle, phone, monitor, etc):
    – Rae Dunn pencil holder and small tray (they say “write” on them and have an image of a typewriter
    – small succulent
    – two photos of my pets in a photo clip stand
    – photo from my wedding in a similar photo clip stand
    – “Fierce Females” calendar
    – six reference-related books
    – really cool looking old pocket dictionary with a wooden cover
    – seven images/quotes in a collage including motivational quotes, a photo of me with the Dalai Lama, etc… held up by diamond and Harry Potter push pins.
    – rose gold headphones where the headband is cat ears

    I’d say MOST of these show at least some personality. And it’s even a bit bare because I haven’t been here that long. It’s nowhere near what more established people have. I have a creative role, but my industry is financial and can be very corporate. YOU DO YOU!

    1. Cube Diva*

      I also bring in my own file folders. Current ones have gold foiled scripty words on them. I also have a stash of blue with gold foil. :D

  97. Shrunken Hippo*

    I think even in a more conservative office having a fun item or two won’t be seen as unprofessional. In fact I know that a few banks that encourage a personal touch or two in offices because it makes them feel more welcoming and can help to put clients at ease. Obviously you will have to avoid anything that could be seen as scary or would be inappropriate to talk about at work, but something cute and fun should not be a problem. Just look around at what others have and base your decisions on that. Also at your first job you can always as your manager/trainer about it! They are there to get you used to the job and the environment and I’m sure they would love to tell you about it rather than have to ask you to remove things later.

    PS- I worked a few places where my little crocheted dinosaur baby was always resent and it ended up becoming something of a mascot.

  98. Ophelia Bumblesmoop*

    My company provides a new laptop to each employee every three years. The best part of the new year is seeing what skins everyone has chosen for their device! One person had a custom one made with a hysterical photo of the boss in meme form that had floated around for a while. The boss LOVED it. Most stick with floral or geometric type designs. But that’s the company’s culture – have fun in appropriate ways!

  99. RUKiddingMe*

    They will get me to give up my Hello Kitty pens, pencils, notebooks, etc. when they pry them from my cold dead hands. That said, I’m pretty judicious about their use. I don’t have a full on HK set up in my office…although it’s hard to miss. Even my coffee mug is a University of Washington Hello Kitty branded cup. Two birds, one stone… :)

    Not for nothing but my license plate (on the Jaguar) is “HeloKty.”

  100. Granola the Frog, RIP*

    This all reminds me that I need to get a new office frog. My last one sadly passed away and I haven’t replaced him since changing jobs three years ago.

  101. A Steampunk Kinda Gal*

    I just looked around at my desk and had to laugh. I have (currently) three starships (one Mirror Universe Enterprise and the Discovery/Shezou pair), US flags, a vintage glass bowl with a silver cover, a pocket dragon snowglobe, a dalek and K9, several Disney figurines, a winged kitty from my recently deceased aunt, a large stuffed Totoro, a tribble, three stuffed bears, and a knitted Cthulhu, among other tchotchkes. And this is down from my all-time high of Japanese figurines and other stuff. I also have lots of different pens and pencils, and I had a Chtuhlu/tentacled coffee mug that I drank from every day (it’s retired at the moment). Admittedly, I have worked here for 35 plus years, we are a non-profit, and I am nowhere near facing the public, but it’s amazing how little anyone cares about what’s on your desk that’s not work.

    It’s kind of like reading the posts about professional dress — so different from the norm at my office — as long as all the relevant areas are covered, you can wear tank tops, flip flops, and shorts in the summer. (Not that I personally do.) Several coworkers wear just that, and several more wear cold shoulder shirts — a lot. I have worn my steampunk dresses, jeans and geeky tee shirts, and denim skirts for years. It’s all good. I suspect it’s very different from most places of employment, but we get the work done and no one is judged by their clothing or desk accessories.

  102. Hankypanky*

    There are lots of ways to show personality in more conservative fields. I’m a Library Director and I have a smattering of inspirational quotes, tasteful wall decorations, and carry my signature red folders, planner and briefcase with me to executive meetings. Wonder woman sits discreetly next to my computer out of view of stakeholders. The key is consistency and picking one item that pops. If you went wild with the hot pink sequence (head to toe, everything pink glitter) then that could reflect negatively. Think Elle Woods arriving at Harvard vs. Elle Woods graduating Harvard. Same smart girl, same individuality, just expressed in smaller chunks.

  103. drpuma*

    I used to work for a fashion company that was also extremely paper-dependent, which meant lots of folders on desks. Cute, colorful folders were kind of a status-y thing – I got a surprising number of complements on mine! Same with colorful water bottles, mugs, etc. If you’re starting a new job and unsure, don’t bring much with you on the first day until you’ve had a chance to see at least a few other desks. But as you’re surely learning, using the supplies and other items around your office to express your personality is a good thing at the vast majority of jobs!

  104. Scout Finch*

    Kinda OT, but you MUST google “sloth hugging guardrail” and look at the sweet pics from Ecuador.

    I have interesting post-it notes, but I am in IT.

  105. Nita*

    Pfffft. Wacky office supplies are the best. Of course, take a look at your office culture first. However, unless unusual supplies are a huge mismatch for the office you’re coming into, people will either love them and ask about them, or they won’t notice. No one’s going to be all upset about you making your workspace more colorful.

  106. Allison*

    You’re in college, now’s the time to be your weird, funky self! When it’s time for internships and your first job out of college, it may not hurt to be a bit more conventional at first, but over time you learn the norms of your office and industry, and establish yourself as an intelligent, competent professional, and you can usually incorporate parts of yourself into your workspace and wardrobe. It’s unfortunate that when you’re a young woman, it can be tough to be taken seriously, especially if you’re short, or have freckles or some physical features that make you look even younger than you are.

  107. Kramerica Industries*

    Maybe don’t go all Elle Woods on your first day with a fuzzy pink pen, but work up to it. I got to know people at my conservative workplace and built up my work ethic and credibility. Then, I brought in my adorable koala mug. I get a few “Oh hey, funny koala!” comments, but not once have I ever got the impression that someone thought I couldn’t do my job well because of my fun cup. Dare I say, it even helped my self-confidence a bit. I can have a serious conversation about compliance law while holding a totally unserious koala mug? These little amusements are what makes the day go by.

  108. Spider*

    OP, if there’s anyone who’s “weird” and out of touch, it’s your dad. You’re fine.

    For one thing, if his concerns with you appearing immature to your schoolmates and future coworkers were well-intentioned, the LEAST he could do is frame his advice to you with kindness, instead of shaming you for being “weird” because you have the ~shocking audacity~ to like cute office supplies. WTF.

