Valley Voices

A stash of pens raises the question: hoarder or collector?

Francine Farber of Fresno has admitted to having a sizable stash of pens.
Francine Farber of Fresno has admitted to having a sizable stash of pens.

Although we have been loving parents of dogs for the past 15 years, in the 1980s and ‘90s we were the happy hosts of an ordinary looking gray-and-black-striped cat that was given to me as a “present” by our college-age daughter and her then boyfriend when I earned my doctorate degree.

I put “present” in quotes because the $200 bill for spaying and shots fell to me.

I named the cat Dde, (pronounced DeeDee) which is EdD backwards, which stands for doctor of education.

Dde was an indoor cat who loved to sit in our laps, ate anything from the table, and was especially fond of cantaloupe.

Francine M. Farber Fresno Bee file

She was also fond of spotting pens and pencils on tables and desks. She would jump up, knock them onto the floor, and push them around for amusement until they landed under a cabinet or other piece of furniture where she could not retrieve them.

After living for a year or so in a condo in Stamford, Connecticut, we bought a house there.

The moving men were surprised, and we were embarrassed, to see that when they lifted the dining room buffet there were more than 50 pens and pencils stashed underneath by our mischievous cat.

Did we pick up her hoarding habit? While reading a magazine article about clearing clutter, I saw a recommendation that you should remove pens and pencils from their containers and throw away the ones that don’t work.

Thus inspired, and knowing that my husband has a habit of “acquiring” free pens from various offices he visits, I decided to take them all out and count them.

There were 102 pens.

First it came to my attention that I had 18 pens left over from a campaign to increase access to preschool in which I was involved more than a decade ago. The pens are yellow and white and advertise “Fresno’s Children Are Ready 4 Preschool” in royal blue lettering.

I also have two pens from the school district in Connecticut from which I retired. I had designed the pens, which say “Schools of Distinction Where Children Shine,” and show two figures highlighted by stars.

I felt I needed to investigate and categorize the sources of the other writing instruments and found that the largest number, more than 30, had only the manufacturer’s name on them. The next largest categories of these freebies, in order, were nonprofit organizations, hotels, dentists, banks and local businesses.

Along the way I also counted 35 pencils, a number of which were brand new and had never been sharpened.

I won’t even describe my trove of colored pencils, which numbers over 200.

Was I a hoarder or collector?

Even though my husband and I are both lifelong writers, was this a good excuse to harbor all these instruments of expression?

I turned to the Internet to diagnose whether I had a medical condition or a hobby. If I were a serious hoarder, I would have severe anxiety if I attempted to discard any of these pens, wouldn’t let other people touch them, and the pens were a source of financial difficulties or marital discord.

Although I do say to my husband occasionally, “What do we need another pen for?” I don’t classify that as discord, do you?

I was relieved to read that hoarding is not the same as collecting. In general, collectors have a sense of pride about their possessions and they experience joy in displaying and talking about them. They usually keep their collection organized and feel satisfaction when adding to it.

But that doesn’t really describe how this accumulation grew to its present size.

It is probably neither hoarding nor collecting and is in the same classification as the giant rubber band ball which my husband began and is now heavy enough and large enough so that no more bands can be added to it; it sits on a shelf in the guest room to amuse young visitors.

Indeed I do have a passion that fits the characteristics described above. I am very proud of my collection of over 100 giraffes made out of paper, wood, metal, ivory, glass and combinations of these. A decade or so ago I exhibited some of them in the Fig Garden Library.

Francine M. Farber is a retired educator and a full-time community volunteer. If you need some pens you can reach her at