how much stuff can I “move in with” on my first day at a new job?

A reader writes:

I’m starting a new job in a week and a bit, my first after finishing my PhD. I’m wondering how much stuff it’s acceptable to “move in with” on the first day.

I’ve seen the space, it’s a large-ish desk in a three-person office. I don’t want to just show up with a suitcase! (Which is … kind of what I left the PhD office with. Oops?) On the other hand, continually adding stuff over the first week also seems odd. When I’m at work, I’ll definitely want to have tea leaves, teapot, mug, coasters, pen caddy (and pens), a notebook, some tchotchkes with particular sentimental value, and maybe a small whiteboard for time planning and notes. Too much? Is bringing a plant on the first day weird? Help!

Definitely don’t show up with a suitcase.

Or a plant on your first day, for that matter. You don’t know what your first day will be like and you might not be taken straight to your desk. Sometimes you’ll be in orientations and other meetings first, and you don’t want to be carting a plant around through that. (I mean, if that happened, they would probably take you by your desk to drop it off first, but still — it’s easier not to have to deal with it.)

On your first day, just stick to bringing a notebook and a pen. They’ll probably supply you with both of those, but it’s good to be prepared in case you need them before someone shows you where supplies are stored.

Other than that, though, I’d wait — at least until your second day. You just never know with first days. They might have changed the space you’ll be in, or they could have you temporarily working from another spot, or they could have you in non-stop meetings and you won’t even get to your office until the end of the day. Who knows!

None of this stuff is so urgent that it must be there on day one. Check out the lay of the land on the first day, and plan to bring in what you need later that first week. (Although be aware your company will probably provide some of that stuff, like the pens, pen caddy, notebook, and whiteboard.)

The other stuff sounds fine for later in the week, though. At least, assuming “some” tchotchkes means like three and not thirty. If you do eventually become one of those people whose office space is home to an army of figurines, four pairs of shoes, two spare cardigans, a candy dispenser, and an entire wall of framed family photos, it’s better if that happens gradually and not overnight on week one. Everyone wants you to feel at home but something about that is too at home.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 398 comments… read them below }

  1. SunnySideUp*

    Whether or not the perception is a fair one, IMO you’ll be seen as more professional if you keep personal stuff to a minimum.

    I feel that you want the emphasis to be on you and your work output, and not on the myriad accessories on your desk.

    1. Just J.*

      Agree. Pinterest has a lot of ideas on desk decor. You can check out how to be professional yet creative in your space.

    2. ThatGirl*

      Eh, depends on the office, though I definitely agree with “moving in” gradually. I have random stuffed animals, a calendar of my dog, assorted tchotchkes, nobody thinks I’m out of the ordinary or unprofessional. But I work for a creative company.

      1. Senor Montoya*

        Hahaha, you should see my office! I have lots of toys, photos, plants, coffee mugs, box of tea/hotchocolate/granola bars/nabs/napkins/utensils, artwork, thank you cards, small couch, books, mini fridge, coat rack ….

        It makes some of my colleagues twitchy, but my students like it. As do I.

        1. Working Mom*

          I agree with keeping it minimal for at least the first couple days. I probably would for the first week. Then on week two, starting “moving in.” I’d probably bring essentials (like a mug) the second or third day. Week 2, bring in a few more items, week 3 you could bring a few more, etc. Depending on office culture, if everyone’s desks are super bare I’d keep it a minimum with a few personal items. Funny story – my first office job I wanted to project a very professional vibe, so I never brought any personal items in. I have no idea where I got this idea – other people in my office had plenty of personal items. I literally worked there a few years before I brought in one framed photo. So weird, I know!!

        2. Rainy*

          I also work with students, and my office has plants, shelving, photos, framed art, a shelf of marketing squishy things that I love to grab at various conferences and events, a comfy chair, a million pens, coffee mugs, etc. :)

        3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          My office looks like it could also double as an elementary school classroom. Everyone likes it and I’ve confirmed that yes, that was my first career choice but the pay wasn’t worth the education requirements, lol.

          1. Giant Squid*

            Southernism, “Toast Chee Peanut Butter Crackers”, specifically the orange ones. It’s a six-pack of snack crackers.

      2. JessaB*

        This I think the most important thing is you have to look at everyone else’s space. You don’t want to be the odd one out in a room full of people.

      3. Julia*

        Heck, my last BOSS had a giant stuffed animal in her cubicle. We all had several pairs of shoes under our desks and a bunch of cardigans, plus safety and weather gear the office provided, because we worked outside in all sorts of conditions. Most people also had a bunch of snacks around their desks because our schedules kept changing and we often needed to grab something on the go.

        This really is a case-by-case thing.

        1. TardyTardis*

          When it came to food, our end of the building could have survived a week long snowstorm. Then again, we almost did that one time at year end…

      4. canadian journo*

        oh thank god, I came to the comments to ensure I wasn’t an insane person. I’ve got… a lot of personal stuff at my desk! But I’ve been here 15 years and work in a creative/trade industry so I don’t think it’s viewed as too weird (except in contrast to the person the next cubicle over, who has been here longer than me but keeps literally nothing but a single pen at the desk — it actually looks unoccupied.)

        We’re a big office with a big mix of cubicle decoration/mess/hoarding practices. I’m on the more maxmially decorated side, but I don’t think it’s out of hand. (Also I used to have a private office so some of the stuff in my cubicle just migrated from there… decor creep!)

    3. Oxford Comma*

      What the OP listed seems minimal enough. Most people have a mug and some coffee/tea supplies. Most people have a few photos. Many many people have special office supplies that they paid for themselves. A small plant would be fine. It’s not like she’s proposing to move in with new furniture and curtains.

      OP: I wouldn’t do it all at once. See what the lay of the land is like and gradually bring stuff in. For things like the whiteboard, I would see if that could be ordered for you.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        I think she needs to be especially conservative on this since it’s a three-person shared office, though. What might not be overdoing it for a private office might feel imposing in a shared space. Some plants are smelly. I think you have to make sure your neighbors are okay with it in her situation.

        1. Annony*

          Yep. Scope it out on the first day. I think bringing in a travel mug is fine, but save the tea pot until day 2. I would ask the office mates before bringing in a plant.

          1. snoopythedog*

            Exactly this. I drink 3-6 cups of tea a day.

            First day of work= travel mug, a few tea bags, lots of quick to grab snacks in case I was in back to back meetings, favourite pen, highlighter and notebook

            Second day= tea cup for office, loose leaf tea bags, snacks for desk drawers, pen caddy

            Second week= photo, small trinket, desk headphones

        2. Tidewater 4-1009*

          I’m allergic to mold, so a plant with mold growing in the damp dirt would not be a good thing around me. Definitely ask before bringing in a plant.

          1. Lyudie*

            We’re not supposed to have our own plants in the office (I think it’s because of the gnat infestation a few years ago from someone’s personal plant that required multiple rounds of pesticide throughout the building…) so definitely ask. There are plants around the office but they are maintained by an outside company.

            1. Gatomon*

              Yeah, I worked in an office that banned real plants due to past bug issues. All plants in the office were fake except for one in a corner that supposedly the boss didn’t realize was real. It didn’t grow much/at all and people were super serious about trimming it in such a way that any changes weren’t dramatic. And it only got watered after the boss left for the day. I don’t believe for a second boss was that stupid, I think he just decided to let that one slide, but showing up with plants would’ve been awkward.

              We have periodic gnat infestations at my current job that have made understand why things got so extreme in that place. That was my first job though and I just took it as a symptom of the crazy infused in that place.

            2. Curmudgeon in California*

              The brand new building that I am in has potted plants as part of the ‘decor’. They came with gnats. The building people seem to have finally, almost a year later, gotten the ******* things under control.

          2. Eukomos*

            Damp dirt isn’t great for most plants anyway, the majority of plants will get root rot and die if you let the dirt stay wet all the time like that.

            1. Tidewater 4-1009*

              I don’t know. All I know is I used to get congested when I had meetings with my boss and there was a plant next to his table.
              Whether the mold is wet or dry, it’s still there and still gets in the air.

              1. Eukomos*

                Mold grows in damp environments, so unless your boss was growing venus fly traps he was probably overwatering that plant. Of course, people usually pick especially tough plants for offices, so it might have been one that could survive the excess water. Potted plants don’t all have mold though.

          3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            The scent of some mulch/dirts used for potted plants makes me gag. It’s one of the few things that my nose picks up and says “do not want”.

            But I also can’t deal with even the scent of cilantro either, my nose no likely the plants. Each one has a scent even if it’s not rich with pollen and noticeable spores.

          4. MsMaryMary*

            My new office space came with boxes of philodendrons growing on the walls between each cube and on the windowsill. We also have a small tree and an orchid. It’s unusual but I like it.

            The best part is that one box of philodendrons is fake, but it’s nearly impossible to tell.

      2. Magpie*

        I think the tea & mug would definitely be fine to bring in on the first week – especially if it’s a travel mug, it’s not so unusual to keep some caffeine supplies at your desk

    4. alienor*

      There was a time in the past when I had a lot of fun and personal stuff at work, including a sizable collection of movie character figures. I wouldn’t say anyone judged me negatively because of them, but they *were* a frequent topic of conversation, and people would bring their friends from other departments over to see them. After several years and multiple moves to smaller and smaller work spaces, I’ve downsized a lot, and now I only have a couple of photos, a box of tea and a few desk accessories I bought myself (pen holder, etc.) Not only is it sort of a relief not to be asked about the stuff on my desk anymore, but on stressful days, it supports the fantasy that I could quit and breeze out with a single box of things.

      1. BlueDays*

        Yeah, I had a few hobby-related things on my desk that didn’t seem like a big deal to me, but people would constantly ask about them. If someone came to my desk for legit work reasons and asked about them, it was a cute conversation starter. But there were random strangers who would interrupt whatever I was doing to ask about them too, which was annoying.

        1. Dragoning*

          I have some pop-culture things in my cube, and I didn’t know literally backtracked on their way to a meeting to squeal at me about them incoherently before their companion kind of tugged them along.


          1. BlueDays*

            LOL! I’ve made comments to my companions while passing people’s cubicles before. I think it’s okay to do that since then you’re expressing appreciation without interrupting someone.

    5. Giant Squid*

      Personal items can be a good way to be more approachable. Sometimes I don’t *feel* approachable, so I put up a few cute little stuffed birds from Target–as a bigger guy with “Resting b*tch face” (especially if I’m focusing), it’s just to give some warmth/comfort. I think it would be perceived differently depending on the person, and could definitely make someone appear less professional.

      1. Senor Montoya*

        Yes, I work with students and that is why I started bringing in toys many years ago. They can play with a toy and not have to look directly at me while talking about problems.

      2. mutinyonthebeagle*

        I work as a geologist and kept a load of rocks and samples on my desk/adjacent cupboard. People would often comment and it became a good way to inform people about the role and explain why we wouldn’t let them just build anything they wanted on a swamp

      3. Extroverted Bean Counter*

        Agreed. I’m an accountant and am part of a small team of accountants for our division. My desk is still fairly spartan, but I do have a few “homey” touches – a Funko Pop figurine, a fun mug to hold my pens and a different fun mug to hold binder clips, and some unique magnets on my white board for some color. My fellow accountants have nothing on their desks that isn’t work-issued.

        I’ve noticed that given a choice, any time someone from a different group comes by with a question they will gravitate toward me. I’m actually more junior than most of my team, but people seem to find me more approachable. I suspect my colleagues enjoy not being bothered, but I enjoy it. I enjoy the brief social interactions (even if they’re all business) and it has really increased my visibility and given me a reputation as a knowledgeable person.

    6. Nozen*

      I have a ton of personalization in my office, probably more than most of my coworkers – but the comments I’ve gotten have all been about how homey or like me the office is. So I think it depends on the office and the people, but I’m 15 years into this collection of curated crap. Its one third each professional (framed diploma/license, white board, office marketing poster), personal (a painting by my favorite artist, framed family photos, fake plants from IKEA because I kill live plants) and weird (drawing of Miss Piggy as River Song, snarky coffee calendar, magic 8-ball – for job forecasting). Frankly I refuse to sit in a room with beige and grey walls 40-55 hours a week for the rest of my working life.

      1. Tidewater 4-1009*

        I brought in calendar pictures and sometimes printed photos of nature off the net for my office walls.
        My boss loved art and when I was first there he sent the art person and had me pick out some framed photos and paintings too.
        Now corporate has reached the point of penny-pinching where that’s not allowed anymore, and they eliminated my position too. Those paintings are sitting in a dark empty office now.

      2. not really a lurker anymore*

        “drawing of Miss Piggy as River Song”

        I had to google this. I found 2 images and love them both. Thank you for letting me know this exists!

        1. Nozen*

          I had it commissioned, if you googled ‘drawing of Miss Piggy as River Song’ it is the second image that comes up when you click images. She’s hold a cyber-beaker head. No one in my office knows wtf it is or means and I love it.

    7. Minimax*

      Varies by office. Thats why wait and see is so important. At my old company I was given guff for having two photos. At my new job I was given guff until I hung 4 pieces of art and I still get the odd “your office is so bare” comment.

    8. Etti Ket*

      Agreed. On day 1, bring a pen and a notebook, nothing else (unless you’re brown-bagging lunch, which really is a good idea for a first day; you get to learn where lunches are stored, and you can always save it for the next day if your manager offers to take you out to celebrate for first day).
      Day 2, bring your tea stuff and perhaps a couple personal office supplies (your favorite pen, your personal pen caddy that you love, a fun-colored post-it pad) but nothing more.
      Day 3, a personal photo, if you have one you like in the office.
      Then STOP. Give it a couple days.
      After that, start bringing in personal items once a week or so, until the space it as you like it. One item at a time. The plant on your second week. Then a tchotchky on your third.
      If you limit it to one item a week, it will feel more natural to your new coworkers, and less like Mary Poppins pulling a potted plant, mirror, coat rack, etc. out of her carpet bag. ANd you’ll also be able to more honestly evaluate which items you really want to have at work, vs. what you would have just brought because it used to be on your old desk.

    9. TardyTardis*

      Although I have seen some memorable desks–Beanie Baby Heaven, Ft. Garfield (I never knew Garfield plushies came in so many different sizes), Pooh Corner, and my friend the Plant Person (everyone loved having an oxygen break by her desk). If you really must overdo, try to have a theme.