    Also, what’s that business about going to a “weird school”?

  109. Anon for a change*

    One of my former coworkers, who was admittedly pretty immature, got another coworker in our team a mug which had I Love Sex printed on it, and the recipient kept it on her desk at work. The only time it caused any issue was when a higher level manager was visiting and our manager told the coworker the day before to hide it before this senior person turned up. So a pink 3 hole punch seems quite mild in comparison….

  110. CL*

    There was a recent question re: being remembered by others. In addition to some of the other suggestions (wear a statement piece, ask questions to get to know the other person), this is an option too – “statement” office supplies. Just as Alison suggests, when you’re more junior and establishing yourself in the workplace, it’s good to have more conservative office supplies. Once you’re established as a trusted professional, these standout office supplies can help set you apart visually.

  111. Laura H.*

    A little personalization is always good. Me? I have colorful pens I like using- they make me happy and asking the “what color do you want written in?” always is fun.

    As a side note, I never have to go hunting for a pen. I always have mine! :)

  112. I will kill people with this cricket bat*

    My desk currently has a hot pink pen holder, hot pink and bright blue file trays, a mint tape dispenser, a notebook with flamingos on it, a holographic pencil case, and I’m wearing a blouse with angry owls on it.

    I’m an Executive Director. I’m pretty sure my quirky stationary habit has not harmed my career at all. Your dad is a grump.

      1. I will kill people with this cricket bat*

        I’m not gonna lie, I’ve been tempted by a fake Gail. I couldn’t keep a real one alive (which is possibly a sad statement on my capabilities as a parent, but there you go).

        1. Granola the Frog, RIP*

          I keep my cats alive just fine but can’t keep basil alive long enough to get any usable leaves. Fish can be tricky since they don’t talk back. (Not gonna lie, I named a plant that I was gifted thinking that it would make me more likely to talk to it, and thereby remember to water it.)

  113. Forever Anon*

    Hi OP – I’ve got a cat shaped paper clip holder at my work desk and no one has ever given it a second thought. A few quirky personal items probably won’t raise too many eyebrows (but you’ll know for sure when you start working and can read the office culture).

  114. Nervous Accountant*

    I’m an “adult” in a supervisor role and you bet your ass I’m going to use all the sparkly flowery glittery pink things I can. If I was 20 years older my office desk would’ve been covered in Lisa Frank. It’s a miracle my computer isn’t all pink.

    I also have a stuffed cat on my desk.

    If someone think I’m bad at my job because of these things, well they have way worse problems to deal with.

    1. Nita*

      Ahhh, Lisa Frank! I think I’m going to look for some Lisa Frank office supplies soon :) My office badly needs some color. Plants have been a total fail (thanks, overzealous AC!) so colorful supplies are my next stop.

  115. DoctorateStrange*

    I’m planning on ordering a Black Phillip funko pop for my work desk. I’m pretty sure any supplies relating to sloths might be preferable to that for a lot of people ;)

  116. An Elephant Never Baguettes*

    I have 2 plush unicorns, two mini dinosaurs, a tiara hair band, a glittery paper mask, and a vast array of glitter pens on my desk, and that’s just what I can remember off the top of my head. I can also see at least 20 more plushies when I look around. Granted, my office is unusual in that I am not sure how people manage to go home WITHOUT glitter somewhere on their person, due to our products, but you do you, OP. I love seeing what unusual knick knacks people have on their desks!

  117. HRJ*

    Glitter – the herpes of the craft world. If you’re going to have glitter, make sure it’s not the kind that sheds, even a little bit!

  118. Thosetaxreturnswontfilethemselves*

    First – that’s very unkind of your dad to call you the “weird kid” at the “weird school”. I think he is projecting some of his own insecurity onto you here.

    I’m saying this because my dad project his insecurity about “not fitting in” onto his kids so hard, it’s painful to watch. you do you!

    Go HAM with the supplies in college – it’s college – no one will care. For actual work, you’ll be able to see the tone pretty quickly just by looking at people’s desks. My office is pretty conservative but that doesn’t prevent me from using a RAINBOW of color. hot pink included.

  119. Susana*

    Oh, I quote the deep thoughts of Alison the Great quite often – but this one is the best!

    “I’m middle-aged and I want a stuffed sloth pencil case, now that I know they exist.”

  120. bonkerballs*

    Every office supply I own is pink. Pink stapler, pink tape dispenser, pink three hole punch, pink mouse, etc. This has been the case for every job I have. These are my things, I bring them to each job, I take them with me when I’m done. I work in non-profit and no one’s ever batted an eye. The only time anyone’s ever paid attention to them is to ask me where to get something similar or to tell me they saw something pink while they were shopping and thought of me.

    Now, I recognize that some places are much more conservative than where I’ve worked and I realize some people are judgey and think that anything pink or otherwise stereotypically girly signifies immaturity or lack of intelligence or whatever other sexist ideas they may come up with, but sometimes you just have to say “this is what I like and I’m not apologizing for it.”

    1. Bea*

      I’m a huge pink fan and have no problem being thrown a random “You won’t be taken seriously!” “Cool myth you believe. I didn’t ask for your input. Wanna try to do my job? Oh you can’t… Byeeeee.”

      1. bonkerballs*

        Right? If you don’t take me seriously because I like the color pink, please know I can now no longer take *you* seriously. I mean, I’ve never been threatened just by a color.

  121. Cringing 24/7*

    OP, coming from someone who doesn’t prefer crazy-colored, shiny work-related objects, there is nothing wrong with having that flair. I used to do all the ordering of office supplies at Old Job and I knew that one of my coworkers preferred things with glitter or pastel-colors and I always made sure that their desk was supplied with appropriately-decorated officeware. It’s not unusual or unprofessional – just a way to reflect things that you like and make your day more colorful.

  122. AdminX2*

    IMO what matters is the trend, and more important, your dependability at the work you do. People forgive acres of eccentricity if you are smart, capable, and fix problems well.

    I say this looking at my pusheen unikitty figure on my desk.

    There’s a woman on my team who LOVES PURPLE, pens, clothes, accessories, even her emails are purple font. I do find in her 50s it comes across as a bit much. But it’s just her quirkiness and I respond to her just as professionally as anyone else.

    There’s another woman who has crazy stickers all over her laptop- and that reflects her crazy approach to doing everything and how she speaks. But she’s dependable and knows her stuff, so it’s not a big deal.

    Plus if you can match that with your job location atmosphere, BONUS.

  123. Urdnot Bakara*

    For what it’s worth, I work in a business-casual office and the head of our department, who is a C-Suite exec, gifted me a purple unicorn stapler.

