The Top Ten Things to Keep In Your Desk

The Top Ten Things to Keep In Your Desk | CorporetteIt’s a perennial question: what to keep in your desk? We haven’t talked about this in a while, so I thought we should discuss reader J’s question:

Can you do a post on essential things to keep in your office/desk? I ask this because I never think of things to bring in until it is too late. Recent example — I’m about to go to a client meeting, and I look down and see my bright pink nail polish half chipped off on every nail. Of course I didn’t have any nail polish remover in my office, so I waste my 10 minutes before the meeting looking around for remover. Other examples include: nail clipper and file, bandaids, Advil.

Some of my favorite posts on the blog are on things to keep in your office — drugstore stuff for your office, tech stuff to buy for your office, food to keep at the office, and the clothes that should live at your office. We’ve also done a fun post on different uses for office supplies (in a pinch). But we haven’t talked about this in a long while, so let’s discuss. Readers, please list your top ten absolute essentials for your office! What have you been surprised to get a lot of use out of?

For my own $.02, if I had to set up a totally new office, I would bring:

  1. Tissues.
  2. Lip gloss.
  3. Nail file.
  4. Extra phone charger.
  5. A shelf-stable snack of some kind (e.g., a bag of raw almonds).
  6. A cup of my own (or, hey, a water bottle).
  7. A framed picture of my loved ones.
  8. Purell.
  9. A silk cardigan or a wrap.
  10. This one’s kind of odd, but I think it would truly come before the bottle of Advil, a little salt shaker, or a comfy pair of pants: I’d prepare a link on DropBox or bring a flashdrive with a few things to personalize my computer — family pictures or silly quotes for the slideshow-when-the-computer-is-idle (I actually have a collection of cartoons I’ve scanned in over the years for that purpose, as well as quotes like this one and this one) a picture for the computer desktop, etc.

Readers, what’s on your list?

Pictured above: Office supplies of blue, originally uploaded to Flickr by Lady-bug.

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  1. Anne Shirley :

    A suit. I keep my scrubby old one on the back of the door just in case.

  2. A flashlight and a few other things for use in emergencies (not appearance-related emergencies, which are valid but different, but actual emergency-emergencies, as in my building lost power or there was an incident).

  3. Woods-comma-Elle :

    My list is pretty similar.

    Nail file
    Nail polish remover (currently relying on my office-mate for this)
    Hand cream
    Sewing kit (you have no idea how often this has come in handy!)
    Safety pins
    Chewing gum
    Dry Shampoo
    Toothbrush and toothpaste
    Sticky tape thingy to remove hairs off clothes

    • All of this plus:
      Shout wipes (stain removers)
      Make-up (mascara, concealer, bronzer, lipstick)
      Static cling spray

  4. Pads/tampons.

  5. 1. Touch-up products (compact, almost-used-up eyeshadow and blush, and lipstick).
    2. Nail care (file, one of those remover towelettes – like a wetwipe but remover, and cuticle trimmer because I get terrible hangnails).
    3. Basic medicine (cold, allergy, headache, tummy, cough drops), bandaids, tissues.
    ***1-3 live in one of those Clinique giveaway freebie makeup bags in a drawer – very handy.
    4. Snacks/gum.
    5. Small souvenirs from vacation (I got an intricately carved cup that I use for my pen holder).
    6. A few pictures – wedding, family, one or two from vacation – on the not-super-public side of desk.
    7. Extra charger for phone.
    8. Portable mouse for when I need to bring my laptop to a conference room. I HATE using the built in laptop mouse.
    9. Boxes for discreetly stowing office shoes under desk.
    10. Neutral pashmina and, let’s be honest, ALL my suit jackets (I have to wear them only occasionally but they might as well live hanging from the back of my office door rather than getting smelly and wrinkled on the commute).

    • ooh, and I forgot – tampons, contact lens solution and case, and my previous pair of glasses (they’re a decent enough prescription, just not great – but they’re much much better than dried out contacts!).

