Unusual things for work
September 16, 2010 8:05 PM   Subscribe

What are some unusually / useful things you keep at your desk?

I just got my first full-time office job and I was wondering what unusual and useful items do you keep in your desk that you wouldn't normally think to keep at work? Something like a toothbrush, or earplugs for when you need to concentrate. Things along those lines.
posted by lilkeith07 to Work & Money (107 answers total) 99 users marked this as a favorite
Mints, a lint roller, a small hairbrush, tampons, granola bars for missed-lunch days.
posted by Miko at 8:07 PM on September 16, 2010

Something to exercise your grip when you get tired or frustrated or agitated. It focuses the mind and is more productive than throwing things at co-workers.
posted by dfriedman at 8:07 PM on September 16, 2010

Non perishable snack items...

band aids for paper cuts.

pain killers of your choice for the inevitable headache/migraine.
posted by patheral at 8:08 PM on September 16, 2010

a nail clipper!
posted by lakersfan1222 at 8:09 PM on September 16, 2010 [6 favorites]

Ah, this is what i meant: http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_b5kzBGDiu9s/SZ1xWvRQ1dI/AAAAAAAAC8o/Omqfv_4DMas/s400/com-grip-black.jpg
posted by dfriedman at 8:09 PM on September 16, 2010

Salt and pepper shaker. I bring my lunch most days and it really saves the day some days.
posted by advicepig at 8:10 PM on September 16, 2010 [4 favorites]

+1 for pain reliever.

Also, a Nalgene or other large water bottle, because the little paper cups at the bubbler are wasteful and don't hold enough water at a time anyway.
posted by oinopaponton at 8:12 PM on September 16, 2010

Tylenol, mouthwash, a kettle, teabags, Arrowroot cookies, a black cardigan, a pair of socks, chopsticks, tampons, an umbrella and an iPod cable.
posted by cranberrymonger at 8:13 PM on September 16, 2010

snacks for when I need to stay late.
a small mirror (to check my teeth/hair quickly without having to go down the hall to the restroom).
phone charger.
a light jacket/sweater (I'm always cold).
in-the-ear earphones to block everyone else out.
posted by j at 8:13 PM on September 16, 2010

packets of flu medicine. band-aids. nice pens. spare change. a jar of salted peanuts. mp3 speakers and earbuds. spare sunglasses. a scarf.
posted by lakersfan1222 at 8:14 PM on September 16, 2010

A bottle of green Tabasco sauce. You never know when you're going to find yourself eating a burrito.

Also, a pepper grinder.
posted by bondcliff at 8:14 PM on September 16, 2010 [3 favorites]

a hairbrush. a barrette and hair tie.
posted by lakersfan1222 at 8:15 PM on September 16, 2010

toothbrush & toothpaste
pre-strung dental floss things
eye drops
1 lb of almonds
tea bags
iPod shuffle
eating utensils
blind spot mirror (to know who is approaching)
posted by Andy's Gross Wart at 8:16 PM on September 16, 2010

posted by MXJ1983 at 8:17 PM on September 16, 2010

A bottle of booze. Maybe that's usual?

Flipflops to wear at lunch. I have very sweaty feet, and giving them an hour to dry off prevents my eczema from flaring up.

A jar of change for the coke machine.

A box of good strong black tea. The coffee the props department makes is terrible.

Emergency chocolate.
posted by mollymayhem at 8:17 PM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

Bandaids (for the days where you wear new shoes to work or break a fingernail)
Dental floss (for flossing, but also useful if you need to tie or hand something)
Wrapping paper
A wine glass (if it's a drinking workplace - mine is)
A Swiss army knife (pulling corks, opening cans, opening packages, screwdriver, tweezers, getting stones out of horses hooves)
posted by girlgenius at 8:18 PM on September 16, 2010

chopsticks for eating buttered popcorn and potato chips. I hate typing with greasy fingers and the "one at a time" delivery keeps me from eating more crap than I meant to.
posted by toodleydoodley at 8:19 PM on September 16, 2010 [32 favorites]

floss. (only to be used in the bathroom! never, ever at your desk.)
binder clips!
seconding phone charger, your pen of choice, deodorant.
posted by heathergirl at 8:20 PM on September 16, 2010

A spare pair of pantyhose
posted by Cat Face at 8:23 PM on September 16, 2010

Tide To Go (or some other instant stain remover) because I am always dropping lunch on the front of my shirt.
posted by tommccabe at 8:24 PM on September 16, 2010 [3 favorites]

i was going to mention that i keep a bottle of hornsby's hard cider in the back of my file cabinet for emergencies.
posted by lakersfan1222 at 8:25 PM on September 16, 2010

Folks, lilkeith07 is a man, so suggestions like pantyhose and tampons are probably not useful.