    Yeah, it helps to get a feel for your work environment first, but in my experience, people really don’t care. Especially for office supplies that will generally stay in your own desk area, which is yours to do whatever with anyway.

  124. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

    I think this one of those ‘it depends’ kind of things.

    Yes fun stuff is great and you can definitely have fun things. That being said, some times and places aren’t fun thing appropriate, so judgement will need to be used.

    *Signing a multi-million dollar deal, maybe opt for the boring black pen instead of the fuzzy sparkly glitter pen
    *Documenting performance issues for an employee, maybe the spiderman stationary isn’t the best option
    *Meeting perspective clients, handing out the proposals bound in hello kitty folders should probably be avoided

    In other words, employ the time and place principals and you’ll be fine.

    ::Signed the person sitting at desk that contains 2 rubber ducks, 1 frog pen, 1 penguin figure, 1 stuffed frog, 1 giant martini glass, 1 giant wine glass, 2 logo rocks, 1 stuffed bunny, 1 self painted tippy jar

    1. Close Bracket*

      When I am president (it could happen), I will sign all bills with sparkly glitter pens specifically so that the people those pens go to will be stuck with glitter pens.

  125. Frankie*

    Yeah, tone down your first few months, and don’t go overboard if you tend to look younger, but especially as you get more serious, this stuff is fine. I have a mousepad of a cat screaming in space, and my husband has a mug of a unicorn farting sprinkles. My officemate has a bobblehead on his desk, etc., etc.

  126. Pickles*

    My dragon stapler is a total conversation starter. I’m mid-30s and in a predominant role being groomed for senior leadership.

  127. CatChaser*

    My office has an adult (~40) male with 3 small stuffed Hello Kitty toys. One is dressed as a member of Kiss, but the other 2 are more traditional Hello Kitties. He is also 6 feet tall, with tattoos.

  128. Minerva*

    I proudly display my red Swingline stapler on my desk, along with an array of stuffed animals with the company logo on them and a Groot Funko Pop.

    And I work for a Fortune 50 financial company.

  129. Gingerblue*

    Any other Katamari Damacy fans here? I have a crocheted katamari with magnets in it sitting on my desk to stick magnets, binder clips, etc. to. (Pattern!: https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/magnetic-katamari) I also have a Tardis mug to keep my pens in, a tape dispenser shaped like a cat, and a magic 8 ball I occasionally use in one of my classes. Of the stuff I keep in my office, I get the most comment on my plant (my colleagues keep being impressed it’s still alive).

    1. Lavender Menace*

      I love Katamari Damacy! I want them to remake the game for current gen systems (but no changes! Just…make the same game over again.)

      I might have to pick up learning how to crochet again so I can make one of those, because that is AWESOME.

    2. Anonymosity*

      I love that game! I can’t crochet, but that is awesome!
      Also, yay TARDIS mug–I have one that when it gets hot the TARDIS disappears from one side and reappears on the other side, in space. :)

  130. ChloeSilverado*


    This is the exact stapler I have on my desk and it has been a great conversation starter. I’m also pretty junior and no one in my office has thought less of my work (that I know of).

    Most people ask where I got it and comment on my impeccable taste in supplies. Like all things, I believe in moderation so I don’t have anything else that is as untraditional. I say for for it!

  131. Weasel007*

    48 year old Tech worker in Finance with a slew of “strange” things on my desk at work. Including: A sloth, a large spider, a baby giraffe (I was hooked on April’s pregnancy), Evee (I still play pokemon), A fish and more! Married with only 4 legged children. I get pink things as well so that I can see them.

  132. Lawyer Leia*

    I’m an attorney, in my 40s. I have “immature” things in my office such as Star Wars memorabilia and anime figurines. Who cares? My boss doesn’t. That’s all that matters. You enjoy what you enjoy. Don’t worry about “immature items.”

  133. voluptuousfire*

    I have a mug when I went to see Hedwig on Broadway (the road show with Euan Morton) that says “Whether you like it or not, Hedwig and the Angry Inch.”

    That’s my only quirky office thing.

  134. Database Developer Dude*

    Current, in my cube, I have two Funko-Pop bobble heads. One is the original Black Ranger from Mighty Morphin Power Rangers..the other is Black Panther. I also have images pinned up in my cube with logos of: The Army Reserve, my current rank in that organization (CW3 for those interested), the Army logo, a couple of certificates for training, an image of me receiving my 2nd Dan (2nd degree black belt) certificate from my taekwondo master, a logo for the World Taekwondo Federation, an image drawn for me of Donatello (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles), the Square and Compasses , the Keystone (I’m a Mark Master Mason), the Triple-Tau , the general OES star, and the past Patron’s symbol (I’m a member of the Order of the Eastern star, and a Past Patron of my Chapter). I also have a huge metal Rising Eagle (I’m an Army Warrant Officer).

    OP, have what you want in your cube, and make it your own. You have to stay there for 8 hours a day. Your father does not.

  135. Tinnuvial*

    I am in my late 40s and have on my desk a small minions poster (https://pin.it/vs4oerede6pt3n), a wicked witch of the west small poster (https://goo.gl/images/V4M2ZK) and snoopy stationary that my boss gave me. I am a senior HR person but working in a casual kind of company. My advise is start off conservative, look at what others do and once you feel comfortable let your freak flag fly!

  136. Bea*

    Cackling like the wicked witch right now.

    I wish I could just post a picture of my desk. Everyone knows I make my own rules. I am obsessed with office supplies and buy 85% of my own because I prefer nice and adorable things.

  137. Miss Fisher*

    Why do fathers always seem to be obsessed with picking on the oddest things? Not a weird college thing, but my father will always be forever disappointed that I attended a public university (where I got a scholarship) instead of attending the small Baptist Bible College associated with his church. I am sorry but attending that school as a women the only option for anything would have been to get that good old MRS. degree. I would also be a pretty horrible judgmental person in my opinion.

    1. Thlayli*

      I have always wondered how those religious colleges work in the US. Where I live we have religious ethos schools for children, and the idea / point is the kids get their religious education in school. Eg I went to catholic school and did the sacraments in school like we all made our first communion together etc and learned about the apostles and that it’s wrong to steal and murder etc. It’s so you don’t have to do Sunday school as well like religious families have to do in America.

      But I don’t really get how it would work with adults who presumably already know about their religion, have completed all their religious rites and hopefully already know that it’s wrong to steal and murder. Maybe it makes sense for a religion that does adult baptism?

      Dont want to derail the thread now but would you be willing to explain about how these colleges work in the open thread this weekend?

  138. Lavender Menace*

    I work in the fabled Corporate World. I have tons of cutesy stuff in my office and as my personal belongings, including a bunch of stuffed animals from various shows I like. I do deliberately decide to carry a more boring work bag (navy blue; lots of pockets; it does have a lavender jacquard lining though) but other than that, I do me!

