Cleaning out your desk

Empty desk

Even if you never leave your company, you might have the opportunity to change offices. Not only is this a great opportunity to clean out your desk, but it is also a chance to show your coworkers how much you appreciate them.

In a newsroom when someone leaves, coworkers turned vultures descend and take every last pen and paperclip left behind. This is not only because office supplies are in great demand in a budget conscious newsroom, but also because what someone leaves behind says a lot about him or her.

If you follow a few tips, you’ll lessen your chance of offending your coworkers or creating an unnecessary amount of work for your replacement.

  • If there are promotional items (shirts, pens, correction tape dispenses, etc.) with your office logo that someone ordered specifically for you, take it with you, especially if you never opened it. You can always donate it to Goodwill or use the items as cleaning rage. Leaving the item behind can give the impression that you didn’t care or appreciate the gesture and you risk hurting someone’s feelings.
  • Clean out your desk entirely. Don’t leave notes from 1997 or binders from conferences so old the plastic has warped and the pages glued together. If they aren’t useful to you, throw them away. If the highlighters are dried up, toss them. If you spilled coffee on the post it notes, add them to the circular file.
  • Leave the office as you’d like to find it, not necessarily how it was left to you. That means sweep up if you can, wipe down the desktop, remove any dishes and throw as much as you can away. You should always aim to leave a place better than you found it, this is just as true for your desk as it is for the organization.
  • In your final weeks, review the job description and provide feedback, as you’re able. (If you are not parting ways with your company on your terms, this may be difficult.)  If you have specific processes you follow or tips and trick that make your workday easier, write them down and share those things with your supervisor.

Remember you want to leave with the best impression possible to solidify your references and reiterate the kind of employee you were.

What else would you add to this list?

Cleaning Out Your Desk

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If you’ve been thinking ahead, you have probably been taking non-essential items home with you since you put in your official two-week notice (more details here). If you haven’t, there is still time to catch up.

The most important thing to do first is see if you can get your hands on one of the most coveted items in the office: a copy paper box. If you can get the lid too, take it. You won’t regret it, especially if it is raining.

Non-essential desk items should be going home with you every night. This includes any knickknacks or personal items you don’t use daily. For me, this includes the snowman coffee mug (with top hat lid!) and the birthday hat from Chevy’s. Use your judgment here. It is easier to take a few little things home every night than it will be to pack everything up on the last day.

Make a list of every place in the office you have items. Don’t forget the refrigerator and any common areas. I still miss the lunch box I left behind a few years ago. Please, don’t repeat my mistake.

On the last day, pack stuff into the copy paper box as you use them for the last time. If you are able to, try and do a majority of this while everyone else is at lunch so as not to cause too much of a distraction.

Your desk was (hopefully!) clean and empty when you arrived. Try to at least leave it in the same condition. 

Fair warning: Do NOT, I repeat, do NOT take office items that are not yours. Do you really need another stapler or tape dispenser? I think not. This theft reflects poorly on you and may leave your past employer with a bad memory. After all the hard work you’ve done to leave on a good note, don’t ruin it all by taking something you don’t really need.