Knife, fork, spoon, and a small ceramic bowl. Even if I know I'm going to be eating lunch out, there's always a chance someone will randomly offer some free food around the office. It's nice to know you'll have a way to eat whatever food someone might be offering

Paper towels. You never know when you might spill something.

A couple magazines that won't quickly go out of date, so you never need to be bored at lunch.

Walnuts or sliced almonds. Useful if you're starving and need to quickly get something in your belly without taking any time. Also, if you're eating at your desk, you can add them to many different kinds of food for some extra nutrition.

Mount Hagen organic instant coffee.

Some basic toiletries just in case I need to fix something on the fly -- pomade in case my hair is doing something weird, razor and shaving cream in case I suddenly realize I missed a spot shaving, etc.

Floss. If you happen to have a lunch with spinach in it, you'll want this.

Spare tie in case I spill something on the one I'm wearing.

Bottled water. I'll buy one bottle, then keep reusing it (remember to wash it first, especially if there's water left in it overnight).

Plenty of pens. Wite-out.
posted by John Cohen at 8:28 PM on September 16, 2010

iPod charging cable

ketchup packets


Fork, spoon & knife

posted by nomadicink at 8:29 PM on September 16, 2010

Face wipes for a refreshing pick-me-up.


A rubber therapy ball.

Tea, coffee, painkillers. It's good to be the painkiller guy.
posted by turgid dahlia at 8:31 PM on September 16, 2010

A super comfy pair of shoes. You never know when the Big One is going to hit and walking home may be required. This tip bought to you by the San Francisco Neighborhood Emergency Response Team training.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 8:32 PM on September 16, 2010 [2 favorites]

$20 in cash for when I must hit the vending machines, or for when I owe a co-worker a few bucks for lunch.

Extra pair of shoes. Especially nice in winter when I come in with snowy boots and can slip into warm clean shoes right away.

A small tool set, because I LOVE being the go-to person when someone needs a pair of pliers.

Jar of peanut butter and spoon for when I forget breakfast.

A couple of makeup items and maybe a pair of earrings, for when I have a hurried morning but want to look spiffy for a meeting. It happens.

Journal - actually I keep a spreadsheet on my computer that I update once a day with hours worked, accomplishments for the day, and reminders of future deadlines. Not an actual object, but I am finding it insanely handy and wish I would have started earlier.
posted by beandip at 8:34 PM on September 16, 2010

clear nail polish for tights/hose runs.
Extra lipstick and powder (or whatever your makeup touch-up needs are)
Heels and any extra executive meeting clothes you may need (I have a closet so YMMV, but I usually do corp casual and have things on hand to make it dressy if the executives stop by - their assistants give us a heads-up)
any lunch touch-ups (salt, pepper, chop sticks etc.)
My office has an emergency med kit, but if we didn't I'd need aspirin/pain reliever/bandaids etc.
Basically you need to try to be prepared but realize that things will happen and that your best bet is to roll with the punches gracefully.
My personal fav is nail polish remover for when I just can't deal with these nails any more.
posted by cestmoi15 at 8:35 PM on September 16, 2010

Ooooh, I used to have a job where I worked like 14 hours a day and I had a whole DRAWER of backup stuff. Basically a change of work clothes (we had khakis and a uniform polo) and a small travel shampoo and soap and general overnight toiletries. (it wasn't unheard of that we took a shower mid-day. It could be a dirty job, depending on the day.)

On the more normal scale:
- hand lotion (office a/c can be brutally dry)
- sweater (office a/c can be brutally cold, even in the summer)
- face wash/washcloth
- (I know you're a guy but who knows) extra makeup in case I had to wash my face and want to reapply
- snacks (granola bars, nuts, bag of mini candy bars with strict self imposed limits, otherwise the whole bag would be gone)
- extra phone charger (you can get a generic one for super cheap on amazon or wherever)
- water bottle
- I wear contacts so a spare set of contacts and case/saline
posted by AlisonM at 8:39 PM on September 16, 2010

a nail clipper!