  139. AConn*

    I use colorful little post-it notes in the shape of heart and stars. I use them even when sending docs to people around the business with my notes; rather than a hindrance I think it can be a good conversation starter and shows your human side! That being said, my work place has a great culture in terms of people interacting in a less formal way.

  140. Bambam*

    My office is pretty middle of the road, we’re a government off shoot. In my last role I worked with VERY senior military (1*, 2* and occasionally 3*) and I also used a mike wazowski coffee mug I bought at Disneyland. Opposite of being judged because of it, my bosses very quickly insisted that I designate it as the guest coffee mug to the most senior person attending any given meaning, and it always broke the ice! (With my full permission of course, and the looks on their faces were worth it). I currently have a BoJack horseman figurine on my desk and have had plenty unicorn/gold/glitter accessories in my last multiple years.

    My favourite desk adornment in recent years has been a colleague who has a photograph of, I assumed, their husband on their desk which I walked past every day for about a year before realising it was a framed photograph of *acclaimed British documentary presenter and all around legend* David Attenborough. The frame was also a glitter snowglobe style. +100 for office humour!

  141. lyonite*

    On the wall behind my cubicle I have a poster with drawings of every American vice president with octopuses on their heads.

    1. lyonite*

      Also, for your immediate question, there is no way on Earth this is going to make you look weird in college. This sort of thing is made for college. I guarantee, there will be a girl in your dorm who keeps her pencils in, like, a taxidermied possum and people will barely bat an eye.

  142. Arjay*

    I have green staples in my stapler. They bring me joy every time I have to staple anything, although that’s less and less often these days. It brings me super joy when someone notices and comments on them.

    1. motherofdragons*

      Thanks to this thread, I now know there is a Leslie Knope Funko doll! *hustles off to ebay*

  143. Pickaduck*

    I don’t know where you’ll end up working, but I am a 52 year old Department director and I have a red high heel tape dispenser, a mr. Rogers set of Post-it notes, an Oscar Mayer Wienermobile whistle, a set of teeny tiny office supplies that Barbie could use, Etc. Everyone loves my office! And they still take me seriously.

    1. Anonymosity*

      I had one of those whistles (I have no idea where it went). At OldExjob, I also had one of those little flip frogs that you press on like a tiddlywink and it jumps. Everyone would play with the frog when they came over to my desk.

  144. aebhel*

    Yeah, in my field (library science), not a one of those would make anyone bat an eye. I mean, librarians are a bit loopy, you might want to go easy on the glitter in a law office, but at most it’s just mildly goofy, not unprofessional.

    1. aebhel*

      …also I have like six dragon figurines and a collection of framed Star Trek TOS posters in my office. So there’s that.

  145. Queenie*

    What do you do if a coworker gives you things to decorate your cubicle that you don’t actually like?

    At a previous job, I sat next to someone who had random cutesie stuff all over their cubicle (kitties, Disney movie characters, bunnies, rainbows, etc.). I had a couple personal things in my cubicle, but they thought it wasn’t enough, so they put a bunch of their extra bunny figures on my filing cabinet to “help” me decorate. I’m not into cutesie things, but felt like it would be rude to give them back, so I just left them. People thought I liked bunnies and bought me more. Which…was not ideal.

    Not sure how to politely refuse decoration gifts. :/

    1. Anonymosity*

      If that ever happens again, just return them and say “Oh, thank you so much, these are cute but not really my thing.”

      1. Queenie*

        That’s a good way to give a compliment (“these are cute”) while setting a boundary (“not my thing”). :)

    2. Courageous cat*

      I would just say something like “Oh that’s so adorable but unfortunately I go crazy if I have any clutter around me” (which for me is very very true).

      1. Queenie*

        That’s a good excuse since that’s true for me too. I generally like decorative things that I can hang on my cube walls or that serve a functional purpose and would be there anyway (like cute post-its). That way I have lots of room to work without clutter getting in my way.

  146. Emmykins*

    I definitely have coasters that look like bear rugs as well as a kitty tape dispenser! You do you and trust your own judgment.

  147. Argh!*

    Dad is old-school. Your first boss will probably be younger and if older, have more experience with younger people. Unless you’ll be the receptionist for a Wall Street hedge fund or a legal firm, there’s no need to worry about this stuff.

    Most offices supply their own office supplies, but in school you supply your own so you buy what you like. Period.

    If you can’t get him to see things your way, threaten to go all-out Harajuku style!


  148. Anonymosity*

    I’m 53 years old and have a Hello Kitty pen my niece gave me, a Hello Kitty lip gloss/mirror, a Platform 9-3/4 Harry Potter luggage tag on my tote bag, regularly wear a Gryffindor scarf in winter, use an Avengers lanyard to carry my flash drive, and and I do not give two f*cks who thinks I’m weird.

  149. Blue Tuna*

    OP’s dad is definitely being too rigid, though I agree with the point that it’s best to wait until you have better grasp of your office culture before you break out the super fun stuff.

    If people working “serious” office jobs were meant to only have neutral color supplies, Moleskine wouldn’t have multiple lines of funky notebooks. I am the very proud owner of a Minions Moleskine myself, and have seen colleagues with the Lego, Spiderman and Game of Thrones ones.

  150. SallyForth*

    There are lots of ways your office supply obsession can translate into a strong workplace image. You won’t get a piece of the supplies budget to indulge your love but it’s still easy to personalize.

  151. Shana*

    It makes me sad that your dad is judging you or assuming that others will judge you. I’m in my late 30s, in a senior position, working in an office where most people don’t do much decorating of their offices or cubes, but my (very colorful) private office is a place that people like to visit and comment on. Being professional and nondescript are not the same thing. I agree with other commenters that you should read the vibe of any office before plunging into full on adorable/kookyness, but I say be (and love) yourself as you are.

    Also I approve of all of the sloth discussion here. I love sloths so much, I had one at my wedding (and yes, I have multiple photos of me, my husband, and the sloth in my office).

  152. AKchic*

    I’ve always been “the weird one”.
    I have a glow-in-the-dark fish skeleton stapler. I bought it when I was a receptionist so people would quit stealing my generic one and claiming it was really theirs (really, we can see “Reception Desk” written on the bottom).
    I have a TMNT lunchbox for my colored pens. Unless it’s for legal purposes, all of my writing is in “fun” colors, and has been for a decade.
    I had a boss refer to me as a shorter mix of Abby from NCIS, Penelope from Criminal Minds and Elvira, but was too lazy to dress up every day. He was pretty dead on.