  2. Mary Ellen*

    I’ve been at my new job for just over a month, and have very, very gradually brought in a few things — a mug and some tea, some fancy pens, a little poster for the corkboard above my desk. Definitely do not show up with a suitcase!

    1. MusicWithRocksIn*

      Just settling in at a new job. Day one I only brought my purse, not even a lunch (someone always takes you out day one). Day two I brought hand lotion. Day four I brought my ravenclaw plaque. While I had a lot more decor at my desk at my old job, I’m gonna hold off for now and let things accumulate naturally.

      1. RetiredLady*

        Not necessarily true that you will be taken out to lunch. My first day I was just told to be back in 45 minutes. Luckily I was familiar with the area and knew where the closest restaurants were.

        1. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

          I don’t remember ever being taken for lunch on my first day. Admittedly I’ve been working for 25+ years and can’t remember all my first days. But I think I’d remember.

          1. New Job So Much Better*

            Nope, never been taken to lunch on the first day. If you don’t take a lunch, it’s a good idea to have a back up plan.

        2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Yeah, I’ve never been taken to lunch. It’s always a “your lunch break is at or around X time.” or “Let’s take a lunch break, I’ll see you in 30-60 minutes.” Then they usually will at least point you to the breakroom if you haven’t been shown it.

          I always just pack snacks in my purse in case we end up working through lunch as well, since you seriously just never know until you’re there.

          1. AnotherAlison*

            Here, they take you out the first day, but you still never know! It can be rescheduled if your manager and peer adviser are out that day and no one makes arrangements. I agree with bringing some snacks with you (non-perishables you can stash in your backpack or purse). One of our buildings has a cafeteria and the others have snack bars, but sometimes you don’t want to wander around the maze on day 1.

          2. Daisy-dog*

            Same. I bring a peanut butter sandwich and some other snacks that don’t need to be refrigerated. I have been provided lunch twice. Though I also don’t know what the break room situation is, so I don’t know how much can fit in the fridge or what heating options I have available.

            1. Dragoning*

              Yes! I just bring non-fridge brown bag lunches. No one has ever taken me to lunch on my first day.

              1. Etti Ket*

                I agree. Always brown bag it on your first day. If someone does offer to take you out for lunch, you can stow the bag for tomorrow. If not, then you aren’t struggling to figure out where to get sustenance while also overloaded with new information on the company.

          3. Gatomon*

            Yes, I’ve never been taken out either! I usually pack something to eat in the breakroom so I can meet some people and learn the lunch culture. At my old job people mostly ate in or brought back food from a deli or nearby fast/quick dining option. At my current job people either eat at their desks or eat elsewhere, so I typically run home for lunch. (I’m lucky enough to live very close.)

        3. Environmental Compliance*

          Yeah. I was taken out to lunch a grand total of 1 time. I have brought a lunch every time except for Current Job, thinking “oh, must have just been a gov’t thing (as I had always been gov’t until now), Not Gov’t probably will do a lunch thing” and of course there was no lunch to be had. There wasn’t even anyone in the office.

        4. Filosofickle*

          I’ve always wished teams would consider first days better! In my office jobs I always hoped to be taken out (or at least invited by someone) to lunch, and have been maybe half the time. If you don’t have a lunch culture or everyone’s swamped, at a minimum make sure the person has some direction! Give them the basics about the cafeteria or nearby restaurants if they don’t know. As a new person, feeling ignored like this makes me feel immediately like I’ve made a mistake.

          1. Avasarala*

            Wow how awful!

            Most places I’ve worked at have taken the new person out to lunch on their first day. I think it’s really welcoming and friendly, plus they usually don’t know the area and it’s a good chance to get to know the team. It definitely would make me feel sad if my new team was like, “Cool, welcome to the team, now go figure out lunch, see you in an hour, bye.”

    2. CR*

      I think generally it’s a good rule of thumb not to bring so much stuff you need a suitcase to take it all gone. If you leave your job or are let go unexpectedly, it’s pretty humiliating having to

        1. OP Today*

          Yeah, I had too much stuff in that office. The whole research group were a bit “live at work”, and I didn’t live that close to campus but there were accessible dorm facilities so I’d keep gym clothes, swimming kit, laundry tabs for washing the above…

          1. Dragoning*

            I think you might still be skewing that direction. Maybe you are British and a teapot is more normal, but where I work we have hot water? And a coffee maker that boils water, etc.

            I would expect something communal.

            1. OP Today*

              That’s me being eccentric, but I’ll take the hit. I drink a *lot* of tea, to the point that brewing by the 3.5 mugs is less obtrusive than going to the kettle that often.

              1. Drtheliz*

                Also, I suppose Americans might not know this? By “teapot” I mean something more akin to a French press than a kettle. The old-fashioned ceramic dealie you brew the tea in, not an appliance.

                1. Etti Ket*

                  I’d still wait until at least day 2 to bring that in. Once you’ve figured out where you’ll stow it. And after that, only bring things in once a week or so.

            2. Agent Diane*

              That’s not British! We make office tea using a teabag in a mug not by getting the Royal Doulton out!

              1. 'Tis Me*

                Eh, most large offices will have some people with their own pot/loose leaf supply and strainer etc. But standard provided office tea is definitely a bag and a mug!

    3. Mama Bear*

      I kept it pared down in my open office. I had a couple of family pictures but definitely not what I have now in a private office. I’d wait and see what fits.

  3. Boomerang Girl*

    I remember moving from one division to another at my former employer. It was 2-3 months before I had a proper cubicle. My monitor and files were sitting on my kitchen table for a LONG time and I just carried my laptop back and forth. I had to move things from one building to another myself and no one was keeping track, so after a couple of weeks of leaving things in my car, I took it home until I had a permanent desk. It’s a good thing I’m honest…

  4. J.B.*

    I would bring a water bottle or cup for coffee and water and cardigan if you tend to be cold. Basically small stuff that can fit in a briefcase or backpack.

    1. LeighTX*

      Seconding the water bottle and/or mug; some offices don’t provide paper cups anymore and you don’t want to be stuck with nothing to drink all day.

      1. Alli525*

        What kind of offices are you visiting/working in, that they don’t have ANYTHING provided for visitors to drink from? I can imagine an office not stocking disposable cups, but those places usually have washable mugs/glasses, no?

        1. Windchime*

          Nope. We are a university and we have no disposable cups, no communal kitchen cups. People have to bring their own mugs and water bottles. They don’t even supply coffee or tea here; everyone is responsible for supplying their own. Some groups have communally purchased a Keurig and the tea drinkers all chipped in to buy a hot water pot, but the office provides nothing.

          1. Tidewater 4-1009*

            This sounds like a government office I once temped in. The office provided nothing because it would have been taxpayers paying for it, and you can imagine what would have happened…

            1. JSPA*

              But there’s often a coffee-buying club, or a “drop a quarter” jar, or a combination of some such…

              1. Carolyn Keene*

                But not always – you can’t count on it until you’ve seen the place. I made that assumption my first day at a new job, and it was a very long uncaffeinated day for me.

                1. Extroverted Bean Counter*

                  I started a new job fresh off “maternity leave” (aka: a 13 week stretch of unemployment after having my first child) assuming there would be office coffee to keep me awake.

                  There was no complimentary coffee. Just the Starbucks-affiliated cafe in the atrium. I think I spent $15 on coffee that day and staggered home wondering what the heck kind of company doesn’t provide coffee and tea, and bought myself a 1.5L insulated carafe to bring homebrewed coffee with me from there on out.

            2. TardyTardis*

              I was in the military, and we had a coffee club, or the soda machine. But I also drank tea at the time (Darjeeling in the morning, Earl Grey in the afternoons), so I was caffeinated all right.

        2. Nanani*

          They could easily be visitors ONLY and not available to employees, or they could just have not bothered to think about that when the money saving, I mean, eco friendly, idea to eliminate disposables rolled around.

        3. Des*

          Not at my office. First day at work I had to guy get a paper cup from a nearby coffee shop, the second day I brought my own mug. Coffee/Tea/sugar etc is provided, but people bring their own dishware.

        4. Extroverted Bean Counter*

          Large corporate HQ office checking in: “visitors” aren’t really a thing – entertaining customers, sure, and for them they get the “nice” conference rooms stocked up with bottled water, snacks etc… The beverages/snacks are provided by the facilities/cafeteria people and are not general amenities.

          We in the cube farms just have our floor kitchens with the filtered water/ice machine and a Keurig (BYO pods). Everyone has their own mugs/travel bottles.

          1. TardyTardis*

            They do make Kona pods, I might add (still not as good as real Kona, but then it’s not $30 a pound, either).

      2. Becca*

        Late to this thread, but I absolutely agree! I don’t go anywhere in general without a water bottle and/or travel mug. Our office does not supply cups – there are disposable coffee cups and water available for visitors of course, and new employees get a reusable water cup and coffee cup at their desk on the first day. But it never hurts to be prepared! I also bring my bottle and mug when traveling, conferences, etc – way better than using those tiny paper or styrofoam coffee cups! I would think it is normal to bring a normal-sized messenger bag or backpack to carry your laptop, lunch, mug, etc?… Good luck at your new job! :)

    2. tink*

      My default now is 2 pens, a notebook, a planner small enough to fit in my purse, refillable water bottle, and a light cardigan.

    3. Tea!*

      As a tea lover/headache haver when without, I would bring thermos of made tea the first few days since you might be in conference rooms or not have down time to brew a pit dor a day or two.

    4. Inigo Montoya*

      One of the (many, many) nice things my new job gave me on my first day was a branded water bottle. They also showed me the fancy water machine and the fancy coffee/tea/hot chocolate machine.

    5. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

      Seconding the cardigan. You never know whether the office air con is set too high or too low, or your desk is directly under the vent.

  5. Anononon*

    The stuff you listed sounds like items that should be gradually accumulated over months, not days. I think it’d be odd to fully “move-in” so quickly.

      1. Etti Ket*

        Agreed. Bring nothing on the first day that you don’t absolutely need *that day*. On the second day, a couple of things to .
        Then wait and bring one item at a time, once a week, until you’re comfortable with how the office space looks.

    1. Oxford Comma*

      Really? I wouldn’t bat an eye at any of this if it was brought in over days, especially in an academic environment, even in an academic administrative one. In the various colleges and universities I’ve been and in the offices I’ve been in, all of this is pretty standard. Even deans and assistants to deans have tchotchkes.

      She listed:
      *tea leaves, teapot, mug, coasters – I think almost everyone here has something like this. I actually have an electric kettle, which fits in a drawer when not in use along with tea bags, honey sticks, etc. I am not alone.
      *pen caddy (and pens), a notebook – sounds like standard office stuff, even if hers are personalized
      *small whiteboard – they would buy that for us here without a second guess.
      *the personal knickknacks she referenced are also very minimal. (down the thread she mentioned two very small items).

      All of those would probably fit in a reusable shopping bag and no one here would blink at any of it.

      Admittedly, I write this from an office filled with personal items. I have been here a very long time, though and I have tenure.

      I would do it gradually. I would suss out the vibe in the office. I would be careful and try and find out if things tend to go missing before I brought in anything irreplaceable, but if the OP has a dedicated desk, I would think this is all pretty minimal.

      1. TardyTardis*

        Now, hot-desking in an open office is something else, but I still had a few doodads I kept in a drawer there (including the Betty Boop cup).

  6. Lockstep*

    I had a coworker who showed up on his 1st day and set about putting up a grand memorial display to his motorsports racing career. Multiple trophies, pictures of him on the winners podium and various other racing artifacts.

    It was quite a shock that nothing he put up was work related. He would also conduct twenty minute introspection on his artifact display when every employee came by to introduce themselves. This when on all day.

    1. LGC*

      I’m in awe, in the Biblical sense. Your coworker sounds like a bit of a jerk, but also I kind of want to meet him.

      I wouldn’t want to WORK with him. But also, I’m strangely fascinated mostly because I can’t look away from trainwrecks.

      1. Lockstep*

        He boasted every time he got an opportunity to talk about his racing, but was also very good at his job.
        Everyone did like him, but it bothered me when he boasted about doing bigger or better than you with regards to the usual office small talk conservation topics.

  7. Just J.*

    Spend some time at your desk in your new space. How your work ‘flows’ will also impact what accessories you want and need at your desk.

    Remember to request white boards, bulletin boars, desk lamps, etc., before bringing them in. Most companies will buy those items for you or have spares in stock already. Plus at my last job, desk lamps were forbidden (too long of a story to post).

    1. Drew*

      You can’t just throw that out there and expect us NOT to hound you for the details, J.

      If it’s too much of a derail, can we request the longer story on Friday?

      1. Just J.*

        It was a high profile architectural office, where the ‘look’ of the office was A Thing. Individual desk lamps were considered clutter. (We had good lighting and plenty of daylight, so desk lamps weren’t really needed. )

        If you needed one because of vision issues or close up work or whatever, you could request one. The request had to be approved, and the desk lamp selected by the head of the architectural department.

        1. Auntie Social*

          We could have one frame for family photos that was chosen by a designer. Same ‘look’ thing.

          1. Kara*

            At a previous company my father owned, he had to limit the receptionist to one digital frame for pictures. The reason for this was due to a need for painting the office, they had to take down the family photographs she had put up over the years. They started counting… she had 241 (REALLY!) framed pictures in her office. They took them all down, boxed them up, painted the office, then told her she was limited to the one digital frame, where she could load as many pictures as she wanted on it. She was not happy.

            1. ampersand*

              Nooooo. How do you even fit that many in an office?!

              That amount of visual clutter would drive me crazy!

              1. Seeking Second Childhood*

                My dad was an amateur photographer and he&Mom had dozens in the breakfast room. At one point she joked it was because she didn’t want to rewallpaper. (And dad was good, too.)

              2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                Not work-related, but when I was 20, I briefly dated a guy who was 18 and whom I’d met literally on the subway. On our last date, we went to a late-night movie close to where he lived, and by the time the movie ended, none of the public transportation was running anymore. He suggested that I crash at his place, adding, “don’t worry, I live with my mom, you’re safe.” Not having any other options, I agreed, and we went over to his apartment, where we were in fact greeted by his mom (and I ended up sharing a bed with her, so yeah I was definitely safe I guess in some fashion. Eeek.) First thing one saw when walking into their apartment was an entire wall covered floor to ceiling with black and white photos of my date in various stages of his life, from baby photos to current ones. Like wallpaper, but with his face all over it. The wall of Bobby! I didn’t count the photos on The Wall, but 241 might’ve been a close estimate for how many his mom had up there. So it’s possible. They were not framed though.