Maybe if you have your own office, but if your desk is within earshot of your coworkers clipping your nails at your desk is guaranteed to cause resentment.

I keep a spare pair of shoes under my desk, a light sweater in case I get chilly (or dump lunch on my shirt), an assortment of condiments for those bland on-the-go lunches, antacid for the results of those lunches, a phone charger, and a little push-button contraption that plays the Ohio State fight song really loudly, for when my coworkers start talking college football.
posted by Balonious Assault at 8:41 PM on September 16, 2010 [4 favorites]

- bandaids & burn gel (I've been burned by boiling water from the water cooler... minor burns on hands are surprisingly painful)
- extra shoes (ok, its more of a flotilla of shoes) & shoe smell neutralizer (Dr. Scholls one- it's scent is the least overwhelming)
- superglue & saftey pins (for fixing random things)
- meds: peptobysmal chewables, tums, giant bottle of tylenol perched on the cube dividers (it wanders a bit among my cluster...), alka seltezer (win major points with hungover coworkers!)
- tea & teamug for a cheap caffeine fix
- ketchup (packets can be so frustrating and the bottles are shelf stable)
- broth cubes and dried miso packets (for late nights/sickish days/need comfort days. it's satisfying to have something heartier than tea to drink sometimes)
- vaseline- moisturize dry hands/spontaneously shine shoes prior to big meeting.
- clearly marked personal file

oh and two shopping bags all of the above can fit in- in case I got fired and needed a coworker to collect my things for me. (during layoffs things got scary!)
posted by larthegreat at 8:42 PM on September 16, 2010

Spare socks. If you get rained on coming to work, changing into dry socks can make all the difference, even if the rest of your clothes stay wet. Also useful during that awkward early spring/late autumn period when you might wear open shoes to work, then find yourself getting cold feet later in the day.

Gym clothes and a towel. So I always have the option of going to the gym or for a run at lunch time or on the way home.
posted by lollusc at 8:42 PM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

Dead CDs for coasters (keep several around; they come in handy when you get a sudden meeting at your desk and everyone brings their drink).
posted by Hardcore Poser at 8:45 PM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

A few safety pins of different sizes--you never know when you'll break a zipper or rip out a hem. I also keep antibiotic numbing ointment in my desk because I am constantly getting paper cuts and then touching money and other filthy things.

A spare pair of those little stretchy gloves in the winter, in case I lose/forget my regular gloves, or the office is super cold. Also a small umbrella because I never, ever remember to check the weather before leaving the house.
posted by Fui Non Sum at 8:46 PM on September 16, 2010

Hot sauce.

Good quality tea, tea bags, and a tea mug. I tend to go all out and even bring the little tea bag holder to put the bag on after it steeps once.

Almonds or some other nuts for snacking.

My Doctor Who figurines of Novice Hame and Thomas Kincade Brannigan. Because diehard Christian catpeople from a post-apocalyptic New York are oddly inspiring to me.
posted by spinifex23 at 8:47 PM on September 16, 2010

As a guy I always want:

-nail clippers for those "wholly fuck why are my nails so long?" moments; use it in the bathroom stall or other solitary place
-Shout Wipes or other type of stain remover for the once weekly coffee spill on my shirt
-gum and/or toothpaste and tooth brush
-spare shirt (I once had a sudden nosebleed and this saved me a ton of embarrassment)
-deodorant for the days when I am rushed and somehow forget
posted by nestor_makhno at 8:49 PM on September 16, 2010

Definitely deodorant and pain killers. Cologne, if you wear it. A travel-sized version of gel/pomade if you use it, nail clippers, an extra pair of socks, and I really like Dentabursts for on-the-sly teeth cleaning. (There are always people going in and out of our bathrooms, I would feel weird brushing my teeth in front of them.) And beandip would be my office BFF for having a toolkit at his desk!
posted by miss_kitty_fantastico at 8:49 PM on September 16, 2010

Response by poster: These are exactly what I'm looking for and yes I am a guy haha but im sure other people will find these answers useful. Thanks
posted by lilkeith07 at 8:50 PM on September 16, 2010