    You’re in school. You’re allowed to be young and quirky. Once you hit work… yeah, ease the coworkers and bosses into your flair. Once you’re established – let that freak flag fly!

  153. Empty Sky*

    I think showing your personality at work is generally good, but you have to keep a sense of when it might or might not be appropriate, and it should be your servant and not your master. Don’t be that person who sends all-staff e-mails calling the management fascists because of the new rule that you can have no more than 20 troll dolls on your desk.

  154. Jess*

    Oh my goodness, GO FOR IT! Like Allison says, gauge the temperature of the office, but I feel strongly that it’s awesome to have something small that brings you joy when you use it frequently. I pay out of pocket for my own “nice” pens to use – I use them SO OFTEN all day every day in the workplace that I figure it’s worth it.

    Looking around my (fairly relaxed, TBH) office I see lots of different pens, bright notebooks, personal mugs as pen holders, and the occasional other bits and pieces.

    I’ve also just decided to take up a fountain pen habit – they’re easier to write with than I thought, I love the ink, I want to improve my penmanship, they’re a point of difference and a conversation starter. (Also no one steals my pen because they think they can’t write with it, hah!) I’ve started with a Pilot MR3 pen – they’re cheap enough that if it does go missing off my desk it’s not the end of the world, and they come in a range of funky modern colours and designs.

  155. LadyProg*

    I work in video games. I have a mermaid pen, unicorn notebook and even unicor slippers I use at work. I’m also a lead. No one cares and even likes them all :)

  156. Wealp*

    All of you fans of cute office supplies should go shopping in Korea – they have the cutest stuff! When I lived there I liked to go window shopping for random cute items when I was in a bad mood – instant mood lifter!
    I also love cute Korean clothes and omg, socks! Thankfully, I saw cute Korean socks in Forever 21 but of course the selection here in the US is much more limited. Still awesome though

  157. Notthemomma*

    We set up a brigade of little green army men around the printer that would spew out our work. Those brave men and women saved us from many onslaughts! They were on the cubes, in the plants, a top of monitors. Even the SVP of this we’ll known international banking group grinned when he saw them.

    Once you know the culture, own your goofiness!!

  158. James*

    I was one of the few women in the project management training at my company earlier this year, and we had to leave our phones on a table all day in order to have no distractions. I was the only one with a silvery hyper-glittery phone case, sitting amongst all the plain black ones.

    I and my team use whatever weird supplies we want, and we also have all kinds of crazy decorations on our desk.

    I have been here 12 years, though. And we do tend to hide some of our crazy when we know certain clients or important people will be in the office – just general common sense stuff.

  159. Courageous cat*

    For some reason I find this post profoundly endearing. YMMV of course, but I have personally never worked in an office where this would be an issue. I think their dress code would be a good rule of thumb – if you have to wear suits, go conservative, but if everyone’s wearing jeans and flip flops then you’d be good.

    And I want a snail notebook.

  160. CheekyParrot*

    I have the “Eccentric” desk at the office, my desk is filled with video game themed supplies…Lamps, light up keyboard, comics, stuffed toys and more. My direct reports and co-workers love it and often stop by to borrow or play with the gadgets on my desk. I have found that having fun things on my desk make people smile and lighten up the day. We work hard, let’s have a little fun too!

    LW, don’t be afraid to have a personality at work! If you work hard, behave professionally and get along with you co-workers then you have nothing to worry about. :)

  161. AnonInfinity*

    I was at Target a few days ago and browsed the cute office supply aisle – Rifle Paper-esque flower/marble/hot pink file folders, glittery notebooks, pink portfolios, cutesy pens and pencils, gold sets of staplers/dispensers/cup holders, etc. All super cute and trendy things I liked for a moment. I could imagine buying and displaying one of those items at most for my work office. If I had a home office, heck yeah – I’d be all over it.

    So, you know, I think this is a total YMMV thing. I would never, ever, ever go cutesy in my office, even though I absolutely could at my workplace. For me, I’m young enough with enough of a certain look that people think I’m some sort of hallway admin, and I actively take measures to discourage an “at first glance, I assumed you were” type of thing. At first glance, I want people to know what I *do.* I want their first impression of me to be my area of professional interests and expertise. I often have clients in my office, and I want them to see my books, professional literature, diplomas (per industry norm), etc. rather than glittery cute knick-knacks. I was pretty pleased the other day when I had to leave a client in my office to pick up what I had printed for her, and I came back to see her thumbing through the book that governs my field. What a great conversation starter! So much more gratifying than, “I really love your purple glitter pen!” (IMO). Beyond that, I have a trendy, textured rug with neon colors in it, and my desktop background is a trendy pink design. Otherwise, I try to display one-of-a-kind items (eh, maybe two-of-a-kind items) that draw interest but not eye rolls or assumptions about me as a 30-something blonde lady who wears dresses. To me, it’s like loving Sailor Moon – and choosing to wear daily cosplay costumes vs. rocking a fierce red nail polish and a great pair of heels. Again, YMMV.

    FWIW, my formative work years were spent in an office where we were actively discouraged from decorating, weren’t allowed to have non-black desk accessories, and more than one family photo was pushing it. Then I worked in a place where I shared an office with six other managers and was actively discouraged from spending too much time in that office; thus, I never saw the point of decorating my 12″ of desk space and broken, dented filing cabinet drawer. Another version of me who spent her twenties in more fun and laidback office settings would be buying all those cute things at Target (Rifle Paper co-esque flower file folders ZOMG maybe I’ll buy those anyway!).

  162. HR that Cares*

    Yeah your dad is wrong. I work as an HR Rep for a company and my office is covered with Disney stuff lol. Pens, calendars, cups, post its, etc. My awesome director also loves Disney so it’s something fun we share.

  163. Mari*

    I’m sure that varies a lot by field and company. I’m in biotech. Everyone bellow senior management dresses pretty casually, since many are in the lab for at least a few hours each day. As long as you conform to EH&S standards, no one cares. I have a cat print shirt that I wear aboout once a week with coordinating cat pearl earrings. One of my coworkers often wears tops with sequin/glitter decorations, fun shoes, etc. I see a lot of fun mugs and little geeky desk toys around. When I was in academia, even the faculty were not above fun hair colors, visible tattoos, piercings, and very casual clothes. Obviously a bank or law firm would be a lot less likely to be so casual. Once you’re actually working, you’ll get a feel for your workplace’s culture.

  164. Flying Fish*

    I’m an older millennial. I’m a healthcare professional, and my desk is not in an area visible to patients. I’ve been at my job a while, so my colleagues and boss respect me and know I’m a little peculiar.

