what should I bring to the office now that we’re going back?

It’s the Thursday “ask the readers” question. A reader writes:

I graduated in May 2020 and started my job fully remote. I luckily have a really great group of coworkers who made a huge effort to include me in the broader office even while virtual and I really love the work so far. But we are now slowly starting to work from the office on a hybrid schedule and I realized I have no idea what do with an office and desk! I had internship experiences in college, but not in an office environment, and the office is currently undergoing a lot of restructuring, so there actually aren’t many folks fully settled into their desk space currently to base my set-up on.

We have shared offices (I’ll be in an office of three) with individual desks and some built-in cabinets.

This feels silly to ask, but what sort of things should I keep at my office? What supplies should I bring versus ask for the office to order for me? What kind of decoration is appropriate? Do I need to keep any additional clothes at the office in case of emergency? I feel a little lost and embarrassed to ask my coworkers, so I thought maybe you or the fine readers of Ask A Manager may have some advice!

Readers, have at it in the comments!

{ 493 comments… read them below }

  1. Unfettered scientist*

    Ooh good question! I’m in a similar situation. I’d suggest extra water bottle to keep at work, extra phone charger to keep at work, maybe extra hair ties if you use them and always lose them like me. I also bought a notebook that I use for both work stuff and personal stuff (to do lists etc). And special pens I like, though my work also provides them. For decoration, see what other people do, but potentially a photo (I used to have a few Polaroid type photos on the bulletin board behind my desk), maybe a calendar with a nice picture, potentially a small plant or fake plant.

    1. Unfettered scientist*

      Additional clothes like you mention is also a good idea and I’d specifically suggest shoes in case it rains. Also an umbrella is good to keep at work. You could also keep consumables in a locker or cabinet if you have access to one: things like nonperishable snacks, pads, bandaids, deodorant, are all things I used to keep in a cabinet at my desk.

      1. Hazel*

        Oh right! I would keep an umbrella in my locker also. Forgot about that, but it’s a very happy feeling when you unexpectedly need one, and – you HAVE one!

      2. The Rural Juror*

        Yep! I have two rain jackets. One stays in my car and the other on a hook behind my desk. I also usually keep a light sweater/cardigan at the office in case I get chilly from the AC. I’ll rotate that to take it home and wash it.

        Other items that have accumulated in my desk drawer: bug spray/anti-itch cream (from time to time a mosquito will find its way into the office), eye drops (for my contacts), and nasal saline spray (for allergies). Our kitchen has a well-stocked drawer with bandaids and OTC pain meds/antacids, but there are some items you don’t want to be communal!

        1. Amaranth*

          A small sewing kit and safety pins have a thousand uses and if you spend a lot of time client facing (or your team does), some hem tape and a lint roller are great to have on hand rather than using a stapler or masking tape for wardrobe malfunctions.

          1. cacwgrl*

            Yes! One of our recruiters brought back a bunch of those little on the go sewing kits from a trip and they are so handy! Now, at minimum, I recommend getting one of those little plastic boxes that have pre-threaded needles in a few colors and keeping safety pins.

            1. Pikachu*

              OMG!!! I got so much flak for wanting to give out sewing travel kits at a vendor fair. I feel so vindicated in this moment. Thank you.

          2. Miss Muffet*

            a tide pen, some advil or the like, extra contact solution (travel sized) are some of the other things I have in my “emergency stash” at my desk.

          3. amanda*

            The dress I was wearing today got caught on a drawer and ripped. Sewing kit saved me from having to go home, mooning the entire clinic, or using a stapler to patch it!

          4. hereforthepostitnotes*

            Its been a long week, that’s my only excuse. I read that at first to say “a small swing set”….
            *sigh* i wish i had a swing set in my office.

      3. MusicWithRocksIn*

        In the fall and winter here, I always keep a pair of flats and heels at work, and then wear my snow boots to work and change when I get in. It is too hard to keep work shoes nice with all the slush and mud we get, so I stopped wearing them outside at all. Also a good idea to keep a extra sweater at work, in case the temperature drops. and a nail file or clippers.

        1. BlueK*

          Yes! I was going to suggest extra shoes. I use public transit and so I keep nicer shoes at work and commute in a different pair. Otherwise they get worn out too quickly.

          1. Hapless Bureaucrat*

            Yeah, I’ve always designated a Shoe Drawer for my work shoes, and then I wear boots, sneakers, or sandals for the commute depending on weather.

            I also kept a wrap and a blazer, depending on the level of dress-up need, temperature, or what kind of spill I’m trying to hide on my shirt.

        2. Elenna*

          Yes! I always keep a pair of flats at my desk. Cleanliness aside, my feet would freeze if I had to walk to/from the bus stop in dress shoes in the winter.
          (Which is why I don’t currently have any dress shoes, as my only pair has been sitting under my desk at the office since March 2020…)

      4. Hills to Die On*

        And an extra pair of socks. I HATE when my feet are cold so I always have extra socks. Especially if it’s wet outside.
        Snacks (especially protein bars. don’t count on Skittles to tide you over until dinner.)
        Tylenol (keep that at your desk instead of candy)
        hand lotion
        blister pads
        Tide pen
        phone charger
        headphones (if Apple, get an adapter)
        jump drive
        Hair ties
        Other stuff I have:
        extra flatware, reusable straw, cup, tea mug, plants, cute mouse pad, small desk fan, pictures, cuticle cream, extension cord, reusable shopping tote, good pens, Apple watch charger, Stevia, French press for tea)

        1. Hills to Die On*

          To clarify, I have made a lot of friends by having Tylenol instead of the candy, because I would eat all of the candy. If you can resist, get a candy dispenser or individually wrapped candies. You will make friends and get the lowdown on everything.

          Blister pads are totally different than band-aids for me so I always have those.
          Seconding a small nail kit – I keep mine in my purse so I don’t need one in the office.
          And! An extra mask, of course.

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            Thinking about that letter from the person whose office manager diluted the soap in the bathrooms, and stories of supply chain interruptions, I plan to add some hand soap to my toiletries kit when I go back. And a tiny bottle of dishwashing liquid for my mug and plate.

            1. HungryLawyer*

              Good idea about the extra soap! I just learned that hand soap sheets are a thing. Sort of like Listerine strips, you just take one lil sheet out of the soap packet, wash with it, and it dissolves like regular soap. I thought it was such a genius invention because no risk of spilling liquid soap in your bag and you don’t have to cart around a used bar of soap everywhere.

            2. amanda*

              I also keep one of those tiny brushes for my reusable straw and a larger bottle brush for my stainless steel tumbler. They can get gross pretty quick.

        2. cacwgrl*

          I like your list! I would add to it for myself, wrinkle release spray, bobby pins, simple black heels and simple black blazer for on the fly formal meetings (this is why you need the Downey spray!) and whatever you can throw on for an extra hit of confidence when needed. My preference is a tinted lip gloss in a color I love. We’re a fairly business casual office but a woman I highly respect in our organization reinforced the idea of keeping the extra stuff just in case and I’ve never been without it since.

        3. Scribble*

          It’s a good list, but OP should be aware that it’s normal for many offices to provide tissues and extension cords.

          1. iantrovert*

            When I was still working in the office, they provided tissues and extension cords…the cheap tissues and the extension cords without USB plugs. And of course the laptops had only one USB plug when docked, so if I wanted to charge anything I either had to bring several AC adapters and cords, or…bring my own power strip with what I actually wanted. The cheap tissues were pretty awful as well; I bought my own with lotion.

            Creature comforts (and in my case, not shredding my face) vs basic necessity.

        4. Office Snacks!*

          Great list! I would say be careful about a jump drive/USB drive or any chargers that plug into your computer (ie charging your phone by plugging it into your computer). A lot of companies will have policies that prohibit these for security reasons.

          Also, avoid anything that smells. I’ve had younger coworkers try to make their office “cozy” with scented candles or diffusers. Generally it is best to avoid strong scents in an office.

      5. OhNo*

        Definitely additional clothes, especially if you live in a place where weather happens. I always keep a cardigan or pullover at my desk, because I’ve yet to exist in an office that is always at my preferred temperature. I also usually keep a spare pair of pants because it only takes getting soaked by a surprise thunderstorm and having to wear wet clothes all day once to never want that to happen again.

        1. Hills to Die On*

          That’s why I like the fan. People have the sweater, but what about when it’s too warm? Desk Fan to the rescue! Also helps with those hot flashes but it doesn’t sounds like the OP needs to worry about that.

          1. Jenn*

            Too warm at work? That happens?
            Between overpowered AC and insufficient heating I spend the entire year freezing.

            1. Lady Catherine de Bourgh*

              My last office was always boiling hot. The company owner was from a warm country where air conditioning isn’t common and was also a cheapass so the AC was usually set around 80. Whenever he left we would turn it down and as soon as he came back he would turn it back up and get upset at us for changing it. I had a desk fan which helped a little but sometimes just blew the hot air around.

            2. Anne Kaffeekanne*

              I used to work in an old, listed building with no AC and very insufficient heat – so we were melting on hot summer days (temperatures of about 35C/95F+ *in the building* were the norm during heat waves) and freezing during the winter months. I had a desk fan and a standing fan for summer, a hot water bottle and a big knit poncho for winter.

          2. Autumn*

            Desk fan can also help with post lunch drowsies. Still air really makes it tough and, what with needing a mask on all day in some settings a little fan can really increase your comfort level.

            1. Happy Tails to You*

              “Post-lunch drowsies:” yes, that is definitely a thing and a fan helps a lot.
              Second the sewing kit, desk sweater or wrap, and spare shoes: flats and/or good walking shoes for lunchtime walks. Tea bags, nonperishable snacks, extra Kleenex boxes.
              I also got a tiny mini-fridge (the kind that holds a six-pack of canned drinks or a sandwich or a small bottle of milk or coffee creamer) as the office fridge gets so gross and I just couldn’t deal with it anymore.

              1. Happy Tails to You*

                Also, notebooks or journals that make you smile. I have a great one with the best drawings of dogs playing or sleeping, and pens of all colors for doodling (or coloring in said drawings of dogs) during boring meetings.

          3. Intermittent Introvert*

            I loved my small, quiet desk fan. I set it on a cute folded towel so it didn’t rattle. And, to add to the list, deodorant. Sometimes I forgot. Not a morning person.

        2. BlueK*

          If you wear them, spare tights are so important. One of those things you will kick yourself for not having.

      6. Ms. Hagrid Frizzle*

        I second having a small stash of bandaids, hair ties, and snacks. I would also suggest having some OTC pain relievers or other medications you might need on occasion (allergy meds, advil, etc.). For snacks, thing about pre-portioned/shelf-stable items. Things that are individually wrapped are far less likely to attract pests. Also consider the office-friendliness of any food items – if they are particularly smelly or loud, those may not be the best to eat in a shared area, although you could certainly have some on hand to enjoy outside or away from others.

        1. RJ*

          Depending on the type of building the office is in, be sure to keep any snacks in a sealable container like a plastic tub – you don’t want to be the person who attracts rodents who happily eat through any food wrapper.

          1. Intermittent Introvert*

            I second this. I had some foil wrapped snacks at an office I didn’t get to much. The mice scoffed and scarfed. Ew. Resealable Rubbermaid type or glass jars would have helped.

            1. Mimi*

              And to be clear, juice boxes are not safe. Once mice got into a coworker’s filing cabinet and chewed her soy milk boxes. It was a disgusting mess. (I have no idea how the mice got in, through I think it must’ve been a particleboard filing cabinet, not a metal one.)

      7. Librarian of SHIELD*

        Yes to extra consumables! I keep a bag of emergency toiletries in my desk drawer full of items from the trial size aisle at Target. A travel size deodorant, toothbrush/toothpaste, vaseline, hair spray, face wash, moisturizer, bobby pins, etc. I don’t use them regularly, but they’ve all come in handy at one point or another.

      8. Artemesia*

        After 911 I think it is also clear that women need to have a pair of shoes at work they can walk 10 miles in. Keep a pair of sneakers in the bottom drawer. In any kind of disaster being stuck in heels puts one at a distinct survival disadvantage.

        1. Elle*

          Amost, but the other way round: Keep the heels at work and walk in in shoes you can walk in. Pun intended.

      9. GlitsyGus*

        These are good suggestions. I have a little Tupper Ware that I keep at my desk that contains band aids for the my heels (in case my shoes start to rub), deodorant, a clean pair of socks (there is nothing worse than spending all day in soggy socks), and a few other things that I generally need day-to-day, like dental floss and a toothbrush and colored lip balm. I also keep a sweater and an extra pair of “nice” shoes. The sweater for obvious reasons, and the shoes for if I forget that I have a client meeting or something like that. Nice shoes can dress up a slightly more casual outfit.

        At my last job, I also kept a jar of TJs instant coffee because we kept running out of good coffee and I really hate Keurig coffee, which was the backup. But that is pretty specific to that office.

      10. Retired Prof*

        Think about what would be absolutely mortifying to have happen at work and have a secret stash of antidotes – deodorant, extra undies, a clean shirt or extra pair of pants, sewing kit, etc. Then think about what would make you more comfortable – comfy shoes or slippers to wear at your desk (if it’s a dress up office you can keep a pair of basic black girl shoes in your desk and wear your sneakers on the way in), you special tea bags or snack foods, a footstool if you are short or you like to put your feet up. Finally think about what feeds your soul – a picture of someone special or other small keepsake. In my desk drawer I kept a little box I got from my son – when you take off the top a little heart jumps up that says “I love you Mom” in his shaky handwriting. He’s 32 now but it’s still in my drawer.

    2. Ladybird*

      I second water bottle, phone charger, and special pens! I also have an extra pair of underwear and socks (the underwear after I was surprised by the time of the month and the socks after I accidentally stepped in a puddle on my way in that soaked completely through my shoe), deodorant, and hair ties. Basically, the things that will keep you going throughout the day in case of emergency!

      1. Amaranth*

        This reminds me, keep the spare clothes in a large ziploc or other bag that can do double duty for storage, and for sealing away anything that gets stained/soaked. A laundry stain pen is a good thing to keep handy too, if wearing things that would need a stain treatment right away to recover.

    3. Hazel*

      So many great suggestions! We’re hot-desking two days a week at my current job, so I asked to be assigned a locker. Here’s what I will be keeping in there: my ergonomic keyboard, mouse pad (because it has a wrist rest built in), little stand for my mobile phone, charger cable for my mobile phone, headphones with mic, extra dress (wrinkle proof) with all necessary undergarments, several pairs of shoes – I think that’s it. Maybe some bandaids and Pepto Bismol also.

      The power supply and monitors are provided (as are keyboard and mouse, but I use my own), so I don’t need to worry about those.

      I bring my makeup bag with me because I take advantage of traffic stoppages to put it on in the car (or if there’s no traffic, in the parking garage at the office). I can’t afford two sets of everything, so I bring it back and forth from home to office to home.

      If I had a permanent desk, I would put up photos and mementos on the little fabric “wall” behind my monitors, and my shoes would live under the desk. I used to have a full on shoe rack with about 10 pairs under the desk, but the way office space is these days, I don’t think I’ll ever have enough room for that any more. I’d also bring in pens that I like (I need the thick barrelled ones because of arthritis) and a couple of coffee mugs that I like but wouldn’t be devastated if they were lost or broken. I guess my best piece of advice is – don’t bring something to the office and leave it there overnight if you would be really upset to lose it. Because stuff happens.

        1. Coenobita*

          I used to have a bunch of shoes at my desk when I had my own office – I always wore sneakers to commute, so I just kept my work shoes at work instead of at home. I only wore them at work, and had space at the office, so why not?

        2. womanaroundtown*

          I’m a lawyer, so I always keep a pair of pumps in my office for court (though that’s still virtual, despite all of us being mandated to return by the end of May, including the judges), and a pair of flats for seeing clients. Then I’ll wear sneakers or sometimes sandals to work and just change when I get in.

          1. BlueK*

            Yep. I had a lot of extra shoes as a lawyer. Depending on the weather, etc different shoes are needed. Plus nicer shoes you can slip into. And a few flats because while I mostly wear black sometimes I don’t.

            Other thing I always had was a blazer. I hate them but sometimes you need one as an attorney. I was a cardigan person otherwise. I found I looked dressier because I like skirts. It’s wrong but skirts just seem to come across as more dressed up. Had to adapt that a bit doing social work with kids. Longer skirts and always shorts underneath!

            1. LadyAmalthea*

              A mug and several types of tea are my go to. Extra feminine hygiene products are always good to have just in case. I also like having a good-sized notebook.

            2. Office Admin*

              I switched jobs last month and had to go back the office just to clean out my desk after almost 18 months away. I had completely underestimated the pairs of “work shoes” I had accumulated under my desk and ended up leaving with a tote bag entirely filled with shoes.

          1. R2-beep-boo*

            Jewelry is impractical. Fussy tops with too many buttons are impractical. Skirts with pleats are impractical. Anything that wrinkles is impractical. I’d hate to be limited to practical things.

            1. Trombone*

              Love this comment and agree whole-heartedly. We’re not meant to live just in bland practical clothes.

            2. Above my Paygrade*

              Jewelry isn’t ruined by wearing it to walk from the bus stop to your office (or in from the parking lot). Jewelry also doesn’t impact frostbite or traction in icy or slushy conditions,
              Basically, professional women’s shoes can’t be worn to walk even medium distances in inclement weather. Either they get ruined or you get hurt, or often both.

            3. ceiswyn*

              Jewellery, fussy tops and pleated skirts do not cause bone, ligament or joint damage from walking in them.

        3. ErinWV*

          I have a pair of black shoes and a pair of brown shoes. I wear the black shoes with outfits in the grey/black spectrum and the brown shoes if I wear brown or khaki-colored bottoms.

          I don’t really wear heels anymore, because my Achilles tendon hates me, but some people like to have a heels and no-heels option available, too.

      1. mcl*

        To go with the shoes, I have a cheap doormat that I bought and keep at work that is for absorbing the slush and runoff from my winter boots or rain boots. We have tile floors at work and it’s nice to have somewhere for that water to go, and I live in Wisconsin where there is a lot of snow!

    4. Liz*

      Add’l clothes/shoes that you can fit into a drawer is an excellent idea! I would add a small toiletry bag as well with basics like deodorant, toothbrush/paste, floss, baby wipes, tide pen, bandaids, tampons, etc. Just a few small items in case of emergency. And a travel size umbrella is sometimes useful to have on hand. Plants may or may not be allowed, so I’d hold off until others have set some out. Other than that, I’d bring a couple pens and notepad until you have your bearings on the supply closet (your office should supply all that, but with people trickling in and #germs, it might be nice to have your own for a while). As for decorations, generally photos and college/sports team/hobby trinkets are pretty normal. But you could also wait a while as everyone else settles in to see what’s normal. Good luck!

      1. BlueK*

        Decor is so office specific. My law firm it was pretty personalized. Some people were minimalists. Others had a Funko collection. I had some things I’d picked up traveling. Including my Pygmy puff from Harry Potter World.

        But there were firms where that wouldn’t fly. So it so depends even within the same field.

    5. RabidChild*

      I love to buy my own notebooks and pens that are special to me, though most offices provide basic office supplies. My box of items that traveled with me to new offices always included: an umbrella, tampons/pads if you use them, a special coffee cup, a travel deodorant, Tide stick, wet wipes (for personal hygiene), tissues, mints/gum, floss (the sample from the dentist needs to go somewhere lol), bandaids, lint roller (especially if you have pets), a water bottle/hydro flask, favorite tea bags, and a cute pencil case because I am a dork. I also always bring this tiny figure of Rafiki from the Lion King seated in lotus position because it makes me feel calm LOL, so small items that bring you joy are always good.

      I also used to keep small bottles of soy sauce, hot sauce, and ketchup packets for lunches at the desk, and it doesn’t hurt to keep shelf stable meal items like granola bars, Cup Noodles, can of soup, etc. for those days when you Just Cannot, if you know what I mean.

    6. Seeking Second Childhood*

      A metal tin for any snacks to keep crumbs coralled. Critical if you’re in a city or edge-of-woods that can have pest problems.
      Something I hate to say to people who are excited about a new job… keep it simple and replaceable. After a long-ago layoff where I had to get walked to the car by my manager carrying extra stuff for me, I bring in little I am not willing to walk away from. Everything that I care about, I can carry by myself in one trip.
      My ‘desk sweater’ for cold days is an acrylic thing I joke about. (Just like Mr. Rogers, except his is nicer.) My ‘unscheduled visit to the factory’ shoes are ones that are uncomfortable after a few hours. Photos are duplicates, mugs & decor were bought cheap. Even my plants are pothos in water or inherited from someone who left them behind. I did bring home my box of seasonal decorations in March 2020, but I surprised myself with the decision.

    7. Funny Cide*

      You’ll be a popular coworker if you have a phone charger you can possibly share! I would recommend getting a distinctive one, though.

      1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

        I labeled my chargers with the office label maker after one got borrowed when I was out and not returned.

      2. Silence Will Fall*

        Our IT department has loaner chargers that are fastened to pieces of wood. They look nice and are stamped with “Please return to IT.” Still usable, but much harder to permanently abscond with.

    8. BlueK*

      I think it’s okay to wait on some things, like personalized standard office supplies to see what they provide. It also depends your job. I tend to have a lot of paper. So lots of pens and highlighters and flags. And multi colored post its. I get bored of the standard issue yellow ones.

      In general, I’d phase things in. Like don’t show up with a banker box the first day. Overtime you can add or subtract things.

      1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

        Agreed. All I’d bring on the first day would be things that could fit in a backpack/tote/whatever you carry to and from work normally. For me, that would be a notebook and pen, a water bottle, devices and their chargers, a sweater, earbuds/headphones, a day’s worth of snacks, and a little bottle of Advil. Within the first week I’d probably add my own mug or travel mug, a stash of snacks, a couple photos, and anything else that I realized I was desperately missing.

    9. Office Hamster*

      Pay attention to what you find yourself wanting that you don’t have, and not needing what you did bring for your first month or so, and then edit/refine.

      My Top Three Best Office Stash items were: Mints, feminine hygiene products, and a tweezer (when I discover a new, unwanted hair I CANNOT tear my attention away from it, amazing how productive instant tweezer gratification has helped me be).

      A little travel bag with bathroom stuff in it is nice for toting it all in there, and keep a bottle of pain killers on hand if you’re prone to screen headaches.

    10. Prof_Murph*

      I keep a shawl and fuzzy socks for when I’m chilly. Overlapping with other recommendations: small mirror, ibuprofen, own set of utensils, salt/pepper, deodorant, toothbrush/toothpaste, lip balm, hairspray (all travel size), hair clips, paper towels/napkins, cleaning wipes, hand sanitizer/hand wipes. Depends on what your office does but I also keep bottle opener, matches, a few wine glasses/beer mugs, cocktail plates – these have come in surprising handy when we’ve had cocktail happy hour stuff! I also highly, highly recommend a good set of noise cancelling headphones – these have been a lifesaver for me (but I don’t leave in the office). (not a marketing ploy but Bose, while expensive, are the best and consistently get highest rated – worth every penny for me!)

    11. Public Sector Manager*

      I work in state government and our pens are terrible. So I have a pen case of my special pens because they do, in fact, make me feel special! I can’t comment enough how awesome and low cost awesome pens truly are!

  2. AY*

    An office blazer, a long cardigan for inexplicably cold office days, a nail file or trimmers (ONLY for use when a nail breaks, not routine clipping), deodorant, stain remover, travel toothbrush, painkillers (if your office doesn’t stock them or if you’d like your own supply).

    1. Bee*

      Office cardigan and also office socks – I sometimes find that it gets cold in an inexplicable way where most of my body is fine and the shoes I’m wearing are fine for the weather but in the office my feet get absolutely FREEZING.

      Other supplies depend on the office! My current job is happy to stock my favorite kind of tea, but at my old job I bought it for myself and kept it in my desk. But also, a lot of this is going to be very personal – you’ll find that you need something by surprise one day, run out to the closest drug store to grab it, and realize you should just keep it in your desk for next time.

      1. Hazel*

        Yes to the cardigan! You never know when it will be too cold in the office or outside, or you need to cover up a food spill on your clothing.

        1. The Rural Juror*

          Yep! I spilled coffee on my shirt right before a meeting once and was very glad to have an extra cardigan. It was summer, but our office is cold so I didn’t look odd wearing one in the meeting.

        2. another Hero*

          yeah, it’s not just that I keep a cardigan at work, I intentionally keep my largest cardigan at work. would allow me to cover up any wardrobe malfunction, can be worn over other sweaters if I just need to add a layer, and it’s cozy if I just feel bad. if you’re in a place where looking polished is important, that might not be the solution, but it’s great for me.

      2. Elizabeth the Ginger*

        I got a plug-in heating pad for my office last year when we had doors and windows open all the time and I was temporatily in a VERY ventilated space, and even though I’m now back in my old location and can control the temperature better I’ve kept it at work. I lay it on my lap on chilly days and it is lovely.

    2. S*

      Yeah, I was just coming here to say office blazer. I also know women who keep a lot of shoes at work (they commute in sneakers.)

      1. Momma Bear*

        I know people who keep a blazer and tie just in case they are called into a meeting they didn’t expect.

        1. Coenobita*

          I work for an advocacy organization in DC and (when we were in person) probably every other person had a garment bag hanging on their coat hook. Our in-office dress code is quite casual but a lot of us are in roles where we might have to go take a meeting with Congressional staff or record a TV news interview on short notice. I just kept my suit at the office (including a blouse and shoes) so I could wear my everyday tshirt-cardigan-jeans outfits without worrying.

