back to school shopping


The school of life, the school of aesthetics, the school of whatever you damn well please as long as I get to bring some pretty paper goods to class with me.

Almost exactly two years ago, I skipped my first day of my senior year at UGA in lieu of a one-day beach roadtrip. Totally worth it. However, I do sometimes wonder whether it was worth it (okay, yes it was, 100%) because it may very well have been my last first day of school ever (but really probably not, I’ve already started to think about burying myself in grad school debt just for some Art History funsies).

Regardless of my extreme case of senioritis that year, I have almost always loved school. Because I really do love to learn – usually about the more creative, abstract, academic subjects like mythology and Baroque sculpture… not as great with practical subjects like finance, which I could have used in the real world!

But MORE IMPORTANTLY than learning in this moment is my undying love for things. Yes, I love clothes, but I find that a pre-fall outfit only feels truly complete when paired with a perfect new notebook in a fun color or print, with lined or graphed or totally empty pages waiting for you to scribble down some notes or doodles on them. Moreso than my love for shoes or jewelry or bags, paper goods, pencils and washi tapes have always stolen my heart first and made for the best accessories.

So I may not be in school this year but I am 100% in denial about not being a teen anymore and I am also 100% stalking all those sales anyway – pens, agendas, and binders, oh my! Here are a few favorite companies that, when I can, I love to buy from instead of a mass retailer I have no connection to (seriously resisting my urge to go on a manic spree in Target's school section).

First up is – if you know me, you know I am constantly in awe of this small accessory business turned lifestyle empire, which is predominately owned and run by amazing, artistic, out-there women. Their fun planners, complete with two pages of stickers and weekly suggestions like “ ,“ have inspired such a fervent following that they have created a National Agenda day and hold super cool parties in LA to celebrate it. (More pictures from their latest IRL event coming soon!)

Next is Milan-based design duo Write Sketch &. I first saw one or two of their notebooks on’s site and then proceeded to discover that the small Portland shop Little Otsu is one of the only US retailers where you can find WS&’s full range of notebooks. Am I crazy? Yes. Is it worth it? Yes. I limited myself to ordering two, for now, but I’m really into all of the designs. I can’t explain it; they just speak to me.

Last but never least is Rad and Hungry. I honestly could not tell you what random internet pathway led me to these cool fools but this is a super small company whose founder travels the world collecting country-specific paper goods, often vintage ones. Their selection is so diverse and unique and when I use my ideal notebook and old-ass pencil-shaped pen that sometimes doesn’t work, I feel like I’m in a fifties schoolhouse sitting at one of those uncomfortable but really cool-looking little desks. Now I just have to throw on a gingham poodle skirt and cat eye specs to complete my utterly joyful nerd look!

Fun fact: Rad and Hungry also sells COUNTRY CAT LADY COLORING BOOKS. Enough said.

Honorable mention companies not in this roundup because I ran out of insane-adult-buying-school-supplies money are:

LA-based Poketo +

Florida-based Rifle Paper Co +

DC-based Appointed +

Detroit-based Shinola +

B Corp-certified Public Supply Co, who channels 25% into fun, artistic projects for high-need classrooms. 

Other honorable mentions go to my amazing friend who is a brave, creative educator and fellow paper goods lover, Hannah Robbins Hopkins, as well as to Yzma the Cat for pretending to help with this shoot.

To keep following my never-ending hunt for paper goods and other FUN STUFF, feel free to stalk this Pinterest board dedicated solely to the best small businesses selling desk goodies and gifts.