                1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                  @Foxgloves: YES!!! Probably the weirdest experience of my life. The initial plan was that I take my date’s bed, and he make himself a cot on the balcony. Then he suddenly was, “this is my home, why am I sleeping on a cot in my home, I’m staying in my bed, you go sleep with my mom” like it was the most normal thing on earth. It was three am and I did not have the mental capacity to argue. Of course now that I type it, I’m like “WHY did I not offer to take the cot?!?!?”

          2. Curmudgeon in California*

            Oh, ugh. This HOA style “office look” thing weirds me out. I’m a person, not a cloned drone.

            They tried that where I work, to the point of demanding that you clear your desk each day. It went over like a lead brick, to the point where people deliberately have personal stuff out.

        2. Carlie*

          I can’t imagine not having a desk lamp. I do have vision problems, and also I am very picky as to bulb color/directionality, so I can imagine a looong discussion with the department head about a lamp acceptable to both of us…

          1. VintageLydia*

            At least in an architecture/design firm you’ll be talking to people who presumably understood the need for certain color temperatures and such. Theoretically.

            1. SweetestCin*

              I’m assuming that if they’re this tied to a “look”, the understanding may be there, but may not be implemented because that’s just too much common sense.

              Coincidentally? There are reasons why I left architecture as a profession, this one may or may not have been in the laundry list!

        3. Llellayena*

          ::looks around her current architectural office:: There’s a “look?” Somebody’s got their priorities wonky! I have occasionally wished we were a little more “designed” so we present a little better if clients come past the front lobby, but that level of control is a bit over the top.

          1. AnotherAlison*

            It was before my time, but not long before, that my first employer would police what people had on their desks and shelves. They had closing over-desk shelves, and you weren’t allowed to put things on top.

            Our new building is has that architectural design feel, and they’re particular about keeping it nice. (Glass walls, polished concrete floors, no extra storage spots for people to accumulate stuff.) No one is telling the guy outside my office he can’t have his funko pop collection, but it is taking up almost all the limited free surface area he has. They’ve designed us into limiting our crap rather than policing it.

            1. Curmudgeon in California*

              Yeah, that happened with us too. Glass walls, carpet and paint by section, unfinished ceilings, etc. Only two dinky little rolly drawers, a grey backdrop behind the desk, and the desk itself. NO bookshelves, only a few rolling whiteboards (the one in my area promptly was stolen by another group, and has never been replaced), no actual coatracks (I brought mine from my previous office, my whole workgroup uses it), and generally very trendy sterile. They eventually put “art” on the walls – abstract prints that look like some design major’s senior projects. If the walls aren’t painted some garish color like green, bright goldenrod or red, they are dull off-white. The decor is “pseudo-trendy institutional”, IMO. I hate open plans – depersonalizing is their mantra.

        4. Sc@rlettNZ*

          This story reminds me of people I know who had a new house designed and built. The architect refused to let them have bedside tables because it didn’t fit with his aesthetic ……

      2. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

        We aren’t allowed to have personal appliances that plug into the office power supply. I think it’s because a faulty appliance could blow the power. I have a tiny desk fan that connects to the USB port of my laptop.

        Tbh I have never ever worked somewhere where people have desk lamps, space heaters, crockpots, and the like plugged in at their desks. Even in the kitchen area, a crockpot would cause serious raised eyebrows.

        1. Sparrow*

          Everywhere I’ve worked, desk lamps and space heaters and/or fans were very common. Currently, I actually have one of those very tiny refrigerators in my office because the only big fridge is shared by about 40 people. But 1) I wouldn’t bring any of those things the first day, or perhaps even the first week, 2) this was in private offices, where you didn’t have to negotiate space usage (like a crockpot in the kitchen would be a bit unusual just because it’s common space, not “your” space.)

          OP should definitely prioritize, see what everyone else has going on, and perhaps discuss with her office mates before getting too invested.

        2. Jennifer*

          PPPPP – I guess you never worked in my office. ;-) I have a mini-fridge, a microwave, and a toaster oven. (The power goes out if I use the toaster oven and the microwave at the same time.) I have a large houseplant and put xmas decorations on it in December. Plus the candy dish, the stuffed animals — oh, and electric teakettle. I just realized I’m one of those middle-aged ladies with an over-decorated office and too many cats. I’m gonna own it.

  8. SufferinSuccotash*

    O my gosh I just got a new job on this same campus and I am totally planning on bringing all my stuff over instead of taking it home and then bringing it back. Do you guys think that’s ok? My new office is one building over.

    1. CTT*

      Being on the same campus feels a little different, although I think the “not on the first day” rule still stands for the reasons Allison mentioned. Can you keep it in your trunk for a few days?

      1. anonnaners*

        Seconded. I also recently moved, within the same building, and brought all my stuff home anyway (I also live super close, so it wasn’t a huge hassle). Then, on the first day, even though I went straight to my new office…no one was there to let me in and I didn’t get a key for another week. I still haven’t brought in 95% of the stuff that was in my old office…turns out I didn’t really need it!

        1. AnotherAlison*

          Yup. I have been at the same company for 15 years. I moved 7 times in 2019, which was an extreme, but it isn’t unusual to move 1-2 times per year. After working at a satellite office in 2018, I didn’t bring most of my stuff back to the main office and I threw away most of it in the household basement purge of late 2019. I’m down to a handful of personal items, a couple reference books that I don’t really need, office supplies, and a few manila folders for active projects. Turns out I don’t need to haul around the reference materials that I got on day one of my job 20 years ago (a technical position that I haven’t held for 12 years). Who knew, lol?

        2. Seeking Second Childhood*

          I used to purge the office every Christmas break. Then I accrued enough pto to get a winter vacation, and boy was it a shock when we were moved into new/smaller cubicles.
          I already warned my co-workers I’m purging again as soon as I’m over this cold. (With the turnover we’ve had, I don’t want to be a topic of gossip. At least not until I accept an offer somewhere LOL.)

    2. Herding Butterflies*

      It depends. How similar of a job is it? What’s the vibe in the new department? I’d be conservative and follow the advice here and take it home first.

      If anyone says, hey, where’s all of your stuff, just say you didn’t feel like hauling it all in on the first day.

    3. t*

      In your situation, it does make sense to just bring your stuff with you. But this is also a great time to downsize. If there’s anything you won’t need on the new job, take it home.

      1. humans are weird*

        Yes to this. I moved to a new desk with a new position (same campus), and I took the opportunity to design my workspace the way I want it (uncluttered, plant trailing along the cube wall rather than a ton of info sheets pinned up, etc) and many things went home. The things that moved over did move directly over, though, since I use public transit and didn’t want to haul things twice.

    4. BadWolf*

      I think you kind of know the vibe already then? And what your first day is likely to be? And you can scope out your desk before hand?

      I guess I would only say that you may want to unpack over the course of the couple of days if it would otherwise take all day to unpack and set up your desk. Assuming you are packing in boxes. If you’re carting armfuls of stuff over (which is sometimes what we do when we’re moving internally), then the unpacking happens naturally. Unless, of course, no one expects you to do much on your transition day…then unpacking is better than twiddling your thumbs.

    5. Laura*

      Are you expected to move it yourself? When I changed jobs/buildings at a previous job, they expected me to have a couple personal boxes and arranged for maintenance staff to move them over the weekend.

      1. Grace*

        Our office only moves a max of 3 boxes per person in addition to computer equipment. Any additional boxes are the employees to move themselves. We hired a coworker from another floor with the same cube space and she brought her husband in to help her move 9 moving boxes in addition to her 3 the movers moved. She has no space to work, and our running joke is we are going to call the show horders in. We are supposed to take turns training her, but no one wants to enter into her cube.

          1. ggg*

            I am moving to a new building/office at my same company. Due to the movers’ schedule, I will in fact show up on my first day with a laptop, notebook and pen, but about a week later the movers are bringing 14 boxes, two large computer monitors and my beloved ergonomic office chair to the new space.

            FWIW I was in my previous building for 16 years and I downsized a LOT.

            1. ggg*

              Reading along, I should also say that these are not full of decorative items but they are scientific textbooks, files, notes, office supplies, that kind of thing. There are a couple of coffee cups, a framed poster and a fake plant that was a gift from someone who retired. But definitely not scads of Beanie Babies or anything like that.

    6. Etti Ket*

      I wouldn’t. At the very least, taking it all home and only bringing things in a few at a time gives you a chance to actually go through everything and decide if you really want it on your desk. Really.

    7. Windchime*

      We had someone transfer from a different building to ours, and it was not a big deal at all that she brought a box with her office stuff in it. It wasn’t a ton of stuff; a plant, a couple of framed photos, sweater, mug, etc. I didn’t think a thing about it.

  9. Ana Gram*

    Seriously, bring a notebook and pen. I hire local government staff and the number of people who ask us for a pen or take notes in the margins of handouts really surprise me. Plus, in my workplace, it’ll be a week before you complete onboarding and actually get assigned to a workspace so no need for anything you can’t tote around.

    1. Shad*

      At least as far as the margins of handouts, I find it much more useful to add notes right up against what I already have on the subject. So notes on handouts may just be an organizational measure to keep them all together.
      But not all workplaces have handouts, so even if that is your style, you’d still want a notebook as well.

      1. Ana Gram*

        Exactly. They don’t really know if we’re going to have handouts so it seems ill prepared to roll in without a notebook and pen.

        1. Antilles*

          Serious question: How often do people say no?
          It’s honestly never even crossed my mind to ask; if you’re handing me the handout, I’ve automatically assumed it was mine to keep, write on, and take back to my office.
          And even now that I’m thinking about it, I’m still not sure when it would make sense to give someone a handout you expect back. If your concern is about document security or leaks or whatever…wouldn’t you just skip creating a printed document at all and simply do Powerpoint/whiteboard sketch/purely verbal discussion?

          1. Etti Ket*

            It’s not that they’ll say “no.” It’s that the way they say “yes” tells you whether it’s fine, or if it’s NOT DONE in that office.
            More of a culture thing than a hard and fast rule. Some offices just don’t want you writing on documents.

          2. BoopBop*

            Our old head of HR did the whole new employee benefits presentation then told us she needed the handouts back because “they were hers.” She only let us keep them because we told her we took notes on them. Definitely a funny experience because I remember it six years later.

            1. Antilles*

              That’s extra funny when you realize that the company is likely required to provide information about your health insurance, 401k, and similar benefits upon request anyways.

          3. The Original K.*

            Not often, but it has happened. I can think of a couple of instances where the person wanted the handout back.

      2. Antilles*

        Yeah, I bring a notebook everywhere but I’ll still prefer to take notes on the handouts or the agenda, because it keeps it all in one place. Also, you can write the notes right next to the relevant piece of the handout, which can really help jog memory days/weeks down the line since the thread of what we were discussing is already listed right there.

    2. Auntie Social*

      And if there’s a certain kind of pen you love, bring two or three. You may not be able to order your favorites.

      1. non non non*

        I think the idea is that you want to err on the side of being prepared, even if that means you will be overprepared. Also, people take notes all different ways and most offices vary in supplies, so knowing what materials you need specifically for yourself looks better than assuming your new job will have them. I think optics are key here, and assumptions/unpreparedness can look bad. Definitely worse than already having your own notebook.

        Personally, I couldn’t imagine showing up to a professional job or interview without my own writing and note-taking materials. Maybe this isn’t the right word, but I think it looks less “needy.” I guess ideally, you would ask this before your first day, ie: “Is there anything I should bring myself? Will (office standard) notebooks/pens be provided?”

    3. LQ*

      I strongly agree to bring it, but even in notoriously stingy government, this is something you should be providing to new hires. We don’t assign folks their spots, they mostly just are in a training room with not their computer, and not their desks, and such. But they all get pens, paper, even highlighters and postits (though we have had to fight to have postits…).

      1. Windchime*

        When we get a new person, they are shown around on their first day and that includes a trip to the supply room. But I try to make sure that they at least have pens, notebook, hand sanitizer, and tissues at their desk already on Day 1. (Having said that, I always show up on Day 1 with a notebook and pen, because it’s just good to be prepared.)

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          One place I worked had a “new hire desk kit” – it had all the essentials – pens, pencils, postits, highlighter, whiteboard markers, whiteboard eraser, paper clips, stapler, tape, notebook, scratch pad. It was convenient, and anything they didn’t use they just put back into the office supply cabinet.

  10. SometimesALurker*

    I think that the amount of personal stuff that feels appropriate vs. excessive is also a “know your office” kind of thing.

    1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*


      Don’t bring a hammer and nails so you can get up all of your diplomas and framed awards until you know whether an “I love me” wall is a thing or not.

        1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

          A well-known phenomenon from my time in DC. It was either (a) diplomas & awards, or (b) photo-ops with big-name politicians.

          1. Etti Ket*

            So true! I’m a military brat, and just about every military office had a wall with awards, diplomas, shadow boxes of their fruit salad (the nickname for the colorful ribbons military personnel wear on their chest, signifying various achievements and duty stations), etc. Some folks – like my dad – kept the self-aggrandizement to a minimum; his wall was more military themed artwork, a couple family photos, a folded flag, stuff like that. But they all had The WALL.

        2. Elitist Semicolon*

          I have an “I love me” wall! Or, rather, I have a “I will put my creds right across from the door where you can see them because you are faculty and I want you to know I have the same qualifications you do even if I did take an ‘alternate’ career route” wall. Because in my last job, I was warned that a very small number of faculty were fond of treating non-TT instructional staff as if they were somehow unworthy, and hanging the diploma removed at least one factor about which they could be snooty.

          1. Mary*

            A couple of weeks ago I sent someone a document that I’d signed with my doctor title (I have a PhD, work in a university but am not an academic.) When it came back with edits, one person had highlighted “Dr”, and commented, “Are her details correct?”

            1. Mary*

              I am extremely baffled by the idea that someone thinks I would (accidentally? or fraudulently?) claim a Dr title I’m not entitled to, in a university!