          But don’t show up on your first day in-office with your whole wardrobe or anything :)

      2. JustaTech*

        The funny thing is at my office the shoes we keep at our desks tend to be sneakers/comfortable closed-toe shoes, for a day when you wore nice shoes and suddenly get called into the lab.

        When I had a proper cube and not a tiny open office desk I also kept a set of scrubs for the inevitable day when I wore something actually nice and something broke and I would need to crawl around on the floor with bleach.

        1. CupcakeCounter*

          I had 3 pairs of shoes in my desk. I usually wore in my orthopedic sandals or snow boots then changed into appropriate footwear at my desk – dressy flats or boots depending on the season. I also had to have steel-toed boots for when I went on the factory floor (I was an accountant but since I did inventories and random cycle counts I was out there 2-3 times a week).

      3. Hotdog not dog*

        I used to have a shoe rack under the desk for my heels. Now we’re hybrid and the dress code is suspended. I’m not sure what to do with all the extra space now that I’m not planning to wear heels again.

    3. Monty & Millie's Mom*

      Seconding an extra layer – my office is super-casual, no dress code, but a cardigan or blazer if you need to keep it classy! Otherwise, I have both a plaid flannel shirt and a zip-up hoodie for varying weights/temps.

      Also, I personally have a bunch of pictures, but that’s cuz I have lots of space and lots of cute pics of nieces/nephews/dogs, but your mileage may vary! AY’s list of personal/emergency items is also good! And I like to keep mints in my drawer as well, and some snacks, but maybe wait to see about snacks until you get a feel for the rest of the office norms.

      1. Gipsy Danger*

        I have a framed picture of my dog on my desk, kind of tucked in the corner so it’s not super obvious, but it makes me happy to look at her.

    4. OyHiOh*

      Adding to AY’s list, mouth wash, emergency allergy meds, chapstick, hand cream, first aid kit, and back up period supplies.

      In terms of decorations, I have a fidget my children made me, a carved jade frog from my partner, a framed photo of a piece of chalk art I did, and a battery-run toy hamster in a wheel. Basically, low key things that have a lot of personal meaning and also would fit in my work bag if I needed to clear my desk and walk off the job.

      1. OyHiOh*

        Oh, and I also have a pair of typing gloves for the days when our HVAC goes haywire and it’s just cold enough for my hands to freeze. I bought a pair of arthritis gloves because I also have issues that hand compression helps but any fingerless style that’s warm will help.

    5. LH*

      A lot of offices don’t supply any kind of drugs, so painkillers are a great idea, as are allergy meds if that’s a thing for you. I also usually keep my favorite brand of bandaids for blisters, since the office bandaids almost always suck. And makeup touch-up items (mascara, concealer–the little sampler versions that are annoying to have at home).

  3. A Pinch of Salt*

    A nice water bottle (I like glass woth a silicone cover, personally)!

    I would err on the minimal side. I used to be the “pictures, plants,and kick knacks” office person until I switched to a different job and moved offices. I took NONE of it. No more dusting, no moving stuff to accommodate actual work stuff. If we go back, I’ll take a couple pics of my kids, but that is it.

    1. LittleRedFox*

      I would also second this and err on the minimal. I have seen people who’s desks look like they’ve moved in. Pictures covering every space, Funko Pops, collector’s items galore and I’ve never seen anyone react to something like that and think “professional”. They’ve always chuckled to themselves, made cracks about the person practically living in the office etc. Of course, this is the extreme side.

      I personally always get accused of it seeming like I don’t work there at all b/c I’m so minimal. But I can’t focus with too much clutter around me. I have a couple of pictures inspirational things I like; I personally don’t like sharing too much personal stuff or pictures at work.

      Oh – and don’t bring anything to work to leave at your desk you can’t live without!

      1. TiffIf*

        Oh – and don’t bring anything to work to leave at your desk you can’t live without!

        Learned this one! There’s still a water bottle sitting on my desk at the office from when we very suddenly went full remote in March 2020. I haven’t been to the office since.

        1. Hazel*

          Fortunately, after my last employer laid off over half the workforce last year, they put together a very organized plan for everyone who was leaving the company to be able to safely go to the office and clear out our workstations.

      2. SongbirdT*

        Definitely don’t bring anything that you can’t live with never seeing again!

        In an old job, the office building had a fire on the floor above mine. The fire suppression and water destroyed my floor, as well as coating everything in asbestos. I had a few sentimental items and things that had to be discarded and it was a bummer.

        1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

          Good advice. I have photos on my desk but if the worst happened I would really only be out a few frames, because I can always reprint the actual photos.

      3. Lirael*

        I’m always fascinated by stories of people who have tons of stuff on their desks. Everywhere I’ve worked the past 2 decades (possibly longer) has had a clear desk policy. all you’re allowed to leave on your desk overnight is your computer/monitor, your phone, and sometimes a pen pot (I’ve worked in places you’re not even allowed to leave pens out overnight). Interested to know if other UK people have found the same, or if I’m an anomoly?

        1. Plant*

          That seems extreme–my company has a “clear desk policy” but the clear point of it is to make sure that client information (basically just meaning written notes) isn’t left out in the open. It’s a US company but the London office behaves the same way.

        2. Dancing Otter*

          One place I consulted, Security would confiscate any laptop left out overnight. I think you needed a form signed by your manager to get it back, but can’t vouch for that part because they never caught me forgetting to lock mine up.

      4. Amaranth*

        Also, if you have the ‘perfect’ stapler from home, put your name on it on a piece of tape, sharpie, whatever. And you still might want to store it in a drawer at night. I can’t count how many times my stapler has gone walkabout – even when I had an office! – and I need a specific one that is easy for small hands.

      5. Tyche*

        I worked with someone who lined a wall of their office with bookshelves and absolutely stuffed the shelves with books. People definitely talked about it behind their back.

      6. BlueK*

        To me, it can be nice to see a bit of personality. Provides some small talk material if nothing else. I think the key is for it to look intentional. Funko pops nicely arranged on a shelf are way different than scattered all over the place.

        Of course it totally depends on the office culture. Some places really do go in for uniformity.

        1. LittleRedFox*

          Yeah, and also not to be completely overcrowded. Without giving too much detail, I worked at a place where one lady collect everything Hello Kitty. I mean everything. Her entire cube was Hello Kitty. Rug on the floor. Coffee mugs. Knick knacks. Every open space had a picture or item on it.

          Like someone said below, that’s great if it’s your thing but you will forever be “Hello Kitty Person” and not “Jane in Accounting”.

          1. Koala*

            Oof. At my old job, a new director brought in a bunch of decorations for his office too. When he was let go/left the job a few months later, it took him a couple trips to clear everything out.

      7. ErinWV*

        A definite exception to the professionalism rule is professors. Professors can afford to really fill their offices with personality, post memes on the doors and so on. But then they do sort of live in their offices during certain times in the semester or the grant cycle.

        (One of our Criminology profs has a Hannibal Lecter Funko Pop which is so cool.)

    2. Teapot Repair Technician*

      Instead of pictures, I prop up my phone displaying whatever picture I’m in the mood for that day.

    3. another Hero*

      I have a few decorations I’ve accumulated from work – cards from colleagues, a poster from an event I ran that happened to have a particularly attractive poster – which helps my space feel specific but still like work. I have a tiny plant too, which is because I made a tiny plant pot to learn how to use our 3d printer. it’s extremely low-maintenance aloe; I give it water every couple weeks, and if I go on vacation, it’s fine being ignored. for me, it’s all stuff that signals, this is pleasant, but it’s work.

    4. Lily Rowan*

      Totally agree re: erring on the minimal side.

      A lot of people are describing all of the stuff that has accumulated in their offices over time, so while I also have all of that stuff (shoes, painkillers, umbrella, etc), I wouldn’t walk in Day One with more than like an extra sweater and a water bottle. You can assume the job will provide pens, paper, etc., and then you can decide if you’d rather use the versions you have to provide yourself. I bring in my own notebooks because I’d rather have a fun notebook!

      You can just see what you wish you had and then bring that in as you go. Everyone is different, and office culture also comes into play.

    5. JSPA*

      some offices have an overall minimalist ethos. Maybe start with a water bottle and one or two items for the desktop at most, one pair of shoes under the desk, a sweater in the desk, some sort of emergencies kit that’ll fit in any drawer or on an open shelf without being too revealing.

      Then add if your office has a more maximal vibe.

      If you have a handmade cup that’s not the right shape or size for coffee, but is nice to look at, bringing that in as a pen, pencil, sharpie and nail file holder can be a cheery sort of re-purposing.

      Especially at the start, I’d avoid items with slogans (whether sassy, inspirational, darkly humorous or sweet) ditto anything too “branded” (whether that’s your college or your favorite soda or even your favorite nonprofit) unless you want that to be the first, outsize thing people know about you. (If you want to be, “Jen, with the Greenpeace gear, in customer relations, not Jen in accounting”–that’s your call; but you’d probably rather be known for your work.)

  4. R*

    If you will have hanging space you can keep a spare shirt for coffee spilling emergencies. If you are female, keep extra stuff for period emergencies. Also an additional layer for if it’s cold. I keep pain relief, period supplies, toothbrush/paste, hand cream and sanitizer, all of which I pay for. Also cell phone charger and mug/water bottle.

    Pens/paper etc. should all be supplied by your workplace, but if you have strong preferences that are expensive, you can ask, but understand you may need to supply that yourself. I have a particular style of notebook I like that I pay for myself.

    1. Mr. Scarlett*

      People of any gender can menstruate! If your office doesn’t stock period supplies, think about bringing some extra and keeping them in both restrooms if there’s room, or a common supply cabinet.

      1. Hedwig*

        You’ve conflated sex and gender. Only the female sex can menstruate, regardless of their gender identity

        1. Actual trans person*

          I think I speak for most trans men when I say that we are not “female” and have no desire to be referred to that way.

          Mr. Scarlett is right — people of any gender can menstruate, and many women do not.

        2. lailaaaaah*

          That doesn’t make what Mr. Scarlett said wrong- people of any *gender* can menstruate, even if only AFAB people do.

  5. Trisha*

    I always kept an extra blouse in my desk drawer. Lesson learning – I was facilitating training and dropped my coffee which soaked my top. It was the worst afternoon of training I’ve had to do.

    For supplies, I buy for myself anything that I *want* versus anything I *need*. I want a stiletto shaped tape dispenser, I need a stapler, blue pens, and a spiral notebook with the spiral at the top (I’m left handed and the right handed notebooks drive me crazy).

    1. Bean Counter Extraordinaire*

      I think I NEED this tape dispenser you speak of… any chance you remember where it’s from?

    2. Momma Bear*

      Agreed. Aside from a small first aid kit and other emergency things (including a detergent pen/wipes), I bought myself a hand sanitizer I like and a desk organizer that fits my personality. I bring in my own tea and K cups for when I don’t want what the office provides. I have a couple of coffee mugs for water/other beverages and a baggie of utensils so I don’t have to share anything from the kitchen. Oh, and snacks. I store granola bars like a squirrel.

    3. cubone*

      I worked in government for a while and picked up the habit there of always having a brand new pair of packaged black tights, if you wear them (/pantyhose). You can stop a run with clear nail polish, but no one wants to be caught greeting an ambassador or minister of some kind with a run in their tights.

      1. ErinWV*

        My mom (a leftie) used to write normally on the left-side page of a spiral bound notebook, then turn the book over so the right-side page became another left-hand page. Your notes will go back and forth from being right-side-up to upside-down, but it’s functional.

    4. learnedthehardway*

      Memories of having to run out and buy a new top after I vomited on mine (morning sickness for the win) before a major presentation – extra clothing is always good.

  6. Panicked*

    -Spend a week or two feeling out the office culture before you start decorating. Generally, a few pictures of your family/pets, a plant or two, etc… are fine. But maybe wait a bit before you put up a life-sized poster of Jeff Goldblum or something.
    – I would think office supplies were pretty standard, but after reading that thread a few weeks ago, I’d at least bring a few supplies in until you know what’s provided.
    – I always keep a small first aid kit with basic medications, band aids, etc… in my desk, as well as a hair brush, gum, travel sized deodorant, hand lotion, and some chapstick.

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      Definitely agree on decorating. Standards vary wildly, but you can figure it out your first week. Also, would someone just out of college even know who Jeff Goldblum is? (Fun fact: his earliest credit in imdb is from 1974’s Death Wish, where he played “Freak #1.”)

      Office supplies: I would assume they are provided, until I learned otherwise. That being said, I am particular about pens, so I routinely just bring my own.

      1. JB*

        Of course they would. He was in a Marvel movie just a few years back – and that’s without even discussing the fact that the original Jurassic Park is a classic and most young adults in Western culture have seen it at least once.

    2. Tequila & Oxford Commas*

      I beg to differ. It is ALWAYS the right time for a life-sized poster of Mr. Goldblum.

      1. Screenshotter*

        I had a coworker with a life-sized David Hasselhoff poster. And it was actually extremely appropriate for the environment! It made everyone’s day, every day.

      2. The Smiling Pug*

        Everyone needs a life-size Jeff Goldblum poster in their lives. One of my favorite shirts has his face on it. :)

      3. Lab Boss*

        Our work environment doesn’t allow life-sized posters of Mr. Goldblum, or of anyone else. A truly unsettling number of small pictures of Nicholas Cage making that Nicholas Cage face (you know the face), however, are EVERYWHERE.

    3. MissMeghan*

      Seconded. You don’t need to bring everything right away. My preference first day is to just bring a small notebook, water bottle, snack bar, and a pen or two.

      I like to dedicate one drawer to personal items, which include: brush, chapstick, hand lotion, spare pare of tights, mints.

    4. LadyByTheLake*

      I second most of this (although who can resist Jeff Goldblum)? I stopped with the plants — not enough light in many offices and a dying plant looks terrible, plus I realized I don’t like having to fuss with the plant all the time. I would add to also have a little travel sewing kit (comes in handy if a button pops off), safety pins (lots) and a nail clipper (only to be used in emergencies). If you are in a job that requires dressing up (including fancier shoes), I used to keep my pumps/work shoes at work and wear comfortable shoes for commuting/running errands. That requires having enough shoes though to also have a nice pair at home for going out/weddings etc.

      1. JustaTech*

        We weren’t allowed to have individual plants because they might spread plant pests or diseases to the pants the company paid another company to maintain. Then those plants all went away during a budget cut, but we still weren’t allowed to have plants, so several people got beta fish instead.

        I have a tiny moss ball in a little vial of water (and a bunch of silly work swag).

  7. Ali G*

    Initially I wouldn’t bring much, especially in a shared office. For you first week, bring a note pad and a pen to take notes. You should be able to gauge what kind of supplies are given out and base any additional asks/things you want to bring on that. For example I am a total pen snob. My office stocks pens but I hate the ones they buy so I supply own.
    After that, you could add some small items on your desk, like photos, or a small trinket. I think you should wait to put anything on the walls until you see how permanent your specific desk is.
    I like to keep an extra set of shoes in the office and a sweater or wrap since I am always cold. I use my own mug for tea and stock tea bags because my office only has coffee and tea I don’t like (I sound so picky in the comment – I swear I am not a total snob!).
    Take it slow and see what others do. You don’t want to be that person that shows up Elle Woods style on your first day. Good luck in your new job!

    1. KateM*

      I’m trying to think back when I was in an office and I don’t think I had anything personal there except for stuff that I was carrying with me all the time anyway. Maybe there was a notepad. Maybe.

    2. kittymommy*

      This! I would wait a couple of days before bringing much of anything so you know what the office set up is like (physical and cultural). I’d probably just bring a sweater as it’s easy to throw on the back of your chair when not in use and maybe a pen or two that you like (if relevant) because they are easy to keep in a bag if not needed.

      New offices can be weird. I’ve been in some that everyone eats at their desk and snacks abound in a drawers. I’ve also been at others that don’t even allow drinks at your desk. Currently I have a space heater running under my desk and several co-workers (same building, different office) have those scented vaporizer thingies going. These things would absolutely not fly in other places in our organization.

      1. BeenThere*

        We aren’t allowed space heaters so I have an electric lap blanket, it’s wonderful. In fact I think I purchased it after seeing a comment on this blog at some point.

        1. kittymommy*

          Technically my space heater is forbidden but it’s treated as a fight club situation. My building guys politely ignore that I have it, I politely ignore that they are dipping on the job. = )

    3. Slow Gin Lizz*

      Yes, agree you should wait for a few days and see what you might need and what is provided at the office already. The president of my previous org was an art collector and while we didn’t have any original artwork in the office, she had a lot of prints and posters and also items related to our mission hung on the walls, and while she generally didn’t mind if we hung a thing or two ourselves it wasn’t like we had tons of wallspace free for the rest of us to use. And we wouldn’t have rearranged things if we had, so you definitely need to see what kind of space you have to fill before you bring anything in.

    4. calonkat*

      Perfect response!

      Every person is different, every office is different, and every spot in the office is different from others!

  8. Shad*

    I try to keep a jacket in the office, and buy myself some office snacks that I keep in a drawer.
    Otherwise, I recommend giving it a bit of time to see what kind of supplies you’ll need, what will be useful to you, etc. (And can’t speak to the question of who buys what; there was already a pen holder/organizer when I arrived at my job, and I haven’t bought anything else).

  9. ceiswyn*

    If you do any walking during your commute, you’ll probably want to keep a pair of ‘professional’ shoes in the office so that you can walk in in trainers and change. If the office tends cold, an emergency scarf or cardigan is also a good plan.

    Desk decoration tends to be limited to one or two photographs and a very small plant (although I have never yet worked anywhere that’s complained about the edges of my monitor sprouting dinosaur stickers).

  10. Lady_Lessa*

    Depending upon the weather where you are, I’d keep an extra pair of work shoes at the office. I’m on my feet a lot, and don’t want to be wearing snow boots.

    1. OrigCassandra*

      This, if snow and ice are a thing where you are. Again, you probably won’t need these right away… but depending on your favored footgear, rain might be a good reason to switch shoes also. An extra pair of socks/hosiery wouldn’t go amiss either.

    2. Mbarr*

      Seconded. I also bring in shoe deodorizing spray. In the summer, I’ll swap from running shoes to comfy indoor shoes, but sometimes they get a little, uh, stinky.

  11. tiny_strawberries*

    Hiya! I had similar questions when I came to the office three years ago. In general, if there are paper goods or anything you want, your office should order them. So that would be folders, binders, special paper, etc. If your job is paperwork heavy, you might ask about desk organizers. Other things you could think about asking about are standing desks if that’s something you want – I didn’t know that it was an option at my job until someone higher than me asked! As far as what to bring, I would say anything that you feel strongly about. I bring in nice notebooks for example – I’m not going to ask my office to buy a moleskine. I also bring in some fidgets, and snacks.

    As far as decoration and clothes, that does depend on your workspace. For me, I have some decorative pins, some aesthetically pleasing advertising materials we’ve received, and a tiny photo of James Baldwin. But some coworkers have way more decorations at their desks. If you’ve got light, (lucky you!) bring in a plant!

    My office is pretty casual, so I don’t need extra clothes (and i live nearby), but I do keep a sweater in the office at all times. In previous jobs my bosses kept heels at their desks, and a change if they worked with fancy clients frequently. TBH, I don’t think that’s really necessary in 2021!

    Hope this helps!

  12. Mental Lentil*

    What kind of office supplies does your company provide already? There’s probably a supply closet where you can get those. If they have cheap pens, and you have a preference for a finer pen (Pilot Precise V5 or Sharpie S-Gel 0.5 mm are my personal preferences) I would definitely plan on bringing your own pens.

    As for decorations, I would see what your coworkers have and what the general culture is like regarding this. A small photo frame with a picture of an SO or your family is always nice to have and usually considered appropriate.

    One thing about working from home: you can snack whenever you want. If you’ve been doing that, bring some snacks to help you get from breakfast to lunch and from lunch to going home time.

  13. Detective Amy Santiago*

    A box of tissues. A small fan. A warm sweater/hoodie/blanket. Temps can vary wildly in offices.

      1. BlueK*

        I like to take a scarf that is versatile rather than a blanket. Can double as a blanket or a shawl or what have you.

  14. kanej*

    Snacks!! Also a work appropriate jumper or cardigan for when it gets cold, because offices are always freezing and there’s nothing worse than freezing to death in the office.

    1. Brett*

      I would have said snacks before, but it is crazy how many horror stories I am hearing now of desks taken over by moldy food. My employer, in particular, never let us clear out out desks when we shifted to work from home and never had anyone else clean out our desks.
      People are returning to office now (for picking up their personal items, we are not going back to office), and finding drawers with rotted, moldy snacks.

        1. Brett*

          Because they are likely to try to sell or lease out the buildings, they have been impeccable on other maintenance like spraying for pests. But our desks will get ripped out and likely tossed, they have left our personal spaces untouched for 18 months. I feel bad for people who left during that time. No one was allowed to clean our their desks, and any personal items they left behind are going in the trash.

  15. V*

    Usual AaM advice applies: don’t take anything the first day, take only office essentials you missed or your lunch the next few days. Then look at what others are doing before you consider anything like decoration or keeping a change of clothes.

  16. Carly*

    Not sure how formal your office is, but mine is pretty informal and I keep spare socks in case my feet get cold in the AC on days when I wear sandals, lol

  17. Smithy*

    I think that a lot of this will depend on your specific office norms followed by how much privacy your desk has. Certainly there’s the difference between having a private office and a more open layout/cube farm – but also whether your office is one that has a lot, some or zero external visitors coming by.

    All of this to say is that using context clues of your coworkers with similar desks is my #1 piece of advice. But after that, I think initially treating it a little bit like the “first day of school” is solid. Having a note pad/set of pens and anything else that you know you want Day 1 is a good idea. For me, that’s typically a mug and a supply of tissues – something that some offices supply and others haven’t reliably. This then buys me a buffer to ask questions around where office supplies are kept or if there is a process to order items.

  18. beaglemama*

    When I was office based, I would keep a can of soup, or some other quick lunch option in case I forgot to bring something or didn’t want to order out. A pair of sneakers so I could get in a quick walk at lunch, and depending on dress code, a pair of flat shoes and a back up pair of hose.

    For office supplies, I would get stuff that I was picky about – I’m a fine-point black ink person, prefer college ruled notebooks. If you don’t have a preference, see what the office will provide. I’ve worked places where I was handed a catalog and others where I had to beg for my aforementioned pens.

    I would have one or two pictures, a bobblehead (Yoda FTW), asprin, some “feiminine protection” products.

    All of that said, bring essentials the first day and see what the culture is like. Good luck!

    1. Person from the Resume*

      Yes. I’d keep snacks like a box of granola bars or something in my desk. And sugarless gum as a way to freshen my mouth after lunch.

      1. ShowTunesOnMyMind*

        Yes to the soup as emergency lunch! I am a bit grossed out by communal sponges, especially now, and always keep a sponge or two and an all purpose large mug at my desk. (All purpose meaning oatmeal, tea, soup). I would also recommend a spare face mask, wipes, and some hand sanitizer. “Flushable” (don’t flush them) wipes are great for quickly wiping down your hands, or a snack spill, or freshening up after a walk or sweaty commute.

  19. Keener*

    If you’re in an area prone to earthquakes or other natural disasters an old pair of sturdy shoes and jeans, etc. so that you can comfortably walk a distance in an emergency.

    1. Me*

      As an emergency management professional I’ll add that EVERYONE should have things like that. Natural disasters aside, there’s manmade ones. Hell, a building fire is going to have you hoofing it.

      1. glitter writer*

        Yes. I have had to evacuate workplaces for emergencies (both natural and, unfortunately shooting-related) more than once and you should always, ALWAYS have shoes you can walk or run in available.

      2. Rana*

        But if there’s a fire are you going to change your shoes before evacuating? Seems like that would take more time than walking slightly slower because you’re in heels.

        1. Cassie*

          I think it depends – if you’re at your desk and the shoes would take 5 seconds to grab, I’m guessing it would be the better option (I think I can kick off dress shoes and shove my feet into sneakers in 10 or 20 seconds?). If I was somewhere else in the office and would have to walk back to my desk to get the shoes – that probably would not be a good idea.

          I guess this is why some people bring their wallets or purses with them everywhere, even if only to go to the restroom – you don’t want to be in a situation where you’d have to evacuate but your keys & cards are at your desk.

          1. allathian*

            I work in a casual office, and I always, always wear pants with pockets, so I keep my house keys in my pocket. I keep my cards in my cellphone wallet, and I carry that, too, even when I go to the bathroom.

  20. londonedit*

    You shouldn’t need to bring any stationery/notebooks etc – your employer should provide that sort of thing. That’s not to say you can’t bring your own things if you’d prefer to (a favourite sort of notebook or pen, for example), but you won’t be expected to provide the basics. I’ve never worked anywhere where people decorated their desks but people generally do personalise a bit, maybe with a mug as a pen-holder or a nice desk calendar or a plant or two. Otherwise I always have moisturiser, herbal teabags, a hairbrush, and a small first-aid kit (with things like blister plasters and paracetamol) in my desk just in case. Nowadays you could probably add on your favourite hand sanitiser (who knew we’d end up with a favourite hand sanitiser?) and spare masks. I’ve never kept spare clothes in the office but I have kept a big scarf there in case it gets cold (somehow the temperature in the office is rarely ideal either way!) and I’ve known people who have kept a spare pair of shoes in their desk drawer.

    I’d probably advise against turning up with a whole load of stuff on the first day – just bring a couple of things that you need, and see what everyone else does before adding other bits and pieces over time.