    I buy some of my own office supplies, and I try to pick and usually colored items so that I know it’s mine if I’ve left it somewhere or someone’s accidentally picked it up. It works great with pens!

    In addition to my oddly colored office supplies, my desk/windowsill have:
    -a rubber stress chicken (from a yankee swap)
    -my preferred pens
    -a stemless wine glass with a “prescription” to drink 8oz wine three times daily as needed (a gift)
    -a white blood cell stuffed toy and a Clostridium Dificile stuffed toy
    -a statue of Tali from Mass Effect
    -a sample container labeled “stool sample” containing a miniature sitting stool
    -a small stuffed toy that was my son’s when he was a baby
    -my first stethoscope (purple), which is now broken, but served me faithfully for about 15 years. My current one is green. I am the only one out of about 30 stethoscope-wearers in the office with a green one.

  165. Amethystmoon*

    Generally, your office supplies will be supplied by your company. The only time you would have to purchase your own is if you worked from home, in which case, you can have whatever you want.

    1. missc*

      You might not ‘have to’ buy your own stationery supplies, but plenty of people want to, whether it’s to add a little personality to their office space or just because the stuff that’s supplied by the company isn’t particularly great.

      The company I work for provides us with stationery, but it’s dull, and I have particular things that I like to use that they don’t supply. So I bought myself a funky notebook with narrow-ruled lines – because I have small handwriting and prefer narrow lines – and I bought myself some pens with coloured ink for when I’m making my own notes, just because. I also bought a desk planner because I have a lot of different deadlines and it helps me to keep track of everything. I didn’t ‘have to’ buy them, but I chose to because I enjoy using them.

  166. Flash*

    It really all depends on your work environment. I work in a literal zoo and a pencil case like that would be the envy of all my coworkers. I now have to go find one in stock…

  167. fogharty*

    I have about three dozen solar dancing flowers lined up all along my cubicle window. They are joined by the odd seasonal solar character like a dancing snowman or pink flamingo. My previous office manager would have hated them, the current one thinks they’re fine, and visitors to the office have commented on how fun they are.

  168. Watson*

    Haha I’ve had the inverse experience to almost everyone in this thread – I used to work in product design at a multinational kids’ stationery brand where it was wall-to-wall cutesy characters, bright colours, glitter and scented EVERYTHING…

    The stationery cupboard for office use was all fruit-scented highlighters, hamburger sticky notes and glittery penguin head-shaped notebooks – but I took in my sensible steel Parker Jotter and plain covered Leuchtturm dot grid notebook. It was so full-on I needed my own space of visual calm and maturity!

  169. MrsMurphy*

    Take heart, LW. I‘m in my thirties and love my My Little Pony-pen, which is reserved for checking invoices and regularly needs defending from envious coworkers.

  170. SS Express*

    I’ve been working for several years, and have mostly worked at fairly conservative organisations in roles where presentation and appearances do matter, but I’ve always had fun office supplies like colourful notepads, sparkly pens, novelty shaped post-its etc. And I’ve always been complimented on my professionalism and the way I present myself, so it’s definitely not been an issue. Some of the smartest, most capable and most respected women I’ve worked with have also been the ones with the most fabulous outfits and awesome office supplies.

    I’ve worked with plenty of “serious” men who have things like that too – usually not glittery pink notebooks and pens, but model cars and action figures, licensed mugs (e.g. Star Wars or superheroes) and various sports memorabilia items are all pretty common.

    NB: I do keep my desk quite neat and tidy, and all my stuff kind of coordinates, so I think those two things ensure it looks organised and professional instead of juvenile. But if I was still in school I wouldn’t worry about that either!

  171. Swift Tailor*

    I’m a lady of a certain age and I put a lot of thought into my office supplies. My pushpins on my corkboard look like paper airplanes. I have peel and stick eyes/mouth stickers for the stapler, tape dispenser and label maker. All of my binder clips have unique designs that really stand out. I make my own scratch pads by cutting copy paper headed for the recycle bin into notepad shape, then use stamps with unusual designs (birds, octopus, sloth, stingray, etc) to stamp the notepad to make it a little more fun. I put poetry magnets on the fridge and they are a huge hit. It’s done done in a childish way, but more in a “this person really pays attention to the littlest detail” kinda way and people really like it – especially the binder clips. Oh, and I bought my own file folders and files so I’d have a bright color and it really looks so nice and cheerful in my office.

  172. Mark A*

    Two ladies at work try to outdo esvh other. One with pink, the other with purple.
    Over time,and using work ordered stationery supplier, they’ve converted all the folders on the shelves, staplers, hole punches, clips everything.
    At first, I confess it grated, but it’s just fun.

  173. Jemima Bond*

    All this advice is about right I think – don’t cover your desk with toys on your first day but collect some fun bits and bobs as you settle in. I use the standard boring blue notebooks as ordered by the office in case of meetings with non-colleagues (and in a former version of my job, for court or meetings with lawyers) but the post-it notes in our stationery order are fluorescent colours. And on my desk I have a patchwork tissue holder and “mug rug” (long coaster with space for a biscuit as well as a mug of coffee) and a stuffed platypus made from an old departmental logo t-shirt. Everyone loves him!

  174. sig yt?*

    For yearmy abusive parents talked yo me that way when I expressed any sort of individuality. Consider putting them on an info diet and working on having good boundaries- anyone who can turn you liking a folder w a snail on it into trying to make you worry about other hypothetical people’s opinion of you (which is really his own…) Is it healthy.

  175. Who doesn’t want one??*

    Amongst much other silliness, I have an enormous inflatable moose head hanging on my office wall. He moved jobs and states with me. I have a calendar from despair, inc and several small LEGO sets that I build and take apart during conference calls. I have a high-stakes (screw up can result in deaths) office job and a professional license. I’m damn good at what I do. I work a ton. And my office will entertain me. My coworkers are just glad they don’t have my job and my bosses let me be.

  176. mimsie*

    I know I’m singing to the choir, but because the OP sounds young I want to offer another supporting voice. Many many people have mentioned that you should first get to know your company and don’t go overboard, which I agree with. But generally speaking, please don’t stifle your personality and interests in the name of “work”! I’ve worked in a rather “looks driven” company before (you could only use black binders, no blue or red ever!) but even there, even upper management used beautifully designed notebooks varying in different colors and designs, quirky and fashion-y phone cases and laptop covers. It definitely depends on the company culture, but if you find the right fit for you, you shouldn’t have any problems expressing your personal style through stationery.

  177. Wannabikkit*

    On my desk I have a Captain America mug and a small Ironman Mr Potato Head. I bring my lunch in a Marvel Avengers lunchbox. No-one bats an eyelid. I’m a 46 year old woman.
    I say go for the glitter!

