Like It’s 1999

You can accumulate a lot of crap when you work at the same job for over 15 years. I’ve brought a lot of personal stuff into the office. I figured if I was going to spend so much time there, I could at least make it more comfortable. But perhaps all the stuff made me become too comfortable, entrenched even. So I had to laugh when I read Margaret’s post about starting her new job.

She is the anti-me regarding personal stuff at work: “I don’t like to bring anything to work that I can’t fit in my handbag and carry out with me on a moment’s notice.” She concluded she’d like to “leave a little more of myself at work.” But I realized I needed to do the opposite…begin to extract myself. This is one of the reasons I cleaned my office recently. I was so ruthless in my commitment to cleaning, I kept waiting for my coworkers to ask me if I was leaving. I even had a snappy comeback ready: “Is it that obvious?”

I may not be leaving imminently, but I’m creating an environment in which leaving would be a hell of a lot easier.

Here is an assortment of the crap I found in one of my desk drawers, some of it lovingly scanned for your amusement (actually I hoped having scans would make me willing to throw this stuff out). While some accumulation of crap is forgivable in my situation, my physical office has changed locations three times. So all this stuff made it through at least one cull. Some of it I bothered to pack and move three times.

This drawer contained:

Menus for closed restaurants, obsolete carbon paper forms, a handwritten list of blogs I read circa 2007, and a Day Runner I haven’t used since 2001. Of the 37 contacts written into the address section, I have spoken to only six in the last year. I have no idea who one of them is, even after Googling.

The drawer also contained miscellaneous decorations, none of which have been displayed since at least 2006. These include:

1.) The dream catcher Dave’s parents brought back for me from Alaska. It’s been in the drawer since my last office move and the disintegrating leather left dust all over the drawer. Yet I still had trouble throwing it out because Dave’s Mom had given it to me and she’s gone now.

2.) At least three dozen postcards from my travels, many from my 1994 study abroad semester. Anytime I saw a painting I’d learned about in Art History, I bought the postcard. Why wouldn’t you want to look at this during your work day?

Or how about a picture of the Danish Queen, circa 1992. I need to hang on to that, right?

Tracy is very jealous of these emeralds.

3.) Precious child artwork. I can’t say exactly when these masterpieces were created, but since my older nephews are now 20 and 17, I’m guessing it was at least five years ago. Ha.

The black hole in the tree symbolizes man’s search for meaning.

I like the bold use of empty space.










4.) Print out of a 2000 article from the Onion that mentions my favorite element. The yellow highlighting of the relevant line (“Rumors of a longtime feud with molybdenum…”) is now too faded to see…perhaps because this piece of paper is 12 frigging years old.

5.) A yellowed clipping about my favorite tennis player’s 2001 Wimbledon win, which made me cry big fat tears of joy (in 2001, not when I cleaned my office).

6.) Several cards from my Mom, back when she still loved me and sent me cards for no reason (in other words, ten years ago).

Boomerang Bear is sad because Tracy’s Mom doesn’t send random cards anymore.

7.) I have no idea where or when I got this, but I love Paddington Bear and should totally keep this in case my boss gives me a coloring assignment.

8.) Original works of art by yours truly. Meet Knookie the Computer Chip, a comic I made up in 1985. Apparently I got swept away by nostalgia for the 20th anniversary of Knookie’s creation (and/or was really bored on work travel). I have no artistic talent whatsoever…enjoy!
















9.) And finally, the best thing I found while cleaning out my office, this page from the 2001 Onion calendar (Moses, Moses, Moses). I’m probably not going to throw this out.

How much personal crap do you have at work? Are you entrenched or could you make a quick get-away if necessary?

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24 Responses to “Like It’s 1999”

  1. Rebecca Latson
    Thursday, June 14, 2012 at 5:42 pm #

    What? I can’t “Like” your posts anymore??
    That Margaret must be a spiritual soul mate to me, because that is *exactly* why I keep my cube space at work clean. I especially felt that way when I first moved to that cube farm from an office in the old building. Now, I just like it clean that way, but I *still* also like being able to put stuff in a single box and hit the road if I ever have to.