  21. Orange Capybara*

    I’d suggest having a tube of moisturizing hand cream at your desk. Especially now with the frequent use of hand sanitizers, my skin tends to get awfully dry.

    1. Dona Florinda*

      This. With all the hand washing and sanitizing + freezing AC, a cream will do wonders for your skin. Plus, I keep one with a nice scent to boost my mood throughout the day, and the little massage I give my hand when applying the cream helps me relax and ease the typing pain.

      1. allathian*

        My office is scent-free, but unscented, or very mildly scented, cream is fine. I keep a tub of O’Keeffe’s Working Hands cream, and it’s great. The tub means that nobody ever asks if they could have some, especially not now.

  22. Popcorn Burner*

    This is from personal experience. I prefer making my desk as comfortable as possible.

    Bring duplicates of items you use at home that employers don’t typically provide (phone charging cables, headphones, misc tech.) I keep walking shoes, a hat, a bag of travel-size toiletries (deodorant/sunscreen/lint roller/eyeglass wipes/etc.), a sweater, and a personal desk lamp at my desk. I keep all of these items “hidden” in a decorative black plastic storage cube under my desk.

    I like bringing in at least one plant, too. Golden pothos and heart-leaf philodendrons will usually survive (but will grow very slowly) under office lighting.

    When I was in a cube, I tacked up in a grid formation a bunch of artsy photos from my own Instagram account. (You can print 4×4 photos at Walgreens.) I also brought one of those balancing desk toys to fidget with.

    Enjoy your first desk, OP!

  23. Person from the Resume*

    I’d wait to see what your desk area is like and what others do for decorations before going that route. An inspirational or quote or two can be nicely generic before you decide if you should bring in photos. I did keep some family photos on my desk.

    If you are the kind of person who spills on yourself a good bit, extra clothes are fine, but I’ve never done that. I did used to keep several sweaters because an office gets cool when you’re just sitting there.

    A bottle for water. A mug and some tea.

    Phone charger.

    I’d expect the office to provide all the necessary supplies, but you may decide you want to bring in colored pens or funny post-its just to add color to your day.

  24. François Caron*

    Along with the other excellent suggestions, bring a small expendable neutral travel souvenir. It’ll help identify your desk as your own.

  25. You can call me flower, if you want to*

    We’ve switched to permanent work from home, but when I was in an office the most important thing at my desk was a little toiletry kit. I kept a little bag with a toothbrush, toothpaste, chapstick, deodorant, tampons, a tide pen, wipes, coverup, mascara and lipstick. You have no idea how handy that was. Obviously you tailor it to your own needs, but it saved me a few times. A couple other things I used all the time: extra sweater (my office was cold), my own cup for water or coffee (I just kept it at my desk and washed it in office sink each night to reuse the next day) and snacks!

  26. glitter writer*

    One thing I always have, that other folks don’t tend to until they see mine, is a bottle of hand lotion, unscented or very mildly scented. With winter coming and extra hand-washing now considered a common good, you’ll be glad of it. Also something warm to pull on when the A/C is up too high or the heat is up too low. (I had a plain black fleece hoodie for years, no logo, that just lived on the back of my office chair when I wasn’t wearing it.)

  27. Albeira Dawn*

    I have:
    – phone charger
    – noise-canceling headphones + charger
    – water bottle*
    – mug*
    – a notebook
    – sealed little snacks, usually the “A Strawberry Walked Into A Bar” from Trader Joe’s
    – screen wipes*
    – Tylenol*
    – pads
    – a calculator*
    – my nicer calculator

    Anything with an asterisk is provided by my employer, whether as a “welcome to the company” gift or something I requested on the supply sheet. I only live a couple blocks from work, so I don’t keep a change of clothes or anything, but if I lived further away, I’d probably keep sweatpants, a t-shirt, socks, and a pair of old tennis shoes here Just In Case.
    I also am looking to up my ergonomic game because I’m not used to spending all day at my desk. Looking forward to other’s comments!

    1. Albeira Dawn*

      Oh, also, I forgot because I’m wearing it right now, but a sweater or a hoodie. Also a cheap umbrella because I never remember to look at weather reports.

    2. Albeira Dawn*

      I keep remembering things after I hit submit. I used to be an intern where I’d spend about half the week at my desk and half the week out in a literal field. Then, I kept my work boots, a full change of clothes (it only takes one time of falling in the mud to learn), a hat, sunscreen, hair ties, allergy meds (found out I was allergic to everything in the field), a flashlight, and a rain jacket. But that varies wildly by discipline.

    3. LZ*

      I like all of these suggestions. Adding from my former desk (pre March 2020, now I am full remote):
      -lip balm
      -hand lotion
      -hair ties

      And because I like to add flavor to take-out or office catering, a bottle of hot sauce. There was always salt/pepper in our office kitchen but never anything spicy, and sometimes catered food is really bland.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        I used to keep a small bottle of yellow mustard in my cabinet – I generally brought sandwich parts, but didn’t assemble the sandwich until lunch time so the bread didn’t get soggy, and while it’s easy enough to pack deli meat and cheese and bread, packing mustard is a little fiddly, so I just left the whole bottle at work and put it on when I needed it.

  28. Ex-Dog Coor*

    A sweater/cardigan/hoodie for if you get cold. If you live in a place where it snows, having shoes to change out of snow boots into can be helpful! Another commenter suggested chargers and hair ties, which is definitely a good thing to have! You might find that you want some desk organizers or drawer organizers. I had a few photos from places I’d traveled, a cute crocheted fake plant, a few figurines (funko pop characters from Game of Thrones when that was still airing), and a couple of small “motivational” wall hangings (a friend cross stitched a line from Parks & Rec for me!). I also kept some snacks, gum, coffee making things at my desk too. It will all depend on your work flow, but don’t feel like you have to have it all figured out as soon as you move into your office space! It’s ok to not have anything at first and to bring things as you decide what you like/need, and what others in your office are doing. If there’s an office admin or a manager you can ask about supplies like pens/post its/staplers/etc, you might find that most of that is available to you!

    Pro tip: If you have cubicles with fabric walls, you can use velcro command strips to hang things!

    1. SomethingClever*

      I have to know what line from Parks and Rec! I am just finishing up a re-watch. That show is gold.

  29. hula-la*

    Congratulations on your job! I have a pair of “emergency” pants at work, which helped the time that my zipper decided that it wanted to bust. I also keep a pair of rainproof shoes, and umbrella, as I work in an area that is prone to rain.

    1. Xavier Desmond*

      I hope any Brits reading this comment laughed at the idea of emergency pants as much as I did.

      1. TiffIf*

        Well there are some women who have already suggested keeping some emergency underwear at work in case your period pops up unexpectedly…

    2. WomEngineer*

      Definitely agree with the umbrella! You don’t want to get caught without one in a random storm.

  30. Nastya*

    I also work remotely so I can’t be tons of help, but: it sounds like your coworkers are really nice, so I’m sure they wouldn’t mind you asking them! AAM readers can of course give you all the help we can, but this is ultimately something that varies a bit by office, so your coworkers could probably give you more specific guidance.

    And I promise: your coworkers will not judge you or think you’re weird. There was a time when they didn’t know this, either. They’ll understand that this is your first office job!

  31. ThatGirl*

    I would say any general office supplies they should provide, unless there’s something specific you really like. Pens, notepads, computer accessories (mousepad, wrist rest) were all provided by my company. They also provided me cleaning wipes and hand sanitizer. I brought in a coffee mug and a tumbler for water, Kleenex, lotion, a shawl for when it’s cold, little packets of nuts/chocolate for if I get hangry. I also have fun little decor that’s personal to me, but that’s obviously very individual.

  32. Construction Safety*

    As Rick Rescorla instructed his charges, “I don’t care what you wear around on your feet, but have a good pair of shoes in your office that you wouldn’t mind walking down 80 flights of stairs in an emergency.”

    1. blink14*

      Love this. And no one ever factored in how many women wore sneakers for their commutes and changed shoes at the office. What an incredible person he was.

  33. Janet Pinkerton*

    I keep a pair of evacuation sneakers in my desk—more than once folks have had to walk miles home from DC offices, and I would hate to do that in work shoes. It would be about 8 miles for me. When I replace my sneakers I take the old ones to the office with a pair of socks.

  34. Colette*

    My first day, I typically bring in a mug or water bottle. If it’s winter, I’d also bring in a change of shoes. Over the first couple of weeks, I’d bring in a box of tissues (assuming work doesn’t supply them) and whatever I want to have on my desk. I have some magnets and small toys I can fidget with, but those wouldn’t be appropriate in all offices. If I’m bussing, I’d bring in extra socks.

    I also like having an extra sweater or my cubicle blanket (again, this wouldn’t be appropriate everywhere.)

    I bring my lunch and cutlery most days, but keep spare cutlery and napkins in my desk for the days I forget. I also like having lip balm and hand lotion in my desk.

    I’d assume the office would be buying/supplying notepads, pens, and sticky notes as well as any required computer equipment.

    1. Colette*

      Also, safety pins (for wardrobe malfunctions) and an umbrella. (My work umbrella is pink, because I work in IT and thus no one will ever borrow it.)

      1. allathian*

        My spare charger that I forgot to take home on the last day before we went WFH is also pink for the same reason. I’m not in IT, though…

  35. Neosmom*

    I keep a mini mending kit at my desk (needles, thread, clippers, button, safety pin) – just in case. Also, a laundry stain removal stick.

  36. CTT*

    Bandaids! (This answer brought to you by me recently tearing a cuticle while on a call, bleeding everywhere, and having to send an embarrassed “hey, can you bring me a bandaid” chat to my group’s assistant.)

    But also, you’ll get a feel for what you’ll need the longer you’re there; what I’ve brought to work has changed over time.

  37. Falling Diphthong*

    This depends on your storage space and climate (indoors and out), but if you can keep a pair of work shoes in a drawer (for wet/slushy days) and a light sweater (for high AC days) those are often useful. If you wear tights in cold weather, a new set at the back of the drawer in case you get a run. (This is all stuff you can bring in after a couple of weeks when you know more about the space and climate.)

    Decor: Volume matters. Context matters. So one adorable kitten photo is fine, but 40 is overkill–but if you’ve been there 3 years and everyone admires your work, they won’t care about the wall of kittens like they would if you are the new intern and that’s the first impression you make on people.

  38. It’s a Bird, It’s A Plane, It’s SuperAnon*

    Be sure to ask if you will have lockers or a storage space to keep things overnight! Current plan for our new hybrid office is we will NOT, so there will be next to no chances to bring personal effects in and leave them.

    Echo what others have said about emergency clothing or jackets. I’d also recommend some non intrusive snacks, WFH makes it so easy to snack all day and it’ll be an adjustment. In Before Covid times some of my managers encouraged family photos but I was never really comfortable with that for myself, I’d say it was 50/50. And a fun, appropriate mug is a good conversation starter!

  39. HigherEdAdminista*

    Definitely bring an umbrella to keep in the office. If you wear contacts, bring a couple of spare pairs to leave in your desk. A phone charger is a must. I also keep some hand cream and tampons, for emergencies.

    Specifically COVID related, I brought in a fan and an HEPA filter purifier… I want that air circulating around me. Also a spare pack of good masks, because you never know.

    1. The Rural Juror*

      I also have an air filter on my desk, but it’s been here for a long time (pre-pandemic). I work in an older building and I swear there’s mold somewhere!

  40. awesome3*

    I would bring your own coaster if you need one for beverages. Depending on your job they may provide tissues, but if it’s only you who would be using them (as opposed to crying clients, etc) you may need to provide your own based on what others are saying? I’ve never had to buy my own tissues, but I work in an environment where other people besides me are using them. Stock some sanitary pads if you use those, glasses cleaner if you wear glasses.

    Decor is something that builds up over time – they have a pride event and give everone little flags, and then suddenly we all have ours up in our offices. A vendor gives you a cute magnet you slap on your flying cabinet, a community partner give you a branded fidget toy you start storing on your desk etc.

    While we are at it, make sure you know what your company comps/pays for/reimburses and what they don’t! For example, someone in your position might not know that it’s normal for companies to pay for the food at in person meetings and think you need to buy everyone snacks out of pocket (you don’t).

  41. Mouse*

    I like having a small “uh-oh” kit. Bandaids, painkillers, tampons, a tide pen, needle and thread, hair elastics, nail file, cough drops, a spare chapstick, that kind of thing. Useful for yourself, but bonus points if an exec loses a button or stains a shirt and you have just the thing to fix it!

  42. Purple Loves Snow*

    Office supplies should be stocked by your company, therefore you don’t need to bring pens, paper/note book, stapler, etc.

    For personal items, an extra cardigan or a fan, depending on how your body temp runs. I run on the hot side so always bring my fan along. I also bring in an extra phone charger and my own head phones/ear buds to drown out the routine office noises. I also bring my own (very identifiable) ceramic mug as I don’t enjoy drinking out of metal travel mugs for tea/coffee and my own water bottle/glass. I stock a handful of snacks in my drawer for the days I forget my lunch, as well as a spare set of travel cutlery. I also ensure to have a few emergency items for periods, Advil, tums, as well as a spare hair brush as I live in a very windy place, and hand sanitizer/lotions. I also keep a couple of spare sets of sock as Canadian winters can be hard on the feet. I also keep “office shoes” so that in the dead of winter I can take off my tundra boots/socks and slip on ballet flats.

  43. Amethystmoon*

    Many of these things depend on the office. I usually kept a neutral-colored cardigan to throw on during the winter if it was chilly. Some conference rooms were colder than others. A neutral-colored scarf (for women) is good in case you spill something on your top and can’t get it out. The scarf will at least hide the stain.

    They usually provide office supplies, but if the office is stingy, you might have to bring some things from home. You shouldn’t have to in this day and age, but I’ve read stories here.

    Food again it depends, some offices have rules against food. I used to keep some soup cans in my drawer because our cafeteria closed last year for COVID and we were still coming in once or twice a week to print until the end of Feb. If you have a special diet or just want some snacks, you might want to keep a few in a drawer if there are no rules against it.

    1. Oreo*

      Never thought about a spare scarf to help cover a stain but that’s such a great idea. I’m going to start doing that from now on as well.

  44. Jshaden*

    Unless you are super pick about pen type/brand, expecting your office to provide basic supplies like pens, pencils, pads of paper or basic notebooks, staplers/staples, etc is reasonable. If you absolutely must have seven different colors of a specific type of gel pen, bring those yourself.
    For the specific setup you describe, a couple small framed photos to make the space feel like “yours” should be fine. Once you get a better sense of the office culture, you’ll know if desk toys are OK.

  45. Rachel*

    I have specific pens and markers that I like to use to keep me organized – those I buy myself and keep in my desk. Also my own box of tissues in the brand that I prefer. Most other office supplies should be purchased by the company.

    Have a small plant (spider plant, very easy to maintain) and 5×8″ picture of my dogs/significant other and that’s about it for personal items.

    Also a blazer/cardigan type thing that can be used when I am cold but is also semi-professional looking in case of an un-scheduled meeting where I need to look nice.

  46. Nea*

    *looks at my office*

    Hanging on the fabric divider (from COVID):
    – hoodie for cold days
    – hanger for fall/winter coat

    On desk:
    – extra lamp (I like it very bright. Your office will tell you if you’re allowed to do that or not)
    – very small desk fan
    – insulated thermos (in place of water bottle)
    – coffee cup
    – box of tissues
    – 2 containers, one for pens and one for highlighters
    – alcohol wipes

    Inside desk:
    – spare disposable masks
    – spare ear saver (I recommend a long, thin carabiner. It doesn’t tangle my hair like the button-style ones do)
    – preferred flavored keurig cups
    – spare umbrella
    – spare Tide pen
    – spare folding cane for bad mobility days

    Underneath desk:
    – battered milk crate. Was used to carry all this stuff in, and as a footrest while I’m at the desk

    I also have my own chair, but that is a very much “ask your office first” thing. I deliberately picked a hot pink one to make sure it didn’t wander off.

  47. Scorbunny*

    As someone who’s had a kind of ridiculous track record of having their offices flood pretty badly (three catastrophic times in the middle of the workday spread across two different jobs), extra socks and shoes. You never know when you’re going to need them.

    I keep a pair of galoshes in there now and thankfully haven’t needed to use them since I got them! But it’s nice to have just in case.

  48. BluntBunny*

    My company provide office supplies, but I prefer different pens so I buy my own. Bring calculator and folder to take things home.
    Phone charger and headphones.
    Our offices have now turned into hot desks so we have a draw where we keep things, everything will have to live there or you take them home.

    I would mostly bring lunch, water bottle, milk, snacks, cardigan and hand cream.

  49. PolarVortex*

    A lot of great suggestions above.
    – Extra umbrella has been both a game changer for me, and when I haven’t needed it, it’s been a great item to loan to others when they’re stuck.
    – A bit of extra cash in case you forget your wallet/lunch/some sort of shared donate to whatever pops up.
    – Emergency meds if your office doesn’t supply aspirin or anything.
    – Anything you need to function. I need something for my hands to keep busy with, even if it’s just a clothespin. So my fidget toy is more for myself than it is for my desk but it’s there.
    – Scissors. Of course things like that are supplied by the office, but if it’s anything like mine, you’ll never be able to find them when you need them. (Conversely, get a pair of scissors from the office and hide them in your desk drawer!)
    – Extra mouse, you will forget yours at home if you’re doing flex work at all. (I forgot mine today…)
    – I am lucky enough to have a desk drawer/cubby to store things like coffee mugs, extra chapstick, etc but if you don’t have that option, I’d recommend getting a really nice looking box/storage drawer to keep things like that on your desk (makes it look more professional).

    All this being said, my work doesn’t care what we put on our desks, so I myself have a lot of items that just make me happy when I’m at my desk. Side benefit is I always know where my desk is, and it’s easy for coworkers to locate it in open concept land because they just need to look for my specific stuff. Look for what is the median in your area and play to that. It may take time to figure that out.

    I’d also like to second the person who said if you have office supply preferences, bring your own. I am very picky about the pens I use, so I bring my own. But I use work’s notepads because it’s just work notes so what do I care.

  50. Cat Person*

    On the first day, I’d just bring my essentials in a work bag before fully moving in. I keep a mug and a water bottle on my desk, plus a blanket scarf folded over the back of my chair in case I get cold. In a drawer, I leave pain relievers, snacks, tea bags, hand lotion, and a camping/utility spork for when I forget cutlery for my lunch.

    As for decor, you’ll get a feel for it once you’ve been there for a bit. If you’re like me and have a reputation as a cat person, your coworkers may start leaving cat knick-knacks on your desk until your cubicle could rival Dolores Umbridge’s office for most cat ceramics. It just happened on its own.

  51. TotesMaGoats*

    I have a drawer with:
    basic medical supplies like band aids, tylenol, benadryl etc
    basic makeup
    hairbrush and hairspray
    tampons etc

    Other things that wouldn’t hurt:
    a shawl or wrap
    basic pair of flats (as I usually wear heels, flats work for me when just running around my floor)

    A calendar that can hang helps me a ton. I’ve always used the Demotivators monthly wall calendars. People usually get a good chuckle out of it once they read the caption. I brought in my own lysol wipes and spray because we didn’t know what’d be available.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      Definitely tampons/pads. You don’t want to have to make an emergency drugstore run in that situation.

  52. Dust Bunny*

    My offices supplies Kleenex and a big pump jug of hand sanitizer, and the usual office supplies–pencils, markers, paper, staples/staplers, tape, etc. I have my own staple ripper because it’s T. rex skull but I don’t actually use it–we use spatula-type staple pullers here.

    I bring a water bottle every day; I have a jacket I leave there (office is cold); I brought my own mug and dishes because I like them better than the shareable dishes in the kitchenette, if that applies to you; I do have an office charge cord (it’s mine, I just leave it there); everything else is in my handbag–extra hair bands, safety pins, cutlery/straw/chopsticks set, whatever. I don’t usually use lotion but if you do just get an extra bottle to leave there. I also keep a couple of cans of soup or ravioli in my bottom file drawer in case I forget lunch since there aren’t many places to eat near my office.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      I also keep my office keys on a separate ring from my home keys so if I lose one I don’t lose them all. My office keys are three big brass door keys and then an ID card and key-card that I wear all the time on a lanyard. It’s just easier for me to have two less-bulky sets than one big one.

  53. jj82*

    Besides the usual suspects (mints, hand lotion, nail file, first aid supplies), I’ve had a hand mirror I got as a giveaway at a job over a decade ago in my desk ever since. Great for making sure you don’t have anything in your teeth after lunch, checking if you smudged pen on your face, etc., without having to get up and go to the bathroom to check.

  54. Gadabout*

    I’m here about 10 months and I’m up to two plants, a drawerful of low carb snacks, nail file for breaks, lotion, bottle of Advil, insulated cups (fridge with water bottles and soda is provided at my office) and special pens I like – I’m thinking I’ll bring a family phot soon and that’s it

  55. Not Tom, Just Petty*

    I have the privilege of being old and living in a place too large for me, so I have kept many things I don’t need and I have a nice locker sized cubby at my desk with shelves and a lock. I have extra tennis shoes and dress shoes I can keep at work. (Mr. Rogers knew what he was doing.)
    I recommend having universal dress shoes, no matter what, though. One day, you will be stuck.
    I keep a pair of dress pants and a top. I’ve needed both.
    A heavy cardigan. A light cardigan.
    A little footstool or foot rest. My chair is adjustable. Yay. But I can either reach the keys OR have my feet on the floor. So I have a 6″ high foot stool.
    I also have my own wrist rests for the mouse and keyboard.
    I also keep a set of flatware (I found a cool travel set) and microwave safe dish.
    Good luck!

  56. Above My Paygrade*

    My middle office drawer contains a stash of teabags and sugar packets (office has a hot water dispenser), a stash of bandaids, a travel bottle of ibuprofen, a stash of feminine hygeiene products, glasses wipes, a lint roller, a hairbrush, a little hand mirror for lipstick checks, a small tube of face sunscreen — and now, a couple of extra masks.

    My bottom office drawer contains an old but work-appropriate pair of slip-on shoes in case my feet get wet on my commute or I forget my work shoes on a snowboot day, an old sweater for when the office is freezing.

    On my desk: My mug, my nice hand sanitizer that doesn’t smell like boozy butt, and a couple of plants.

    My charger stays in my bag, in my portable charging kit (it’s a zipped pouch with an external battery and a couple of cables.

    My employer provides pens and notepads, but I have Tastes In Stationery and bring my own pen, pencil, and meeting notebook.

  57. Rocket Woman*

    My office essentials: Water bottle and mug. Snacks!! Cardigan. Hand lotion, chapstick, painkillers and antacids, hairties, clorox wipes, phone charger, headphones. I keep all of this put away in my drawers. I have a planner and pens I love that I buy on my own, but all my other supplies are office provided.

    For decorations, I have all of my textbooks from college on my shelf (I do actually use them!), some 3D printed models of parts I designed, a plant, a calendar and a few cool space pictures. I also have a lot of reference docs pinned to my corkboard to quickly grab. The wall that people can’t see when walking past has some personal photos and mission patches. I do have a lego space shuttle, but a few people in my office have cool lego sets so feel out the culture first! Good luck!

    1. Rocket Woman*

      Also, if you are a glasses wearer, a small cleaning kit is a lifesaver! Especially if your mask smudges your glasses like mine.

    2. Tiffany Aching's imaginary friend*

      I was loving everything in your comment … and then I glanced up to see your username. Yay!

  58. Meghan*

    Keep floss and a nail clipper in your desk! I don’t recommended regularly clipping nails at work, but its handy if you have a rogue broken nail or something. I also hate feeling like I need to floss and cant.

    I also recommended at least keeping a spare pair of socks. Just in case.

  59. PT*

    Re: clothes. I spent a chunk of time working in fitness, where I had a locker *full* of clothes and a dorm caddy of shower supplies and when I went to an office I figured I would not need those things. It turns out I was very, very wrong. You do need things like deodorant and a change of clothes at work. Just because you’re mostly sitting in a chair instead of running around being sporty, does not mean you won’t get dirty. Eventually, you’ll spill something or sit in something nasty or have to go crawling around on the floor looking for network cables because IT called or clean out an office that’s being repurposed, even if none of that is remotely related to your job. Or your clothes will rip, or get caught in the rain, or stuff will explode in the kitchen, or any number of silly things you never expected.

  60. Yulia*

    I hate people who have pictures on their desks in frames. It’s completely unnecessary. If you must have photos then make a desk calendar so it’s actually useful.

    I have: Mug/water bottle. Food snacks and non perishable lunch items for busy days. Period stuff. Lip balm. Jacket for when the ac is too cold. Umbrella. Hair bands. Tissues. I like desk pads to scrawl notes on so I buy myself them. Phone charger. Blue light glasses. Painkillers.

    1. Metadata minion*

      That’s weirdly judgey. The point of the pictures on my desk is so I can see and enjoy them. Since I exclusively use a digital calendar at work, the only point to making a desk calendar would be the enjoyment of turning over a new month’s picture, and then I could just as well switch up my framed pictures from time to time.

    2. Agnes*

      What on earth? What’s it to you if people have a picture displayed in a very normal way? Even offices that are on the minimalist side usually make an exception for a family photo or two.

    3. Dust Bunny*

      I mean, I hate table lamps because I think they’re a waste of table space (plus my cats will not leave them alone), but I hardcore do not care if other people do not find them to be a waste of table space and have all the table lamps all over their tables.

    4. Teapot Repair Technician*

      Strong words! I’ll join in by saying I DISPISE people who have desk calendars. Completely unnecessary. Keep your calendar on your computer or phone.