            2. Curmudgeon in California*

              Wow, what a jerk! I would probably passive-aggressively send her a scanned copy of my diploma, but I’m snarky like that…

          2. Dr. of Pomposity*

            Oh, gosh, I’ve considered making myself an “I Love Me Wall”.
            I have a similar situation, where my role is one that’s a little different than what most of my coworkers wanted to do with all their degrees, so they sometimes assume I don’t have any, or talk to me as if I don’t. I’ve even had somebody do the “detail checking” act with me, seemingly to indicate that she thinks I might be lying about one of my degrees.

            Thing is, I have all the degrees and almost all the certifications of any of my coworkers. If I made that wall it would be highly cluttered and probably annoy me with my own pomposity. But I like your idea of facing it all toward the door….

            1. Mr. Tyzik*

              I have a hutch on my desk, giving me a board across the back of my working area. I have post-its with important things, and then a section of post-its with “I love Me” facts – feedback quotes, metrics, major accomplishments. When I feel down or stuck I look at my “I love Me” section and it fires me back up.

    2. Geillis D*

      In my office desks are known to be switched around for some of the staff, depending on needs. I was very glad not to have a fully stocked office suite when I was asked to move from desk A upstairs to desk B downstairs and only had to schlep my mug, coaster, notebook, calendar and very few contents of my desk drawer.

      1. noahwynn*

        This is how my office is too. All of our cubes are identical, so we take our laptop, laptop dock and power adapter, and the rolling drawer unit and can be moved to a new desk in 15-20 minutes tops.

        My whole department had to move recently when we had two additional positions added. It was the only way to keep us together as a group.

    3. That Girl from Quinn's House*

      Yeah, I had a job that required a bunch of different sorts of clothing/supplies for different tasks of the job, so I’d show up with all of them on Day 1 because I couldn’t guarantee what task I was going to be assigned on my first day. Some of them were dress up (meetings, trainings) and some were dress down (maintenance, teaching classes, covering for my uniformed front-line staff) so I showed up on day with a backpack full of three changes of clothing and shower supplies.

      It was a bit ridiculous, but it was what was necessary.

    4. Dr Logen*

      Agreed! I’m a professor and it would be super weird if someone showed up on the first day of classes without already moving boxes and boxes of books into their office! I would worry about their commitment to this school. I know that’d be weird in a normal, corporate setting. So yeah, part of it is knowing your office and knowing your field.

  11. CaliCali*

    Yeah, given that first days are really unpredictable in terms of what you’ll be doing, I’d just bring what Alison suggests. If you’re being shuffled around from spot to spot, signed up for training, or otherwise occupied, you don’t want to have “things” to worry about! I feel like with every job it takes some time to figure out a bit of your work personality (and how much of it you want to have on display), so don’t worry about bringing nearly anything until you start to feel more comfortable in your space.

  12. Southern Living*

    For the first day, I’d bring whatever fits in your purse/bag that you normally carry and nothing more. Pen and notebook – because that shows you’re prepared. Water bottle/cup are also normal first day things. All the other stuff, check out what you have first, as you might not need a coaster or a pen holder. Best of luck on your new job!

  13. Hobbit*

    Another thing to keep in mind is what is the office culture around personalizing your space. It all depends on where you work and what the unwritten rules/culture are. Another thing to keep in mind is your coworkers; see what they do with their space and act accordingly. Congrats on your new job!

    1. Heidi*

      Yes to this! I would take that first day to look around the office and see what everyone else is doing with their desks. If everyone else has teapots and coasters and decorations, you should feel safer bringing in similar items. The first day would also give you a chance to assess office security. If things go missing or get damaged in your office, it might be safer to keep your irreplaceable items of personal significance at home.

      1. Christmas Carol*

        Do not, under any circumstances, bring in your family heirloom cast iron caboose with you grandfather’s initials carved/welded into the bottom.

  14. AnotherAlison*

    Interesting that the OP thinks adding stuff over the first week would be odd–it is definitely less odd than bringing all your stuff on day 1. Absolutely don’t do that. Bring it in gradually, over weeks, months, and years. The new person who focuses their energy on decorating their office seems to be correlated with being the person who doesn’t last in the company long-term.

    1. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

      Agreed. Bringing in something small every day is definitely better than arriving with a crate of stuff.

  15. Ali*

    We had a new employee who actually came in the week before her start date, in decidedly non-office attire, and proceeded to fully decorate her office, including hanging multiple pieces of artwork (both her kids’ as well as her own paint-nite canvases). We all thought it was pretty weird. She was gone within about 3 months.

  16. Oxford Comma*

    OP: is this job in academia? And is it an academic job versus an administrative one?

    Either way, I would start with the notebook and pen and suss the mood out.

    1. OP Today*

      Academic admin, so both your guesses were right! I’m going to be managing collaborations and outreach for a single-subject institute with probable growth into finding funding for them later on.

      1. Syfygeek*

        Wear comfortable shoes, and make the notebook small enough to carry with you, and your pen.

        My first day at present job, I wound up on tour of the campus, interspersed with introductions to people. Almost 2 years in and I still refer to those notes sometimes.

        And congratulations!

      2. Oxford Comma*

        My guess is that they will be more casual about personalizing your desk than a place in a traditional business would, but more formal than they would if you were faculty.

        Definitely see if they have the money to buy you the whiteboard you want and any office supplies rather than paying for those yourself.

        1. Senor Montoya*

          Yes, if you’re faculty no one will bat an eye at whatever you bring in (OK, up to a point). But even so, the institution may have you doing onboarding, tramping around campus, etc. Comfortable shoes for sure!

      3. Sarah N*

        Eh, you’re in an academic office, I think it’s expected and normal to have a TON of stuff and be a bit eccentric. Maybe a little less for staff versus professors, but I think you have much more leeway than in a normal office job. I agree with the advice to not bring everything in on the first day (because first days can be unpredictable) and to read the room and not do something extremely outside of the norms of your shared office. But I truly think stuff like leaving your gym bag under your desk is 1000% normal (I work in academia and our admin person has definitely done that and more — including a former admin person who brought in their cat semi-regularly.)

          1. 'Tis Me*

            “… And Fluffles enjoyed the campus tour so much he now insists on accompanying every single tour group. If there isn’t one happening he has been known to herd some undergrads together and take them on one solo.”

        1. Sc@rlettNZ*

          One of our cats would LOVE it if I took him to work with me. I help run a cat rescue organisation in the city I live in – on a few occasions I’ve had kittens in the office with me (once for an entire day). My office is extremely popular and well visited on those occasions!!

        2. Jonah*

          My advisor in college had an office cat. She had other cats at home, but this one got to come to work with her every day. She even built him a catio out her third floor office window so he could watch the birds and get some fresh air. She might have also used the catio as an opportunity to smoke a joint out the window after lunch every day.

          1. Kelly Kapoor*

            This comment is relatively buried and I’m sad that it may not get the attention that it deserves.

          2. Jaydee*

            So many questions! Why did just the one cat come to work? Do you think he bragged to the other cats about having a job? Or did the other cats bully him, so he had to come to work with her for his own safety? How did the cat travel? Did the advisor keep a litter box in her office? Did the cat appreciate the pot smoke at lunchtime in his catio?

  17. Blaise*

    It’s always interesting when I read an answer to one of these and am startled into remembering HOW different my job is from most other people’s. I’m a teacher who just started a new job three weeks ago (so mid-year, which makes my situation different than most new teaching jobs, but still). I spent over six hours moving in the day before my first day, and still had to gradually move in over the course of my first week to finish up. It’s so funny to think about people having so little to move in with that it COULD all come at once!

    1. just a random teacher*

      Yeah, we got a late-career teacher who moved to our building from elsewhere in the district over the summer. She came with her own file cabinet (full), at least one personal chair, and 10-20 boxes between books, decorations, and office supplies. I’m not sure how much she’d have taken if she was switching districts (I assume the file cabinet, at least, is something the district owns rather than her), but I know when I switched districts I took boxes of stuff I’d bought myself with me (and abandoned more stuff I decided I didn’t want anymore even though it was “mine” in various cabinets in the room along with the district’s stuff). The norm would seem to be somewhere more around “carload” rather than “single box” for teachers! (Although I usually don’t haul everything in my first day, but rather wait until I have my own keys. First day is often full of paperwork and such.)

      It’s a combination of having more space, being expected to decorate it yourself, and having to purchase more of your supplies yourself rather than have them provided, I suppose.

      1. Blaise*

        I may or may not own my own file cabinet that comes with me I’m just really picky and know what I like!

        And I haven’t even figured out if I want to go the flexible seating route like I did at my old school… I have a good 10 or so chairs still in storage!

        After nine years, half of those at schools that provided a $0 budget for supplies… I have a lot of stuff.

    2. OP Today*

      My sister-in-law did this! Husband and I spent one morning last September helping her strip the room she’d been moved to of the hundreds of staples the last occupant(s?) had left behind.

    3. Parenthetically*

      Yes THIS is why this all struck me as strange but I couldn’t figure out why! My mother taught for 40 years and practically lived in her classroom, and I taught for 10 before I had kids. My last week of work I had to figure out where I was going to store 10 huge boxes of personal classroom stuff. So.

  18. New Fed Here*

    I have off today, hence all my comments.

    IMHO, bring tissues and hand lotion. Everything else, wait and see what they provide.

      1. Antilles*

        Another option is to just buy one of those small pocket packs of tissues and a travel size hand sanitizer, both of which easily fit in a purse, briefcase, or jacket pocket.
        If the company provides them or you don’t feel any need to sneeze/cough/whatever, the stuff just never leaves your pocket and nobody even realizes you brought them in. If you *do* end up needing them, it comes across as natural because enough people do it that it’ll just come across as natural and oh yeah it’s flu season makes sense.

  19. Agent Diane*

    I don’t bring my mug in until I’ve been somewhere for a couple of weeks. What if I hate the place and quit? I don’t want to have to come back with a suitcase. ;)

    Seriously, start with a notepad/pen, water bottle, a reusable coffee cup* and a phone charging cable. All of that should fit in your bag so you won’t struggle if you’re going from office to office for orientation.

    Even now, a year out from leaving a workplace with a clear desk policy, I like to clear my desk at the end of the day. Until you know what their policy and culture is, a plant would be a bit OTT.

    *this differs from a mug because you can use it for takeaway hot drinks and making your own hot drinks during the day.

    1. annewithanE*

      your point is really great.

      maybe it’s because my first career job was in a dysfunctional start up, but i would never consider bringing in anything i would miss during the first month or so.

      i saw so many people being fired within their first few weeks, and being fired out of seemingly nowhere, that i have a permanent aversion to bringing in too much at all, let alone during the first day or week!

    2. RC Rascal*

      Also, bring a sweater or a jacket and wear comfortable shoes. My first day at my office I wore flats I thought were comfortable, then got walked around a very large office building making introductions. So..many..blisters.

      My office is seriously cold–the HVAC system is messed up and they pretty much can’t fix it. It’s 60 degrees in there year round. On my first day it was 100 degrees outside and I dressed for the weather; nearly froze to death indoors.

      1. Agent Diane*

        I have learnt that Mondays are the cold day at my current contract. So there’s now an emergency giant scarf/shawl in my pedestal drawers in case I forget and dress normally on a Monday.

        These are the kind of quirks of the office you can observe in the first two weeks. And ask your new roomies about stuff like this too! The first Monday I wasn’t ready for the chill. One of the more senior people at a meeting disappeared to get a jacket and I was able to say “I’ve messed up so I’ll be clutching my coffee for dear life”. It’s the kind of normal thing that makes you human and builds bonds.

        1. RC Rascal*

          I should have known there was an issue when they offered me a space heater, on my first day, in August. I thought they were nuts & politely said I could wear a sweater if I was chilly.

          There was a conference room that would get to 50 degrees in winter. I kid you not.

  20. Sled dog mana*

    My personal rule for 1st day is if it fits in my purse/backpack with room to spare it’s ok for 1st day.
    I’ve had jobs wherever 1st day was spent entirely away from my desk/department doing paperwork and days where I showed up and was handed a username and password to login and complete everything online.
    What I brought on my recent 1st day was notebook, pens, extra teas bags and the photo of my family I keep on my desk. I also knew I was getting a laptop that day so I had to have a way to carry that home.
    10 weeks later I’ve had time to accumulate some of the Other things I like to keep at the office, like my tea mug. I’ve learned where the community hot water pot is (no need to provide my own). Oh and my new boss gave me a digital photo frame as a welcome to the team present so now I have multiple pictures of my kid and hubby.

  21. Free Meercats*

    Please don’t be the one admin we hired.

    She showed up first day with a bankers box. Inside was a giant collection of Beany Babies which she then spent an hour arranging around her workspace. For other reasons, she didn’t last a week (in a government job!), but it was definitely not a good first impression.

    1. Bernice Clifton*

      I never really made the connection until now reading this comment and Ali’s comment above, but as a career admin/office manager who has had the job of packing up offices when an employee is let go – there is an anecdotal correlation between over-decorating one’s workspace and not working out in the position

      1. Giant Squid*

        That makes sense–though I imagine those people are more memorable too. It also would mean that the firing came as a surprise–someone who resigns or knows it’s a risk might know to “downsize” ahead of time.

        1. Jurassicgoddess*

          I had an employer that was known to fire people based on one boss’ having a bad day, there, I kept 1 purse’ worth of personal supplies and stuff, JIC. I was fresh off being fired, and having to pack my personal stuff, anything I forgot that day I never got back, in front of rubbernecking coworkers while the former boss watched was so wretched I vowed to never do that again.

          From the positions I held for 8 years prior to the firing, I slowly moved out a 10 gallon FISH TANK, art, plants, etc. and they were still blindsided by my decision to leave! (Fishkeeping at work is one of those things that NOW I realize is exceptionally weird in most office spaces including the ones I was in where I kept fish!)

          As I have come to want certain things from my employer, and really embraced the fact that it’s a relationship that could end for any reason any day, I have a box’s worth of personal stuff, and another box’s worth of food. Honestly, it’s so much nicer to not have piles of sentimental stuff in my office. For me, it has really made it easier to get work done, and minimize my emotion’s impact on my work life. YMMV, naturally, and I’m hardly one to judge a collector of things, considering the fish tank, lol.

