Ten Uses for Office Supplies In a Pinch

Coloured PaperclipsWow, it’s like reader J is reading my mind…

How about a story on re-purposing office supplies for fashion/lifestyle uses when you’re in a pinch? For example, using binder clips while commuting to fold up pants that were hemmed for high heels, using scotch tape instead of a band-aid to prevent blisters when shoes start to rub, notebook paper as blotting papers, etc.

Somehow this came up at a recent bridal shower I attended, and my friends and I had a great time trying to think of other uses for office supplies.  Thanks to my friends N and G for helping me brainstorm!  (Pictured:  Coloured Paperclips, originally uploaded to Flickr by Dysanovic.) Here are our MacGyver-ish suggestions…

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  1. Use a Fed Ex mailing label as a lint brush. Just peel off the backing, and start sticking it on your clothes.
  2. Use White Out to touch up your French manicure, if needed.
  3. Use a black Sharpie to hide shoe scuffs, or even small tears in leather — it’ll work until you get to the cobbler to get the problem fixed.
  4. In a pinch, use binder clips to hem your pants. It won’t be pretty, but it’s better than nothing on a rainy day.
  5. Use a pen or pencil to put your hair in a bun — it’s kinder to your hair than a rubberband. (We like avadakedavra16‘s video tutorial of how to do it — if you’ve found anything better, please let us know!)
  6. Use packing tape if your shirt is gaping and you don’t have Hollywood tape — just fold it double.
  7. Use a piece of folded-up paper if you have something stuck between your teeth and no floss — for some reason Post-It notes work really well.
  8. Use a paperclip to make your bra a racerback — handy in a pinch if you’re going from desk to dinner and your going-out outfit needs a racerback bra.
  9. As reader J suggests, use notepaper if you don’t have any blotting papers.
  10. As reader J suggests, use Scotch tape in place of a Band-aid if your shoes are starting to create blisters.

Bonus tip for men: Use paper clips in place of collar stays.

Readers,what are your favorite “in a pinch” uses for office supplies?

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  1. I always used to put my hair up in pencils (I always need to use two of them to get it to really stick) when I got sick of having it down, and I always wondered about the propriety in an office setting. Glad I’m not the only one who does it. :-) (I don’t anymore merely because I got sick of pencils snapping so I bought a couple of hairsticks to keep at my desk. Not the most fashionable perhaps, but keeps my hair off my neck and out of the way on days where I can’t tolerate having it down better than any other quick fix I’ve found.)

    • I found working in a mostly male office that this was fascinating enough for guys to comment on. Not necessarily the attention you watch to attract from your male collegues.

      • Well, that was the other reason I bought hairsticks – I didn’t want to look like I was trying to be quirky or something. (Though I’m not sure exactly what sort of attention you meant.)

    • I do it too with pens and pencils and just saw some hair sticks for sale in the UK last week. I hadn’t seen them before for sale.

      • a what sort of comments did you get that you considered unwanted attention? The only comments I have had have been wonder at how I performed such a magic trick!!!!

  2. Another Sarah :

    At my all-girls Catholic high school, we would staple our uniform skirts if the hem came un-done. It was pretty convenient as our teacher’s desks was about the height of where our skirts sat. As others said, if you staple them so the solid bar is on the inside, it shouldn’t show much.

    Then again, I’ve never really tried this with anything other than gray plaid indestructible wool…soo if you have a really nice black skirt, this may not work very well… :-)

    • We did this at my Catholic HS to shorten our skirts. On a surprise uniform check day, we would just take the staples out :)

  3. Furniture polish can make a good emergency substitute for shoe polish but you do need to be cautious that you don’t damage good quality leather.

  4. Just thought of this one the other day – use those plastic name tag sleeves you wear at luncheons/conferences as a sheath for your transit pass. If it’s the clip or pin kind you can attach it to your purse lining. Here in San Francisco, if your transit pass gets bent or too close to your cell phone (supposedly) it stops working. It’s happened to me two months in a row now and it’s really inconvenient. Hopefully the “sleeve” trick will work!

  5. when stapling hems of dark skirts, I’ve found it helpful to use a sharpie to help hide the staple. If you open the stapler and color the top or sides (depending on which way you staple–bar side out or bar side in) with a black sharpie. Newer sharpie works better, it’s more black than purple in color. When you staple the hem, staples are black, not silver. When I was a teacher I had sharpies and staples whenever I needed them, and ran into a clothes emergency or two…

  6. Regular packing tape works for lint just as well as FedEx labels.

  7. I keep a travel pack of baby wipes around. Baby wipes are absolutely ace at removing stains from clothes, plus if you’re working late you might want to take off your makeup, clean your pits and bits, etc. Handiest item in my desk drawer.

    • If you don’t like the smell of baby wipes (like me) the cottonelle wipes are the bee’s knees!

    • Anonymous :

      Be careful though, I ruined a silk shirt by using baby wipes. They discolored the fabric.

  8. I didn’t have a pocket mirror to see if I had food stuck in my teeth, so I took a close-up picture of myself smiling wide with my Blackberry and saved myself a trip to the restroom. I still think they should have a mirror app for mobile devices.

    • Johanna_D :

      Now that’s a good idea. I hate getting up and walking all the way to the restroom (after eating) just to check that I don’t have a piece of spinach in between my teeth…

  9. along with using scotch tape to remove lint, i use it to get rid of any flaky, dry skin. even if i moisturize 3x a day, the a/c in my office makes my skin incredibly dry and flaky. just take a peice of tape, smooth it over your skin and peel it off (be sure to close your office door though or hide in the bathroom because it looks really odd).

  10. I have “fixed”/fashioned broken straps on my shoes with binder clips before. It passes better if you have pants on instead of skirts.

    Also, the bathroom at my office is out of the office, but on the same floor (like a 2 minute walk away from my desk) so I keep wet naps at my desk to quickly clean my hands when I get back from court or finish eating, etc.

  11. I use marker on my shoes all the time! I even do it at home with non-neutral shoes until i make it to the cobbler; I only can find black or brown polish in the stores!

  12. Removing coffee from a light colored piece of clothing when you’re in the office and have no access to soap:

    Take one paper towel and soak it with water. Keep several dry paper towels handy. Place the wet paper towel UNDER your shirt, directly under the spill, so that you soak the stain from the inside of your shirt outward. Place the dry paper towel on the outside of your shirt, on top of the stain. The dry paper towel will “wick” the stain up and out of the shirt, and the water in the bottom paper towel helps this process along. Continue changing the dry paper towels until the stain has been pulled out of the shirt.

  13. I have used many of these tips! To add: scotch tape can peel off a chipped manicure (on natural nails). Just smooth a piece over the nail, making sure it adhere securely where the chip starts, and peel. I’d much rather take off a chipped dark manicure this way than sit around with it all day (picking at it and making it worse!).

  14. What great tips! Getting back to binder clips, I have used a small binder clip to hold business cards in my purse. It actually becomes a conversation piece and a funny way to break the ice as you pull your cards out.

  15. Use binder clip to keep toothpaste tube rolled up tight.
    Wrap rubber bands around the tips of pliers to make them grippy (I needed grippy to pull up an off the track car window).
    Use pencil, press lightly, when you need the color ‘grey’. Press hard for the color ‘black’.
    Use the side of the lead in a sharpened pencil for relief rubbings of credit card so you can have all the info without writing it all down. Place plain white paper over credit card, rub lightly, see all the info come through.
    File folders as a hand held rain bonnet. Not as floppy as newspaper.
    Trash bag liners and rubber bands as galoshes.
    Rubber bands to hold up stretched out sox.
    Binder clips as chip clips.