      (Joking, of course. I don’t care what other people have on their desk.)

    5. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      I think this is a good comment for OP to review and realize that 10 different people will give 12 different answers to questions of need v want and 22 different answers to like v. hate.
      In the office you will find a spectrum. There will be outliers who create mini apartments (guilty) and people who can be gone for three months and nobody realizes because they’d only had their name plates on their desks.
      OP, just keep an eye on what most people do and don’t have to get a feel for the norm. These people may tell you there is a right thing, an only thing, a never thing. When in doubt, check with your manager.

    6. Lunar Caustic*

      Bwahaha, I’m guessing you would hate me for my Florence flask with a glitter wand in it, unicorn-themed silly putty, and desk lamp made from a ground glass bottle full of fairy lights? I function best in an environment that is attractive to me and yes, I am well liked and respected at my job because I am good at it. You need better criteria for judging people.

        1. Hit my head Glass Ceiling*

          Sometimes we have the photos on our desks to remind us why we are working and putting up every day with annoying coworkers.

        2. Not Tom, Just Petty*

          Your original objection was framed pictures of family, not pictures of children specifically and your last objection was the problem of dusting around frames on the desk.
          I think this is escalated into not everyone can eat sandwiches territory.
          Seeing coworkers with wedding rings would be difficult for widow/widowers to see for 8 hours a day. Should there be an incredibly painful debate about whose loss is deserving of others’ inconvenience?
          If you don’t like crap on coworkers’ desks, you can say so. You don’t have to justify it. A fluffy pen. OK. A fluffy unicorn figure. Not OK.

        3. Bayta Darrell*

          I know what my family looks like. But when I take a quick break to rest my eyes from the computer screen, I like to look at something that makes me happy. Also, my photo frame is never a problem for the cleaners because I periodically wipe it down myself. What an odd thing to get so worked up over.

    7. Me*

      Having things for enjoyment is useful. Not everything has to have a utilitarian purpose.

      Hate is an awfully strong word for something innocuous and which doesn’t affect you in the least.

    8. S*

      What an odd thing to object to! I think people generally have office pictures of family or pets or what-have-you as conversation pieces. I can’t imagine considering such a thing unprofessional. And even when I was going through IVF, I didn’t think there was anything insensitive or weird about coworkers displaying photos of their kids.

  61. Ariel*

    Bring some figurines so you cna create new passwords easily. I like Tsum Tsum figurines, but people bring all sorts of things (Idk if anyone else uses them for password ideas, but it helps!).

  62. CarCarJabar*

    Anything that’s necessary to do your job should be provided by your employer (pens, post-its, tech accessories, task lighting, whatever). Sometimes these are stocked, and sometimes you can buy what you want and get reimbursed.

    Personal items I always keep on hand: snacks, hand lotion, lip gloss, a sweater/light jacket, a drink coaster, cell phone charger. You may also want: change for vending machines, a lint roller if you have furballs at home.

    As far as decor: I have a nicely framed professional family picture, a calendar with a grown up theme (this year is National Parks), my nicely framed diplomas and a few award plaques. Less is more in terms of decor and knick knacks. They tend to accumulate, so better to start off with the bare minimum.

    1. anonaccountant*

      When I read “grown up theme” I was definitely not imagining National Parks Glad you specified!

      1. CarCarJabar*

        Whoops! I can see why you went there but I definitely meant “not childish”. I had a coworker once who had a calendar with pictures of pooping dogs… literally… pictures of dogs pooping hanging in his office. So, yea, if you’re going to have a calendar, please choose one that’s SFW, doesn’t involve excrement and isn’t generally what you’d see hanging in a middle school locker.

        1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

          And yes, just when you thought you’d seen everything! Never would’ve gotten that in a hundred guesses.

  63. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

    A small kit of personal supplies — even if the office provides things like menstrual products, bandaids, kleenex, or ibuprofen it’s best to keep your own supply in case. Every office I’ve ever been in theoretically has those things, but they also happen to be out more often than not.
    I also keep a few semi-non-perishable snacks just in case — crackers, granola bar, trail mix, hard candies, a can of soup…
    A flashlight — I know my phone has one but I’m not one to run down the battery for something like a flashlight, and we’ve had power outages every summer.
    An office cardigan that stays at the office
    A pair of emergency walking shoes — I have the portable ballet slipper kind that fold up

  64. blink14*

    When I was full time in the office, at the beginning of the week I would bring a full week’s worth of shelf stable snacks, drinks, etc. Part of that is managing chronic illness – doing it once meant I was set up for the week, but it also really helped me during the week to know that I had snacks and drinks easily accessible. I didn’t have to think, it was just there already. We had a shared fridge between departments, so every day I would bring my lunch bag, put in a drink in it, and then put that in the fridge. This way I could identify my items, and I wasn’t taking up space all week long. We had a water filter in the kitchen space, so I used a reusable water bottle every day as well.

    Other good personal items: extra face masks, hand sanitizer, cleaning wipes (sometimes provided by companies, sometimes not), tissues (same thing, may be provided), extra medications, a small first aid kit, mints or gum. Perhaps an extra pair of shoes or a change of clothes, depending on commute type and personal habits. Most work items should be provided to you, like pens, notepads, computer equipment, etc. You may find over time that perhaps a set of headphones, or a chair cushion may be your preference to use and those items might be covered by your office, but you may have to pay for them on your own.

    And as someone who wears contacts – SO important to have an extra set on hand!

  65. anonymous73*

    It really depends on what type of space you have and how big it is. I had a lot of pictures pinned to my cube walls, but if you don’t have cube walls, maybe one or 2 framed pictures if that’s your thing and you have the space. As far as supplies, if you’re particular about things (like the kind of pen you use, etc.) I always brought my own. I also hate legal pads (I prefer spiral notebooks) so I would get those myself as well unless the office was willing to order them. I had a pencil holder, refillable water bottle, and basic necessities – like toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant (I’ve run out of the house when late and forgotten to do certain things), feminine hygiene products, Band-Aids & Neosporin (I’m clumsy LOL) and a sweater that I could leave on the back of my chair if I got cold. Depending on your dress code this may not be needed, but I didn’t like to drive in heels, so I always kept a pair of basic black dress shoes in my desk drawer in case I forgot to bring my dressy shoes (I wore tennis shoes or flip flops to and from work). I also can’t deal with fluorescent lights, so I always had them removed or unscrewed and had a table lamp on my desk (migraines). That’s all I can think of for now, but if you have the basics you’ll figure out over time what you need to make your work life easier.

    1. The Rural Juror*

      Hooks for fabric cubicle walls are some so handy! I have a few lightweight frames with an art print in them (they won’t hold anything heavy unless you use like 3…and they’re hard to level in that case). I also use them to hang binder clips holding various items. They’ve become a handy way to have notes or to-do lists for projects in plain view while still looking organized (and not taking up desktop space).

  66. Glitter Fiend*

    Basic supplies are generally provided by the company, though there is variation in what’s considered “basic”. But it’s always fine to ask about that sort of thing! If you need something that isn’t in the supply closet, go to the person who orders supplies and say something like “I need (item), is that something the company will order for me, or should I bring my own?” It’s a totally normal question.

  67. Sal*

    FLOSS. The number one thing I’m happy I keep in my desk drawer. The thing I have thanked my lucky stars for keeping in my desk drawer, the greatest number of times. Not for regular flossing, for the “why did I choose almonds for my snack, I feel like I have gravel stuck in my molars” moments.

    Otherwise, industry-specific. Lawyers often keep a full suit in their office for those surprise “the judge wants you to be in the courtroom in 10 minutes”-“but I had an office day and am wearing jeans” moments. I keep dressier pants in my desk drawer for that, and a blazer on the back of my chair. I also have three pairs of dress shoes that live under my desk for the same situation (flats, wedges, and heels).

    In a shared office, I would bring backup pads/tampons, my own tissues, deodorant, some bandaids, maybe a water bottle, and a mug. Your favorite type of pen, headphones if you use them. Phone charger is a good one. Keeping an umbrella at work is a good idea, you just have to remember to bring it *back* to work.

    In a non-shared office (or shared with a close colleague, upon agreement): decor a la wall calendar or legit art, diplomas (again, industry-specific), entire snack bin or two, kids’ art, plants, hot sauce, reusable plate/bowl/flatware, work-related books, a couple reusable bags for running errands.

  68. wingmaster*

    My company provides office supplies and there is an on-site barista, so I am good on coffee/tea.

    My essentials:
    A jacket, just in case it gets chilly
    Ibuprofen/salonpas (I also have a Back Body Buddy, which is also a great conversation starter for my co-workers)
    Desk fan
    Phone charger
    Coasters for my coffee
    And anything related to my field. I work in fabric, so I have a pick glass, shears, conversion charts to measure weight, Rolodex of business cards from mills/suppliers


  69. Krabby*

    My recommendations would be:
    – A blazer for when you have an unexpected meeting and need to elevate your business casual to business.
    – A good mug (I always find office mugs are too small and I like having one that has just enough personality to be a conversation starter – by which I mean something like, has the logo for Welcome to Nightvale on it or a really cool pattern, not that it has a raunchy saying, lol).

      1. Krabby*

        It’s the best! I have their Community Radio mug and I have gotten to know so many people in my organization who saw me with it in the kitchen and struck up a conversation about podcasts :P

  70. Lizzy Lou*

    I keep an extra pair of dress shoes and a sweater. Also, a few decorations. A vase. A fake plant. A candle. Something that says “A real person works here!” but that can easily be thrown away or boxed up quickly if you get fired.

  71. SongbirdT*

    1. Check the employee handbook and see if there are guidelines there for what you can have at your desk.
    2. Bring a few small things that you like to look at and make you feel at home. I have had small stuffies, a pic or two of my kid and dog, a small artificial plant, stuff like that in stricter environments. In more relaxed environments I also had a desk lamp with warm light (because I have headaches with cool fluorescent light)
    3. Expect them to supply basic paper, pens, highlighters, stapler, hole punch, manilla folders, etc. But most of this stuff will be bare bones. If you’re particular about office supplies, it’s normally okay to bring and use your own stuff. (I had one job where I was required to use a steno pad and format my notes in a particular way that worked for one person. That stank.).
    4. Most companies are moving toward digital tools for calendaring / planning. But if you’re a paper planner person, you’ll probably need to supply that yourself, although some companies will cover the expense. It’s okay to ask if it’s something that they can order for you! Your manager or office manager is a good place to start.
    5. I’ve never kept spare clothes, just a Tide pen, but I have known plenty of people who have. Most commonly you’ll see an extra pair of comfy shoes and a neutral cardigan or jacket for women, and an extra tie or two and a sport coat for men.
    6. Other things that are useful to have handy: a bottle of your preferred pain killer, some cough drops for when you get that annoying throat tickle out of nowhere, some plastic or reusable travel utensils, disinfectant wipes (if the office doesn’t provide) because desks get yucky with dust over time, a roll of paper towels for spills, some spare change for the vending machines (if that’s a thing in your office), lotion and lip balm, anything else that you like to have on hand that can fit in a desk drawer is generally ok.
    6. Avoid things with strong smells.

    And you don’t have to get all this together at once! When I worked in an office, it usually accumulated over time, and amounted to a file box worth of stuff that I’d need to pack out when I left.

    Congrats and good luck!

  72. Emma*

    These comments are interesting! You all take a lot more stuff to work than I ever have. :)

    I usually take a notepad (especially at a new job), and some ibuprofen in case of headaches. Recently I’ve started keeping a phone charger in my desk drawer, because my phone’s battery no longer makes it through the day.

    Any medical stuff I may need I can get from the office’s first aid kit, and if I step in a puddle, too bad!

    1. TotesMaGoats*

      I didn’t use to have all the make up/hair stuff but I’ve become the social media video person for my division and it’s helpful to have that stuff to touch up before going on camera.

  73. TheFunctionalWeirdo*

    Most of my decor was all about blocking fluorescent light and making alternate light sources.
    When I was in a cubicle, I rigged three IKEA leaves over my cube (I wasn’t the only one) and made “lamps” by wrapping copper wire fairy lights around grape vine balls and hanging them.
    When I moved into a shared office, my office mate and I agreed that the overhead light was evil and brought in floor and desk lamps for the space.
    Beyond that, I always had tea and coffee of my choice in a file cabinet drawer, spare plasticware for when my lunch delivery didn’t bring me any, hair ties, spare chargers, an ergonomic keyboard and mouse, headphones in case I forgot mine at home, and a cardigan.
    I had three monitors (one wide screen flanked by two portrait monitors) so there wasn’t much room for decor beyond that. But the lighting goes SUCH a long way in making a space more comfortable.

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Do people look at you weird for turning a monitor portrait-ways? I keep one rotated that way so that I can see the whole page in our claims software without having to scroll, but people get so confused by it, I don’t even know.

  74. DataGirl*

    Some things I have at my desk that I brought in:

    *snacks/ emergency lunches like soup packets
    *tea and K cups for coffee
    *change (for vending machines)
    *a blanket (I don’t tolerate cold well)
    *workout clothes/ shoes for the employee gym
    *a first aid kit
    *special coffee mugs
    *a plate, bowl, and 2 sets of silverware because the office kitchen is always running out of dishes
    *photos/ small decorations
    *slippers (to wear at my desk only)

    1. AliciaB*

      I second this…especially the utensils! My office never had many laying around so if you forget to bring anything when you bring lunch from home or forget to ask for some from takeout it can be tricky! Plus it’s better than using disposable.

  75. Salad Daisy*

    Don’t bring in a plant. Someone removed the inner pot of my plant from its planter, wrapped it in plastic, and turned the dirt into mud. As a joke. The plant died. I don’t work there anymore.

    1. Former Young Lady*

      That’s so mean!

      Another reason not to bring a plant: some workplaces actually don’t allow them, for pest-control or allergy reasons.

      Since this will be a shared office, it’s also worth checking in with the officemates-to-be. Are they cool with a few gnats? Allergic to anything that blooms? Willing to water on your behalf when you’re away?

      1. Ace in the Hole*

        I think this depends a lot on the type of plant, as well. A terrarium of orchids is much more likely to be a problem than a couple of small succulents.

        1. Former Young Lady*

          It also depends on the type of workplace.

          Extreme example: I used to work in a museum office. We had a lot of delicate, old, valuable artifacts in the collections. It was zero-tolerance, no exceptions. If your sweetheart sent you cut flowers on Valentine’s day, you had to meet the delivery driver outside, and take the bouquet straight to your car.

          (There were other intense pest-control rules, too — break down cardboard and immediately take it out to recycling; no food at desks; if you saw a bug anywhere in the building, you were supposed to squish it — no conscientious objectors.)

          1. Ace in the Hole*

            Very true. My job is the exact opposite… I work at a garbage dump. People literally take stuff out of the trash pile to hang on the wall in the office and no one bats an eye.

            1. Former Young Lady*

              OK, this made me grin. I’m trying to imagine what the weirdest “art installation” was!

  76. Metadata minion*

    I would recommend taking a look around your first week or so to get a sense of what type of decorations, etc. are typical for your office, but I definitely echo people’s suggestions of water bottle, phone charger, and spare over-the-counter medication. A spare pair of pants and shirt can be very handy in case of a spill or sudden structural integrity failure, ditto a sewing kit if you’re handy at sewing back on a button.

    What types of things your office will buy for you also varies unhelpfully widely and I’d recommend asking a coworker for advice if there are things you’re thinking of getting (more ergonomic keyboard, desk organizer, that kind of thing). I would recommend getting a sealed container to keep snacks in to keep away pests. (My workplace is particularly prone to mice, but it really only takes one mouse finding your granola bars before your office has a mouse problem.)

  77. Clorinda*

    Travel light the first week.
    Nice to have, once you’ve settled in: personal and med supplies; things you need for any kind of hygiene emergency (toothbrush, deodorant, etc); spare shoes (maybe).
    Decorative items: what do other people around you tend to have?
    Big no-no: anything stinky or allergenic.

    1. Krabby*

      Yes to that last one! I had someone on my floor bring in a full essential oil diffuser. Luckily someone talked to them before they got it going because I have really bad allergies and they always give me insane migraines. I do not know what possessed them to think that would have been okay in an office space.

  78. Wants Green Things*

    The most personal items I have at my desk are my pale pink organization set -paper tray, pen holder, folder stand – and my mug. Everything else was provided by my office: tape dispenser, stapler, pens, tissues, and notepads. I have binders for different projects, but those were again provided by my office. And my own mini first aid kit, even though we have a decent office kit.

    My office mates vary. One has photos of her son and a stand for her phone, but nothing else personal. Another has postcards and little tchokies from different places she’s visited. A third has practically nothing.

    Give it a week to settle in and see what others are bringing, and then bring in what works for you. But I second what so many people have said – don’t bring in anything you can’t replace.

  79. Kate Kate*

    My rule has been to never bring or accumulate more than I can take out in one paper box in case something happens (quit, fired, pandemic, etc.)

    1. allathian*

      I have lots of stuff at home but I’ve tried to go minimalist at the office, with mixed success.

      We’re casual, and I think it’s interesting to note how many people need to keep extra clothes at work to disguise any spills. If I spill something on my clothes at work, I’ll clean up as well as I can without using so much water that the shirt ends up wet, but it’ll be stained, and nobody cares. That said, I pretty much never deal with external people, and if there’s an exception, we get plenty of notice so I can at least wear clothes that are fairly new (not visibly worn) and fresh from the laundry (on normal workdays, I can easily wear a long or mid-sleeved shirt I bought 5 years ago, two days running). I wear jeans almost exclusively, and they’re less likely to rip in embarrassing places in the middle of the day than dress pants.

      I have a favorite mug and a store of instant coffee and tea bags, but luckily I can keep those in the kitchen. We do have a coffee dispenser, but the only use I’ve found for the stuff it dispenses is as a laxative.

      I do have a spare cardigan, in case the AC is on too high/heating too low, and socks in case my feet start to feel cold. I live in a temperate climate, so I have a pair of work shoes in a desk drawer. I also live in a culture where people pretty much never wear shoes at home, and I’m grossed out by the idea of wearing the same pair of shoes all day. So I have outdoor shoes and indoor shoes, summer and winter.

      My emergency bag contains ibuprofen, nail scissors (more useful than clippers because they can also be used for cutting other things), pads, tissues, band aids, sugar free mint lozenges for a fresher breath after lunch. I don’t think I’m more prone to sweating than the next person, and I’ve never yet needed to put on more antiperspirant at work. When I go back, I’ll have to remember to bring some hairbands (my hair’s grown long during the pandemic and I intend to keep it that way for now), a few spare masks for public transit, and sanitizer.

      I also have a spare charger (pink, to lower the risk of someone else taking it) and two cables, one for my own phone and the other for my work phone.

      I always bring some snacks to work. My employer doesn’t require masks indoors anymore, although those who want to can wear them, but now we can eat at our desks again.

      I did have an old photo of my son pinned on my side of our space divider at work, but not a current one. I do have photos of him on my phone that I can look at if I want.

  80. Paris Geller*

    This is weirdly one of my favorite topics. I love seeing people talk about what they keep at work and why. It’s probably why I also use to watch YouTube videos of “what’s in my purse” in the background for hours at a time. Sometimes you get new ideas of good-to-haves.

    In answer to the actual question, your workplace should provide actual supplies, but I still like to bring my own pens because I’m picky. I also recommend keeping your own mini first aid kit. Band-aids & pain relievers are must-haves. While all offices should have the band-aids and many will also have OTC meds, I still like having my own within easy reach. I also like to keep a cardigan at the office and a small fan on my desk, because temperatures in most office environments vary wildly. This will depend on your space, but at my last job I actually kept a blanket in my office because my particular area got *so* cold!

    Having a couple of easy snacks is also a good idea. I like to buy snack packs of pretzels from Sams. I enjoy them, but not so much I eat them all at once, and they’re cheap enough that I am happy to share with coworkers occasionally. I also suggest maybe keeping some actually money in quarter or dollar bills. Nothing much, just maybe $5. If you don’t want to keep it at your workplace for security reasons, I’d definitely bring some with you in your purse/backpack/whatever. If your workplace has a vending machine it’s nice to have.

    If you know how, a mini sewing kit with essentials can fix a popped button or a small rip temporarily.

  81. Storm in a teacup*

    Ooh good question. If you’ve got a lockable cabinet then you could keep some bits.
    Currently I have:
    Spare tights / socks
    Sanitary products
    Bit of make up and some toiletries- I have an Emery board, deodorant, hair tie, mirror, powder, blush and tinted lip product so if I have to polish up I can do
    Pair of heels in case
    Cardigan or shawl / pashmina (esp if you have AC)
    Snacks that don’t go out of date like a cereal bar
    Water bottle
    Posh teabags
    Spare chargers

  82. Farragut*

    Extra mask or two, or pack of disposables
    Personal hand sanitizer
    Tylenol or asprin
    Shelf-stable snacks, like crackers, peanut butter, protein bars, etc.
    Phone charger with long cable (you never know where the outlet is going to be located in relation to your desk)
    An extra notepad, for a backup
    My special pens that no one will buy for me
    Complete change of clothes for emergencies
    Small fan because I’m always hot
    Small air purifier because pandemic
    Small framed family photo, if applicable

  83. awesome3*

    This might not be relevant for you, but I have some toy trucks in my office which a lifesavers when clients bring their kids. They get pretty frequent use and are easy to clean.

  84. WonderWoman*

    I like to keep the following at my desk, but want to flag that my office is in an area where I can easily run out to a pharmacy, deli, even a department store:

    – flip flops for commuting home in the summer on rainy days
    – umbrella
    – snacks
    – cardigan (great for when it’s cold and for hiding upper body wardrobe malfunctions)
    – essential toiletries
    – lint roller
    – phone charger

  85. Elizabeth*

    I used to have my own office 5 days a week, but am now hybrid and hot-desking 2 days a week with my own oversized desk drawer at the office (locked). I keep a water bottle, phone charger, simple wrap/shawl because my office is cold, pens I like, hair elastic, mini hairbrush, umbrella. I also highly recommend a few tampons if you need them, $10-$20 cash for emergencies (like when I left my wallet at home one time), and a reusable/washable fork and spoon if you need it. My employer paid for a small wireless keyboard and mouse that stays at the office (we don’t share those) as well as a wireless headset/headphones for meetings. When I had my own office I kept 10 pairs of shoes under the desk, which I don’t need anymore. If you can spare a pair of shoes to keep at the office that would probably be helpful, though.

  86. OutofOffice*

    I have to think about what I have in my office, as it’s been so long since I’ve seen it!

    1. Office supplies – it really depends on your organization. We have really basic, meh supplies at our office, so I buy my own notebooks, pens, post-its, etc. Nothing fancy, I just prefer gel pens to stick pens, notebooks to notepads, multicolor highlighters, stuff like that. I also work for a non-profit, so if you’re at a corporation, they may be willing to order you specific items. That’s definitely something you may want to check with your colleagues.

    2. Extra clothes – I kept a cardigan/wrap (in case I got cold), a black blazer (in case I had a sudden need to look extra professional), a spare jacket, and an extra pair of comfy, office appropriate flats with me. The flats were good for when my feet hurt and if I got my shoes wet at any point.

    3. Medications/comfort – I always had some cough drops, Tylenol, chewable Pepto, small bandaids, gum, chapstick, hair brush, lotions, deodorant, cleaning supplies, etc. on hand.

    4. Snacks – Bring a couple of (non-perishable!) things you like to snack on! I usually had some salted nuts, chocolate, miso soup packs, tea, lemon juice packs, etc. on hand. Plus a water bottle and a mug, a bowl, a dish, and some reusable utensils.

    5. Decorations – It really depends on office culture! I’m in a cubicle, but have been able to decorate a lot where I am! Start with a couple of framed photos and look around to see what the norms are. I ended up with a British telephone booth cardboard cutout, desk-sized globe, bunches of photos, fake plants (real are okay where I am, but I am awful at plant care), and I can’t even remember what else!

  87. Scmill*

    Don’t bring anything you don’t want to lose. In a layoff or firing, you may not be allowed to go back to your desk.

    1. Hacker For Hire*

      Scmill’s comment is probably the best advice of all.

      OP, don’t overthink this. You don’t need to bring anything to the office, save perhaps a spare phone charger, and basic medications if e.g. you’re prone to headaches or allergies.

      You’re not really required to decorate your desk, but once you start spending a significant amount of time at the office you might want to put up some photos or a plant; it’s really up to you.

    2. Elenna*

      Or you might, for example, leave the stuff there as usual at the end of a normal Friday, then discover over the weekend that you were possibly exposed to a pandemic, and then just before your two weeks of quarantine is over your company might send everyone to WFH and you might have to leave all your stuff there for 1.5 years and counting…

      (I mostly just want my dress shoes back.)

      Okay, that’s super specific, but the point is that unexpected stuff might happen, so yeah, what Scmill said. Firings/layoffs aside, your office might close again if there’s another wave (hopefully not…) or there might be a blackout or natural disaster that might prevent you from getting to the office for a while, and someone above mentioned their office flooding.

  88. Lily of the Meadow*

    Has no one ever thought of washing out their spilled on shirt in the sink in the bathroom? That’s just me? I mean, your shirt will be wet, but it will be clean. And you can use paper towels to dry it off some. I am baffled that no one else has done this, apparently?

    1. So sleepy*

      I mean, I’ve done this, but sometimes it’s going to be weird to show up after lunch with a big wet stain on your shirt (other times it won’t matter at all). It’s why I go with a blazer, though – it can cover the unexpected and dress up almost any outfit if needed (a nice cardigan could be a good way to meet in the middle on that).