          1. Windchime*

            I did this too, before I quit my toxic job. I literally moved out an entire bookcase of books, personal pictures, and almost all of my personal stuff out of my drawers. One person asked about the bookcase and I said I was just changing things up a little. Nobody else could see that I was literally moving out.

            1. Triumphant Fox*

              We had the opposite happen. A coworker had all his action figures in his space and lots of posters. One day they were all gone and we all thought – he’s definitely leaving. Then, he just…didn’t. It was so weird.

    2. Donkey Hotey*

      “Didn’t last a week… in a government job.”
      Wow. Around here, to get let go from a government job, one has to get caught selling crack to schoolchildren… twice. (First time’s a PIP, obviously.)

      1. Quickbeam*

        In my state there is a probationary period for all government jobs. Can be 6 months to 2 years. Most people get walked out during that time.

  22. Rosalita*

    I cleaned out my old desk and left the box (a big one oops) in my car. I slowly over 3 months added to my desk. Small stuff so its not too crazy. I waited a couple weeks before I started bringing stuff in.

  23. Hi there*

    Sigh, I’ve become one of those people Alison described with tons of personal stuff in their office, accumulated over 20 years. I am using my latest office move to clear a lot of it out. I even have my ice skates here (I did have skating meetings with my boss for a while). I agree with the pen, notebook, and mug recommendations for the first day and then to live in your office for a while. Maybe a small framed family photo for your desktop on day 2?

  24. Tsehafy*

    If four pairs of shoes is considered in the same category as an army of figurines and a wall of photos, I’m in trouble…

    1. Clay feet Gold hands*

      It’s “and” not “or”. The 4 pairs of shoes alone is not a big issue. Add the figurines and the photos it becomes a pattern.

    2. Daisy-dog*

      Though really, if you do have all that stuff and none of your co-workers have raised an eyebrow – it’s fine for your culture! The idea is that you need to take it slow and learn about the norms.

    3. SweetestCin*

      So a funny thing about shoes….

      I have four pairs at my desk in addition to the ones on my feet.
      1. Workboots, steel toed.
      2. Walking shoes for lunch hour.
      3. Winter boots, because I live where its cold and the air hurts my face but we don’t have huge bugs and lizards (I wore these in and switched to my comfy dress shoes)
      4. Fancy heels in case they’re needed for some sort of random event because yes, this has happened to me. Sometimes I wind up in a meeting where the guys show up in designer suits. I switch out the cardigan and daily shoes for heels and a power blazer.

      They’re all in the cube-closet. I also keep a pair of jeans and a long-sleeved shirt in my cabinet, because business professional dress does not work well for jobsite visits, especially when you’re a woman!

  25. Jurassicgoddess*

    My advice:
    First day: absolute minimum stuff. Coffee/tea mug, pen and pad. Really look at other workspaces for trends and culture info, to tailor final stuff level appropriate.
    Second day and thereafter: 1 handful/pocketful of things/day. No more than 1 plant per week, and try to space out their arrival by 2-3 weeks, and factor in lighting as another plant, lol.
    For the first 3-12 months try to keep your overall stuff level low enough to fit in a file box without effort, for most workspaces.
    From an eccentric accountant with half a tropical forest, and about a dozen small and tasteful art pieces in her office now!

    1. Adultiest Adult*

      I like that you have a plant arrival schedule. A friend said she was going to give me a plant when I got an office with a window. Well, that turned into 5 plants, which somehow turned into 20 in 2 offices… One of which is officially called “the greenhouse.” And yes, it will be a nightmare if I ever have to pack them out again! Aside from plants, I feel like I have a medium level of stuff, a fleece jacket, and an entire drawer of food and tea supplies.

  26. Phillip*

    I think there is a scale of courageous acts that has “showing up on day one with armloads of desk ephemera” on one end, and “dressing up for halloween when you’re not sure everyone else is” on the other.

    1. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

      I think they are on the same end of the scale LOL

      At the other end is – not bringing your own pen or mug in case it’s seen as too out there.

      1. Phillip*

        I was requiring a base level of invincible courage to even bottom out this scale. Both definitely have the same energy as a drastic new hairdo on the first day of school back from summer break.

        1. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

          Or that co-worker who used to go out at lunchtime and come back in a new outfit with a different colour hair

  27. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

    This would just never be a question for me.

    I can’t imagine having an office, or permanent desk. I get assigned to different teams and I sit with them for the duration of the project. Usually a few months. Often there are no assigned desks, you just show up in your team area and sit at an empty desk. Usually there are no drawers or cupboards to put stuff in. If you’re lucky you might get a locker.

    Most recently, I moved off a project and back to “the mothership” where there were no desks available. Every day I’d wait to see who was out of the office and sit at their desk. If I was lucky, someone would take a week of leave. After a few months… I got a desk. In a few months, I might consider a plant.

  28. LGC*

    LW – thanks for writing this letter! It’s something I’ve…never really thought about until this letter, really. Like, I would just move in gradually, but that’s largely my personality. I hadn’t thought of the ins and outs of office moving etiquette.

  29. CupcakeCounter*

    Day 1 I brought in:
    reusable water bottle
    travel mug
    box of Kleenex
    hand lotion & hand sanitizer

    Day 2 I added a calendar
    Day 3 I added allergy/pain meds and chap stick
    Week 2 I added the “cutesy” stuff

  30. Third or Nothing!*

    I also have accumulated a surprising amount of personal stuff, and I’m in a cubicle. Penguin amiguri, tiny stuffed rabbit, picture of my daughter, framed poem picked up on an anniversary trip, picture of my BFFs from my college days, teeny tiny TARDIS, penguin paperweight, company branded RTIC tumbler, Harry Potter running themed mug, and a little bitty handmade stuffed fabric owl. In the drawers I have instant oatmeal, pure maple syrup in a squeeze bottle, honey, various allergy friendly snacks, and tea. So, so much tea.

    It’s amazing how stuff accumulates over the years.

      1. Daisy-dog*

        Definitely read the “Oh rats nesting” part without the “fail” and was confused about what point you might be making.

        1. Third or Nothing!*

          This is a case where a comma was needed and forgotten, haha. That’s what I get for trying to type super quickly.

        2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Pet rats! Great idea for a cubicle. (Not being serious – I had pet rats at home and found them not to be my favorite kind of pet.)

      1. Third or Nothing!*

        Heck yes!!! I’m in PHRC, house Hufflepuff (obvs). My mug has the Deathly Hallows, a running shoe, and the words “miles managed.” Got it from my Secret Santa.

  31. Viette*

    Totally agree with Alison. I think the very gradual move-in is more professional-appearing because it is in a lot of ways more practical and thoughtful. You know what you liked and used all the time at your old office, but you don’t know the layout and flow of your new office, or your new office culture, and bringing in a bunch of stuff as “must haves” without assessing the new place makes you seem… I don’t know, sort of set in your ways or only thinking about you and how you did it last time? You may have more places on the walls for art or less desk space for trinkets; you may need two whiteboards, actually, because of how you keep track of your boss assigning tasks. You may not want to bring in a plant because your officemate saw Little Shop of Horrors at a formative age and has a severe potted plant aversion.

    To show up with all that stuff at the beginning says you’re just blowing past all those potential new pieces of information, and I think that’s what makes it look unprofessional.

    1. Parenthetically*

      Add “and eight coffee mugs that never seem to make it back home” and it’s also a personal attack on me (a former high school teacher).

      1. another Hero*

        I don’t have tchotchkes, don’t even have photos up – my space is probably the least decorated one in our workroom, just a card from users pinned to the corkboard and the welcome sign from when I started – but cardigans! are! useful!

    2. libby the librarian*

      another librarian under attack, I have:
      spare cardigans
      a spare logo shirt for impromptu outreach events
      and a space heater (office temp wars but all controlled by a mysterious office in another building)

      I really do not have anything else personal in my cubicle except a photocopy of a photo of my son from 25 years ago that I love but don’t want to risk the actual photo and little things I acquired while working here: a small 3-D printed item from our printer, library swag, things like that. I never even considered decorating or personalizing my desk/cubicle!

  32. Autumnheart*

    Having been laid off several times over the course of my career, with amounts of notice varying from a couple weeks to “grab your stuff and leave” (and definitely more the latter than the former), I’ve developed a personal rule where everything in my cube has to fit into one box that I can carry. My cube isn’t empty by any means–I’ve got a calendar, a little succulent, some books, a charging station (A+ would recommend as #1 cube accessory), and some doodads, but it still takes me about 15 minutes to pack it all up.

    I’ve definitely worked with some people who forget that their cube isn’t their house, and had their space absolutely piled with junk that they then had to clear out when they left the company. Know what’s even more awkward than getting let go for whatever reason? Having to make 15 trips to your car because you had to bring in your entire action figure collection, your shoebox of old Magic cards, half of your personal library, your extra monitor and 15 framed photos of your dog. One guy collected old typewriters and had brought a bunch of them in, which were like what–20 lbs each? Come on.

    One box of stuff is plenty of stuff.

    1. SomebodyElse*

      Honestly, I’ve been in my office for a ridiculous number of years and a ridiculous amount of stuff collected during that time. If I’m at the point where I’m laid off… I have kept 1 box from my traveling days that I will fill with what I want to take home the rest can be pitched or rehomed (most notably the plants that have become one with the office… no seriously they have I don’t think I could get them out of the walls & blinds if I wanted to).

      One of these days when I’m having a day that I just can’t face anything work related, I need to do a purge of stuff.

      1. Autumnheart*

        I’ve been at my current job for 15 years. If I notice I’m starting to exceed the one-box metric, I start bringing stuff home in my backpack.

        A coworker of mine started within a few months of me, and her cube looks like she works at Hoarders Inc. It’s stacked 6 feet high with so much junk that she can’t even move her chair. God only knows what her house looks like.

    2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Whaaaaat. I have a small collection of 6 “antique” Apple computers (ranging from 1983 to 2008) scattered around my office as decorations, but … I work from HOME, and my office was originally my house’s “family room” so it’s huge. What even crosses one’s mind to bring in a bunch of old typewriters?!

    3. Not a Blossom*

      I have a decent-sized office with lots of shelving that I no longer need and I’ve been here for a while, so I have quite a bit of stuff. That said, I took a look around my office, and I could fit everything that I couldn’t bear to lose in 1 box if necessary. So, although I’d like to keep everything, if I had to, I could leave a lot behind and get out quickly.

      However, I’ve been thinking about looking for a new job, so I’ve stopped bringing things in. I might take home some seasonal stuff now or little things that no one would notice were gone.

      1. Alice's Rabbit*

        It’s a good time of year for it. If anyone notices, you can just say you’re getting a jumpstart on your spring cleaning.

    4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Some of these comments are reminding me when I had to help clean out my bosses old office when we were winding down to sell the place. He never had to worry about being let go, naturally. So it really was an archive and extension ion of his home. But we ended up having to do it for him in the end because of his circumstances.

      So even if you really are there forever, just remember someone has to clean it out in the end! There was a few “W…t…f… okay then.” things we unearthed. I cannot come up with anything truly colorful to share but yeah, just keep that in mind as well. What will you feel like if someone has to round up all your antique typewriters when you’re gone!

  33. Bernice Clifton*

    Even if it is an organization where people have personal items, I would caution you to not bring sentimental or expensive items to work and leave them there. Unfortunately, people have to resign or get terminated suddenly, and you would hate to see your Mount Blanc go back to the supply room with all of the Bics.

    1. Pilcrow*

      Seconding this. There are also thieves about and random accidents. Don’t bring in your dear relative’s one remembrance and have it stolen or broken (there’s a story in the archives here about someone whose boss took an antique model train from their desk and gave it to a client). If you bring in photos, bring in copies in cheaper frames.

      I keep two classes of personal items at my desk: personal things that MUST go with me when I leave (about 5 things, like Rx reading glasses) and things that it would be nice to take but ultimately can be left behind as they have no sentimental value ($5 teacup from Target).

      1. J Kate*

        I always think about the train when deciding whether to bring something to the office!
        I support the gradual move-in, but I carry a reasonably professional looking, but larger bag that holds all my essentials so I might bring that my first day and then gradually decide which items I want to leave at my desk or if there are other items that would be appropriate to bring, like pictures.

  34. Stephanie*

    Or you’re like me and hot desk and don’t bring in anything. :(

    But yeah, I would keep it to a minimum until you learn the lay of the land. I definitely overdid it at a job.

  35. Bookworm*

    I agree that it should be kept to a minimum. You may not be spending a lot of time at your desk, something that you haul in might not be acceptable for whatever reason, etc.

    In addition to the notebook and pen, I’d recommend a water bottle and any other reasonably small/easy to carry “essentials” you think you need (small snacks, wipes to wipe down the desk, etc.).

  36. A Frayed Knot*

    Oh, my. I just looked around my office at the personal items. Some of it is due to buying specific office supplies that I wanted (easier to just buy them myself than go thru the entire purchasing process), but still…I’ma need a rolling cart to get outta here.

  37. Lady Heather*

    For your first day, bring things you need. (Notebook, pen, water bottle, snack/lunch, painkiller-for-sudden-headaches.)
    For your second day, bring what you missed the first day.
    For your third day, bring what you missed the second day.

    If you don’t miss something, don’t bring it. You probably left your previous workplace with a lot of things you didn’t really use – because accumulating stuff is What Humans Do – and a new workplace is a chance to accumulate new stuff you don’t use, not to just bring over your old stuff you didn’t use!
    (Also, I’ve found sentimental values to be somewhat fluid – the last day of your old job you might attach a lot of sentimental value to something and be sure you need it to be happy at your new work, whereas a week in your new job, you realize you’d rather have it in your closet at home where you pull it out twice a year when dusting. That’s fine – the things you’re really fond of, you’ll still want after a week or two, and you can bring them then.)

    (If you bring a lunch that doesn’t need refrigerator, you can leave it in your bag – and if someone invites you out to lunch, or it’s a big ‘eat out’ culture, just take it home with you at the end of the day. But that way you don’t get caught hungry if you’re expected to ‘eat in’.)

    I’m a big stuff accumulator, by the way. Very bad at throwing things out. But I find it easier to throw things away when I’m moving.. so I try to capitalize on that moment.