    • Tracy @LogyExpress
      Friday, June 15, 2012 at 12:04 am #

      I know, I know! I was hoping the world of self-hosted WordPress would be all rainbows and roses, but it turns out WordPress.com did a lot for me that I still haven’t figured out how to replicate over here. Losing all those likes was a little painful.

      I’m sure there’s a plug-in that would be like the “like” function, but plug-ins still scare me a little. I’m worried I’ll break my pretty new blog if I install too much crap.

      I feel much better at work now that I can see my desk.

  2. Pish Posh
    Saturday, June 16, 2012 at 12:05 am #

    I love this and I love your new design!! It’s actually funny how many things in your desk are in my desks too. Sometimes when I move I put all that in ziploc baggies and pack it. Just in case.


    • Tracy @LogyExpress
      Monday, June 18, 2012 at 10:29 pm #

      Well, I brought all this stuff home rather than throw it out because I “needed” it…you know, for the blog! I told myself I’d scan it then throw it out. Somehow the stuff hasn’t quite made it to the trash yet.

  3. Erin
    Saturday, June 16, 2012 at 1:01 am #

    Goran Ivanisevic – swoon.

    Molybdenum is prone to longtime feuds.

    I like how Ned noted that it is not nighttime in his drawing. Reminds me of one of the key Nepali phrases Alex managed to memorize and use regularly: “It is not raining.”

    I still haven’t unpacked a bunch of the crap that I brought home when I quit my job 2 years ago. But I have been inspired by you and the Fly Lady and have been working on my desk 15 minutes a day, making progress. Thank you for showing that it can be done.

    • Tracy @LogyExpress
      Monday, June 18, 2012 at 10:57 pm #

      I still miss Goran and Andre Agassi. These younger dudes just aren’t doing it for me. I know I’m supposed to swoon over Nadal, but he’s way too frigging young for me, it seems creepy. And his energy pisses me off. It’s not fair how much he has when I have so little. He jumps around during the COIN TOSS before a match and I get exhausted just watching. Not sure why I’m bitching about him in this comment–think I still have the French Open on the brain.

      Yeah, the explanation of nighttime in Ned’s drawing is so him. It’s kind of funny to see how that quirkiness has played out as he’s gotten older.

      I was not super shocked, but a little depressed, at how little of my work stuff needed to be kept when I went through it. I’m a big fan of 15 minutes of progress. I actually wear a timer around my neck most of the time now. Pitiful, but effective. Good luck with the decluttering!

  4. Ms. HalfEmpty
    Saturday, June 16, 2012 at 4:13 am #

    I think it’s nice to have personal things at work. It helps to make the blank white walls a bit less sterile. Also on some of my projects, we sometimes share desks when the real owner is out. My desk is always so neat that people love to sit there, but I find that adding personal photos stakes out my claim as the rightful desk owner.

    Did you used to post the postcards on a bulletin board or wall? That could add a bit of color and visual interest.

    I love that you were able to express your emotions through a computer chip. Ha!

    I made my getaway at the end of May. It only required one shopping bag of personal items. But it hasn’t been 15 years.

    • Tracy @LogyExpress
      Monday, June 18, 2012 at 11:02 pm #

      I agree about having personal things at work–I like to feel comfortable. But I probably didn’t need to build a bunker of my crap at the office!

      I had a bunch of personal stuff on my walls, but I’ve pared it down since my last office move. Now I have a couple of big posters and lots of framed photos. I don’t use the postcards anymore.

      I’d love to hear more about your getaway, even though it would probably make me very jealous.

  5. Jill
    Saturday, June 16, 2012 at 10:49 am #

    I Love your new website/blog format! Looks great.

    I want to see more stuff that you pulled out of your desk. I love looking back through that stuff, it is time capsule material!

    • Tracy @LogyExpress
      Monday, June 18, 2012 at 11:07 pm #

      Thanks, Jill! I’m excited to finally be able to focus on actual blogging again instead of messing around with the way the site looked.