    2. Former Young Lady*

      Gently, I don’t think this is a case of everybody else missing some obvious, simple solution.

      – People don’t want to walk around in a soggy shirt, however clean.
      – Not all stains rinse out with pure water. Salad dressing, anyone?
      – Not all public washroom sinks run hot enough.
      – Not all workplace facilities allow for privacy. Many people would be uncomfortable with taking off their shirt/seeing someone else do so at the next sink over.

    3. Coenobita*

      That’s all well and good until (for example):
      – You have a fancy meeting with VIPs
      – You have to be on TV
      – The stain is blood

      It just depends!

    4. allathian*

      I’ve done it, but we have single-stall bathrooms. I pretty much never see non-employees at my office, certainly no clients, so if my shirt is slightly stained for the rest of the workday, absolutely nobody gives a shit. We’re also casual, so I never wear anything that would need dry cleaning.

  89. Applesauced*

    Lots of good ideas! I have a sweater, hand lotion, pens I like, basic toiletries, some reference books.

    I would recommend a small cosmetics bag or pencil holder for your personal items. It helps keep things organized in your drawer on on your desk and it’s easier to grab that little bag to take to the restroom rather than having to carry your toothbrush, toothpaste, lip gloss etc throughout the office.

  90. Elps*

    All good ideas in these comments! Definitely a sweater or fan, deodorant, painkillers, and a set of silverware if you’re planning to eat in the office and silverware wanders off often.

    It’s awesome that your coworkers put effort into making you feel part of the team! One way to facilitate more in-person connections is to bring pictures, knickknacks, and other small person items that you would want to talk about. For example, do you have a pet that you gush over? Bring a picture of them, and when a coworker wanders by, they’ll probably ask “is that your dog/cat/iguana?” And BAM, instant friendly convo. Pictures of family/friends, hobbies, places you love to visit, by artists you like… personal items that are easy and interesting to talk about are a super easy way to make conversation between your coworkers and get to know them.

  91. HM MM*

    Definitely start slow in bringing stuff in and aim to keep your belongings/decorations in line with what everyone else is doing. Some places it’s common to have highly personalized desk areas, others it will stand out and you probably want to hold off on “standing out” until you’re sure you have the experience to judge that and the capital to weather any minor judgement.

    For things that I usually keep at my desk:
    – a basic sweater, usually black or nuetral or what I’ve been using lately is an oversized scarf that I can hang on the back of my chair and wrap around me if cold
    – hand sanitizer in a scent/type I like
    – big bottle of hand lotion
    – a pair of black flats – comfortable shoes that will go with anything basically
    – a “personal emergency kit” – with a spare pair of underwear, mini deodorant, mini nail file, mini clear nail polish (for runs in tights), mini hair brush, couple ponytail holders, couple bobby pins and a tide pen
    – stash of otc meds (that just builds up over time) like tums, cough drops, cold & flu daytime meds (I’d do an otc pain reliever too if my company didn’t provide those)
    – an insulated water bottle (I’m picky about the temp of the water I drink)
    – a fun coffee mug (I have wonder woman right now)

    For decorating – definitely get the vibe of the place first, but some basic ideas that have worked well for me to bring a little color/personality to my space while still remaining professional:
    – I either print out black and white patterns on office paper or buy pretty origami paper and then fold into open topped boxes for office supplies (like paper clips, extra Staples, etc.). If you Google origami box instructions you’ll find tutorials and it’s super easy! I’ve never done any other origami before and they’re fairly sturdy
    – one place I had desk space so I ordered a set of those super basic u-shaped shelves (usually they come in a set of three). I flipped them upside down and they made a great little extra ledge – so I’d store my origami boxes underneath and display some knick knacks on top
    – another subtle way to bring some color/style (especially if the company vibe is very conservative/boring) – I ordered pretty, colorful push pins and then would arrange them in basic shapes on my push board. One place I did a row of purple diamonds, etc. Another place I did clear starbursts.
    – I also bought my own pretty, lined post its. It was a good way to add some color in a very conservative/boring office space environment without looking too “out there” – tacking legit notes to my push board in a neat grid looked nice
    – some places it’s cool to bring some fun knick knacks or lots of pictures (framed or hung with a push pin) to show some personality. Feel that out though. Pop Funko figurines are common some places, little (low maintenance) plants or succulents are cool in some places.

    1. quill*

      For decorating I have often doodled flowers in the corners of my whiteboard, or put up the post-its (usually of flowers or animals) that I’ve doodled while on hold with IT. At one place I had a herd of bunnies from calling IT and being on hold while someone remoted in to try and install everything I needed for half an hour every day for a week, and this became VERY popular with my coworkers, because they’d all been there.

      (Everyone cheered when it was announced we’d be replacing the one program that it took me a week of calls to get installed properly. Gotta love databases that predate Y2k.)

  92. So sleepy*

    Oh my, I hadn’t thought about this one! I don’t think there are any real rules – I always tended to do what was useful to me. Which in practice, meant reference material on my cubicle walls, a few photos of my kids, usually something humorous (but appropriate) or interesting on the “entrance” to my cubicle. Pretty much all basic office supplies are taken care of, but beyond that depends on your employer (or department) – I’ve had departments where it was standard practice to request dual monitors, and others where everyone got a passive-aggressive email from our manager because “someone” (me) requested additional pens from our admin without approval (OMG, that is still insane, for the record. And I got the pens and the dual monitors, despite the BS).

    Other than that, I usually kept a sweater (for warmth), a blazer (for unexpected meetings with upper management), indoor/dress shoes, steel-toed boots because I occasionally needed them. Emergency snacks and caffeine sources, a phone charger or spare laptop charger, if you tend to be away from your desk a lot. Things like file folders, binders, post-it notes, staplers, etc are usually handled by the employer so those only if you are really particular about what you use. The sweater is probably the most essential – offices can be surprisingly cold (mine is coldest in the summers), and it’s no fun to work if you are uncomfortable temperature-wise (I once was found wearing a neon yellow PPE fleece and a scarf in the middle of summer because I was ridiculously cold and those were the only things I could scrounge up for warmth…. photos were taken).

    1. So sleepy*

      Oh yeah, personal toiletries! I’m sure I had some floss, hair elastics, and the like, too. I also wanted to echo the comments about not bringing anything you don’t want to lose (or even anything you don’t want to drag home if you ever get sent back to WFH unexpectedly for an extended period of time) – I literally have 3 huge boxes of untouched stuff from my work desk in my dining room that I had accumulated over the last 10 years and which are never going back.

  93. Mbarr*

    If you’re going to be looking at computer screens all day, I also recommend eye drops (to ease your eyes). I also always keep packages of gum nearby – both for fresh breath and to chew when I need a pick-me-up.

  94. Lawyer Cat Lady*

    I definitely bring too much stuff to the office, but in a “prepared for anything” sort of way, so here’s my list of things; just remove the stuff that doesn’t apply to you.

    CLOTHES AND GROOMING (fits into one tote bag or backpack):
    – Suit (with shirt, appropriate undergarments, etc.)
    – One pair each neutral flats and heels
    – Business casual/casual outfit (with appropriate undergarments)
    – Warm neutral cardigan and/or big scarf/shawl
    – One set gym clothes (with appropriate undergarments) and sneakers (even if you don’t work out, if there’s any surprise physical activity, you won’t get your work clothes all hot and sweaty)
    – Travel makeup/skincare/hair set with the bare minimum needed to go from the gym to the office
    – Toothbrush/floss/toothpicks

    KITCHEN STUFF (fits in one lunch bag):
    – Plate, mug, and water bottle
    – Set of travel utensils
    – Microwave-friendly food storage container (for saving leftovers from work lunches)

    – Portable battery, phone charging cable, wall plug
    – Cheap headphones with mic
    – Umbrella
    – Extra cloth and disposable masks
    – Tampons/pads/cup

  95. Teapot Repair Technician*

    The only personal possessions that I keep in my office are a phone charger, a cup, and a bag of snacks.

    Everything else (first aid, reading glasses, pens, etc.) I keep in a shoulder bag that I carry home with me every night.

    Office-supplied items that I don’t used everyday (stapler, highlighters, tape, etc.) I return to the supply cabinet at the end of the day.

    I converted to office minimalism several months ago, and I enjoy how it helps me stay organized and decluttered.

  96. Rain in Spain*

    For me, immediate needs are:
    Water bottle
    Cleaning wipes
    Hand sanitizer

    Over time I’ve added:
    Blazer and/or dress shoes (for impt meetings, if needed for your role)
    Tea supplies for myself
    Throw blanket (I’m in my own office and frequently freeze in winter)
    Dress Shoes
    Personal photographs/art to hang (confirmed my workplace doesn’t standardize or offer art to hang)
    medicine for headache/etc.
    nail file (for breaks)
    phone charger
    set of utensils
    personal hygiene supplies (ie pads, toothbrush/paste, mouthwash, lotion)

  97. Carlie*

    I think everything’s been suggested, but my addition is that everything should be travel-sized to save on storage space in the desk. I’ve got: tiny hairbrush, floss, toothpaste/toothbrush, hand lotion, and ziploc bags with allergy med, Tylenol, Pepto tablets, Tums, Beano, and Tic-Tacs, then a few good tea bags and a nice essential oil roll-on (just to smell when I need it). That can all fit in a single travel toiletries bag. With more space, add a few favorite fidgets, mug, spare socks, compact umbrella, throw-on sweater, tiny salt/pepper/hot sauces, couple packs of ramen or soup in case of lunch emergency.

    1. L'étrangere*

      Can’t second that enough. You need a pretty full set of toiletries for emergencies, but it should be travel size. Basic first-aid is a good idea too, you want to be in good enough shape to drive home safely. Get a little pouch to enclose it all so your drawers aren’t littered with a bottom layer of bandaids, and so someone can peek in your drawers without getting the feeling that you have a drugstore fetish.

  98. HugsAreNotTolerated*

    Since you’ll be in a shared office, the # 1 thing you need is…HEADPHONES.
    Headphones to block out your officemate’s noise, to keep your noise/music to yourself, etc.

    Also, wait to bring stuff in until you see your desk configuration. Do you have a locking drawer? No drawers? Standing desk? Desk right underneath the air vent? An officemate who is super sensitive to fragrances of all types? Officemates who are allergic to something? All important things to find out before you start bringing stuff in.

    Don’t worry too much about bringing stuff with you to begin with. It’ll start to accumulate over time. Cleaning out my desk area before I left my last job was interesting. I found the oddest items and found a few things that I’d wondered where they went!

    1. L'étrangere*

      Good point, do not under any circumstances inflict your tastes in music on co-workers. But also be polite, the headphones need to be over the ear, a different color than your hair. You don’t want people wondering why you never answer when they talk to you, or having to repeat half their important announcement because you had sneaky earbuds in

  99. IT_peeps_need_love_too*

    From your friendly IT folks, please keep your desk area neat enough so we can easily get to power, network lines and hardware if we need to do work. Putting your collection of Lego dudes on your monitors has caused nothing but problem when they got knocked off while we were trying to fix a problem and we didn’t put them back in the same order. If we need to move stuff, we do try to be careful but stuff breaks. Just a thought.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      *blu-tacs her Normandy SR2 model onto the monitor*

      Gotta confess I’m probably the worst for this, and so are most of my staff (am IT manager). Although I do request that whatever they bring in isn’t too large, isn’t fragile and doesn’t start to take over the desk.

    2. L'étrangere*

      Also there will presumably be regular visits from cleaning staff. Don’t give them a choice between disturbing your collection of precious knickknacks and never cleaning your space

      1. Metadata minion*

        Do cleaning staff usually do desks in for-profit company offices? Ours just handle carpets and common surfaces, but that might be because I work at a university and we’re perpetually short of money. Staff are expected to clean their own desk as needed.

  100. AlexandrinaVictoria*

    Safety pins. Someone is always looking for one. I am diabetic and keep a glucose monitor in my desk in case my continuous sensor poops out or gets knocked off. I also keep a pill organizer with a couple of days worth of my prescription medicines in my desk….you never know.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      Seconding the safety pins! I sew at work during lunch so also have needles and a few threads available in case of dire clothes mishaps.

      I also started bringing in spare underwear (it’s in a plastic bag under my filing so it’s not visible!) and sanitary towels because…well…menopause is a git.

  101. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    I have a small hygiene bag. Deodorant, hairbrush, toothbrush, toothpaste, floss. Nail clippers in case I get a hangnail.

    If the office doesn’t have a first aid kit, I’d have imodium, painkiller, a couple bandages. Also some vitamin C tablets or powder, some early-onset cold relief, and cough drops.

    If you have space, and find yourself in a situation where you can’t run out for lunch, consider getting some shelf-stable lunches you can keep in your desk. There are some Indian meals (TastyBite is the brand name, but there are also store brands) that come in a foil pouch that are shelf-stable and don’t need to be heated. I’d eat them even if it wasn’t an emergency!

  102. Two Chairs, One to Go*

    Books can make great decorations, too! I’m talking books that you might reference from time to time or that could be an interesting conversation starter. I’d err toward field-related books at first but once you get a better feel for your office that can be your guide.

    1. quill*

      I used to keep an old chem textbook for the tables and index (and because I never managed to sell the darn thing!)

  103. LondonLady*

    Office cardigan is a must – more comfy than your smart jacket for work between meetings and a diplomatic solution to temperature wars (especially if windows are open or aircon on max for COVID reasons). Fingerless gloves if you really feel the cold. On which theme I also had a hot water bottle.

    1. LondonLady*

      – handcream, comb, tissues, plus whatever your makeup essential is (mine is lipstick, for some folk it’s mascara)
      – painkillers
      – phonecharger
      – social stationery of a generic ‘no message’/arty or floral notelet kind – invaluable for unexpected client/colleague/family events
      – postage stamps for the above
      – personal mug, office-appropriate – but not one too precious to lose

  104. Teapot Wrangler*

    A small bag of make up (concealer, mascara, lipstick, powder, toothpaste & toothbrush, comb & brush) – the kind of things you’d quickly pop on before an important meeting to look a bit more pulled together or if you are in a rush and have to get to work before you put on your make up); a suit jacket or blazer; something for warmth when the air con hates you (big cardie/shawl/hot water bottle); nice shoes; a folder or nice notepad and pen for meetings; deodorant; spare earrings; hairbands/clips; back up lunch (a cuppa soup or something that doesn’t go off); the right amount of cash for the vending machine to spit out a can of fizzy drink / chocolate bar / your vice of choice; mints. Maybe painkillers?

    If you’re particularly clumsy or prone to ruining clothes, a whole outfit isn’t a bad idea but for most people a spare pair of tights will do.

    Once you have the lie of the land, you can bring in stuff that your office don’t stock but might be useful (post its, tissues, sanitiser wipes, coffee mug, water glass etc) but they might (should) provide those so wait for a bit, and anything decorative – see what other people have and make sure you don’t overdo it.

    1. Teapot Wrangler*

      Oh and try to make use of vendor freebies if available to you! My umbrella is a vendor freebie, as is a power bank I keep in my desk.
      Definitely having a charger or two if no power bank is a good idea.
      I have some dry shampoo, extra hair clips and frizz-ease because my hair needs help but you may not need those!

      1. Teapot Wrangler*

        I keep remembering things! (And a lot of this only applies if you have a drawer or something to keep them in) but I had a spare front door key and a spare credit card in my locker at my old work – just in case I had a really bad day!!!

  105. Oxford Comma*

    I like to have some travel sized toiletries, an extra pair of shoes, phone charger, some snack food, my own water bottle.

  106. Office Lobster DJ*

    If you routinely take any meds, supplements, etc, it’s nice to have a back-up at your desk in case you forget one morning.

    Also when making your med kit, consider things you’d need ASAP when unwell, even if it’s just something to keep you in one piece until you get home. For example, not a bad idea to have something on hand for a, well, suddenly distressed GI tract.

    Pandemic advice:
    – EXTRA MASKS. The stupid elastics will snap at the worst time
    – A bag or other plan (maybe a lanyard?) for holding your mask while still keeping it handy, for when Jane swings by your desk the second you take your first sip of coffee…
    – By now, you’ll know your mask tolerance, but if you’re suddenly going to be wearing them for many more hours a day, look into some things for comfort. Personally, I’m a fan of mask brackets for long wear.

    1. Office Lobster DJ*

      Had to add, on the topic of mouthwash, Listerine Ready Tabs are odd at first, but they’re effective, easier to store than a bottle of mouthwash, and can even be used at your desk.

  107. Quickbeam*

    I always kept a bottle of hand sanitizer at my desk pre-pandemic. Offices and shared spaces can be super germy. Everyoen thought I was loopy until Covid.

  108. Ace in the Hole*

    It depends on your circumstances – for example, if you commute by car you might keep certain things in your vehicle but if you commute by train they’d live at your desk. Or you might live in a climate that requires more attention to clothing, have a job that is more/less likely to get you dirty, etc.

    Things I keep at my desk:
    – A spare sweater, rain jacket, shoes, socks, mask, and coveralls. The coveralls are mostly for emergencies… basically so I don’t have to walk home naked if my clothes are badly contaminated.
    – Phone charger
    – Planner/notebook and nice pens. Work provides basic notepads but I like fancy stationary so I bring my own
    – Several small potted plants
    – A little watering can for the plants
    – My personal mug and fork
    – Hygiene supplies: toothbrush, floss, sunscreen, bug spray, deodorant, chapstick, hairbrush, hair elastic

    You could also bring things like a little fan if you get hot or a foot warmer if you get cold, knick-knacks/photos, a personal-sized kettle or coffee maker… basically anything you want that won’t take up too much space or be too obnoxious to people working around you.

    As far as what work supplies vs what you supply: anything that’s a basic need for your job should be supplied by the employer. So stuff like notepads/pens, a webcam and headphones if you have to do video conferencing, staplers, paperclips, inbox trays, etc. However, if you want a fancy upgraded version you may need to buy it yourself. The one they provide should be functional and useable without pain, but may be boring or not to your taste. Ex: my work provides cheap ballpoints, but I like writing with gel pens so I bring my own.

  109. Jennifer Juniper*

    Things you can bring to all offices:

    1. Supplies (if your office doesn’t supply them to you or the ordering process is a pain in the ass)

    2. Food (make sure you only bring stuff you can keep in your purse/bag to prevent people from stealing it)

    3. Extra clothes (if you are expected to come to the office even in a blizzard, or if your body is capable of period emergencies)

    4. Personal hygiene items. Make sure to have extra on hand to assist menstruating people in an emergency.

    Things you can bring to most offices:

    1. Personal decorations, like family pictures, calendars, etc. (Some offices have policies prohibiting personal items at work. Check your company handbook.)

    2. Plants (unless someone is allergic). However, leave the scented things at home, as those can trigger allergies, migraines, etc.

    3. Baked goods and other treats to share with coworkers, if that is the culture at your office. This is a good way to get capital at the office and be a team player. Make sure to always have a complete ingredient list to accommodate those with allergies and other dietary restrictions.

    Things not to bring or wear

    1. Anything that has anything to do with religion, politics, or sex. That is extremely impolite and can get you in serious trouble.

    2. Anything scented. Scents can trigger allergies, migraines, etc. in vulnerable people. That includes your deodorant, shampoo, soap, and laundry detergent.

    3. Alcohol. Seriously, leave the booze at home. It can trigger those in recovery and is seen as insensitive to many religions. Also, you may have people under 21 working in the office (if you’re in the US, any drinking under age 21 is illegal).

    1. Office Lobster DJ*

      I would handle your second point “Things not to bring or wear” differently. It’s reasonable to skip perfume or anything with a super heavy fragrance until you know for sure whether scented products are a problem in your new office, but I’d consider it the responsibility of the office to disclose ahead of time if the new hire needed to go so far as to switch to a fragrance free laundry detergent, rather than it being a firm “Not.”

      1. Former Young Lady*

        Agreed. Some workplaces really do expect employees to use fragrance-free personal hygiene items and household detergents, but it’s on the workplace to make that clear at the interview stage, not on the new hire to switch to unscented products just-in-case.

        I’m also going to push back on telling people not to bring or wear “anything that has to do with religion.” I’d say it’s fair to apply that rule to office decor, generally, but what people wear is more complicated. Obviously, a t-shirt that says REPENT YE SINNERS is out of line!

        On the other hand, if someone’s wearing a Star of David necklace, or a hijab, or they have ashes on their forehead because it’s Ash Wednesday, that’s entirely appropriate in a typical office.

        1. ecnaseener*

          Absolutely re wearing religious items.
          I’m tempted to say don’t bring any non-clothing religious items, but I think it’s more like don’t DISPLAY them as decoration. If you need to bring a prayer mat or something and keep it in your bag, that should be fine.

    2. Not very sensitive*

      I think if you’ve got a hip flask with vodka in it there’s bigger issues there than what to bring to work.

      Also religious things. Why not. People have little Christmas trees at Christmas. It’s not offensive to have a faith.

      1. allathian*

        No, it’s not offensive to have a faith, just don’t proselytize at work, no matter what your faith’s stance on that is.

  110. Staja*

    In my office I have some extra shoes, snacks, a sweater and a wrap, any meds I need/want that aren’t in our first aid kit (Sudafed!), an extra mug, the tea bags I like, a few pictures, my pen holder with the pens I like and my notebook (my company provides pens and notebooks – I buy ones that I prefer).

    Everything else has organically made its way into my space (incl my under-desk elliptical)

  111. Dona Florinda*

    On top of all the ideas above, I also have an extra bag to carry that stuff around if needed: between a flood that required everyone to change offices and the sudden switch to remote work, it’s useful to have a bag of your own so you don’t have to go hunting for boxes when everyone needs them.

  112. Taylor*

    One that I haven’t seen mentioned as much that I REALLY recommend is dental floss and a toothbrush/toothpaste. I don’t normally use them but they are good for emergencies–“Hey can you join this Important Client Meeting?” “Um idk….just had an onion sandwich for lunch….”

    I also keep a few personal items (a few photos, a calendar, old birthday cards) as well as personalized supplies that I like beyond the standard stuff my office gives.

    I would also suggest a mug, plate, and utensils for office meals and a snack drawer. Stuff that seals/won’t expire. Right now I have a box of crackers, a jar of TJ’s cookie butter, and granola :)

  113. CR*

    I hate the ugly black plastic desk accessories that are standard in offices (pen cup, trays, file organizer, etc). I always bring my own because it makes my day more pleasant to look at pretty things on my desk. But this is absolutely not necessary, just something you might enjoy doing down the road!

  114. The Other Katie*

    If you’re a person what menstruates, pack a discreet pack of whatever you need to deal with that. Future you will thank you at some point.

  115. Liz*

    I’m fascinated by the comments as I’ve only ever worked in hotdesk jobs so there was very little chance to bring anything in. The only items I’ve ever brought to work and left overnight are my mug and some instant porridge sachets.

    Other people have managed to nab the odd drawer. Items I’ve seen kicking about include:

    Spare chargers
    Hand cream
    Snacks of various sorts
    Communal umbrellas
    A lint roller (ours is unicorn themed)
    Guitar picks (we have guitars in the relaxation room)
    Multiple flavours of tea
    A rock salt lamp

  116. Laura Mendez*

    I just started a new job; here is what I brought – with the caveat that I checked out some coworker’s cubicles first before I brought in anything, so I could make sure I wasn’t out of line with the company culture:
    a couple coffee mugs, my preferred tea, my preferred sweetener
    a plate and some utensils
    a tiny cutting board and knife
    some small decorations (cute keychains, some postcards, a lego minifig), printed photos of my kids, some kid-made artwork
    headphones (for my phone)
    chargers for my personal phone and headphones
    menstruation supplies (though happily my new job provides stuff for free in the bathrooms)
    some plants that will do well in the office

  117. Them Boots*

    Op: Great question! Pain killers that you prefer, pepto/immodium, a couple bandaids & alcohol wipes, head set (unless they provide), phone charger. Walking shoes if you plan to walk at lunch (preferably some footpowder to shake into them to keep smells down). A cheap collapsible umbrella and a cheap flashlight (i find if you wrap it with a circle of duct tape like a piece is broken, it gets returned.) If you wear contacts, a case & travel size saline to save them & a pair of old glasses (ie current Rx at home, second to last Rx in your office drawer to get you home). Maybe a family/close friends pic plus one of you doing something you enjoy that is appropriate for office sharing for conversation openers). If you are female: a couple backups of period products & a fresh undergarment (i keep in a makeup bag so it’s discreet for my own sensibilities), makeup remover wipes (neutrogena sells a bag of individual packets), a sample size of any makeups, plus a full tube of either lipstick or lip balm, whichever is your jam. -the makeup wipes will more often be used for coworkers than yourself, so it’s a kindness), deodorant, hosiery if you wear any. If you are male, electric razor for a quick touch up, an extra tie, deodorant, an extra undershirt, maybe a backup pair of matching socks in case its one of those mornings?

  118. Addie*

    Permanent residents in my “personal” desk drawer include snacks (granola bars, and a couple of packets of instant oatmeal, tea), a plastic bowl & cup, spoon & fork, coffee mug, contact solution, a microfiber cloth, fingerless mitts (& maybe a scarf), and a hoodie because it gets super cold in here sometimes. I also have a tiny heater tucked under my desk for winter (or maybe summer depending on who is running the thermostat). I bring my water bottle daily, along with the stuff that lives in my purse (phone charger, hygiene items, chapstick & hand cream) and my lunch.

    I don’t really have anything personal decoration-wise at my desk except for an “I love you, Mom” post-it note taped to my monitor and a coloring page from one of the kids taped to the wall next to it.