  178. Lanon*

    If whoever is making stuffed sloth pencil cases is not sponsoring this blog, they should.

    Source: considering to buy a stuffed sloth pencil case now.

  179. BananaRama*

    You should see the amount of TOYS people have on their desks in my office. It really depends on your office culture. And, I would add, the image you want to present to people professionally.

  180. always in email jail*

    Wow, I’m completely in the minority here because I kind of agree with the dad? NOT about college- I think the school supplies are definitely great for college, and honestly why did he feel the need to bring up office culture at this specific point in time rather than when you’re… heading to an office? BUT in every environment I’ve worked in those things would be frowned upon, especially in a young female, and I thought I worked pretty casual places!
    As Alison always says, I think it’s a “know your office” situation. As many others have pointed out, I wouldn’t show up on day 1 with that stuff.

  181. Ladyphoenix*

    In my office if a art nouvou insipirednpic of Sailor Moon, a signed poster from a nightwish concert I went to this year, and almost 3 shelves full of Funko pops (Bioshock, 1 Beauty and the Beast, 1 Gravity falls, 1 Ms Marvel, Steven Universe, and Overwatch), Tsum Tsums (Marvel), and a Pokemon plush (Popplio). I have them all neatly allighen on my small shelf with their boxes behind them.

    I also have a trophy of a Sailing Regatta I went to with my dad on the spur of the moment (3rd Place).

    It is knowing your office culture, keeping everything neat, and allowing space for your work.

    As for cutesy school supplies? Sure!

  182. Checkert*

    Your supplies do not define you. The quality of your work will. You can take just as useful of notes on a cat shaped notebook as a boring one!

  183. Fishgal*

    I think this advice is spot on. I work in a male dominated field but relaxed office. I’m known for having obnoxiously bright stuff that’s generally pink. I learned if your stuff is pink then they won’t borrow it. I have a problem with the guys stealing my pens constantly until I bought a bright colored variety pack that looked normal. My boss would go to write and then be like “gah it’s pink, why is it pink” I’m like use your own pens.

  184. EvanMax*

    I’m late to the party, but I just wanted to voice my status as another Fountain Pen Addict. I generally have at least one pen case open on my desk, and change ink colors and nib sizes at a whim depending on what I feel like doing. Most people don’t notice/care, but the few that do are envious that I’m using something nicer than the super generic ballpoints in the supply room.

    Not that I’m anti-ballpoint. I’ve got a Limited Edition Retro 1951 Tornado with a purple Fisher Space Pen refill in it for when I need to write on something fountain pen un-friendly…

    But yeah, having an interest in stationery products cane honestly just mean that you are more fulfilled and engaged when in the office, because you enjoy the tools you are using. That’s not a bad thing.

  185. Alianne*

    I work in a Serious Law Office as a Serious Paralegal…and I have a baseball bobblehead on my left, a My Little Pony on my right, DC Bombshells Batwoman perched on my filing shelf glaring at evildoers, and a glittery “Best Aunt” craft-thing made by my niece right where anyone walking in can see it.

    It’s your space, and you can have what you want in it as long as it doesn’t violate any office rules or hinder your work. Go for it!

    1. KiwiDog*

      Oh, I’m envious of the Batwoman, although I have a Funko Pop Wonder Woman (the movie version) and a Batgirl guarding my computer.

  186. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

    I have a direct report who gets all of her own supplies, uses colored pens, etc. She’s extremely professional and one of my best staff. (Shhhh … she also has visible tattoos. Oh noes!!!) We do supply generic pens, notebooks, post-its, etc., but she likes having her unique ones and I encourage it!

    PS – I am pretty sure *MY* boss will want the sloth pencil case. He already has a stuffed sloth hanging from the lamp in his office.

  187. Kali*

    The most anyone’s ever said about my stationary is “wow, I wish I could be that organised!”.

  188. Marianne*

    When I didn’t work at home, I had posters of cats flying in space on my wall (put up by a friend), a TARDIS, a cat stapler and a cat tape dispenser. I was a senior manager

  189. AFPM*

    OP – you are a person after my own heart. I am 41 and STILL love those types of office supplies, and Staples is like a toy store for me (especially the back to school stuff for people young enough to be my children). Although I try to tone it down just slightly at work because I’m a manager, but I have a work notebook (I purchased it with my own money) with fluorescent paper, and my staff use bright colored pens to take notes and write on non-official documents. You do you!

  190. KiwiDog*

    I’m eternally grateful to the OP for clueing the AAM world in on sloth pencil cases, to Alison for printing the letter so we could be informed consumers of sloth pencil cases, and to Hill to Die On for providing the important link to the sloth pencil case source.

    Yes, I ordered one, too. (The joys of being old and established enough to be secure in my future when carrying a sloth pencil case in my bags.)

  191. Mrs. Carmen Sandiego JD*

    I have a couple of kinder egg toys and a jedi bobblehead on my desk. And a sparkly snowflake plastic ring that came from an office Xmas party cupcake. Quirky=cool :)

  192. EmKay*

    I am a 38 year old admin and you can pry my cat-themed office supplies out of my cold, dead hands.

    Matter of fact, my boss gave me a box full of cat-themed paper clips, pens, a coffee mug, etc. for administrative professionals week. So yes, I am widely known in the office as “that admin who really loves cats”. I’m 100% okay with that.

  193. Elle Kay*

    My supervisor keeps loosing his stapler so I bought him a Neon Orange replacement. He loves it! (and hasn’t lost it yet)

    My only comment: I’d keep a more traditional/conservative notebook for forward-facing meetings. If/when you meet with external clients and you have no idea how they might be judging you I’d go with a more staid notebook. But otherwise and at your own desk? Go to town!

  194. BillieB*

    Late to the party, but I started my career 15 years ago working for a tech company. Quirky was the culture and immature desk decor and office supplies were embraced fully. As long as we all kept anything that could be offensive to someone at home, there really was no issue. I’m talking like My Little Pony and Star Wars figurine collections. So, really, it comes down to where you work. I did end up working for a finance company, and the quirky was much more subdued, but could still be found. In more conservative cultures, it probably helps to get to know the culture and build a professional reputation before going all out pink and slot-themed supplies.

  195. LeighTX*

    I’m late to this party, but have a viewpoint from the employer’s side: we recently hired an AP clerk who came on her second day with a full bag of items like a fun keyboard cover, cute tape dispenser, crazy pens, etc. While almost everyone here has some personal stuff in their offices or cubes–I have a Hamilton poster on one wall, an elephant-shaped cell phone stand, etc.–it was a little much for only her second day at work, and it didn’t make her seem very serious. Your fun stuff is perfect for school, but once you start working I’d recommend first seeing how everyone else decorates their office, and then bring the fun things in slowly–maybe one at a time, instead of all at once.