  38. A. Ham*

    I’m laughing right now because of how out of the ordinary my most recent job transition was. normally- for every other job I’ve ever had- I have transitioned my stuff slowly, just as suggested by Alison and others here. But my current job is not only a block and a half away from my old job, but also is with people that I already knew and had a good rapport and history with in the industry (through networking, conferences, joint trainings, etc.). They asked me if I could come in for a few minutes in my last week at my old job to get my ID picture taken, and I, in turn, asked if I could bring over some of my desk stuff on the same trip. They were happy to oblige. I just walked over with a bag of the essential stuff, put the bag in a drawer of my soon to be desk and then didn’t have to deal with taking it all the way home only to take it a block away from where it was a week later.
    I should also mention though that my first couple of days I “unpacked” my pens, notebook and stapler and that’s about it. I did wait to “decorate” with more personal stuff later.

  39. Lost academic*

    I think it’s important to recognize the difference your desk/ office space serves in the workplace versus grad school. When I moved out of my (4 person) small shared office in grad school it was a serious endeavor because office space was much more “lived in”, you might say. I was moving out tons of books, papers, 6 years of accumulated tea and coffee, the coffeemaker, hot pot, all these random tchotches that no one knew how had gotten there…. But a workplace office space is definitely not the same. My current firm for instance heavily frowns on personalizing space (people move around a lot) and you’re supposed to keep your desk detritus to what you need to do your job. Bring the bar minimum for that day 1, all in your regular bag, and be very observant of your peers’ desks and spaces for the amount and type of stuff. (Not the admin, not the uber boss, but your peers’).

  40. ofotherworlds*

    I’m dysgraphic. Is it acceptable to take notes on your phone rather than using a notebook and pen? I’m much more likely to produce usable notes if I take them electronically.

    I have a Bluetooth keyboard for my phone if that would ensure that what I’m doing is read as business-like.

    1. Close Bracket*

      Those who would judge you for being on your phone are legion … I recommend saying upfront something about being faster typing (or just say you are dysgraphic!) to give context for using your phone.

      1. Drtheliz*

        Or even just something to the effect that if you don’t take digital notes you’ll never find them later, which is not remotely surprising to anyone who isn’t being an ass.

          1. Alice's Rabbit*

            Nothing wrong with saying “I like to take digital notes, so everything is organized in one place.” Makes you sound professional and efficient, both good things.
            But bring a pencil and pen as well, for filling out paperwork. Many companies still have employees manually fill out their onboarding paperwork, including banking and tax information. Yeah, some places do that before your first day, but others don’t. You never know. Be prepared.

    2. Grace*

      It depends on how tech saavy your co-workers are, your giving them their impression of you. Also the level of security the job entails, I work in health insurance and I would tell you unless the company provided you with the phone don’t put company information on it.

    3. 'Tis Me*

      Years ago I was in a meeting taking notes on my phone when I realised my manager was frowning at me. She did realise at some point I was taking notes rather than messing around on my phone – but she did mention that it had taken her a little while to do so…

      Saying something is definitely worth it because you really don’t want people to assume you’re blatantly and openly ignoring the meeting you’re in to muck around on your phone!

    4. LQ*

      This varies a lot. If you have laptops and can take them with that instead I’d recommend that. If not can become known for being the person who has good notes to reference people won’t think much of it, but it might be a hard hill to climb.

      If you are on your phone and you say you are taking notes, and then you don’t do the things that you were assigned in the meeting, or don’t follow up on questions you said you would, or if someone else comes back to you and asks to be briefed on the meeting and you can’t, then you’ll be assumed to be playing and it’s really hard to get out of that.

      So yes, but you have to be on top of the rest of your work because of it. If you were sloppy and used paper and pen it wouldn’t be as bad, if you are sloppy and use your phone you will look really bad. It’s a weird thing, and either way you should aim to not be sloppy. But sloppy with phone will look much much worse.

    5. Sleve McDichael*

      Try and avoid the phone if you can, unfortunately they do carry a stigma with a lot of people still. If a laptop is too much, a tablet can be a good middle ground option for taking digital notes without looking like you might be playing candy crush. Tablets can be pretty small nowadays and the line between them and some of the larger phones is getting blurred but somehow tablets still look more professional. But short a laptop or a tablet, you’re right that the bluetooth keyboard will read as more business-like.

      1. OfOtherWorlds*

        I used to have a 7 inch tablet that I used instead of my phone, but then I got a 6.3 inch phone and I also got frustrated by how slow my tablet was. It took forever to boot up and get OneNote. The phone has a much faster processor and the screen is nearly as big. If I have room to use my laptop I’ll stick with that, I think.

    6. Well, there's this*

      Is it a phone your office gave you or your personal one? If your office has policies against using personal devices or you deal with confidential information, it could be a problem. If not, I’ve used my tablet at the office and Evernote and it’s worked well for me.

      Personally, the keyboard would show me that you were taking notes and not checking your email during the meeting. Your mileage may vary.

  41. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    For the most part I always just start with stuff that I carrying in my purse. I have a pencil case, that turns into a pen caddy of sorts, so if I am moving around to different stations, I can easily just zip it back up and take it with me. This includes a letter opener and all my highlighters, etc. The more mobile the better, especially with unknowns being presented on day one.

    But I find anything that wouldn’t fit into a purse or backpack and odd addition to a workspace. That’s just me. My “pants” are fake ones and miniature.

    Gradual and subtle is where I lean. Things do end up stacking up over time. When I moved out of my office after ten years, it was a couple boxes worth of stuff and everyone saw the drastic difference. However when I arrived, I had a notebook and an office in a box kind of setup.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Considering my general hatred for pants, I prefer to believe they are indeed simply just an illusion.

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I am super entertained by fake “pants” and now picturing those skort things I used to wear in middle school that were like shorts with a panel across the front, only longer.

  42. NYnonprofit*

    OK so I worked with a guy for a while who had been at the organization a long time (as had a lot of people, but he was particularly unique). He had velvet curtains on his window, at least one wall entirely covered with vintage photos of opera stars throughout history, a large CD shelf (filled with opera CDs of course), and various decorative items (fancy lamps, etc). I think there may have even been an antique side table or similar in there. At one point he installed a flat screen TV on his wall, placed behind his chair so supposedly he wasn’t “watching” it during the day, just listening to the nonstop opera DVDs that were always playing (not necessarily at low volume). I thought this was amazing and wonderful when I started… but the eccentric delights started to wear off after I realized that (surprise!) he was not great at getting his job done and (surprise!) not easy to work with. He was eventually fired (after many years, so obviously a messy situation) and right around that time, HR instituted formal policies about what types of stuff staff could have in their offices/cubes. (I believe there was a specific note about not bringing in furniture).

    I will say that I ended up working there for almost a decade so it did take me several commutes home over my last few weeks to get all my personal stuff out of there… but it was nothing compared to this guy!

    (I’m curious now to see if any of my former colleagues read this site because there can’t be two of this guy so they will recognize this scenario immediately!)

    1. Curmudgeon in California*

      One place I worked had a chief scientist whose office was like something out of Hoarders.

      Everyone there had lots of books – it was a former law office and this was in the 90s, so reference works on environmental, civil and chemical engineering were de-rigueur. The higher your degree, the more books you had.

      But this guy had worked there for nearly 20 years, and he had shelves of books, stacks of books, stacks of magazines, stacks of folders with research notes, stacks of published papers and client reports… you could barely sit in there. It was a 10′ by 14′ office, nearly full of books and paper.

      I forget whether he retired or died. It took people weeks to clear it out.

  43. Cautionary tail*

    I am now eight years into my current position. I have a used water bottle on my desk that gets filled up from a fountain. When it gets dirty I replace it. There is nothing else.
    Others have alluded to possible sudden departures, but where I’ve worked, those are omnipresent. I don’t bring anything in to the office that I don’t want to lose, so anyone can have my used water bottle. I keep family photos on my phone, in my pocket. Tchotchkes may have sentimental value, probably not, so they either stay at home or don’t exist.

    1. Not a Blossom*

      My solution to the photos (I have both family and travel) is to have copies printed and pop them into inexpensive frames. If I had time to take them with me when I left, I would, but if not, it wouldn’t be a major loss.

    2. Anon this time*

      My personal stuff is all in a “go bag” in my drawer where I lock my purse. Extra readers? In the bag. Lotion? In the bag. My reference books, purchased with my funds? In the bag. I’ve watched too may coworkers given news that now is their last minute, turn in your keys. Then HR or a peer packs up their desk and the box is delivered to the former coworker. No thank you.
      My office is “decorated” with vendor handout calendars, client cards, project PR pieces, etc. – all generic stuff I will abandon but items which make the office look sufficiently lived in so people have stopped commenting on the lack of personal decor.

  44. OP Today*

    Thanks, Alison, for answering and solving my overthinking loop problem. Reaponding to a lot of comments at once, I didn’t mention a notebook and pen because I literally always carry one anyway so I will definitely have it! A cardigan is also something I was intending to wear in.

    Asking for the whiteboard is a good idea! Too used to being a grad student, I think. I’m fond of my pen holder, though, and it’s clear acrylic so unlikely to offend.

    The tchochkes (which will wait) are a 4cm high pair of cuddling owls that used to sit on my monitor and were a gift from my husband and a bathtub duck that’s also the Egyptian Sphinx that makes me smile every time I see it. A plant would be a mere addition to the existing office forest, so I’m not too worried on that front. On the tea frontier (fron-tea-r?) I can bring leaves and a strainer and a mug, and decide how much of the Tea Shelf to bring in later on.

    1. Close Bracket*

      4cm high pair of cuddling owls that used to sit on my monitor and were a gift from my husband and a bathtub duck that’s also the Egyptian Sphinx

      That’s two things … just bring them. Seriously. It’s two things.

      Bring all the tea, and keep it in a desk drawer.

      Just find out which day will actually be the first day at your desk and wait until then to bring stuff in. I didn’t see my desk at my current employer until my third day.

    2. Violet Fox*

      They might provide mugs! The uni where I work provides mugs, as well as plates and cutlery etc for lunches. We also have electric kettles and as well as tea and coffee, a lot of coffee, though truthfully the less said about the tea provided the better.

      I’d bring take the first day to just see what they provide and then bring small things when it feels right to you later on.

      1. we're basically gods*

        Even in places that provide mugs, I often like to bring in my own that lives on my desk. Not sure why, but it makes me feel happier to drink my tea/coffee/whathaveyou out of a mug that I own!

      2. Curmudgeon in California*

        My coffee cup is a university branded one that my wife bought me when I got the job. My soda cup is one the gave us when we moved into this open plan hellscape. My big tea cup is an inexpensive stainless steel insulated one.

        I have all my teabags and stuff in my drawers. When we moved to the open plan I took all my loose leaf tea stuff home – I only kept the bags. I have a few K-cups in case they don’t have any good coffee left.

        I did bring a few books, primarily as a defiance against the dystopian “electronic only references, no paper, no books” nonsense they were pushing.

  45. Amethystmoon*

    This will depend on where you work. In a previous job, we were forced to hot desk, and thus never had any permanent desk to decorate. Many people kept their personal stuff in a locker, but our lockers were all the other way on the opposite end of the building, so I just stored stuff there that I rarely needed. Anything day-to-day was in my backpack. I’m actually glad to have a cubicle now. Never thought I would be happy to have one.

    1. Stormy Weather*

      I’m actually glad to have a cubicle now. Never thought I would be happy to have one.

      Could that be why hot-desking and open offices were invented? So we’d appreciate cubicles?

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        No, they invented that stuff to make sure we knew we were nothing more than insignificant cogs in their machine. There’s nothing that makes you feel more like a drone than coming in to all the same work desk with all the same decor and no personalization allowed.

  46. Bad Lamp*

    At my current job I started bringing in some of my usual office stuff after I’d been there a week or so, and certain items were met with repeated comments from multiple coworkers. I’m not talking about anything at all personal, gaudy, or in any way inappropriate. It was things like my pencil holder and my desk lamp. As it turned out, the company’s standard-issue desk lamps were part of the requirements toward the building’s LEED certification, and the company is generally very concerned with the general aesthetics and uniformity of the standard-issue bookends, paper trays, pencil cups… So once I understood those attitudes better, I took all my own stuff home again and requested standard-issue stuff from the office manager, and everyone was happier. It’s not that I completely agree with the no-individuality-expressed-through-pencil-cups policy – it’s just that I understand it matters to some folks around here and it’s easier to put it on my doesn’t-matter list and go with the flow.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        Ugh. I would start searching again if I had to deal with that. Yeah, the lamps thing I could see, because environmental certification can mean tax breaks, but pencil cups?

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      My issue here is that they just gave you comments and you had to sniff out the problem going on. Like WTF, why didn’t the office manager swing by and cheerfully say “Oh we have standard issue desk lamps, I’ll order one for you! We prefer uniformity so we would ask that you use that instead of your personal one.”

      Like…dude. If someone brings in something like their own supplies, if I do notice, I say something like “oh do you like those pens?! I can get them for you on the supply list, you don’t need to supply your own!”

      The only time people do these kinds of comments around here is to sniff out if it’s company issued and they can ask for one too. I have a desk organizer I bought because it was on sale and special. But when I got monitor risers, I asked the boss. EVERYONE was envious and I literally just looked at them and said “We can get your work station setup the way you want it, we like to watch what we spend money on but we want your workstation to be comfortable…”

    2. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

      If they require this conformity then why isn’t it standard issue desk equipment? Especially the lamps.

    1. Jedi Squirrel*

      I am totally up for that. I would love to walk around all day with Frank, my emotional support cactus. (Who says emotional support has to come from an animal? )

    2. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

      You could be like That One Guy who walks around with a cat or snake in his hoodie, but with a plant! (Are those guys universal, or am I just lucky in my area? I’ll mostly see them at outdoor events that allow pets, such as low-key ren faires.)

    3. ElleKay*

      There are currently six (6) plants in my office. They came in over 2 days, in milk crates (for travel ease), on the subway. Everyone was delighted by them!
      But I did do it on the Monday & Tuesday of my *second* week

  47. Laura*

    Experience from a past coworker- there is never an amount of time that passes where it is okay to bring in your mother’s ashes to comfort you after a discussion with your boss. No one may say anything to your face but it will be noted.