  119. The Tin Man*

    Already 200+ comments so I’m sure some are duplicates but here is what I have:

    -Mug for coffee/tea
    -Water bottle
    -Spoon/Fork/Knife for meals so you don’t have to remember to pack ones with lunch or go through disposable ones
    -Plate and/or bowl for same reason (I just have a bowl, fork, and spoon and that does well for me)
    -Personal photos (wedding, family, friends, etc).
    -This will depend on your exact setup but at a prior job I put a blind spot mirror above my desk when I was in cubicle in a higher-traffic area (my back was to the cubicle entry) so I didn’t need to wonder if the footsteps were someone coming to see me or not.

    In terms of decorations I would start conservative (maybe a family photo or two) and follow others’ leads. A nice calendar hanging up would be nice, though office usually provide basic ones or ones from the company or a vendor.

  120. Oreo*

    Loving this thread for everyone else’s ideas. I tend to bring walking clothes and walking shoes for the lunch hour so I don’t need to dirty my work clothes or walk in my (usually uncomfortable) work shoes. Extra masks for sure. Sometimes a smaller coin purse if I don’t feel like taking my whole bag or purse with me during the lunch hour or on a walk. A good pair of headphones (bring back-up wired ones if you bring in bluetooth ones or just make sure you have your charging cable with you as well). Enjoy your new space!

    1. quill*

      Oh! phone charge cable or charge brick! You never know if you’ll be allowed to charge off your computer dock USB or if that’s a security risk.

  121. Jack be Nimble*

    I’m another person who does not keep a ton at the office- it sucks when they move you and you have to haul a bunch of crap around. I also only keep things that I would be willing to never see again. You never know what might happen! So while I do have a few family pictures, they are copies and they are in dollar store frames. Stuff like that. I have hand cream and a charging cord and things like that as well, but nothing so expensive or precious that I’d be upset if my office flooded or if I got fired and was not able to collect my things or if things got stolen, etc.

    I could fit all of my personal stuff in a single copy paper box. I know this for a fact because I took everything with me when we went remote at the start of the pandemic just in case! My job said we’d only be gone two weeks, but I knew it would be longer than that. (I was thinking more like a few months- HA!) I was glad that I did not have much because they did move my office to another campus, so when I came back into the office I did not have much to move. Some of my coworkers spent an entire day packing up their offices.

  122. Midwest Manager*

    Tons of great suggestions here. Definitely cutlery and a microwave safe dish/plate. If you’re allowed to have a food stash, consider condiments (I have 2 kinds of hot sauce, Tajin, s&p, and multi packets of different mustards, self-stable mayo, ketchup, chili sauce, etc) as well as micro mac & cheese, soups, tinned pasta, etc. Sewing kit, also can opener, sharp knife (I have both a steak knife and a wicked sharp folding pocket knife for things like shipping boxes), and I have a small toolkit (tiny screwdrivers like the kind for eyeglasses, small vice grips, multi-head screwdriver, tweezers, etc) which gets borrowed a surprising amount. Flashlight, deck of cards, electric teakettle, TIDE PEN (I have never met a food I couldn’t spill on my shirt, apparently), I also keep a black cloth napkin in my desk that I’ll tuck in my shirt as a bib if I have a very messy lunch (take it home and wash as needed). I have a whole array of nostrums as well–various painkillers, tums, toothbrush/toothpaste/mouthwash/floss, benadryl, cold medicines, cough drops, band aids, eyedrops. For the 2+ yrs I had adult braces (fun!) I also had a waterpik. BUT I definitely agree with everyone else, take the bare minimum the first week or so and check out the lay of the land and what your office culture is. I also have a cardigan, small fan, lap blanket, and heating pad (uneven HVAC is legend here). Also, folks have mentioned not overwhelming your space with personal photos—a digital photo frame has been a brilliant solution for me, I have almost 1000 photos in it and they just rotate as a slideshow, or I can pick one and display it for as long as I want. Also a good conversation starter if my boss is running behind and I have to make small talk with a visitor for 5-15 mins.

    1. SaffyTaffy*

      Ditto on the heating pad. I have a cherry-pit one that get microwaved. It’s a pillow, it’s lumbar support, it Saves the Day when a colleague has a headache.

  123. Above My Paygrade*

    Two further thoughts:
    1) while your employer should provide what you need to do your job? Much like reasonable accommodations, it doesn’t have to be the equipment YOU specify, just “enough to do the job according to specs.” so if you want something different you may have to plan to provide it yourself.
    2) check policies before planning decor. The union contract at my workplace requires that you get facilities employees to hang anything on any wall, including things you provide yourself.

  124. quill*

    Day 1 or 2: a stash of your preferred beverage, and a mug to drink it from.

    Probably squirrel away a couple packs of plastic utensils, breakfast bars, and condiment packages over the next few weeks. You WILL want your own headphones for training, but they probably should not live in your desk.

    I personally have backup hair clips, my own pens bucket, and some color-coded documents tabs as well.

  125. HungryLawyer*

    Highly recommend having a small work “go bag.” When I was office-based, I had a little pouch that had Advil, Tums, mints, a nail file, bandaids, alcohol wipes, an eyeglasses cleaning cloth, a sanitary pad, hand sanitizer, and a pen. Every single one of those items came in handy at one point or another! It was small enough to keep at my desk but also easy to travel with (I used to go on a lot of customer site visits). I also recommend keeping nonperishable snacks in your desk. Cliff bars, dried fruit, oatmeal, Mio/Crystal Light water enhancers, etc. are great options.

  126. Me*

    I’m going to answer this from my jobs perspective. I work in emergency management and we want people to be prepared for emergencies at the office. So what does that mean? Well something may happen that means you have to stay at work past your normal time – so things like food, cell phone charger, medication. Or something may happen that requires you evacuate (and potentially walk some distance from your building). So that looks like a change of shoes that are comfortable for walking, possibly a change of clothes depending on weather that you might change seasonally (rain, cold, heat etc). Trust me you don’t want to be evacuating for a fire drill walking down 6 flights of stairs in dress shoes to go outside and stand in the cold snowy weather.

    1. EmmaPoet*

      I worked at a government agency as my first “proper” job and our emergency management people did a really good job of hammering this in. It didn’t hurt that we were in DC and 9/11 was still very fresh in everyone’s mind. The first day in the office, my boss told me to have a pair of shoes I could walk several miles in, because the Metro shut down for part of the day on 9/11 and the only way out was on foot or by car if you drove in, which a lot of people did not. All federal buildings closed as well, so you had throngs of people who were trying to get home at that point. He had to walk out quite a ways to get somewhere his wife could come and pick him up. We also had regular serious fire drills and such, weather notwithstanding.

      1. Me*

        That makes me happy to hear! It’s so important. It’s easy to think it will never happen to me, and the good news is statistically that’s probably very true, but if it does you’ll never be sorry you didn’t at least take basic preparedness steps.

  127. learnedthehardway*

    One thing perhaps not mentioned – have a big enough purse / backpack / carryall that you can bring most your daily needs with you. Esp. in case of “hoteling”. As a self-employed person whose office used to sometimes be my car, I had a satchel or purse that I could fit all my personal stuff in, plus a computer bag for my “office stuff”. Get something with good organization, too, so you can find your keys/phone/snack when you want it.

  128. LaBelleFleur*

    A lot of the stuff I keep in my desk has already been mentioned, but one thing I keep in my desk that has come in handy more than once: a $20 bill.

    Not as important now that e-transfer is a thing, but I still keep it in case a co-worker brings back lunch for everyone, a collection’s going around, to buy a chocolate bar from the office stash, etc. I keep it hidden in the back of a box of feminine hygiene products for safekeeping.

  129. Ginger Baker*

    I am sure I have a lot of overlap with others, but here is what I keep in a drawer in my desk (with a few items that live in other places, like under my desk for shoes):
    – toiletries and sundries including the following[note, most items on this list, depending on how often you travel, I have had great success keeping in a small bag that I can grab as my travel toiletries and sundries go-bag and it’s always packed so: perfect; when I traveled more I duplicated this into a specific travel one as well]
    *long list: floss, a toothbrush and toothpaste, a glasses-cleaning cloth, contact lens solution and a case, spare contact lenses, nail clippers and nail file, lip balm, lotion, deodorant, a static cling spray, a lint roller, a tiny sewing kit and safety pins, a nail polish or two and remover and cotton balls for emergencies, hair brush and comb, some hair accessories and hair ties, some random earrings, usually a lipstick or two, a small mirror, an extra charger (separate from the one that lives on my desk) and a spare travel battery block, some condoms (because I do use this for travel too or you might have an unexpected date that evening you didn’t plan for and well, I like to be prepared), some tampons (even though I usually have a menstrual cup but, preparation is key), *an extra set of pills if you have Daily Pills, a little bit of cash, sometimes a set of earplugs (in case travel), tweezers (multipurpose really)

    – usually an extra lotion regular size for my desk because I need it often
    -a coffee mug and a water glass [I like a very heavy one so I don’t feel like I will knock it over; other people prefer a bottle] plus a large and a small regular ceramic plate and a bowl and a set of flatware [I am a Fancy Bitch, ok?]
    – a blazer (dresses anything up) and some sort of wrap for warmth (being a Very Cold Person, mine is huge and like a blanket-shawl)
    – a hot water bottle, a tennis ball (for self-massage if needed), a bottle of advil, some tiger balm, an ice pack bag, an ace bandage, a few band-aids [all super helpful for various pain issues; I am giving serious thought to keeping an acupressure mat at my desk also because they are cheap enough a I have no idea how they work but they are like magic for me)
    – an extra set of clothes (regular wear), a Fancy Dress and spare pantyhose, an extra set of clothes (Very Business) [I keep these mainly in case I have a sudden need to change into more formal clothes *or* if I want to be able to stay somewhere not-my-home last-minute (in the…Before Times…this happened a lot for me…so including socks and undergarments)
    – one or two pair of Office Shoes
    – extra phone charger (and other chargers as needed)
    – an umbrella or two and an extra set of gloves and scarf if you Experience Winter
    – a couple of empty tote bags or grocery bags or plastic bags
    – some candy to offer out
    – sometimes snacks for me (depending on what is generally available in or around the office)
    – a fidget cube or similar if that is helpful to you
    – headphones if the office doesn’t offer (I used to get inexpensive wired ones and just cut one off to make a single-ear because at the time in my role having Headphones Capital H would be an issue)

      1. Ginger Baker*

        I basically duplicated this but on a larger scale (plus MANY MANY SNACKS AND DRINKS) for a trial (including Tide Pens which I am surprised I forgot) so you aren’t the first lawyer to appreciate :D (none of them hungry, because trial teams, like armies, run on their stomachs!)

  130. Pobody’s Nerfect*

    Invest in a good quality air purifier with HEPA filter for your work area/desk. Clean air will be the most important work accessory that everyone deserves as offices are opening back up while a pandemic is still happening, especially if most employers won’t spend the time or money to make building HVAC/ventilation improvements on their own.

  131. Stepped on a Lego*

    I am sure I am duplicating what is said above, but here is mine:
    I had (had, ha! still have it but haven’t seen it since March 2020, wonder what it looks like) a small cubicle, about 6×8 feet with 6 foot high walls.
    Rule #1: Don’t bring anything worth ANY VALUE. People have had bananas taken off their desks, mugs their kids made, etc.
    Food and snacks: I like to have tea and honey, especially in winter, and coffee pods for the Keurig (work provides nothing fun, we had to buy the machine ourselves). Extra dishes and silverware for lunch, microwave safe. Extra water bottle and coffee mug. Again, old or cheap in case they walk off. If you like filtered water, some bring in a Brita/Pur pitcher; we also have a water cooler, but we pay for that ourselves.
    Clothing: have an extra layer for warmth, like a cardigan or shawl/wrap. I sit right under the vent and we aren’t allowed to alter vents in any way. Umbrella – always manages to rain at the end of the work day, doesn’t it? And like some others, I keep my work shoes at work and commute in comfy sneakers (work shoes fit in a drawer, have about 3 pair?).
    Other: any small items you may need, ibuprofen, extra set of meds, lipstick, nail file, ponytail holders, bandages, lotion, lip balm, phone charger, etc. Toothbrush if that’s your thing?
    Supplies: work provided the supplies, so I don’t need to bring in anything, unless you want something special, but remember Rule #1!
    Decorating: I decorated the cube walls with my kids artwork from school because I felt bad throwing that out, but I also don’t have space to save or display at home? So it gave conversational items for people when they stopped by, and also was constantly rotating. Also, my cube is small, so I don’t keep things on my desk area, just my laptop, monitor, and pen holder. I keep it minimal. And we aren’t allowed to have space heaters and only fans that are battery powered, so check on those before you bring them. Also a desk lamp if you want extra light. If I brought in a plant, it would be a snake plant – they thrive on low light and very little water.
    I would also recommend an evaluation by the ergonomics person, if possible? They will really help if you need a better chair, new monitor, raise or lower your desk, etc. Really helped my work comfort.

  132. Civil Lady*

    I keep a candy bowl, non-perishable snacks, water flavoring packs, my favorite coffee creamer, first aid with Tylenol and a travel sewing kit with extra buttons at work.

    As one of the few female engineers in our office having the sewing kit and Tylenol always gets me extra friends and I don’t mind being owed favors!

  133. PseudoMona*

    I’m sitting at my desk right now, here’s the breakdown of what I have brought in vs. what the company has provided.

    All office supplies and pair of wireless headphones are from the company.

    I like to be prepared, so I’ve brought in: extra shoes (sometimes will bring in extra clothing especially if it’s summer and I’m biking in the heat); pain meds; hair brush; toothbrush/paste/mouthwash/floss/mints; deodorant; lip balm; hand lotion; reusable mug/water bottle/utensils/napkin; extra ear phones and extra charger cables; extra masks.

    Then I have a few knick knacks/decorations. My pen holder is my own special one, and I have a funny magnet and some artwork from my honorary niece.

  134. Meg*

    ooohh this is my jam! Here’s what I keep, and would adjust depending on space.
    some kind of opaque zipper bag/pouch with:
    -hair ties
    -lint roller
    -anti-static spray
    -pain killers/any OTC meds
    -nail file
    -shout wipes (I think work better than tide pens)
    -hand lotion

    then also
    -some shelf stable snacks/backup microwave meals
    -water cup/bottle and coffee cup that live at work
    -phone charger
    -backup headphones (wired for my work computer, and also as a backup incase my wireless die before my commute)
    -extra lipstick
    -change of workout clothes (my building has a gym, so liked having that option in the beforetimes)
    -I’ll probably have some backup masks too when we go back

    and also so many pairs of shoes lol. I live in a city and commute by public transportation, so I kept both heels and flats in the office and commuted in comfy supportive shoes.

    I do have one framed picture on my desk, and one or two other tacked to my bulletin board. I was lighter on decorations, especially bigger ones. I had a plant, but I’m not sure I’m going to bring another one in when we go back. I loved having it there, but somehow it feels more precarious now that we may end up having to go remote again (even though I know that’s not totally logical). Most of this stuff I brought in slowly piece by piece, and especially after I realized I needed or wanted something and didn’t have it.

  135. Sasha Blause*

    My desk is basically the office Walgreens:
    Emergency sewing kit (empty altoids tin containing itty-bitty scissors, needle, and 3-4 common colors of thread)
    Safety (enteric) aspirin
    Adhesive bandages and ointment
    Cotton swabs
    Tide stick (or similar remove-lunch-from-clothing-while-wearing-it product)
    Hair ties, claws, and bobby pins
    Tampons in 3 strengths
    Homemade alcohol wipes (cut paper towels, douse in 70% rubbing alcohol, store in zipper baggy)
    Nutrition bars
    A few plastic eating utensils, mostly scavenged
    Hand lotion
    Breath mints
    Emergency nail clipper
    Oversized swag polo shirt and thick black leggings (in case of wardrobe emergency; the leggings fit reliably even when my weight fluctuates & the polo is a men’s tent size… schlubby af but modest enough in a pinch)

  136. Spaceball One*

    Spare medications and phone charger were the most important for me when I worked in the office. I had antacid (tablets and Tums), two or three different over-the-counter types of pain meds, allergy meds, all in a desk drawer. I just hated to work through discomfort so I tried to have all the meds I might need handy, and then if anyone else asked for something I could help them out, too. If you are a contact-lens wearer, a travel-sized bottle of solution can be helpful too. But if you do bring these types of items in, use the original packaging so you can keep an eye on expiration dates.

    I also kept a box of frozen, steamable edamame in the office freezer, and kept salt, pepper, and garlic powder at my desk so I could season my beans after I steamed them in the microwave. :)

    Finally, I hate to say this, but don’t bring anything into the office that has a lot of financial or sentimental value. Things sometimes walk away.

    1. OyHiOh*

      My boss is probably close to 2 decades older than me. Has not learned to keep an office self care kit in his desk. He regularly hits me up for pain meds or a spare phone charger (although he does remember to bring the spare charging cable *back* to my office so clearly parts of his brain are functioning!)

  137. Former Young Lady*

    If you are addicted to caffeine (as many of us proudly are), make sure you bring your own caffeine supply on Day 1!

    Once in a blue moon you’ll find yourself in the odd workplace that doesn’t provide it, or where no one else drinks it, or where the Keurig happens to be out-of-order your first week.

  138. Merci Dee*

    So many great ideas from everyone above! I’ve picked up a list of a couple of extra things I need to bring in. :)

    I currently have cushions to help make my desk chair a little more comfortable for extended sitting, as well as a soft foam footrest under my desk.

    About the cardigans or jackets . . . my company provides “teamwear” to its employees, and a jacket of some kind is always included in the new-hire packets of polo shirts. Since the company provides jackets of different types/weights to employees, those are the only jackets that we can wear inside the buildings since we also have to wear company-branded polos during working hours. We can wear our own coats/jackets on the way in to work if we wish, but we have to take those off when we get to our desks and replace them with company cardigans/sweaters/windbreakers/etc. for the rest of the work day. Be aware of this possibility, if your company requires you to wear teamwear in the office.

  139. Kaden Lee*

    I keep an extra phone charger, basic hygiene equipment (nail file, pads, and extra hair ties), some flavored syrups for coffee, and one or two snacks in case hunger strikes on a day I can’t get away from my desk. Otherwise, I have my own pen cup I use (but the company provided a pen cup along with pens and pencils) and a water bottle and coffee cup for office use that I bring home regularly to wash. I’m in a cubicle so I have some ultra basic decor (a couple of small inoffensive art prints and a bi pride flag because my company is really inclusive in that regard). One of my coworkers had a full set of bobble heads at his desk and a mini drum kit, but that’s more of a side effect of being a tech company in Austin. Other coworkers have small posters, snacks, or other inoffensive decor like a salt lamp or a sand garden.

    1. Kaden Lee*

      Oh! And a couple backup Keurig cups – we have a massive coffee machine but every now and then it breaks down and we use a Keurig as a backup. Your mileage may vary here.

    2. Rainy*

      Oh yes, I also keep a nail file and buffing blocks in my desk. Nothing worse than a hangnail or torn nail or ripping cuticle at work and no way to fix it.

  140. Rainy*

    Disclaimers: I have a full office, to myself, with plenty of cabinet space.

    Stuff I’ve obtained from supplies: second screen and various cables, scissors (use them all the time), pens and markers, tissues, ruler, fan, etc.

    Stuff I’ve brought in to make my work life easier: laptop riser, ring light, phone charger, block socket for phone charger cable, magnetic paper clip dish, little paper-stander-upper I’ve had since university, cute pots for my pens and markers.

    Stuff I’ve brought in that makes life easier in general: hair ties, tiny makeup kit with brushes, chopsticks (work for everything but soup, pretty much so make excellent backups to have in your desk), teamugs, tea strainer, specialty tea, peppermint gum (because coffee/tea), snacks, bandages, allergy pills, more snacks, sweater, plants.

  141. Red*

    What to bring and put out depends on the company culture so I’d wait and see what others do/have done before going all out, but in general whenever I switch jobs I have a few core things I like to put up. I also hate having things in my physical space so I really limit what I have to pictures on my cork board and a couple paper crafts under my computer monitor. I also have a personalized coffee mug so I know it’s mine. Everything I have though could be easily removed in under a half hour if necessary.
    (For my job I have a periodic table of excel keyboard shortcuts and a visual guide to choosing chart types that’s followed me around to every job I’ve had for the last 9 years. I also have a Tardis and companion cube paper craft on my desk. I have post cards of paris, my son, and some SFW fanart I made. I also have a calendar I made with SFW fanart I like from my favorite shows, movies, games, etc. I also change out for each holiday a few elements here and there, like the fanart is themed, I put up a little tree for Christmas, etc lol)

    1. Red*

      Oh yeah! And seconding every other commenter here: GET A CHARGER SPECIFICALLY FOR THE OFFICE.
      Nothing worse then the phone dying mid day cause you left your cord at home.

  142. I'm just here for the cats*

    Congrats on the job and the office! I know if can be a bit overwhelming, I felt that way my first day at my job.

    I know you say that people are just getting settled in themselves so I would just be slow to bring anything to outrageous. my go-to’s are
    * pens that I really like that I horde away from others
    *an extra sweater in case its cold and/or a blazer or jacket incase I have a meeting that I want to look a little more polished for.
    *small pictures of something that makes you happy. I have a calendar that has cats on it and a poem that a former coworker gave me that is special to me.
    * a coffee mug and a water bottle.
    * Lotion and hand sanitizer
    * snacks
    * because I live in the north I also keep a pair of shoes in my drawer so that I can change from snow boots to regular shoes. Just be mindful that if you have stinky feet (which some people cant help but can be extremely irritating to others) that you put some sort of deodorizers in the shoes They have nice little ball ones that seem to work well.

    I wouldn’t start bringing any plants or lights or big decorations into your office until you see what others are bringing in. Since you are sharing an office I would check with your office mates first about anything that has a smell, like a essential oil diffuser

    If it’s warm in the office maybe a small desktop fan (really small, like the ones that are only 3-4 inches across, not a big fan you would use in your bedroom.) But be mindful of noise level and that it is directed at you.

    The biggest thing is to be mindful of the others in your space or who may come into your space. Also keep in mind that some places are very weird about offices and want things to be mild and look the same (all the same tan walls, etc) . You can always start off small and bring in more bigger things later.

  143. Sparkles McFadden*

    Sorry this is so long! It’s probably redundant too since I took so long to write it.

    Depending on your building, there may be rules around what you can and cannot bring. My building would forbid portable heaters for electrical and safety concerns. Small refrigerators had to be approved and maintained by staff. In most places you cannot control the temperature, Even if employees have access to a thermostat, you’ll want to stay out of the thermostat wars!

    Label what you can. Don’t bring anything you won’t mind losing if someone takes it. Every office has thieves who think it’s fine to just walk off with something they like (“Oh, I didn’t know you were using that nice fan that has your name in indelible marker on it.”)

    With that in mind, here’s my list:
    – Sweater/light jacket
    – Scarf (for A/C drafts
    – Emergency raincoat/umbrella
    – Emergency change of clothes for spills, accidents, rain-soaked socks etc. Nothing special – just something to throw on while things dry or to run out and get a replacement shirt.
    – Tide pen
    – An old pair of eyeglasses since I’d be blind as a bat if something happened to my current glasses.
    – Feminine hygiene products (I even kept these post-menopause for other people)
    – First aid supplies. Even if there’s usually a kit, it’s never kept up. Band-aids and neosporin, alcohol wipes and I kept aspirin, Tylenol and Advil. Saline eye drops if your building is dry.
    – Phone charger (lock this up for sure)
    – Basic cutlery (I also kept a small plate and a bowl)
    – A mug and water bottle
    – Tea if you’re tea drinker. I would also keep hot chocolate packets around. Coffee drinkers are usually covered but often coworkers will chip in for a better coffee maker.
    – Snacks – granola, protein bars, nuts (if no one nearby has a nut allergy)
    – Tissues (My office had boxes but they were often scarce)
    – Clorox wipes
    – Ziploc bags (If you have them, you will use them)
    – A tote bag or two
    – Small desk fan
    – Earbuds/headphones

    Over time you’ll see what else you need. I brought my own small notepads because I didn’t want to use the larger notepads the company supplied. I kept a small toolkit which included computer tools, and I had a cake knife, cake server, birthday candles, paper plates and napkins for any celebrations.

    Last caveat – Don’t keep more than your tote bags can hold because you never know what the future may bring. When I quit my post-retirement job (long story), I was happy I could just throw everything in my tote bags and walk out.

  144. Fabulous*

    When I was still working in the office I brought:

    Phone charger
    Travel coffee mug
    Large water cup with straw/lid
    Sweater for when it’s cold
    Small desk fan for when it’s hot
    Nail clippers
    Pictures/decorations to hang on cubicle wall
    “Blood bag” – tampons, pads, bandaids, motrin, extra makeup and hairties, etc.
    Hand cream
    Box or two of oatmeal or other breakfast food I like

  145. EmmaPoet*

    I have a small cabinet to store things in my shared office, and I keep the following-
    *shelf-stable food in case I forget my lunch/we have a weather event that strands us at the office overnight (this has been an issue in the past at other jobs). This includes things like smoked oysters/crackers/tuna lunch packs/dried fruit/bottle of Ensure/Gatorade/canned soup/bag of unsalted nuts.
    *any medications I take regularly, at least three days worth so if I miss my morning meds I’m OK for the rest of the day. Also pain meds because life happens. Ditto first aid supplies.
    *period supplies because Shark Week doesn’t always give warnings ahead of time.
    *set of backup clothing because weather and other issues (and because I started my career not long after 9/11 and want to be prepared to have to walk home from my office in an emergency.)
    *backup cardigan/shawl/blanket because it gets cold in the office.
    *hand lotion/deodorant/lip balm/toothbrush and paste/comb/other toiletries I might need if we do get stuck and will need during the course of everyday work life.
    *backup umbrella and sunscreen.
    *small cash stash just in case I forget my wallet.
    *small sewing kit.
    *mug/silverware/plate/tupperware of my own that I wash after using, so I’m able to make whatever I want for mealtimes and don’t have to depend on luck.
    *spare earrings in case I forget mine on a day when I’m hurried.
    *iPad and phone chargers.
    *bottled water and a small Brita pitcher I refill each day so I’ve got fresh.
    *tea of choice and honey.
    *mints and emergency chocolate- after being screamed at/cursed at by a member of the public, it helps to have some dark chocolate around to nibble.
    *extra disposable masks and gloves- I don’t need the latter often but when I do, I really do. I normally wear a cloth mask with filter, but if it gets wet or contaminated, I want to have something to change to.