  196. Triple Anon*

    It definitely depends on the office. I think that if you’re otherwise a good worker and you get along with everyone, having fun taste in office supplies would be a good thing. Not in all offices. But if the culture isn’t sombre and conservative, it would probably help to liven things up and your co-workers would enjoy it.

    I think that parents sometimes get self-conscious about their children. There’s that, “How will this reflect on me?” / “Omg I was that weird at that age and now I’m embarrassed about it!” sort of mentality, sometimes mixed with a little jealousy. Maybe your dad secretly wants a sloth pencil case.

  197. CanCan*

    You may not need your supplies once you start work. All offices I’ve ever worked in had their own office supplies. I haven’t met anybody yet who used their own office supplies (maybe one person with a notebook of a type not supplied by the employer).

    Regardless – you’re shopping for school supplies now, and no reason not to make them fun. No need to take your office supply needs into consideration just yet.

  198. Mariella*

    UK based here. Not if its a cultural thing or just my office, but a few understated bits here and there seem more professional.

    For example, i have a flower print coaster, and a photoprint mug, maybe some circular post its occasionally. Maybe with a glittery pen like so:


    Others in my office are the same, some may have a couple of toys on their desk or a mug of their own etc.

    Everything else sounds amazing, but would look quite out of place with where i am now (sloth pencil case included), so maybe just bear in mind what other people have on their desks/cubes etc

  199. Arizhel*

    Dude, in the call center I used to work at we loved weird office supplies. We’d buy stickers and glitter pens and all sorts of other things to decorate our cubicles and we’d trade them with each other. I had a candy jar that I decorated with stars and opalescent unicorns. I also stuck giant googly eyes on the little round magnets that came with my white board. My cube was full of all sorts of pictures and drawings. I can see an argument for needing serious office supplies if you’re in a conservative corporate position, but you aren’t even working yet! You’re in school! Honestly, I think your dad needs to pull the stick out of his butt and leave you alone about your choice in supplies.

  200. tink*

    My note-taking book for work is turquoise blue and has “bless your heart” written on the front, and I’ve got a mini-calendar with the DC Super Hero characters in it. Work provides most of our office supplies, but I like having a small personal calendar and my notebook, so I bought those.

  201. Hannah Banana*

    What?! I’m in my 30s and now I want a sloth pencil case — too cute!

    Don’t listen to your dad and listen to what you learn about your corporate culture; some places a sloth pencil case will be coveted, ignored, or perhaps seen as childish, it all depends on your organization.

    I’m sure your dad would hate my desk. I have a bunch of Giant Microbe plushies (I work in healthcare), a Tesla paperclip holder, and some really “weird” coffee mugs. While childish to some it’s perfectly fine where I work and I’ve found it’s a great icebreaker when someone new comes along!

  202. Hamburke*

    My first job after graduating college was in a government chem lab – so reasonably conservative and male dominated. My cube housed our team calendar and other team documents/forms and my bench was where clear glassware was stored (since cleaning it was part of my job). My pens were always disappearing! I finally went out and bought hot pink pens (government job – you get whatever office supplies we bid on)! They wrote black or blue (job requirement) but we’re pink on the outside. I had 5 pens. Only lost one (to our team admin) when I left a year later! Girly and hot pink isn’t necessarily immature.

  203. SarahTheEntwife*

    I have a sloth-shaped tea infuser (little silicone thing with holes in it that you put looseleaf tea in and then sits in your mug) and it has temporarily derailed at least one staff meeting so everyone could coo at it. ;-)

  204. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

    For a typical corporate office… If the item is anything that is meant to be portable and may be taken to meetings, I say keep it professional (which does *not* mean boring but probably excludes the heavily bedazzled, stuffed animals, etc.). If the item is for storing work product or company records, such as a folder, I say keep it professional and snail-free. You may need to take that folder to a meeting or transfer it to another person or send it to file storage.

    Even in a moderately conservative office environment, people will have fun/kitschy items sitting on their desk. I think there is a line that shouldn’t be crossed in most work environments, and it relates to the quantity of items and the nature of the items, and you have to figure out where that line is, based on the office culture. I think it’s good to keep in mind that, despite the huge amount of time that we spend at work, the cube/office doesn’t belong to us. It’s a place of business, not your living room. Your employer wants to convey a certain image or impression with its office space and its personnel, and that image may not be Imaginationland a la South Park (as fun as that would be).

  205. chickaletta*

    Oh the crazy things people have at their desks where I work! Everyone’s personality comes out at their cubicles. There’s the Mickey Mouse lady, the Star Wars guy, the person with a hundred family photos, several people with as many plants as they can cram onto their four-foot shelf, Pez dispenser collection person, the hoarder, the minimalist, the woman who changes everything every month to go with the season…

  206. Mark Spice*

    I’m possibly not the best placed to comment (I used to have a stuffed ebola virus, a couple of skulls and a transvestite toy rat called ‘Reggie’ on my desk) but the only drawback to having personal stationery on your desk is that some git will always nick it.

  207. Dean J*

    My office has a 6′ wide stuffed-animal Pusheen. We’re arguing if we should get rid of the thing to free up a desk, or if we really do want it badly enough to spend the floor space… but unless it was some weird-fetish-pencil-case… I can’t imagine that being a problem.

  208. MonkeySeeMonkeyDo*

    I’m running late on this one, but I had to share this story:

    Several years ago my boss showed up to a meeting with a fairly unusual notebook – one with One Direction on it. Mind you, my boss is a very professional woman in her mid 40s with an impeccable reputation in our industry and who is generally fairly conservative in dress and demeanor, so this was a bit out of left field.

    It turned out that she’d already been running late when she’d spilled coffee all over her notebook and the only unused notebook that she could find quickly belonged to her 13 year old daughter – so she just threw her hands up and went with it.

    Not only did nobody think it was particularly weird once she’d explained the situation, we sort of universally decided to run with it. We wound up with a One Direction calendar in the break room, when my partner went to London for work he brought me back pound store One Direction candy to distribute at work, and for the holidays that year our boss gave us all pens with “we’re unstoppable if we move in One Direction, together” on them in addition to our usual bonuses. We, of course, got her a new One Direction notebook.

    It was a bit odd and quirky, but man, it was great for morale that winter!

  209. Ellee*

    At a company where I once worked, the rule was nothing personal on the desk except a coffee mug. Each time I went on a break, out to lunch, or went home at the end of the day, I was required to clear my desktop of everything except the telephone. So I started using my lunch time for job interviews so I could get away from that bleak place.

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