On my desk
- stamps kept under my keyboard
- a small hand mirror
- perfume
- hand lotion
- a small battery-operated AM//FM radio (listening to streaming music online slows my PC down)
- on-going list of songs, restaurant tips, & other random bits of info (jotted down on post-its and then transferred to a list in Outlook when I have organizational fits)
- desk calendar where I keep jot down my hours and the running balance of one of our accounts that I draw from daily

In a drawer:
- oatmeal packets, can of Progresso soup, can opener, and microwave safe bowl for emergency breakfast and lunch
- take-out menus for local lunch places that aren't online
- small bottles of olive oil and vinegar plus salt and pepper shakers kept on a plastic lid to catch drips
- napkins and plastic cutlery
- condiments
- peppermint gum

Under my desk
- two pairs of work-only dress shoes under my desk
- a reusable bag
- a small desk fan

Great question!
posted by Majorita at 8:52 PM on September 16, 2010

Tape gun, a couple of cardboard boxes (stored flat) and jiffy bags, bubble wrap and packing peanuts, box cutter, Swiss army knife, small screwdriver, tea bags and mug, cloth shopping bag, extra pair of shoes and socks (for when it is rainy), Aveeno non-greasy hand cream (the bathroom soap kills my hands), a sweater, a first aid kit including an instant cold pack, Yaktrax (for when it is icy), a disposable toothbrush with toothpaste included, hair brush and mirror, tissues, mints, heated foot rest (sometimes my feet get cold), wrapping paper, safety pins.
posted by gudrun at 8:55 PM on September 16, 2010

In my drawer there are three things that I don't use very often but when they're handy they're very very handy.

- paracetamol (why anyone goes to work without it is beyond me)
- sewing kit (needles, thread, some very sharp scissors, a couple of spare shirt buttons, and a dozen of those dress pins that come with shirts)
- a reusable supermarket shopping bag (beats carrying stacks of files around loose).
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 8:56 PM on September 16, 2010

wind-up toys (great for fiddly coworkers)
corkscrew/bottle opener
bottle of scotch
stickers, markers, paper, and above-mentioned wind up toys for visiting children
happy light
posted by crazycanuck at 8:59 PM on September 16, 2010


Actually, my coworker has toothpicks, and I take one every so often...
posted by A dead Quaker at 9:03 PM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

I have a funnel, because the water coolers at my office suck and don't fit my 1L Sigg bottle, or any other large water bottle.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 9:04 PM on September 16, 2010

Toothpicks. Nothing drives me battier than having food stuck in my teeth for hours, vainly tearing my gums up with fingernails, pen tips, and paper clips that are slightly too big.
posted by Khalad at 9:06 PM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

Contact lens solution, an extra contact lens case, and a spare pair of glasses.
A box of disposable flatware (forks and spoons) -- useful when I forget to grab one or for eating microwaved lunches.
Socks, definitely.
A fleece blanket to wrap up in if I'm really cold.
Mug and boxes of tea.
Hand sanitizer.
USB phone charger.
Nail file.
posted by devinemissk at 9:07 PM on September 16, 2010

A CamelBak water bottle that I keep constantly filled.
Granola bars.
A small bell (to bring into classes from time to time)
Several types of tea and my mug.
A variety of colored pens and markers.
A comb.
Breath mints.
A small notebook.
Travel toothbrush.
Backup work shirt.
Paper shopping bags.
A cloth drawstring bag (repurposed from a hot water bottle) and many slips of paper.
Alcohol facial wipes.
A strip of magnetic whiteboard tape.
As many whiteboard markers as I can get away with before The Mistress of Stationery notices.
posted by MShades at 9:28 PM on September 16, 2010

Bubbles, a stuffed animal, or some other random little toy. Occasionally bored and/or sick kids come through my office; I like to see them smile.
posted by hishtafel at 9:28 PM on September 16, 2010 [2 favorites]

I have this binary clock. It's stylish, it's a great conversation piece, and it's bright so that if you turn the lights off in your office, you can have a disco.

Oh, and you can also use it to tell time.
posted by Dr. ShadowMask at 9:38 PM on September 16, 2010

If you work anywhere that hosts clients, one day a client will bring his unruly child with him. Said unruly child will run around the office like an insane person, grabbing papers from desks and throwing pencils. If you keep a small pack of crayons and a couple hotwhees at your desk, you can be the office hero. If you want to be really awesome, you'll buy a pack of cheap finger puppet monsters and just give them away. Especially good for rewarding the non-unruly but incredibly bored kids.
posted by phunniemee at 9:43 PM on September 16, 2010 [2 favorites]

Nth-ing the umbrella, extra food (oatmeal, almonds, etc)., floss and mints. If you don't have space for a lot of tools, a Leatherman or basic Swiss Army knife could come in handy.