    There’s probably more I’ve forgotten.

  146. Alex*

    Back when I worked in an office, I kept a sweater, warm slippers (MY OFFICE WAS FREEZING), oatmeal packets and maybe a couple other snacks, tea, honey, a coffee mug, cutlery and my own bowl. My office did supply dishes but there were never any in the kitchen when you were looking for one so I just kept my own at my desk for my lunches. Also had some hand lotion, advil, antacids, lozenges, etc.

  147. Long Time Listener*

    This super depends on your office’s supply/IT culture, but sometimes you can just ask for extra charging cables (e.g. I had a Macbook as my work computer and just asked for extra lightning and later USB-c cables to keep devices charged… they couldn’t tell if it was for a work peripheral like a wireless mouse/keyboard vs my personal phone).

    I always kept a spare shirt and pants in my file cabinet bottom drawer. We had a casual workplace so the pants were just jeans and the shirt was a company logo shirt. I also kept travel deoderant in my top drawer, along with a pack of those floss/pick things. I didn’t need them often, but when I needed them, I NEEDED THEM. I also have horribly brittle nails so I kept a pair of clippers to fix breaks so I didn’t snag on my jaggedy nails. I have no tolerance for that. And to add, I didn’t clip at my desk, I’d take them into the bathroom and snip into the trash bin there.

    Things my office stocked in bathrooms or easily-accessible first aid kits that yours may not (and you might want to keep a small stash for yourself):
    – OTC pain medication (acetaminophen, ibuprofen, aspirin, naproxen, whatever you prefer)
    – Bandaids (papercuts! Or if you have bad habits like me and pick at dry skin…) + neosporin or similar
    – Feminine hygeine products of your choice
    – Tums or similar
    – Hand lotion
    – Tweezers! I have a single spiky chin hair and sometimes I notice it in the office and have to just… GET RID OF IT IMMEDIATELY.

    Nice-to-haves: Lint roller, blue light glasses, tchotckes

    Also consider: spare masks. My office has been closed since March 2020 with still no sign of opening sooner than next spring, but even when I’m out and about running errands, sometimes I just need to switch masks because mine has become so humid or damp and I need a fresh one. Or maybe I sneeze into it and… ew.

  148. Ann Perkins Knope*

    In terms of decoration, you can’t go wrong using stuff you get at work – avoids the bringing anything sentimental/can’t afford to lose, and always appropriate, and creates kind of warm friendly in-jokes – I got a hand-me-down framed print that a coworker called it their “window” but then they got an office with a window and didn’t need it anymore, I complimented a coworker on a print they had up and they printed me out one of my own, someone pulled a calendar page from a free calendar that said “You’re doing Elephantastic, blank [filled in with our group]”. Or posters or squeezy toys or other things you pick up at conferences (I’m aware I sound ridiculous, but it’ll probably happen again), honestly, even contact lists or maps from references you use often – an office is much less the college decorating vibe of “You must understand how important this movie/band/etc is to me” and much more, “well, might as well pin this up on the ol corkboard, sure will be handy not to have to look this up when I need it”

  149. sara*

    I used to keep:
    – office shoes
    – large scarf/blanket (for when it was cold or for sitting on outside in the summer)
    – tampons
    – headache pills
    – lip balm
    – sunscreen
    – hand lotion
    – deodorant
    – phone charger
    – spare headphones
    – stain remover pen
    – water bottle
    – insulated coffee cup
    Everything other than the scarf, shoes, water bottle, and coffee cup fit into a storage box (cute but bland one from Ikea) that sat under my monitor stand (no drawers…). A lot of the things I kept in that box were “purse” things, but it was nice to not use up my purse supplies at work. And then because we had no drawers, I also kept pens/notepads/etc that came from the shared office supplies.

    Because I was just in a desk with no walls, I didn’t have any decorations other than I guess laptop stickers…

  150. Gnome*

    For supplies, I always ask where they are kept and see what’s on hand. One office had ibuprofen in bulk, one had band-aids… some had notepads, few have had reasonable pens… so I see what’s there first in terms of supplies. And bring anything myself that I’m picky about (pens).

    I just brought my stuff home (new position), so here is what I had:
    -spare pantyhose, top, and bottom (neutral colors and matching)
    – allergy medicine
    – ibuprofen
    – floss
    -nail clippers
    – fine point dry erase markers
    -my preferred notebooks
    -spare snacks
    -some of my kids’ artwork

  151. Sleepless*

    I keep a FULL change of clothes in my car because my job occasionally gets spectacularly messy. :-) Deodorant, lots of the pens I like, a tiny notebook full of references for things I get tired of looking up, copies of certifications, snacks, Advil, hand lotion. A couple of cans of soup in case I can’t get away at all for lunch and I didn’t bring anything. Plants and breakable framed photos are generally more trouble than they’re worth, but loose photos or magnets might make sense depending on your space.

    1. Bayta Darrell*

      So there are a lot of comments and I may have missed it but I don’t recall seeing anyone suggest chopsticks! I use them for messy snacks like cheese puffs or popcorn, so I can eat them at my desk but still have clean hands.

      1. Elenna*

        Oooh I’ve never considered using chopsticks for cheese puffs! Might do that even when not at the office.

  152. Laura*

    – insulated water bottle like a yeti or hydro flask
    – tampons, tissues, ibuprofen, hand sanitizer, a nail file (for emergencies), hair ties, napkins if you eat at your desk, lip balm, and hand lotion
    – snacks (granola bars, dried fruit and nuts, I love a good clementine since they’re hydrating and smell good), gum, anything you like to put in coffee
    – bring at least one notebook and a pen, but any other office supplies they will most likely supply for you or you can ask for

  153. ggg*

    I would honestly bring nothing, except maybe pen, notebook, coffee cup and lunch.

    I spent 15 years in an office. That is a long time to accumulate office things. After a few months working from home, I realized I need none of that stuff. Now that I’m back, the only things I leave at work are a few pens and a coffee cup. My computer, phone, and notebook, which are what I actually need to do my job, travel back and forth with me every day.

    I see the logic of having some of the other things people have mentioned (snacks, aspirin, tampons, etc.) but I personally just keep that kind of thing in my everyday bag rather than in a desk drawer.

  154. The Mom Friend*

    Here’s what I kept in the office…but it’s worth noting that my role was client-facing, I like to be overprepared for every situation, and I had both a locker as well as a cabinet under my desk that I didn’t really need for work files.

    – office shoes that I’d change out seasonally
    – scarf or sweater (I also had a shared space heater with my office mates)
    – tampons
    – tylenol/advil
    – hand lotion
    – deodorant
    – phone charger
    – spare headphones
    – stain remover pen
    – umbrella
    – travel size downy wrinkle release spray
    – travel size hair spray, dry shampoo, brush, and hair ties
    – travel kit from my dentist office with toothpaste, toothbrush, and floss
    – lint roller
    – eye drops
    – nail file
    – a few spare bags in case I needed to bring something home or run an errand (my city charges for store provided bags)

    1. Liz Lemon 2*

      Thank you! I searched through the comments to see if anyone else had my suggestion of bringing the sample size toothbrush, toothpaste, and floss from the dentist to keep at your desk. I do this and almost never end up needing it, but I did today!

  155. PurpleHeartRed*

    As for decor, a small framed picture or two of friends and family. Just make sure they’re “nice”, no drunken pics! If you have some sort of token with a story to it. I kept a railroad spike to remind me that I have it better than many, which started many conversations. I always kept a little makeup bag with a travel lint roller, clear nail polish (to stop runs back in the pantyhose days), a nail file to make a quick fix if you break one, blotting papers, and a travel toothbrush/ paste. Most importantly, a selection of safety pins. They can rescue any number of wardrobe malfunctions.

  156. mc*

    Tylenol, toothbrush & floss, tampons, band aids, hand lotion, nail file, box of kleenex, several bottles of water, phone charger, and a my own coffee cup are essentials. For my desktop, I go minimal: one fake plant plus maybe one family photo in a frame. Later, I might bring in a space heater for under my desk, a fleece jacket or extra sweater for cold days, and a larger computer monitor if the company doesn’t provide one. I used to keep multiple pairs of work shoes under my desk but then I got too old and I just gave up on wearing uncomfortable shoes at any time.

  157. Love to WFH*

    When you’re taking the bus to work, you want to be prepared for bad weather heading home. We once had an unexpected snowstorm in the afternoon, and the roads were a mess. Fortunately, I’d worn study shoes that day, and I just walked the 4 miles home. When I bought new snow boots, I put my old pair in my locker at work, just in case.

    I also put in an umbrella and gloves.

    At this point, I haven’t seen the contents of my locker since March 9th, 2020.

  158. WantonSeedStitch*

    Some things I have liked having in the office:

    – pictures of loved ones, both human and animal
    – an easy-care, allergy-friendly potted plant like a jade plant (bring a watering can)
    – some kind of art, maybe in the form of a wall calendar so it changes monthly (make sure it’s work-friendly)
    – I would be careful about bringing in a LOT of personalization stuff (e.g., desk toys, stuffed animals, etc.), as this is frowned on in some workplaces. Look to see what other folks in the office have, and take your cue from them. It’s better to start out simpler and more professional as a rule.

    Useful stuff:
    – Umbrella! You never know when that day with only a 10% chance of rain will surprise you right in time for the commute home.
    – Snacks. Shelf-stable, wrapped stuff you can keep in your desk without causing pest problems
    – Water bottle or cup, maybe a coffee/tea cup as well
    – First aid supplies like Advil/Tylenol/whatever you take for a headache, band-aids, antacids
    – A notebook and pen you really like (workplaces often provide these, but you may not like the ones they have)
    – Phone charger cable
    – Personal care supplies like hand cream, lip balm, menstrual products if you use them, a brush or comb, mouthwash, nail file
    – Extra masks are probably important these days
    – Wrap or cardigan in a neutral color that you can throw on if it’s over-air conditioned
    – I would probably avoid bringing TOO much else to start with, until you see what is available in your office. For example, my office has a kitchen with dishes and dish soap at the sink, a coffee maker and various kinds of coffee, etc., so there isn’t any need for me to bring my own dishes or coffee supply. I WOULD check before you go (ask the person who hired you!) if the office has a refrigerator you can use for your lunch, and a microwave.

  159. Millie Waddams*

    If you have any preferred office supplies you’ve been using at home, be it your favorite kind of pens/notes or a special paper rack, bring those. Charger and cable for your device. Tissues and hand sanitizer if you want to have them at your own desk (your office may have them sitting out in high-traffic areas). Comfort items like lip balms, hand lotion, Advil/Tylenol/whatever, hair ties/pins, menstrual supplies. Water bottle. An extra mask or two (but your office may supply these).

    As far as decor, for your individual desk, I’d keep it to a fake plant and a photo or two, maybe some other cute small tchotchke as long as it’s work appropriate (I have “the” red stapler).

    And by all means, if you have the space for a snack drawer, DOOOOO ITTTTTT. Coordinate with your coworkers.

  160. Llama face!*

    I also work hybrid and I keep the folowing at the office:
    A work sweater
    A makeup bag containing a wide tooth comb, deodorant, allergy pills, feminine products, hand lotion, nail clippers, gum, and pain meds. If it weren’t COVID I’d also have a travel toothbrush and toothpaste but I don’t have a safe airflow place to brush teeth so I don’t do that at work these days.

    Everything else I bring back and forth from home.

    1. Llama face!*

      Things I kept at the office B.C.* included lots of tea bags for using the kettle at work, some packaged snacks, a salt and pepper stash in case my lunch needs seasoning, a few pkgs of instant porridge in case I forget my lunch and need something to tide me over, and a set of work-use dishes (bowl, plate, fork, knife, and spoon) since I didn’t trust the common supply to be washed properly.

      *before covid

  161. Aubergine*

    Good question and a lot of good answers so far. So I’ll hope I’m not repeating those I’ve not seen yet.
    Some things don’t need to be brought in immediately so you can wait to see the lay of the land before deciding. Other things are going to add to your comfort starting on day one.

    In the latter category, bring a sweater or jacket to leave in your space. Air conditioning in offices can be – I guess erratic would be one word. Depending on where your desk is located relative to vents, you may find yourself uncomfortably cold or uncomfortably warm. An extra sweater will help with the former. Also in the clothing category, a pair of sneakers or walking shoes can be helpful if you walk somewhere to lunch and your regular shoes aren’t comfortable for that.

    On the other hand, I would wait before bringing in decorative items. Office norms vary wildly from place to place. Some will actually have guidelines for what is OK and what is not. Since none that type of thing is necessary to your work or to your comfort, you can take your time to bring things in once you get a feel for the place.

    Best wishes.

  162. mli25*

    I think some it depends on the bag you carry, as you can keep things there and it goes with you daily. I have never been one for keeping anything personal at my desk, but this is super personal and office dependent.

    In my bag:
    -water bottle (back and forth daily plus I can put it in the dishwasher at home)
    -sweater for cold offices
    -headache/tummy ache meds

    In/On/At my desk:
    -snacks (typically granola bars or single package items)
    -phone charger
    -a little cash (you never know when you might need it)
    -tissue box
    -extra napkins/plastic utensils
    -my preferred pens/notebooks

  163. Jack Straw*

    Please don’t bring living things other than plants to work. Over 20 years ago I had a coworker with a beta fish in a large glass vase that also had a (very unique and expensive) plant growing out of it. I was charged with keeping both plant and fish alive, and I failed miserably. Luckily just the plant needed to be replaced, but I am still haunted by the fact that I could have killed her fish it 20+ years later.

    Or if you do have a desk pet, take it home and don’t trust a coworker to take care of it.

  164. KatieP*

    Excellent questions!
    If it’s something that would have to be cleaned before another person used it, you should generally bring your own (lunch gear, cups, hair ties, hair brush, etc). Some offices will stock coffee cups, plates, etc.
    Desktop organization, pens, pencils, office equipment, etc., are generally provided by the employer. If you want something sentimental or that reflects your personality, you’ll probably have to bring your own.
    Decoration will depend. I’ve worked in places where they didn’t want anyone putting holes in the wall, and I’ve worked for places where the second person to greet me was the facilities manager asking me what I wanted to hang on my wall. I’d look around and see what other people are doing, and go from there – is it just desktop photo frames, or are the walls covered in family photos?
    It also wouldn’t hurt to keep a Tide pen, a stash of period products (if you use them), a spare brush, a mirrored compact, and an umbrella at the office.

  165. L'étrangere*

    In summary, don’t bring a suitcase on the first day, observe the office culture first. Clothing needs vary from covering temperature fluctuations, dressy emergencies, wardrobe malfunctions. For me a good black cardigan did it all, but suit yourself. For office decor, try to strike a balance between being so bare that people wonder whether the desk is occupied or you’re a temp, and having so much stuff people mention hoarding and therapy, or your toy collection has you pegged as immature before you open your mouth.

    I buy expandable cheap charger usb cords by the half dozen, those and my big bottle of ibuprofen have been the most popular coworker rescue items

  166. Pepperbar*

    Right now I have as personal items:
    – two tins of assorted herbal teas
    – a photo of my son
    – a couple of small (think hand-sized) tchotkes for decor

    More practically:
    – a few of my favourite blank notebooks and file folders
    – my personal desk organiser for pens and highlighters
    – a couple of coasters
    – water bottle and coffee mug

    My emergency desk drawer:
    – extra masks
    – Pads
    – clean panties in a ziplock bag because sometimes my period sneaks up on me
    – Lip Balm
    – Bandaids
    – extra lighters because I am a terribly forgetful smoker
    – lacrosse ball for working out knots after hunching over a keyboard

  167. DrSalty*

    I work in the office 2x a week, and this is what I keep in my desk/personal drawer: a shawl for aggressive AC, a variety of tea bags, a tea cup, an empty reusable water bottle, my special pen I like the most, a stash of period products, some granola bars.

  168. Aphrodite*

    I have a private office and thus a good amount of space. I keep OTC pain meds, paper towels, bar soap, plenty of plastic gloves (even prior to the pandemic), canned soup, a container of salt, a pepper grinder (from. TJ’s), a set of silverware, plate, bowl, mug and a pretty wine glass (for my sparkling water), and more.

  169. Picking Wildflowers*

    A scarf for chilly days, deodorant in case you forgot that morning, ibuprofen, a spare pair of leggings in case of wardrobe emergencies, and Imodium (don’t ask me how I know, my desk is my work truck and bathrooms are far and few between)!

  170. Libby*

    In addition to the things other have mentioned, I’m obsessed with tea and have an electric kettle and some tea bags. That might not make sense for every office (I teach college and have my own office), but, oh, it feels so good to get my tea brewing when I arrive in the morning.
    I also have a stapler that looks like a greyhound, but that is probably less essential. :-)

    1. ErinWV*

      An electric kettle is a great investment if your space doesn’t have available hot water (like one of those cold water/hot water dispensers). I brought one in when I started at my current office and it was immensely popular. If you’re a coffee person, you can get a little individual coffeemaker and, as a bonus, avoid the coffee wars we’ve read about on this site.

  171. kg*

    To add to these – I almost always try to keep $20 on hand, which has come in handy more than once when I’ve forgotten my wallet and needed lunch/pay for parking/gas on the way home.

  172. Anonymous Hippo*

    Lol, what isn’t in my office. When I see movie terminations, and somebody walks out with a document storage box barely half full, I’m like, my tea & coffee supplies would take more than one box lol. I have art work, stuffed animals and little wooden figurines, coffee maker and electric kettle, plates, bowls, utensils, numerous water bottles and mugs, desk, wall and journal calendars, snack drawer, feminie hygiene drawer, extra cords drawer, medicine drawer, fidget toy stash, lamps, difusser, heater, fan…you get the jist. That’s on top of regular things like calculators, staplers, whiteboard, steel toe boots, fire retardant jackets, pens, highlighters, notebooks, etc. I’ve also brough in upgraded version of office chair, keyboard, mouse, etc.

    As for what to ask for, that I’m not the best person to ask. I supply most of my own stuff, because I’m super ticky about stuff like that. I wouldn’t recommend descending on work with everything at once though…just bring stuff in as you need it or find something cute you want in your space.

  173. Elizabeth West*

    These are all great suggestions. If you use disposable menstrual supplies, tuck some into a drawer in case you get caught unaware. Not all office bathrooms will have them, or you might run into a coin-operated machine when you have no coins!

    I also kept a stash of snacks and tea. All that can wait until you know for sure where your desk is going to be. At Exjob, I ended up changing cubes shortly after I started. I was glad I didn’t drag a ton of stuff in there the first week.

  174. Honeybee*

    Here are the things in my office that I brought in. I have quite a bit of space and keep these across my desk, shelves and drawers.
    -Desk: two framed photos, small decorative figurine, hand lotion, sanitizer, coffee tumbler, reusable water bottle. (I have pens, notepads, post-its, stapler, etc. as well but these those from work)
    -Drawer: Snacks, umbrella, reusable shopping bag, toothbrush/toothpaste/floss, deodorant wipes, pads/tampons, ear plugs, lip balm
    -Shelf: Small vase, small fake plant, real pothos plant, decorative figurine

  175. ErinWV*

    Probably the best thing to do is to just have your standard purse/bag/backpack stuff with you on your first day. Throughout your first weeks and months, you will occasionally find yourself sitting at your desk like, “ugh, it’s so dry in here, I need lotion.” “I am starving, I wish I had a granola bar.” “That food truck gave me indigestion, I need Tums.” Every time you have a thought like this, that is a thing you will use and might as well bring in.

    If you want to show little bits of personality, start by doing it through functional stuff like calendars. People always comment on my calendars. I also switched out my boring institutional office clock for a funkier one.

  176. CleverGirl*

    For decoration, I suggest you have 5 framed pieces of your children’s artwork and framed photos of each of your 5 children on the wall. If you don’t have 5 children, borrow some from friends.

  177. LMB*

    Eh, I wouldn’t stress too much about it. Start with just a notebook and a pen in case they don’t have ones you like in the office, then just ask someone what the process is taking or ordering supplies (there’s no need feel stupid for asking this, it’s something you have to ask any time you’re in a new office). Get a sense of what kind of Knick knacks and decorations are common/acceptable in the office before you bring anything in (some offices don’t allow anything or have very specific rules, other offices just have a culture where people aren’t really into that). As for clothes, I’ve been working in offices for 25 years and I’ve only brought clothes if I bike in or work out in the middle of the day, I wouldn’t really worry about that unless you feel anxious about having a wardrobe emergency. If you are wearing heels maybe a pair of sneakers or something just in case. I also like to have a little bag of toothbrush, deodorant, tampons, etc just in case.

  178. Sylvan*

    Your company might not allow you and your coworkers to share things from desk to desk, so bring along anything you might typically share with classmates/coworkers. Bring your own tissues, mints, ibuprofen, etc.

    I find it helpful to have my own disinfectant wipes and fabric cube wall pins. Offices stock these, but I clean my desk frequently and go through more wipes than most, and I like never running out of T-pins or hook pins. You might want to pick up a few things like this after you get a feel for what the office provides.

    It’s also kinda nice to have accessories like a drawer organizer or a computer rearview mirror. Again, see what the office is like before you pick accessories out.

    1. Sylvan*

      But — I should have said this — a notepad and a good pen are the most important things to bring to your first few days.

  179. Elm*

    I LOVE this question!

    There are some things that will be almost universally acceptable: Family photos, a page a day calendar, a few office supplies like a favorite color of pen. One small conversation piece can be good, too–one of the first things I brought to my desk was a pair of Funko Pops from TV shows. Small, unobtrusive, and showed folks my interests.

    I’ve also found that coworkers always appreciate it if someone has a stash of Tums, aspirin, cough drops, and/or band-aids they’re willing to share. However, in COVID times, that’s a judgment call. (Maybe individually packed ones for now?)

    I’d avoid anything too religious or political, especially upon initially arriving (unless you have an obligation to have the item, such as for prayer). If you have to ask if it qualifies as “too,” don’t bring it for now. You can always bring it later.

    Beyond that, get the lay of the land when you arrive. Do more established people have empty desks? Packed ones? What’s on theirs?

    Also, be 100% sure that they don’t mean shared desks. There was some confusion on that when my last job moved offices, as we had previously had our own spaces. Since we didn’t have to be there daily anymore, they wanted desk hopping so they could buy fewer desks. (I hate this whole concept, but that’s another issue!)

    Good luck! And I’m so glad you’re thinking of this. Not because it’s something to stress over but because it shows how excited you are!

  180. Michael Birtwistle*

    Having just gone into a new office which has a complete hot desk environment for the first time since Covid this is what is in the only storage place I have – my locker:
    1. A multi-purpose sweater that goes with everthing in case I’m cold.
    2. Mobile phone charger cable I can plug into the USB docking station on any desk. I’ll almost certainly have a dozen in my bag but better safe than sorry.
    3. A bowl and a plate – there’s plenty in the office but it’s nice to have my own
    4. A cup – there’s plenty in the office but it’s nice to have my own
    5. Pads of paper and pens. I don’t remember the last time I actually wrote something but I have them

  181. QueenoftheWorld*

    This question would be impossible for someone to answer walking around our office. We run the gamut from one extreme to another. One person has nothing personal in an office while another has their office filled with family pictures and knick-knacks. We also have some desks in an open arrangement and there are a couple people with no personal effects displayed while we have a couple others who have one or more family photos, crayon drawings, etc in their workspace.
    So if a person were to look around our office for advice they would be very frustrated because the answer would be “it’s up to you.”

  182. Hey Nonnie*

    (Apparently) unpopular opinion (for some reason): don’t keep anything at the office that you’re not willing to lose permanently.

    I never keep personal items at work, and definitely not anything of sentimental value; if something happens you won’t always get them back. Two examples:

    1. When my current office job went fully remote for COVID, many of my coworkers left personal items at their desks. Now the company wants to return-to-office with hot desking (how this makes sense in a pandemic, who even knows). While the return date keeps getting pushed back, people’s personal things have already been boxed up by the facilities team (and maybe/maybe not have been boxed up correctly). In my branch office, if you want your box of stuff back, instead of going downtown to the office to pick it up, you have to go to a suburb 35 miles out of town, to a place that is nowhere near public transit (which the majority of our city relies on). I don’t even have a car, and would have no way to get out there, so I’m glad I didn’t leave anything important at the office.

    2. Some 15 years ago, I was fired from my job for having cancer. He did it over the phone on a weekend, and didn’t even offer to send my personal items back to me (but was pretty emphatic that I should NOT return to the office for any reason). I lost a couple of fairly expensive items. Didn’t see it coming (he made all the empathetic noises when I explained to him how my treatment plan would affect my work, and I frankly had other things on my mind). Never kept my personal stuff at work again.

