5 Simple Steps to Declutter and Organize Pens in Your Home Office

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Writing a whole post about how to organize pens in your home office may seem a little crazy. After all – it’s easy to just dump them into a cup or mug or some other type of pen holder, right?

But the thing is – pens have a way of multiplying.

And, all too often, we don’t really spend the time to pare them down. Without realizing it, these pens and pencils have overtaken your desk.

Not only that, having too many pens lying around can become a source of frustration – and, believe it or not, a draw on your time.

So, let’s explore how to organize these pens and pencils so that you always have a writing instrument that works and is right for the job at hand.

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small pen holder with a variety of pens and pencils on a desk

The Problem With Having Too Many Pens

I come from a family that really loves their office supplies.

Last week I was at my parents house and I needed a pen for some official type of paperwork.

In the kitchen, my dad not only has a whole drawer dedicated to pens, pencils, staplers, tape, etc. but there is also an office type organizer with more pens on the counter.

Moving into his office area, you will find still more cups filled with pens.

You would think that with all those writing instruments available for the taking, I would be able to find one to sign the official document I had in front of me.


I tried pen after pen after pen – some wrote very faintly, most were blue ink and I needed black, some skipped when writing, and so on.

The bottom line was that it took me quite some time (and a good piece of scratch paper) to find just the right pen for my needs.

This was time wasted – not to mention the level of frustration that I began to experience.

Now imagine if he had just had a handful of solid, reliable, working pens instead of those drawerfuls. He would save so many resources including:

  • time,
  • space (drawer space, desk space, and counter space),
  • and personal energy.

Is Your Pen Situation Working for You?

This may be an extreme example, but I want you to take a look at your own pen situation.

Ask yourself some of the following questions:

  • Can I easily find a working pen when I need one?
  • Do I have too many pens cluttering up my home office desk?
  • Is there never a pen in sight when I need it?
  • Do I have a place to store my pens?

If you are experiencing some frustration when it comes to writing instruments, maybe it’s time to organize those pens. I will guide you through it.

Step 1: Take Stock of the Types of Pens that You Use

pens divided into groups based on categories listed on yellow sticky notes

For this step you will need a clear, empty, surface – like your desk or a table to sort your pens into the following five categories.

It helps to use a sticky note to designate what each pile contains.

And you should also have some scrap paper on hand to test out each pen as you categorized it.

  1. Practical Use Pens
  2. Specialty Pens
  3. Pens You Like
  4. Extra Pens
  5. Pens That Don’t Work

1. Practical Use Pens

Practical use pens are the ones make sense for the type of work you do every day.

For me, this pile would contain one or two of each of the following type pens:

  • black gel pens for signing checks and documents (I ALWAYS have a UniBall Signo 207 on hand because it features Super Ink which protects against water, fading and fraud)
  • a regular gel or ball point pen, and
  • a highlighter,
  • a pencil and eraser.
  • an eraser, and
  • a few pretty pens to decorate my desk.

2. Specialty Pens

These are pens that you don’t use all the time but need once in a while.

For me these include:

I often need a Sharpie to write addresses on envelopes or packages to mail.

And I love writing in my planners and journals with colorful markers.

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3. Pens You Like

pretty pen with a floral print on barrel

This category is for the pretty pens that dress up your workspace. I think of them as desk candy.

You know that I love anything Erin Condren. Well, currently I am using their beautiful Wildflower Gel Pen that coordinates perfectly with my LifePlanner. (You can read my latest Erin Condren Life Planner Collection review here.)

You don’t need too many of these – just enough to make you smile when you sit down at your desk.

Keep in mind that the pens you like can do double duty as one of your practical pens too. Just make sure that the pen itself is in good working order – if it needs a new cartridge or refill be sure to order one right now while you are working on this project!

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4. Extra Pens

After dividing your pens into the categories above, you probably are realizing that you have multiple pens for each designation.

This happens for many reasons.

Often when you purchase pens like the UniBall Signo 207 or the Sharpie markers, they come in multi-packs.

You also may have branded pens that you have picked up from various business or events. These will range from cheap ball point pens to fancy pens with replaceable ink cartridges.

Categories 1, 2, and 3 should be for pens that you want to keep within easy reach on your home office desk.

This category – Category 4 – is for all the duplicates and extra pens that you have that are in good working order.

5. Pens That Don’t Work

As you sort through your pens, you should have been testing each one on a piece of scrap paper to see if the pen actually works.

This pile is for all the pens that don’t work, skip when you write, write weakly, need a new ink cartridge, or have other issues.

For the most part, you can probably toss these pens in the trash.

However, if you have a favorite pen that falls into this category, you may decide to get a new ink cartridge for it instead – so you can continue to use it.

For example, my son made me a gorgeous pen out of wood in his high school shop class. It stopped working years ago – so I am using this pen organization project as an opportunity to get new ink for it and start using the pen again.

Step 2: The Best Storage Options to Organize Pens

Most of us have a some kind of pencil or pen cup on our desk or countertop – it is the easiest place to store pens.

But this pencil cup is not a place to store all of your pens.

Ideally, you will have a few items from categories one, two, and three in this cup on your desk – your go-to practical pens, a few specialty pens, and pens that make you smile.

Everything else falls into the Extra Pens category and needs to be stored elsewhere – like in a pencil pouch or a tray in your desk drawer for example.

Pen and Pencil Cups

A red white and blue mug, a small grayish ceramic cup, and a rectangular acrylic pen cup.

Choosing a pencil cup may not seem like a big deal – but a pencil cup is really a piece of desk candy.

It sits out on your desk in plain sight and is something that you look at every day. So, why not making it something fun – something that adds to the decor in your home office?

Don’t settle for an industrial looking pen holder that looks like it belongs in a cubicle (unless, of course, that is the look you are going for). Instead, choose something that expresses your personality or reminds you of good memories. Think outside the box.

I have used souvenir mugs that remind me of my travels, small decorative planters, clear acrylic pen cups that show off the pretty pens inside, and even make up brush holders.

Pretty Pen cups

Pencil Pouches, Trays, and Boxes

Three pencil pouches. One with a floral pattern, one is pink, and a dark blue one.

Pencil pouches come in handy when you want to store your extra pens out of sight. I love using Erin Condren Planny Packs for this.

I use a separate pouch for each category of pen.

For example, I keep all my extra Uniball 207’s in a small pouch in my desk drawer so when one runs out of ink, I have another at the ready.

Pencil boxes are useful to store a larger quantity of pens. And you can be creative with what will work as a pencil box. I use old baby wipes containers – from back when baby wipes came in plastic boxes – to keep extra ball point pens and pencils.

And the boxes that electronics come in or old silverware organizers make for great pencil trays that you can keep in a desk drawer.

How Keeping Your Pens Organized Improves Productivity

As you can see, keeping your pens organized can improve your productivity.

When every pen on your desk just works, you don’t waste time testing each one.

Storing just a few of your most used and favorite pens on your desk adds a little zen to your home office and makes you feel more relaxed and efficient.

Decluttering your pens is a quick project that you can take on while watching TV. And it could even be a fun activity to do with younger kids on a rainy day.

Happy organizing!

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