Your question also reminded me of this previous AskMe (overlaps suggestions here but is still worth checking out): "For the very first time, I now have a desk (and office!) to myself at work. What handy, practical, useful, or fun things should I keep at hand?"
posted by rangefinder 1.4 at 9:45 PM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

Oh, and ginger chew candies. For one, they're delicious, and if you're ever feeling queasy, ginger is good to settle your stomach. More importantly, though, they're less obvious than offering a mint when someone with stanky breath wants to talk to you.

Would you like a mint?
Why, does my breath smell? [Uneasy laughter.]

Would you like a ginger chew?
Huh, that sounds interesting. Sure, thanks.
posted by phunniemee at 9:48 PM on September 16, 2010 [4 favorites]

i was going to mention that i keep a bottle of hornsby's hard cider in the back of my file cabinet for emergencies.

Crazy, I'm drinking one of these right now.

I keep a small fan at my desk for times when it's a bit too warm in the office.
posted by SpacemanStix at 9:49 PM on September 16, 2010

A bottle of angostura bitters. (When my stomach's upset, a couple of drops in a bottle of fizzy water - which my work stocks, YMMV - settles everything nicely.)

Also: honey; box of cereal; couple of cans of tuna.
posted by rtha at 9:49 PM on September 16, 2010

Somebody already mentioned stamps, but I also keep envelopes and note paper.
Two rubber stamps, one with just my name for stamping books, etc. One with my name and address for stamping envelopes.
Earplugs. (I worked with a guy who used muff type hearing protectors, which are a clearer visual clue that you would prefer not to be interrupted.)
A good pair of scissors.
MiniMaglite 2 AA cell flashlight.
Alcohol swabs.
A small American flag.
A teddy bear. (Ever go to someone for help and realize the solution about halfway through your explanation? You might just as well have explained it to your teddy bear as interrupted your colleague with it.)
posted by Bruce H. at 10:04 PM on September 16, 2010

Piggy bank, box of kleenex, plastic spoon and fork, antiperspirant, wetwipes, hand lotion, toothbrush, toothpaste, shoehorn, shoe/foot deodorizing spray, chapstick, gum, nail clipper, allergy/cold/pain medicine, vicks inhaler, loose tea and tea strainer, travel-sized listerine bottle, spare necktie, cufflinks+tie pin set, pics of the family, binder clips in excess, and sundry office supplies.
posted by holterbarbour at 10:14 PM on September 16, 2010

-A bottle opener
-Metal Fork, Spoon, knife. (Plastic suck)
-Change for a $20 ($10, $5 and 5 $1's)
-Metro Card with a small balance
-Airplane bottles of whiskey
-small pocket knife
-Emergency Contact card has family numbers and good friends on it.
-Extra phone charger I got from a hotel that had 100's.
-After 9/11 my company gave us all backpacks to keep at our desk that had face mask, battery operated radio, bottles of water, flares, and other emergency supplies.
-Extra pair of shoes or sneakers for when it rains real hard.
-Extra paper towels or napkins for the inevitable spill.
-hot sauce
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:17 PM on September 16, 2010

Spare pair of shoes
Toothbrush + toothpaste + floss
A biiiiig bottle of Ibuprofen
posted by KokuRyu at 10:25 PM on September 16, 2010

Fishbowl with fighter fish
chinese checker game
vitamin C and mutivits
Giant polystyrene letters that spell out words in my window that you can read from the bar downstairs (right now it spells out YEAH SURE, I mix it up though)
Fitness ball, some magazines
Toy rifles that shoots foam bullets ( I work at an ad agency, we're immature)
muesli bar, water bottle
lots of action figures
hats for when we feel like fancy dress
tiny ping pong table.
posted by Jubey at 10:51 PM on September 16, 2010 [2 favorites]

back scratcher
voodoo doll
posted by wandering_not_lost at 11:18 PM on September 16, 2010

Headphone extension cable so I can easily plug in and listen to something playing on the computer (webinar, youtube, etc).
posted by mullacc at 11:24 PM on September 16, 2010

Besides the usual food item suspects -

* box of black tea (cheaper than Starbucks)
* instant miso soup. My go to lunch when I don't have time to make/buy is bringing a sweet potato to work and then microwaving it - goes great with the miso.
* quinoa - also fast to microwave and good source of protein. Can also throw in to the miso and sweet potato meal
* nuts

I've also kept around a backrest and heating pad for when my back gets cramped and honey/lemon in a squeeze bottle for tea. Added bonus - tea with lemon & honey will help you get through the day if you're nursing a cold.