    That said, keeping inexpensive consumables like hand wipes (if they’re not provided) is fine and practical, since you probably won’t miss them that much if you can’t get them back. Then get yourself a good work backpack or bag, with a variety of pockets, and let the more important items suggested above (e.g. umbrella, clothes) live in the bag, and take the bag with you from home to work and back home every day. So you’ll have those items if you need them, but you won’t lose them if something unexpected happens.

    I generally pack really light, though. I’ll throw a pair of slip on shoes into my bag if it’s winter boot weather, I have a phone charger that comes with me every time I leave the house (work or not), but I don’t bring much to the office other than lunch. I just haven’t needed much; and I don’t care about decorating a space that isn’t really mine, anyway.

    1. Hey Nonnie*

      (BTW, if you are bringing work clothes to work instead of wearing them, rolling instead of folding helps to prevent wrinkling.)

  183. ObserverCN*

    I’m old-school, so I use a paper desk calendar to check dates and keep track of things. I also recommend bringing in a box of tissues if your company doesn’t provide them.

  184. Jessica Fletcher*

    Leave a travel umbrella in your desk for unexpected rainy days!

    If you have a commute, many women leave a pair of work shoes at the office and commute in comfy sneakers. Store them under your desk or in a bottom drawer, where they won’t be in the way. (I say women because I’ve never known a guy to do this. Men’s shoes must be more comfortable.)

    I kept some basic medicines (headache, pepto, Midol) in my locked cabinet. Check to see if you have an office policy on that.

    Even pre-covid, I kept Lysol wipes in my locked cabinet, too. People would steal them in a second!

  185. JustKnope*

    I (sadly) don’t have an assigned desk so I have to carry everything around with me. I got a sturdy but fashionable backpack for work, and I found a couple of small zip-up bags I could store inside at all times. The first contains: deodorant, bandaids, lip gloss, LOTION (very important), concealer, hand sanitizer, mints and GasX/Tums (just in case!). The second contains my snacks – small, non perishable, easy to eat discretely. I also have a pencil bag containing my favorite pens (even though the office supplies them, I like to have a stash on hand). I love the idea others shared of keeping $20 on hand in case you forget cash one day.

    Also, most importantly, you’ll learn as you go! There are a TON of ideas in this thread but you don’t need all of them. Figure out the most important stuff for you (and the first time you have an “oh no I wish I had X thing” moment, you’ll know to pack that for next time.)

  186. EmKay*

    Hello, hi, am an admin. Residing in my (locked) desk:
    – my own small personal stash of pens & such that I buy for myself out of my own pocket
    – advil & tylenol
    – small box bandaids
    – travel sewing kit
    – lip balm & hand cream
    – hair brush & ties
    – my candy & snack stash
    – a light sweater/cardigan just in case
    – phone charger
    – headphones/headset
    – a box of tissues
    – any doubles of keys that are useful to have
    – a bluetooth speaker puck thing for meetings
    – a pair of comfy flats under the desk

  187. Don’t Ask Me How I Know*

    As you determine what you like and rely on having at your desk (painkillers and bandaids ftw), always make sure you don’t have more than you could fit in a single box. No one plans for surprise lay-offs, but if it happens you’ll want to get everything out that day and not have to come back.

  188. I need cheesecake*

    I work in government in the UK, travel to the office once a week, hotdesk and have a locker.

    Things I keep in my locker:
    Headset (provided by work)
    Stationery I’ve bought so I can use stuff I like – nice notebook, Pilot pens, pastel highlighters
    Hand cream

    Things I always have in my bag:
    Phone charger and plug
    Plasters including blister plasters
    Spare contact lenses
    Spare medication

  189. DapperApple*

    I like/agree with the above suggestions of letting the office handle your basic supplies, but if you have certain things you like, ordering those for yourself. I like a certain brand of notebook and planner that I wouldn’t expect the company to buy (too much for their budget), but I buy for myself because I like them and I like working with them. Same with my preferred fancy pens. Also, I always invest in a really luxurious hand cream because for reasons I’ll never understand, my hands are always drier at work than home. I think I wash them way more in public. I also like a good low sound, low profile office air cleaner, but not everyone has the space or desire for that – and check with your office to see that it is OK before buying. I also have a ton of cute masks – we wear them indoors so I have cute designer surgical ones that go over my bland n95 respirator.

  190. Pikachu*

    Reading these comments makes me realize how privileged we were that our office managers made regular trips to Costco to keep the kitchen stocked for everyone and why having a dishwasher was the hill they chose to die on when we remodeled our space. LOL

  191. Funkywizaard*

    I always keep an extra pair of socks in a desk drawer. If you public transportation to work, you will have a day when your shoes and socks get wet from being caught in the rain or stepping in a puddle. Having wet feet all day is miserable.

  192. Dawbs*

    I’m coming into this late, but can i give dune advice that i got but ignored- even though it’s good?
    something I haven’t seen really addressed (but i didn’t read all the comments-i read most but couldn’t respond because work was a bit crazy), but, women often get themselves pigeonholed as the “mom/ Florence Nightingale/ secretary who fixes everything” role- in part because of having tums, safety pins, and a emergency tampon.

    This isn’t all bad… but its not all good either. So, sure, hand out advil (all of my co workers know i have a snack drawer and a medicine drawer) but there is NOTHING wrong with NOT having spare pantyhose, a sewing kit and a sympathy card at the ready.

    At my current job, having all the things is a treated with a “Yeah, Dawbs is prepared and takes care of things” attitude. At a previous job, having all the things was treated with “Dawbs is an amin/secretary (I wasn’t) and that’s her job (it wasn’t) and I’m sure she’s happy to provide expensive things all the time (I sometimes wasn’t)

    So, day 1, bring just what you need. Feel out your office. Usually you don’t NEED anything- bring only as much as helps you

    1. I heart Paul Buchman*

      Late to the party but I read this far just to see this advice. It is really important to decide how you want to be perceived professionally and act accordingly. Kind of the desk equivalent of dressing for the job you want.

  193. E*

    I think it’s great to bring something that shows your personality into the office. Something that might kick up a positive conversation with a co-worker.
    I was very nervous on a getting-to-know-you call with a senior colleague until he saw Game Developer Barbie and we talked about how much representation matters, and his kid’s plans to major in robotics.

    Beyond that, use a drawer or an opaque container to store the kind of things you might’ve hauled around in your backpack all day in school—sweater, over the counter meds, your favorite brand of pens, small snacks, a phone charger.

    Also, totally fine to ask a teammate about how to get basic office supplies. Making someone feel helpful actually usually gets them to like you.

  194. judyjudyjudy*

    An “emergency kit” with naproxen (or NSAID of choice), benadryl (if you have allergies) , Imodium, lozanges, tide pen, hair ties, band aids, nail file, tooth brush, tooth paste, floss, deodorant, eye drops or contact solution, period products (if those apply to you). You might also want chap stick and hand lotion if the air is really dry. Sweater if you get cold, umbrella, water bottle and/or coffee mug, tea of choice, extra phone charger, headphones (I have cheapy work headphones bc I work in a lab), snacks (I like protein bars and nuts), gum. You might also want some personal decorations for your desk like a framed picture, plant, fun pen cup. Likely the pens provided by your office will be pretty standard blue and black, so if you want something fancier or more fun, bring your own. If you are going to bring your lunch a lot to work, a silverware set (knife fork, spoon) if your office only has plastic — you can wash them in the kitchen and keep them in a drawer. Laser pointer of you like using those for presentations.

  195. Cassie*

    My cubicle is pretty minimal in terms of personal stuff, but I do usually put up wall calendars (like scenic views) or something to personalize it a bit. A coworker gave me a The Little Prince calendar for Christmas 2019 – it was stuck on March 2020 for the 18 months I was WFH :)

    I do have some personal items stashed in the drawers like:
    1) Extra cardigan
    2) Extra pairs of shoes
    3) Work umbrella
    4) Extra reusable bag(s)
    5) Instant coffee packets
    6) Granola bars or snacks
    7) Bottled water
    8) Extra phone charger – most people have iPhones, so it was sometimes difficult to borrow one for my Android.

    And if we do ever go back to having catered meetings in the office, some people bring spare Tupperware containers for leftovers (you could even use it to store whatever other items you have so it doesn’t take up too much space but you’ll have it if you need it!)

  196. Raine*

    One of the most useful things I’ve bought for my office is a milk crate. It makes putting all my personal stuff under my desk a lot easier and easier to port around if I have to move desks (which is a thing some offices do).

    One thing that isn’t about what you bring – speaking as the person who’s cleaned out many a desk of a former employee: if you bring nail clippers, please use a trash can to dispose of the clippings. It’s super gross to discover when cleaning out a desk.

    As others have said: show up for your first day with minimal stuff – a favorite pen and a notebook to take notes in if you have preferences about such things, a water bottle or a coffee cup, headphones and a charger for your phone. Office supplies should be provided to you, and all the personal decor will come in time (or not). I once worked for a company that was super into LEAN principles and you were only allowed five personal items on your desk at any given time, so definitely check out the culture and the rules before you get to decorating.

  197. Ori*

    I used to keep a little kit in my desk with hand cream, hand sanitiser, face wipes, mini mouthwash bottle, folding toothbrush and toothpaste, painkillers and allergy tablets. A mini sewing kit, tide pen and spare top can be helpful if you’re prone to rips and spills. At one place I kept a blazer and a pair of heels for impromptu client meetings.

  198. Virginia Plain*

    Here’s what I have:
    On my desk; a mug for tea/coffee which I wash after use and return to my desk so it doesn’t get subsumed in the general kitchen mass, and a large glass for water, ditto. Both on a “mug rug” which is a long homemade coaster. Tissues, a small hand lotion, an emery board and some hand sanitiser (I was into it before it was cool lol). A photo of my other half.
    In my desk drawers – stationery mostly supplied by the office. I largely just need pens, post-its and large notebooks but I have all the usual gubbins, mostly from days of yore when we were much less paperless, and staplers, India tags etc were like prison currency! Headphones with Madonna-microphone that fit the office desk phone. Booklets and papers from training courses that I might need to refer to.
    Personal items – a few basic mini toiletries, feminine hygiene products, painkillers. First aid kit. Emergency supernoodles.
    I also have a thesaurus and Bill Bryson’s Troublesome Words, on the windowsill.

    1. Virginia Plain*

      Examples from other colleagues include a small plant on the desk/nearby, and some women keep a pair of heels under the desk to change into after commuting in. However one colleague has just moved hers after a little mouse had made a bed in the toe! Many offices have mice – if you keep any food items make sure they are in a drawer or cupboard where Mr Whiskers can’t get in!

  199. RobareOwl*

    Every workplace is different! My first day at my current job, they gave us all sorts of swag — backpack, umbrella, coffee mug… And then you could get your special color-changing cup for the water machine by going to one of the administrators. First day stuff — hand sanitizer, period supplies, cardigan or blazer, and possibly a reusable coffee mug and a couple keurig pods — at one job I spent half my time in an office where you had to bring your own coffee pods and cream/sugar. You could definitely take an important kid or family photo on the first day, too, and after that base it on the environment, what you discover you need, and what the culture supports. And I’m really enjoying everyone’s extra clothing suggestions — I once had to run to the nearby department store on my lunch break because my underwire snapped, and I’m just glad it was close enough to do that!

  200. LR*

    In my desk I have 1 drawer that I treat like an extension of my purse, so imagine anything you’d stow in a big purse for a long day (with very personal items like meds/tampons in small zipper pouches) and a second drawer I use for all manner of office supplies. It would be pretty common for a coworker to reach into my desk for a post it or whatever, but having it divided like that makes it very obvious that “this is personal” and I don’t think I’ve ever had a coworker rummage through my personal stuff.

    In terms of eating, i have found a good mug can do almost anything, from water to coffee to leftovers, and I have even eaten a piece of office bday cake from a mug in a pinch. So until you see how much gear other people bring you could probably get by with a mug and a few packs of disposable utensils. Some offices people will have a whole kitchen drawer, others a mug would be more typical, I’ve never seen an office with less than a mug as standard.

  201. esmerelda*

    Good question! I’m five years out of college and I still am learning what I need and adding to my desk essentials. :) For decor, I have a cozy lamp at my desk, a plant, a few personal photos, and inspirational quote. For desk essentials, I have extra shoes for when my shoes get way on the way in, lots of Kleenix (I have year round allergies, woo), meds like Advil and allergy meds (you wouldn’t believe how many people don’t have these things at work but need them – if you let people know you have Advil if they need it, you’ll become everyone’s instant friend), a hair brush and floss (I just added those two things yesterday!), and a variety of snacks! Including some chocolate for a rainy day. ;) Really, the snacks and chocolate were the biggest game changer for me. Work productivity goes up with snacks. :)

  202. Poppy*

    I like having pretty office supplies — e.g. pastel-colored or patterned folders, sticky notes in attractive colors and various sizes, highlighter pens that aren’t just fluorescent yellow, and so forth. Some companies will order these if you ask (especially if they’re coming back from all-remote work and the supply cabinets need restocking anyway).

    It generally doesn’t hurt to ask even if the answer turns out to be “no, we only have basic beige manila folders.” But if you’re apprehensive about putting in a request, first check with a senior colleague or your manager because that’s a useful insight into overall company processes. (Something like, “Hey, I find I’m more productive when I can organize my materials in color-coded folders. I saw some reasonably-priced ones in [LARGE OFFICE SUPPLY CATALOG] — is there a standard way to request these?”)

    Depending on the industry and individual company culture, some employers will even order custom office equipment for you, such as larger/second monitors, a standing desk, or a Mac rather than a PC to work on. (This is more common in Silicon Valley and higher-paid jobs, where management sees it as enlightened self-interest to encourage productivity.) Definitely check with your manager or a senior before making requests like these. For example, I recently started at a smallish tech firm with a large and sluggish parent company. My boss told me he can get me a larger monitor within a month or so, but if I wanted an iPhone charger (since we use smartphones for validation codes), he advised buying that myself rather than dip into my political capital.

  203. Sierra*

    This is a great question.

    In general, your office should be able to provide pens, notepads, highlighters, post its, tape, stapler, folders, paperclips, calendar, etc. Some will be willing to order you stands, wireless keyboards/mice for your computer. You can potentially also request additional monitors.

    I brought my own organizers, for my utensils on my desk, and in drawer inserts to hold my miscellaneous things, like postits, tacks, paper clips etc.

    I have a designated snack drawer. I keep my own bowl, silverware and water bottle in there too.

    And I have a drawer for my misc personal things. Ibuprofen, personal hygiene items you may want to keep. An extra sweater, pair of work shoes, and work appropriate slippers, a blanket, space heater.

    In the way of decor, start off with a couple things for your desk, like a picture or two, and some nicnacs.

    As you are in the office, you will figure out what you need, or what personality type things you want to add.

  204. iantrovert*

    Plenty of great ideas above but one thing I haven’t seen mentioned yet–depending on where you live, a mini humidifier can be amazing. Here in New England, both the heating/cooling system and the multitude of computers in the office make the air painfully dry. I have the HoMedics Personal Ultrasonic Humidifier which is tiny and can sit to the left of my keyboard without disrupting anything; the downside is that it’s so small that it only lasts a morning or an afternoon before needing to be refilled, and it’s working pretty hard given its size so the first one I had only lasted three years of regular use. (I did replace it pretty much immediately though! I’d bought a cheaper water-bottle-topper one before these too but that failed in <6mo; Vimes' Boots Theory of Economics definitely applied here, since the $7 one lasted 6mo and the $15 one lasted 3 years.)

  205. Scott D*

    One word of caution I would add–all of these ideas are great but because COVID is not finished yet, don’t bring anything to the office that you would need at home if, like happened to me, you got a call at night that “we’re closed for two weeks due to a case of COVID so don’t come in tomorrow or until you hear from us again.” I.e., you can’t assume you’ll get any warning that the office might suddenly close again, at least not in the near future.

  206. Snuck*

    My advice is don’t take this all in on day one. Find out what generally is around and plan afterwards. Do take a snack, some fem. hygiene products if you need them, your lunch, an extra/2nd water bottle, a handbag packet of tissues, spare face masks, some hand sanitiser and notebook and pen. Also have some bandaids, lipstick and whatever else you need to freshen up on the fly (but not a full make up kit).

    My list:
    Feminine hygiene products – keep a pack at work
    Panadol/headache remedy of choice
    Work shoes – low/square heel and dressy (wear flat shoes in to work like sports shoes)
    Spare stockings (I used to wear them when needed!)
    Spare blazer, blouse and trousers (hang all on one hanger, I used to have random meetings unexpectedly with senior personnel, if this isn’t likely for you yet don’t stress, just make it a change of top and trousers/skirt that won’t crease too much in a drawer – something simple, pretty, clean, non fussy and professional/tidy).
    Simple make up refresh kit … mascara, lipstick, powder, hair brush, hair spray, hair ties, deodorant
    Bandaids, small sew kit
    Preferred pens (I’m very particular about my stationary) and notebooks
    Snacks – I used to run a ‘shop’ that was the mini mars/snickers that are individually wrapped, and people paid a minimal amount for them ?50c? And I just left that out for all and sundry to access (we worked long long hours and didn’t always have things open around us to buy food from) – this was very popular.
    I used the profits from the ‘shop’ to fund the coffee machine – I had a drip coffee machine next to my desk that I’d refill multiple times a day and once I’d had my cup anyone else could drain the pot. This made me very much liked ;) (Don’t set these sorts of shenanigans up in your first month! It’s a ‘time/place/know where it fits’ thing)
    Any snacks you keep at your desk are best if they are individual packets that won’t go off. If you want to keep fruit then keep it on your desk – if you go home one day and don’t come back for a week (sick, lockdown, whatever) what state will it be in? Make it easy for people to manage it if you are gone…
    A spare water bottle, because you leave them places.

    Label your stuff – particularly your water bottles and lunchboxes. That way they come back to you if you forget them somewhere. Follow all the fridge rules – whatever they are and regardless of if others follow them. Bathrooms are not like home ones – they are in, out, done! Not ‘I’m going to come in early and do a full 45min setup plus a blow dry’. Lunchrooms are similar rules to school cafeterias – smile/nod to sit at tables/ask if it’s ok to join, clean up after yourself (including wiping out a microwave, washing your dishes or rinsing down the sink) and if you want to read and others are talking it’s not a library, consider reading at your desk or somewhere else quiet instead. Empty conference rooms are not places to hide with lunch or to make phone calls – check your company culture closely for this, and don’t commandeer empty conference rooms with any regularity until you really understand the flow of how they are used.

    Good luck!

  207. Patrick*

    Find out what the company policy is for requesting office supplies.

    Most companies might keep the basics available – pens, pencils, staplers, paperclips, binder clips, highlighters, rulers, etc. – but anything special you might want or need for organizing said supplies, like a pencil cup, compartment trays for your desk drawers, or the tiny 3-drawer or 5-drawer units you can put on your desk, you may have to put in a request for through the proper channels or purchase yourself.

    Find out if the company will reimburse you for said supplies. Some will but many won’t. Be prepared to not be reimbursed.

  208. Generic-username*

    My must-haves in the office: reusable water bottle, a suit jacket (I work in an office where it’s business casual unless we have visitors, so it’s nice to have a jacket at the ready), granola bars, candy bars, and ibuprofen (and cough drops in the before times, but now I wouldn’t dare to go to the office with a cough or sore throat, lol)

    1. Generic-username*

      Oh, and I forgot – I have a mini fan that is a life-saver in the afternoons when the sun shines right on my desk

  209. Worker bee*

    When I was transferred to the office, I don’t think I brought anything for the first couple of months. I was familiar with the culture and knew I’d have access to pens, coffee, and stuff like bandaids, but I had also “inherited” a space that had not been cleaned out after the former occupant was asked to leave, so I got all her office stuff (stapler, etc).

    Once I finally got comfortable enough, I started bringing in stuff that I liked or that made my life easier.

    – Coffee mug
    – Phone charger
    – Earbuds
    – A set of pens that I like and that look cool
    – An over the door hook

    I bought a cheap tray that lives in my bottom desk drawer that has more personal items like:

    – Prescription ibuprofen
    – Allergy meds
    – Eye drops
    – Sample sized makeup (neutral lip gloss, mascara, eyeshadow, face brightening cream stuff, oil blotting sheets)
    – Nail clippers and a file
    – Tweezers
    – A mini mirror
    – Gum/mints

    I went very slow with my office decor, so I was there probably 6 months before I brought anything in. At the moment, I have:

    – Small, framed painting of a famous local sculpture, which was a gift from a coworker
    – A tiny Elk sitting on a stone, which I got on a trip to Yellowstone
    – A TARDIS usb hub
    – A magic 8 ball, which I had previously utilized as a paperweight and joke when I was juggling two jobs at two different desks.

    I also have a shelf that I didn’t have a use for, but needed to stay, so it has a bit of an Irish theme. I have a plaque that says ‘Lucky’, a fake 4 leaf clover plant, and an Irish joke in a nice frame.

    Then there’s just some random stuff. I have a small Irish themed calendar, a handful of industry/job specific cartoons from my one-a-day calendar, and some general goofy stuff from coworkers, such as “the golden paperclip”. (I had a coworker who worked for a guy who loathed ridged paperclips. I had no preference, so we’d trade out paperclips as needed. One day she found a gold one and did a ceremonious “gifting” of it to me as a thank you.)

    Reading all of that, I probably come off as a bit weird/immature/unprofessional, but I work in a very casual office and all of that was acquired over the past couple of years.

    I also have three plants, but they are work provided and maintained. I used to have two, but one recently needed a new home and I had the space/lighting requirements for it.

    If I was going into a new situation, I’d probably just bring the stuff in my first list. A couple of my favorite pens, a coffee mug, phone charger, and headphones. I know many places don’t allow headphones, but I’d bring them just in case you need to do any kind of video training in your office. I didn’t bring those in my early days and had to get some from IT, which was fine, but found I preferred my own.

    My work provides all work supplies and we are free to get what we need. The only stuff that’s locked up that people might need are tissues, but that’s only because the locked room was the only space we had for them.

    If there is something that you want, I’d wait and feel out the vibe of the office before asking, but once you get a feel for things, if they are the type of office to get what you ask for, just ask for it.

    I had inherited an ergonomic wireless keyboard, where everyone else had standard wired keyboards. I had no preference initially, but had gotten used to it over the years. But when my 10 key started going out, I was too shy to ask for a new one, so I worked with it for almost 6 months (and 6 months of errors), before I did some research, found one I wanted, one I’d be ok with, and actually wrote a damn proposal outlining my reasons for asking for a $50 keyboard/mouse combo and sent it to the office manager.

    She came up to me after reading the email and I could tell she could barely contain her amusement that I had went to all that trouble to ask for a replacement keyboard at that price. She wasn’t being mean by being amused, but she wanted to let me know that if, in the future, I had equipment break, I can just let her know I need a replacement of that exact stuff.

    Lastly, a word of advice. Be very mindful of where you take personal calls. Your workmates will likely not want to listen to anything personal, unless it’s an emergency call. When I was going through my divorce, I would make/take calls about that in our attached warehouse, outside, in my car, or in my boss’s office if I knew she wasn’t coming in that day, because I simply didn’t want to answer questions from nosy coworkers. I did the same when my mom had a significant health scare.

    I mention this because I had a coworker who had a number of tragedies happen back to back and, since we were living in cubicle land, half the office knew all the details, since she was on the phone most of the work day dealing with things. What make it more awkward is that she never took more than one day off at a time to deal with things and never mentioned it to anyone, so none of us knew if we should say something, since the only way we knew about any of it was by involuntarily eavesdropping.

    Finally, if your workplace is one that allows you to listen to music, EARBUDS! I’m in the process of doing a slow fade to end a coworker friendship because of this. We’d become friends outside of work, but she has become toxic socially and disrespectful at work, so I’m done.

    I mention both of those coworkers because we all were in cubicle land together. No earbud coworker would constantly complain about tragedy coworker and two other coworkers would complain to me about no earbud coworker. Because of no earbud coworker, I had to be two earbud, slowly destroying my hearing with the volume coworker in order to tune everyone out so I can concentrate.

    Please don’t be either of those people. Mute your cell or have it on vibrate. Talk on the phone at a reasonable volume and don’t bellow. Take personal calls somewhere personal. Just try to be respectful of others in your environment. I realize this last bit is me projecting, but the coworker who won’t wear earbuds? She’s been with the company, in various positions, for more than a decade and almost no one likes her. She certainly has no friends or allies in our office/company because of her hostile attitude.

  210. Teapot Wrangler*

    I’m sure no one is still reading the comments but there definitely seems to be a cultural difference between the US and the UK coming up in the comments. In every office I’ve worked in (in London) it would be very unusual to have family photos on your desk, even in your own office and no one puts up certificates / diplomas either.

    It isn’t uncommon to have small desk calendars or vendor giveaway fidget toys and I have seen some people leave awards out on the side if they’ve been given at work but that’s about it. I assume you’re in the US so not something to worry about but as you didn’t specify, I’d say just hold back even more, only keep stuff in your locker / pedestal / drawers at first and only decorate once your colleagues have if you’re not in the US!

  211. Boo's mom*

    Many great suggestions, but a small caution: don’t take anything to work you might mourn if you lose. For example in fire, burst pipe, or asbestos remediation accident.
    The last one happened in a school and the teachers lost all their hard copies of lessons, photos of deceased loved ones, furniture, and some expensive of their own personal technology.
    Things happen and those items are not covered by insurance or can’t be replaced.

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