      1. Laura*

        Also she didn’t bring photos of her living family members because that was too personal.
        Not normal – having photos with nieces at Disney World on the bookshelf in your office.
        Normal – having an urn with your Mom’s ashes on the corner of your desk to help calm you after the CFO called you out for not having any results in a private meeting.

        1. Antilles*

          That makes it even weirder.
          Like, it would still be weird but at least consistent if she was just a habitual oversharer / super comfortable at work / whatever. But thinking it’s “too personal” to have a photo of your family but okay to have a jar of ashes is just huh???

          1. 'Tis Me*

            Plot twist: as an avid reader of this blog, they were actually replica ashes (from her fireplace) and urn.

            Even a copy of a photo of your nieces at Disneyland in a cheap frame really shows you and your actual nieces doing something non-work-related… This was less personal, but by turning to them for comfort still made the (evidently reasonably public) statement that she felt the CFO was being unkind to her. Plus made sure everybody knew she was In Mourning.

            I mean, probably not but also not significantly more weird?

        2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          But…did she take them home at night?! Did she carry them around personally!?

          Because what happens if she’s abducted by aliens and never comes back…is Mumsy still in the office waiting to be collected by her next of kin one day?! Do the others even know where dear old Mama is?!

          My grandparents ashes were taken by one of the siblings that then stopped talking to everyone. So yeah, we don’t know where they are and that sibling passed away. So we’re just assuming they’re in his widow’s closet perhaps. We simply do not know. What if he had taken them to work and they’re actually in someone’s office as a decoration…

        3. Alex*

          I’m so curious–did she keep the ashes at work all the time? Bring them home every day?

          I mean I assume she wouldn’t want anything to happen to them because they are very important. And what does she do in crisis at home?

          Or…did she have a portion at home and a portion at work??

          I have so many questions.

          1. Laura*

            I believe there were five urns. One for her brother, two nieces and two for her. Mom was on her mantle and on her desk. She said it was too personal to tell us where her last job was but then she would over share about menopause to our 25yo male coworker. She ended up resigning before she was fired so she was able to clear out her desk.
            She also bragged about never taking a vacation day. I was the person that pointed out that didn’t say dedication as much as red flag for fraud.

  48. MissaPie*

    Part of my job is prepare offcie space for new hires. I’m going to second Alison’s advice. New hires are immediately given a case with a pen and paper pad so they don’t even need to bring that, and we provide all office supplies including a whiteboard if someone (usually our scientists) wants one. It’s normal for people the then gradually personalize it over time with their own stuff, but on the first day they are bouncing from orientation to orientation to meeting so most don’t have time to decorate. If someone showed up with a plant on Day 1, it wouldn’t reflect terribly or anything but eyebrows would raise. If they had a suitcase, everyone would assume they literally just flew in… on their first day.

  49. drpuma*

    At my old job I brought in a standing desk… on a weekend day after I was established enough to have full swipe/badge access. For anything that’s too big to gradually pop in a backpack or purse, I think waiting until your access is fully set up is a good rule of thumb.

  50. andy*

    Imo, don’t overthink it. Bring stuff in comfortable pace – take what you really needs and comfortably fits into purse. Continue untill you are comfortable.

    I feel like, if the workspace is so judgey that speed of moving in normal items makes too uch difference, then you might want to look for another job soon anyway.

  51. BigRedGum*

    that last sentence totally describes my office. but it’s a private office and no one important comes by to visit me. thank goodness.

  52. Mockingdragon*

    Haha….I laugh because I got in a little trouble about this at my last job. The previous job had been my first office job, at a call center. I had decorated with a mermaid poster, a small collection of My Little Ponies, a few other cute pictures and things to smile at. My first day at the next job, I took 20-odd minutes to unpack my stuff and organize my desk. It wasn’t until months later that people told me it came across as unprofessional. Which I didn’t take well….first of all, because I don’t believe it SHOULD matter (one reason I work at home freelancing now), but more because they let me do it for months before blindsiding me.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Oh dear. My last office was shared and neither the owner/boss or foreman gave a flying rip when I ended up decorating my corner with Disney Princess coffee mugs. They thought I was adorable and livened the place up *shrugs* It totally depends on the crowd for sure.

      1. Alice's Rabbit*

        It’s not the stuff itself that is unprofessional. My husband has a line of My Little Pony figurines perched on his monitors, and no one cares.
        It’s bringing in enough stuff to take 20 minutes to unpack on your first day, that’s the problem. The first day is about work, and learning the ins and outs of the new company. It’s fine to bring in personal trinkets, but gradually, once you know the office culture.

      2. Alice's Rabbit*

        It’s not the stuff itself that is unprofessional. My husband has a line of My Little Pony figurines perched on his monitors, and no one cares.
        It’s bringing in enough stuff to take 20 minutes to unpack on your first day, that’s the problem. The first day is about work, and learning the ins and outs of the new company. It’s fine to bring in personal trinkets, but gradually, once you know the office culture. Not all at once, and especially not on your first day.

  53. just a small town girl*

    My job is pretty well known for everyone having their spaces covered in personal stuff, and most people have private offices (it’s amazing!!!) that are fully decorated with personal stuff. My previous position here, I didn’t have an office, just a desk and part of a wall and so had limited space so I kept a couple of personal things on my desk and got some floating shelves for my wall. When I got promoted and got my office, it took probably three or four months for me to customize and decorate, which was long compared to everyone else.

    I get the feeling that an office is different to decorate than just a desk/cube. An office is patently Your Space in a way that just a desk isn’t. So definitely be mindful. But I think it’s fine to start bringing small things every so often the first week, but nothing that won’t fit in a bag/requires both hands to carry. You can ease to that after a few weeks minimum.

  54. Pretzelgirl*

    I def ease it in. Although I am not a big office decorator, I don’t see a problem with it. I have some pics of my kids, some drawings they made, a diffuser and a calendar. My drawers are another story, lol. I practically have pharmacy in my drawers. Pain meds, allergy meds, scar cream (bc I only remember to apply it at work), Band-Aids, deodorant, emerg-c, some essential oils etc.

    Also a snack drawer with coffee, etc .

    1. Alienor*

      I also have a pharmacy in one of my desk drawers! No snacks though–we’re not allowed to keep them at our desks because there’s a rodent problem. Which is a bit weird because this is a newish office in the suburbs, but I guess mice are everywhere.

    2. ElleKay*

      This ^ is a very good point.
      I have way (WAAAAAY) more personal stuff tucked into my desk drawers than out. Snacks, knick-knacks to fiddle with, first aid supplies, everything for my hair, some makeup, tons of tea, tea bags, tea cups, etc. A lot of that doesn’t need to be out where people can see it… which also makes it easier to bring in a bit at a time over the first few weeks.

  55. dm*

    I once had an employee show up with a suitcase on his first day. It was full of vitamin jars, which he kept in one of his filing cabinets (shared with a coworker). Slowly, he added clothes to his drawers in the filing cabinet because he would work out over the noon hour (although there was a locker room for him to keep his clothes). I eventually had to have a discussion that the filing cabinet should be used mainly for work items…. like files…. and not as a personal storage cabinet for his unmentionables.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I’m laughing. Only because we have reduced files so much, all our cabinets that would usually be for that are used for that kind of weird quasi storage units.

      But also, I realize reading these things how in our area, with the heavy culture of everyone drives to work, we all just keep stuff like workout clothes in our trunks. I have spare clothes…in my car.

    2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I am really really curious about what happened to his unmentionables in between workouts. Did he ever take them home to wash or did the sweaty shorts and T-shirts just all go back in the drawer?

      Also, on my first read I somehow understood it as that he was sharing the vitamins with a coworker, but no, I now see that it’s the filing cabinet that was being shared! Yikes!

    3. MissaPie*

      We have a few people here who work out over lunch and shower here (we have a fitness center and shower) but I have no idea where they store clothing. I’ve never some across anyone’s unmentionables in a shared space lol.

    4. Curmudgeon in California*

      Wow. We have lockers. I keep my workplace emergency kit in mine – change of clothes, emergency rations, some bottled water, a flashlight. I keep more extensive stuff in my car.

  56. Three Flowers*

    I moved several states away and started a new job about six weeks ago, and fortunately, I’d seen my office-neighbor’s space in advance and felt comfortable hanging a framed print I couldn’t leave in my storage unit on day 2. It’s all about context!

  57. Delta Delta*

    I’d ease in. I think I’d try to figure out exactly what I might need on Day 1 – pen, notebook, chapstick (always chapstick! in case it’s dry in the office!), maybe other necessary cosmetic stuff (hand lotion, etc) that you’d need for a comfortable day of working. Then assess what other people’s work spaces look like and then bring a few things here and there.

    I worked with a woman once who had paintings and artwork and sculptures and all sorts of other stuff on the walls. Then she became disillusioned with the job and needed to start taking things home while she interviewed. It started to become obvious that she was removing things and that something was up. always have an exit strategy.

  58. Chronic Overthinker*

    Definitely go minimalist on your first day/week. Most of my jobs have been open office settings so having a bunch of pictures/plants/et cetera, might be a bit much. If you do end up having a private office, then slowly trickle in the things you want, but that first week will be a good time to purge your old items and find a good balance between what’s needed and what’s wanted. Right now all I have is a Funko Pop of Lady Justice (perfect for a law firm) and it adds just enough personality without being terribly distracting or cluttery.

  59. Jedi Squirrel*

    I don’t have anything with me at work that I would miss if the building burned down. A cheap coffee cup, copies of my certificates, a box of tea, and an emergency pack of pretzels. And that’s after years on the job.

    I like to travel light.

  60. Eh-nonymous*

    After ten years in the same job – in the same cubicle – I realized I probably had too many personal items on show.

    I had noticed that one of the people on my team whose cubicle looked like it was occupied by a pre-teen didn’t seem to be taken seriously by management so I decided to pare down drastically.

    Since then, five years ago, the only things I keep at my desk are the small items colleagues bring me from their business travels like keychains, etc., or photos of their kids (I have worked here for so long I have known the children since they were baby bumps).

    It made a noticeable difference in my credibility with the executive team. There are more professional conversations and my input is listened to and considered.

    Optics are a real thing.

    My team member has not been given opportunities to advance. I’ve discussed it with her during our 1:1s over the years and she just recently shared that she doesn’t want the additional responsibilities that come with being considered a professional. I’m still coming to terms with that!!

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      It still depends on your executive team. I’ve only known eccentrics myself, so my childish decorations have never held me back. They know me on a personal level and they don’t care if I decorate with cartoon sloth window clings.

      Optics can be a real thing. If you work with people who are judgemental or generally reserved. Not all executives are though.

      1. Eh-nonymous*

        I work for a very large (over 8,000 employees) government entity.
        Yep – most higher ups I’ve met since working there are most definitely judgemental.

        My personal manager is awesome but she’s a treasure and I know it!

      2. Alice's Rabbit*

        Which is why it’s important to get to know the culture of your new office before bringing stuff in.

  61. 2horseygirls*

    Bring a notebook and a pen the first day. That’s it.

    A former boss’ spouse did not have a desk for the first two weeks at a new job. He was literally balancing his laptop on his lap for two weeks.

    There are essentials, and there are comfort items.

    I also make a point to never bring more than I can throw in a paper box.

    1. 2horseygirls*

      I hit send too quickly – after 7.5 years in higher ed, I do understand the tendency to have a “home away from home”. I went from an administrative department to an academic one for my last 18 months, so I had already pared down quite a bit with that move, and learned quickly that in academic divisions, everything is community property (a feeling I had not experienced since CCD classes in elementary school).

      Working for a mercurial boss taught me to periodically do purges, both physical and electronic, every three months or so. When she actually told me on one lovely Friday morning that she was requesting my termination, it was a bit anti-climactic when I finally got the call to come down to HR the following Wednesday afternoon for the actual turning in of keys and such . . . . but I had plenty of time to double and triple check that I had scrubbed my email and brought all my personal items home, said goodbye to friends, etc.

      (Yes, friends, only in the inexplicable world of higher ed, does it make complete and total sense to them to tell me I was being fired six full days before actually doing it because, well, you see, the President of the college was on vacation, and neither Boss nor HR VP could *actually* terminate me without the President’s approval. #norealoractualauthority #blessyourheart)

  62. Sabina*

    My first day at the job where I ended up working for 21 years was interesting. No one remembered I was starting that day apparently so I showed up to find a newly painted office devoid of any furniture, The boss threw me keys to a company van and a company credit card and told me to go the nearest good sized town (a 90 mile round trip) and buy some furniture. I asked how much I could spend and he replied “I don’t know, whatever furniture costs.” So…you never know about first days. Pack light and bring a snack.

  63. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

    A wise friend of mine told me many years ago, “Every morning, I walk into my office knowing full well that I can be escorted out before the day ends.” I have lived by his words ever since. To that end, I try to limit what I have in and on my desk to what’ll fit in one or two large bags. I also keep the actual bags in a drawer.

    For your first day, I have already posted a horror story here about how, on my first day at my current job, I came in to a full day of meetings, with a 30-minute lunch break, that I spent taking a mandatory online training class for new hires that was due by 5PM that day. I had not packed lunch because I knew everyone I was going to work with, and assumed we’d be going out. The building did not have vending machines and somehow we did not order takeout on that day (though we did on the next). It was brutal. My lunch was mainly M&Ms from the front desk. Pack a sandwich.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I have a similar POV but at the same time, I have nothing in my office that matters that cannot fit into my purse. I can look around and see the only things I’d prefer not to lose.

      But when I read the stories about “how do you get your stuff back if they escort you out!?” my mind goes to “Well everything I have in there is replaceable AF so not really that stressed about it…”

      Pictures are copies, decor are trinkets and wall art from Home Goods. I have a couple things my dad made me that I would snatch and have extras that he’s made over the years, if they were the only ones he ever handcrafted, I wouldn’t take them out of the house!

      And as a “that girl”, always have snacks! I have granola bars and mixed nuts in my purse at all time. My trunk also has an emergency kit in it just in case I break down in the woods, so I’ve tapped into that kind of stock once in awhile in a pinch.

    2. Bad Lamp*

      I definitely agree about bringing something that could be lunch. I’ve had more than one of those first-day experiences where they monopolize your time and don’t seem to remember that you might need to eat. I’ve learned to bring at least a bag of almonds and some fruit to any first day.