  6. I’m a contractor at a startup, so while I have a usual workspace I have to keep everything in my bag, but I try to always have:

    Hand cream or lotion
    Lip balm
    5 Hour Energy
    At least one snack bar or bag of chips
    A nail file

    At my old job where I did have a desk, I had a lint roller, a USB cord for my iPod, a stress ball, Pepto-Bismol, hand sanitizer, and Excedrin.

    I’d also suggest blister band-aids. I don’t have any right now but I probably should, they’re a Godsend.

  7. Miss Pearl :

    Extra phone charger, tampons, small container of loose change and singles that I keep hidden away (for emergency vending-machine runs), take-out menus for the local lunch spots (so I can order delivery and/or order ahead), boullion cubes, and instant oatmeal.

  8. I don’t have my own desk since I’m at a client every week, so all this stuff has to go in my purse and laptop bag:
    -zantac (i have frequent acid reflux)
    -nail clippers
    -phone charger
    -hand lotion
    -dental floss
    -snack bag of trail mix
    -external/portable phone charger

    I’d never paint my nails if I were to worry that much the second after my manicure became imperfect.

  9. I have an old pair of sneakers and socks. I think that is critical in case, god forbid, the transit system goes down in an emergency and you have to walk a long distance.

  10. momentsofabsurdity :

    My list is:

    – Stamps! I never have stamps when I need them and I always think to mail things (rent checks, bill payments, etc) when I’m at work. So I keep a set of them in my office drawer.
    – Lotion (both face lotion and hand lotion)
    – Purell
    – Wisps or similar tiny toothbrushes
    – Extra laptop charger (I hate getting to work and realizing I’ve left my charger at home)

  11. Diana Barry :

    The things I use most:

    – Kleenex
    – lip balm and lipstick
    – advil
    – band-aids
    – tampax/pads

  12. -Nail polish remover
    -Spare business dress
    -Spare set of undies (for all-nighters)
    -Lady products
    -And yes, the number one: ipad/phone chargers

  13. Razor for when you realize you missed a spot on your knee, deodorant, extra pantyhose for an unexpected court appearance, advil, tea, chapstick, all my work shoes, blazer/suit, tissues, compact, stamps.

  14. S in Chicago :

    The only thing I would add to what everyone else said is a stash of personal stationary. I write thank-you notes frequently to people I do business with, and I think it looks much more meaningful when it’s not on a company card/envelope. It’s also been handy for random birthday wishes/happy retirement/ welcome back after exttended sick leave/”things” that often arrise when paired with some cookies or treats quickly purchased from one of the restaurants in my buildilng.

  15. TO Lawyer :

    -hand lotion
    -lip gloss
    -extra makeup
    -snacks/candy (helpful during long drafting sessions)
    -lady products
    -USB cord for iPhone
    -pocket mirror (to check my teeth after lunch)
    -eyeglass wiping cloth
    -tide to go

    That’s actually way more than I thought I had…

  16. In addition to several items previously mentioned: Tide pen!

  17. I keep most of these items in my purse, so my desk itself is pretty empty. I do have a snack drawer and also keep cough drops at my desk but not much else. Oh I keep a big cozy cardigan I can wear or just drape on my shoulders or legs (which reminds me, I should bring that home to wash.) I’ve been meaning to bring a pair of black shoes but haven’t really had a need for it so not sure if it’s even worthwhile.

  18. Miz Swizz :

    1. gum
    2. Advil
    3. floss picks
    4. tampons
    5. lip balm
    6. spare flip flops (spring/summer) and flats (fall/winter)
    7. nail file
    8. change for the vending machine
    9. hand lotion
    10. hair accessories

    I have a makeup bag full of supplies that lives in my purse so I don’t really need these things but I have reached for each of them in the last week or so.