      It’s only time capsule material because I clean so infrequently! I was shocked to see how old some of that stuff was. I probably have one or two more posts-worth of material from the office cleaning!

  6. nikkiana
    Saturday, June 16, 2012 at 4:17 pm #

    That Paddington Bear thing seriously made me grin ear to ear. I work from home, so I’m constantly surrounded by personal stuff, but when I was an office worker I barely had any personal things in my desk. The most personal thing you’d ever find was usually a bag of pretzels or a box of Cheerios. Otherwise, there was nothing in my desk.

    • Tracy @LogyExpress
      Monday, June 18, 2012 at 11:25 pm #

      Paddington Bear is my favorite. I’m basically an overgrown kid who refuses to grow up. I found this awesome huge stuffed Paddington around the time a friend of mine was pregnant with her first baby. I bought the bear for her baby shower but grew very attached to him and ended up whining until my boyfriend got me a bear of my own (he’s in my author photo on my home page).

  7. Erin @Momfog
    Saturday, June 16, 2012 at 4:41 pm #

    I don’t have an office at work. But judging by my desk at home, I’m sure I’d accumulate loads of crap if I did. I’m nothing like my husband, though. He still has a “squirt” nickel he got in Washington D.C. when he was 5.

    • Tracy @LogyExpress
      Monday, June 18, 2012 at 11:35 pm #

      I’m a packrat, I admit it. I couldn’t decide what to do with a wooden carved “TRACY” I got as a kid during a trip to Niagara Falls…so I took it to work! I do that a lot, move things between home and the office when I can’t decide what to do. Makes it seems like stuff is getting culled, sort of.

  8. Jester Queen
    Monday, June 18, 2012 at 9:27 am #

    I had a couple of bad jobs that lasted a total of a decade between them. I never kept anything personal at work, because there was always just too much danger of having to leave and not look back.

    • Tracy @LogyExpress
      Monday, June 18, 2012 at 11:32 pm #

      Well, I seem pretty good and stuck in my current position, but I’m working to un-stick myself. I was joking with my husband throughout the cleaning effort that I wanted to make it easier to make a clean getaway if necessary. But I was only half kidding.

      Sorry about a decade of bad jobs, it’s hard to spend so much time somewhere like that.

      My job’s not so bad, at least not like I think you are saying. In this economy sometimes I think I should shut it with my job whining.

  9. Ladygoogoogaga
    Monday, June 18, 2012 at 9:11 pm #

    Doesn’t it feel good to declutter??

    • Tracy @LogyExpress
      Monday, June 18, 2012 at 11:27 pm #

      You know, it totally does….at least at work! I was GLEEFULLY tossing work-related stuff. At home, it’s more difficult because I’m attached to the stuff.

  10. sparkling74
    Saturday, June 23, 2012 at 10:07 pm #

    I have been in the same school for 16 years and I have accumulated some weird things. Like you, some remain from my semester abroad in 1994. But I can’t bring myself to throw them out! It must be a nostalgia thing. Your list was hysterical. I especially love that you have carbon paper. Those were the days. Found you at finding the funny.

    • Tracy @LogyExpress
      Tuesday, July 3, 2012 at 7:20 pm #

      I was bummed that I didn’t find any Wite-Out. That’s weird that we both did study abroad the same year…where did you go? Maybe we ran into each other without knowing…

  11. Kari Lynn Collins
    Monday, June 25, 2012 at 10:17 pm #

    I love your blog! Ran across it on Finding the Funny. You have a great voice and style . . . can’t wait to read more!

  12. Reptile Sadie
    Friday, October 5, 2012 at 6:38 pm #

    I am corporately madated not to have personal items at work. BUT, if I could I would totally have my Dwight Shrute bobblehead on my desk.

    • Tracy @LogyExpress
      Friday, October 5, 2012 at 8:17 pm #

      Nice! You know, although sort of fascist-sounding, I think it might help me to have that mandate. All my stuff makes my office feel more cozy. If I weren’t so damn comfortable, maybe it would be easier to pop right up after my appointed hours and leave on time. I’m going to re-clutter my office with a new personal item…a retirement countdown clock. I’m not kidding.

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