      I haven’t seen too many firings where they escorted someone out of a workplace, but in the few cases I’ve witnessed they took the person into a conference room, and while they were in there talking they had someone else grab the terminated person’s coat and bag and bring it to whoever was going to do the escorting straight out of the building. That was to make sure the person didn’t have any immediate conversations with coworkers, or have a chance to take any of their work or files.
      Weeks later they sorted through the person’s workspace and mailed them a box of their other personal stuff.

      1. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

        This happened to me once, only they didn’t get everything that was mine. It wasn’t a huge deal but I was still miffed that I didn’t get my desk fan and a couple of other things back, even after I asked.

      2. Curmudgeon in California*

        Yeah, I’d be ticked if they marched me to the door and didn’t let me pack. I’ve only had that once, and it was one of the worst jobs I’ve ever had. They couldn’t even pack my stuff up right, and stole my strawberry plant.

  64. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

    Bring in a minimal amount of stuff on your first day — the essentials (notepad and pen, anything you specifically need to bring as part of the specific job or the onboarding process) and that’s it.

    I realize you aren’t literally wanting to show up with an actual suitcase, but I’d be making a lot of (negative) first impressions of a person who brought in a figurative “suitcase-worth” of stuff to their first day at a new job if they were my co-worker. Mostly “gee, they must be pretty sure of themselves [i.e. “arrogant”] to bring in all this when we haven’t even established the basics of if it’s a good fit”.

    Case in point, I had a new co-worker (many years ago) who lasted exactly half a day at the new job. It was only about an hour and a half in reality but the rest of the half day was taken up with HR paperwork (in and out) etc.

    Showing up with a bunch of stuff seems to just show a sense of “putting down roots” where it seems presumptuous.

  65. Tiger Snake*

    I’ve mulled this over, and I think I’ve identified a key consideration. Its an optics and perception thing:

    You’re in a new office, a new job and a new role. There’s a lot for you to study up on to get up to scratch and begin participating fully.
    So when you’re worrying about bringing personal affects into the office and making sure your desk is just right, it feels like you’re not focused on the right thing. That you’re focused on something personal and better instead of learning about the team to support it.

    And then flowing on from that feeling; that’s why having this stuff gradually enter the office over months feels organic and acceptable. As you learn and become confident in your role and the office dynamics at play, then you’re identifying what you need, case by case.

    1. Goldenrod*

      Agree that this is about optics! If you bring a ton of personal items and decorations on your first day, it can appear to others (fairly or not) that your focus is on the wrong thing. You should strive for the appearance that you are totally focused on learning your job and being a professional- even if you are secretly missing your plants. ;)

      If you bring it in gradually, I think it’s okay to decorate quite a lot! But it’s something that should build over time, so that no one really notices (and the FIRST thing you want people to notice is your good work).

  66. Ellie*

    I worked in a government cubicle area once, and a new hire brought in just an insane amount of things around day 3. She spent about two hours decorating. Think – patterned sheets for the cubicle walls, ~10 framed pictures, shell beads hanging everywhere, a fuzzy cover for her chair, ~3 posters for the walls, lots of plants. At least two personal lamps.
    Also on day 3 she abruptly changed what she was wearing, from standard business casual to floral hippie maxi dresses. It MOST DEFINITELY colored what I thought of her work ethic! Everyone else maybe had 1 photo and a whiteboard, that was it. At least she didn’t burn incense.

      1. Well, there's this*

        I will judge anyone harshly who microwaves fish. Or leaves the container for their tuna salad in the sink.

    1. OP Today*

      Academic para-professional stuff, rather than a post-doc. Full-time research is not my jam. (Pro tip: 2 years into a PhD is not the best time to learn this.)

  67. AS*

    Folks in my department have a “home” desk but cover at least 2-3 different workstations in a single day. I once came in to work to find there were now 5 people sharing my office instead of 2, and I have also shown up to different furniture. I increasingly keep everything on our shared drive space (and convert all physical papers to digital ASAP) and am moving the rest of my physical personal things home.

  68. Hey Karma, Over Here*

    I am the department’s home away from home person, right down to two cardigans and a snuggy. Every five years I talk half home and throw half out. Within six months, it’s all back. I don’t consciously bring stuff in or leave stuff there. During purges there is crap I’d swear in front of a senate committee that I’ve never seen in my life. I’m thinking that if you don’t bring anything from your old PhD office, within a year, your desk collection 2.0 will be going strong. So let that origin crap go. Look forward to new crap.

  69. AnotherSarah*

    You’ll also want to figure out how much private space you have–like if you have drawers or a small filing cabinet to use. I always have kept floss, deodorant, painkillers in a drawer, but if you don’t have one, you might want to get a sturdy small decorative box. But that’s something to figure out once you’re there, especially with personal care items.

    1. Alice's Rabbit*

      I had a manager with what looked like a small pirate’s chest, where he kept medical supplies. Mostly painkillers and bandaids. It looked nifty, but not garish, and he could lock it so folks weren’t rooting through his stuff when he wasn’t there. But if you asked, he’d gladly share.

  70. Raia*

    I dont even bring lunch on the first day. I hope for a team lunch outing, or worst case go down to the cafeteria and eat at my desk.

    This is the first job that I’ve had a picture frame and little cheap glass art up at my desk. Still, everything fits into the one box emergency evacuation rule.

    1. Annoyed Architect*

      +1 for no lunch. Who knows who you are expected to meet and do in your first day. Dragging around a sandwich or some reheat meal is just not worth it. At least prepare to give yourself the flexibility to ditch it.

    2. Alice's Rabbit*

      Had too many first days where I would have nothing to eat if I hadn’t brought a lunch. Bring something that doesn’t require refrigeration, and if you don’t need it, you can take it home or eat it the next day.

  71. Maya Elena*

    I moved in things gradually as I needed them. I moved in a hot beverage mug almost immediately, some spare shoes and a sweater, a phone charger.
    I wouldn’t bring more than easily fits in your regular handbag on the first day.

  72. Tango*

    You mention a teapot. If that’s an electric teapot, check the policies on plugging such in before you bring it in. While many buildings have rules against space heaters, I’ve heard of other things. My husband’s employer is so deep into being green (appropriate, given his employer) that they can’t being in a fan to plug in to an outlet. The company supplies USB-powered desktop fans, but we both agree it’s not the same.

  73. Dinopigeon*

    I don’t have a desk. I do have a really good backpack that I researched. It wasn’t cheap, but it gives me a “desk away from desk” in that it can hold everything I need to do my job comfortably.

    I have my laptop, mouse, med kit, pens, my notebook, a really lovely planner my SIL bought me that I swear I’m going to get around to using one of these days, a sheaf of active files, sharpies, post-its, wire cutter, phone chargers, both phones (work and home), earbuds, scissors, and a kind of worry stone that is my only sentimental item. I don’t carry my computer charger because there are ones available all over the building. I get side-eye sometimes for not using re-usable water bottle etc. but if they’re not going to give me a decent place to put it, that’s their problem.

    I miss having a desk sometimes, but I don’t ever miss the job that came with it.

  74. Soylent Green*

    Definitely get the lay of the office before going all-in on the personalisation. For instance, we have desk swaps every six months or so, so I limit it to my teas and a couple of toys and do the rest with my computer desktop etc.
    Also, not to be a downer, but for people with heaps of personalisation, it’s also worth remembering one day you’ll leave and you might want the process to be quick. I was with one organisation for 16 years and had accumulated quite a bit of stuff, including reference books etc. Even though I volunteered for redundancy it was still a difficult process emotionally and having to go into the office and sort through so much shit did not help the process.

  75. Barbara*

    I have a small magnet collection at my desk. I love to travel and a few years ago started buying one every time I go somewhere. I’d been wanting to start some kind of souvenir collection and one day I saw someone else at my company with travel magnets. I decided to steal that person’s idea. It’s also a good conversation starter. People who visit me or walk by my desk sometimes ask about one from a place they’ve been or want to go someday

  76. TROI*

    My direct report started bringing in a bunch of toys and hobby memorabilia at about the end of week two. I was relieved because it seemed to mean he liked the job and wanted to stay. Which is not always a given with new hires.
    Our office is pretty informal about decorations so he read that correctly.

  77. Kierson*

    I started my current job in November and didn’t receive a permanent desk home for over 3 weeks. I just left all my desk stuff from my old job in boxes in my car and brought them in to decorate once I knew what the space looked like and was assigned a spot.

    Waiting also helps to evaluate the culture of the office. At my last job, the employee manual actually said personal items should be kept to a minimum. The COO was known to even say, “everything you bring in must be able to be carried out in 1 box.”

    Yeah, chew on that for a minute.

    1. Curmudgeon in California*

      Heh. Depends on the size of the box, now doesn’t it… ;)

      IOTW, he was saying “You are expendable. Don’t get comfortable.” I’d be keeping my job search at a place like that.

  78. Stormy Weather*

    Allison makes a good point about orientation. I’ve been at jobs where you don’t get your desk until the third or fourth day because of training, selecting benefits, and various people providing info about policies and procedures.

    I’m in an open office so I keep my total amount of personal things to a minimum. A small plush animal, my tumbler for water, some tea, a small bottle of hand sanitizer, and another of lotion. If I had cubicle wall space to put things on, I’d put up my certifications and a calendar. Small comforts, but I think it still looks like a professional works there.

  79. lilsheba*

    I have to have personal items in my cube, and have all kinds of things there permanently, as well as a pile of things I bring in every day. These include items that make it obvious I’m a practicing witch. If people don’t like it …oh well. I have to sit in this space for 10 hours a day and I need it homey. There are people here that have nothing at their desk and I don’t know how they can stand looking at that blandness all day long.

    1. Stormy Weather*

      Back when monitors weren’t less than an inch thin, I had a small gargoyle on top of mine. I also had a small candle for its scent. The day I bought a knife to cut my apple and cheese for lunch, no fewer than four people asked me if I was a witch. In hushed tones.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        I brought in a nice purple paring knife for apples and stuff so I wouldn’t freak people out.

  80. Keith*

    My cubicle is bare and sterile. I could pin or magnet things to the walls but I don’t. I only brought in a black metal cube Kleenex dispenser because I like how it complements the bare sterility. I operate in a paperless way so there is zero clutter. I’m well-liked and valued at work, I enjoy my job and my coworkers, but I find something distasteful about expressing my personality with photos and ornaments. I’ve seen people’s offices full of dusty decorations and it makes me itchy. If a get a thank you card or holiday cards I’ll display them for a week or so, but I prefer the severely spartan look. I guess it’s my way of expressing “This is just a job.” If I ever quit or was laid off, I could pack up my Kleenex box and coffee cup (concealed when not in use) and be gone.

  81. Curmudgeon in California*

    So, my rule is “Does it fit in a messenger bag or backpack, and is it useful?”

    My first day back stuff is:
    * pen, pencil, highlighter
    * notebook, a pad of sticky notes, folder
    * coffee cup (I hate styrofoam)
    * can of soup or snacks (nothing that needs refrigeration)
    * my usual backpack stuff – water bottle, straw, hand sanitizer, mini first aid kit, sanitary supplies, recharger/battery for my phone, etc.

    If I don’t have a desk yet (like if the first day is orientation in a conference room), I have a backpack to carry stuff in, drinking vessel(s), and a way to take notes, plus lunch if the office is a food desert. If I have to hot desk for three weeks, I may add a portable keyboard and trackball.

    One place I worked literally had benches for computer workers, 36″ of space. Anything you left out would be gone the next day. I carried an office in my backpack for nearly a year. I winnowed things down to the essentials during that time.

  82. Kimberly*

    This is fascinating for a couple of reasons. One, although I’m a hiring manager and sit on some interviews that my staff conduct as well, I don’t think anyone has ever asked about what they should bring in on their first day. It’s a neat interview question.

    Two, I think most people probably show up with what’s recommended here – at most a backpack of necessary things – only to find out that they need not have worried. My company’s culture supports a free hand with decorating, and my unit in particular is staffed by creative maximizers, but I never really thought about how different that is, probably, from a lot of places, despite the fact that we’re a STEM and research-oriented organization.

    Within sight of my office are giant teddy bears, extensive PopHead collections, a tiered greenhouse-in-aquariums setup, enormous framed artwork bought by staff and hung on common walls, an entire set of decorated mailboxes for one subunit – all within cubicles. I showed up on a my first day with a UHaul van, but that was expected of people moving into offices and I then bought very nice, large framed artwork because I was embarrassed at having such bare walls. I also now have a relatively giant teddy bear in *my* office, since apparently they propagate around here.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      … “a neat interview question”? Is it just me or does an interview sound like far too soon in the process to be asking something which basically presumes you’ve got the job already? You wouldn’t ask about the process for submitting ‘x piece of paperwork’ or some other HR-y practicality question during the interview and this seems similar…

      I’ve hired and interviewed people in the past (I don’t currently) and never been asked this, but I think I’d be a bit taken by surprise!

  83. Marion Ravenwood*

    I would bring a notebook, a pen, a bottle of water, and some snacks (rather than a full-on lunch, in case your team decides to take you out). No mugs, no tea – and probably don’t show up with a takeout cup either – no desk accessories etc. Mainly because you don’t know what the setup will be – in some companies where it’s hot-desking, you probably won’t have ‘your’ desk to put stuff on or in. Once you’ve got the lay of the land, then you can maybe bring stuff in, depending on what other people have (ie don’t be the person who has a million and one things when everyone else has maybe one or two bits).

    To give an example: I have my desk at work and my desk at home (where I do my side hustle work). The work desk is usually completely empty except for my keyboard and notepad. We hot-desk, so we have what we call ‘poodles’ (because they have fabric ‘lead’ straps to drag them around) which are basically lockable cabinets on wheels that we use to store everything at the end of the day, and they usually house things like notebooks, any specific snacks we want, pens, reading material, stationery bits etc. By contrast, my desk at home looks like Garcia’s on Criminal Minds – all Harry Potter Funko Pops and my ‘This Is Anfield’ sign and a stress ball shaped like a New York taxi and a candle holder I now use for pens and a Poldark coaster, along with all sorts of other random things. If I had my own desk at work, I’d definitely have a few of those things, but it’s not really the done thing so needs must I guess.

  84. Lindsay*

    The last place I worked didn’t want much personal stuff on display and plants were forbidden. Determine the lay of the land before bringing a bunch of stuff in.

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