  19. Anonymous :

    I work right across the street from a CVS, so I can usually grab something if I need it. In my desk drawers currently, I have:

    toothbrush / toothpaste
    lip balm
    earrings (I feel naked without earrings and I hate when I forget to wear them)
    cough drops
    peanut M&Ms
    suit (behind my door)
    raincoat and umbrella
    various shoes, including court appropriate shoes and flats

  20. Just a note on this: my sister made a kit of all these items for me when I started a new job. My start date coincided roughly with my birthday, so it was my birthday present. It was such a great gift to receive. She got a nice box to keep everything in that fit neatly in one of my drawers, and she went out and got all the toiletries, make-up, sewing kit, etc.

    Keep it in mind as a gift for a friend or relative who is starting a new job.

    • What a neat idea!

    • Brilliant idea!
      I am about to be deskless as a client site and was scoping out a spot on my supervisor’s book case for something just like this. Tonight I found the perfect cloth covered box with lid at Target.

  21. All of this and a ring stand. I tend to take off my rings during the day so it gives me a safe place to keep them. I got a really cute elephant one from Red Envelope.

    • That’s smart. I always take my jewelry off at my desk and hide it under my keyboard and forget it about it until I clean my desk. Another thing I like to have is a coin bank for the spare change that appears somehow.

    • I think I have the same ring holder :)

  22. One item that I haven’t seen anyone mention so far is a stash of plastic bags. I always keep a couple of extras in a drawer – they come in handy for all sorts of things and people are always asking for them.

    Also, I keep my own chopsticks and cutlery at my desk so I don’t have to use disposables.

  23. Anonymous :

    I’m a little surprised it hasn’t been mentioned but I keep an extra pair of underwear and panty hose in my desk (in a non-descript cosmetic case). Things happen.

    • Me too! Also, an extra shirt (added after a July day when a coffee mishap meant I was wearing my office sweater all day).

    • Maybe I’m weird but when I’m nervous I sweat a ton in the whole underwear region. Nothing like having to sit for hours in damp underwear because of a stupid court appearance. I now keep a change on me with a plastic bag and swap out after nerve wracking meetings. I can deal w/ damp pits. I can’t deal with damp crotch.

  24. Anonymous :

    Free seating is a common office set-up in some x

    • Sneakers! :

      I didn’t see this mentioned.

      I took transit to work and had to walk home on 9/11. Even people who drove in couldn’t get their cars out of parking garages, so they were stuck, too. I also had some sort of elevator outage in my highrise and one no-elevator drill and my legs took a week to forgive me (I was in shape then!).

      Since then, whenever I get a new pair of sneakers, I bring the old ones to the office and keep them in a drawer with some socks.

      • SoCalAtty :

        I do this too! In my car, which is parked near my office, I also keep a pair of sturdier hiking shoes, a change of comfy clothes, a few extra bottles of water, and 1-2 days worth of snacks. If we had a bad earthquake, or some other disaster, I could walk the 12 miles home if I had to.

        Really I should be keeping another set of these in my office since there is no guarantee I could get to my car (it is a new garage, but still) if there was an earthquake.

        • I have been trained as an in-place first responder for my high-rise office in a west coast city. We were told that it might be 72 hours before we could leave our high-rise after a big quake, and were trained in childbirth, bodybags and sheltering-in-place.

          I have a full emergency kit:

          Leather gloves (to deal with broken windows)
          packages of disposable latex-alternative gloves
          Dust mask
          Sweat pants, sweatshirt, t-shirt, shoes, socks, underwear
          Knit hat (blown out windows = cold winter air)
          Emergency blanket
          Bandages, aspirin, ibuprofen
          Flashlight, headlamp, extra batteries
          Pocket knife
          Gluten-free protein bars for me
          All packed in a backpack

          The company provids body bags, stretchers, protein bars and water.

          • You might want to add one of those hooded rain jackets you can pick up pretty much anywhere. I got a safety yellow one since I am a part of the emergency response team at my HQ.

  25. tinylawyer :

    Dental floss.
    Lint brush.
    Compact mirror (to quickly check your teeth for food before a meeting).
    Drugstore box of 10 knee highs.

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