Organizational items - label maker and Ikea Spatan magazine racks. For getting really organized by setting up hanging files on the wall in my workspace and labeling all of the different files.
posted by gov_moonbeam at 11:37 PM on September 16, 2010

A small paintbrush is really nice for dusting/cleaning the keyboard.
posted by IndigoRain at 12:13 AM on September 17, 2010

I keep 2 plush hedgehogs, 2 mice figurines (one is bright pink and you wind him up, then he does flips - very cool), bouncing putty, an original slinky, an orgasmo head massager, a dinosaur egg (that I haven't yet submerged in water for hatching), magazines and books for a bit of mind cleansing and tonnes of photos and posters.

I also replaced their rubbish keyboard with a pink one of my own.

Definitely have teeth cleaning paraphernalia, and drugs for everything, and hand sanitiser (for when all the clammy office people want to shake your hand), and deoderent!

And also keep a few bottles of water. Or vodka. Whatever you like. It's easy to forget to drink enough water when you sit around all day.
posted by foxy at 12:21 AM on September 17, 2010

magic eight ball ... for people who ask stupid questions.

Jar of sweets ... to reward people who ask intelligent questions.

Paracetamol, never use it myself ... but someone will always be looking for it.
posted by jannw at 12:53 AM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Space heater, fan, sweater (my office has two temperature settings: roasting and freezing)

Nthing mirrors... I sit with my back to everybody in the office

Pain relievers, daytime cold medicine, saline nasal spray, box of tissues

Travel toothbrush & paste, floss, mouthwash, deodorant

Cotton swabs... useful for a stubborn booger or itchy ear (bathroom only!)

Surgical tape to wrap around my finger if I get a hangnail while doing a lot of filing (otherwise the little piece of skin will catch on the edge of each and every folder you reach into... ow!)

Box of cold cereal, packets of oatmeal, tea bags (I also keep soy milk in the fridge, but if you need to keep something at your desk for the cereal you can buy individual-sized juice-box type containers of soymilk that don't need to be refrigerated)

Can of Progresso soup, microwave bowl, whole wheat crackers

Box of plastic cutlery
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 2:19 AM on September 17, 2010

Oh, also I have a white noise track on my iPod which I don't leave at my desk but I always have it with me and frequently use it at work. Sometimes goobers in my office are so loud I can't hear the caller on my phone... putting an earbud in the non-phone ear with the white noise at a soft volume really helps.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 2:23 AM on September 17, 2010

Tweezers, band-aids, extra pair of socks, plastic shopping bag crumpled into a ball for taking unexpected things home or carrying things on days when it rains. You can put the other stuff in it until emergencies. Also soy sauce, hot sauce, salt and pepper shakers like for camping, metal fork, butter knife, spoon, and pairing knife kept in a handy ceramic coffee cup which is also useful. A few tea bags, a little jar of sugar, a teensy sewing repair kit for when a button comes off. All-important toothbrush, toothpaste, and floss. For women, Tampons.

That's what I've got, anyway. The socks are nice if you're female because sometimes you have bare feet in sandals in a chilly air conditioned office and it's nice to put them on, and also sometimes it rains or snows and your feets get wet on the way in and it's nice if it doesn't ruin your day.

Lastly, Kleenex, if your office doesn't supply it.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 4:03 AM on September 17, 2010

Some of the more useful things in my cube right now:
-Coffee cup
-Tea cup. These are different so the tea doesn't taste like burnt coffee.
-Electric kettle and teapot, along with various teas.
-Several clocks. Basically, any direction I turn I can see what time it is. Helpful, since I can't see outside.
-A slightly uncomfortable guest chair. Allows people to sit, but doesn't encourage sitting too long.
-A cactus. Place on the seat if you really don't want people hanging around.
-Legos. I am fidgety.
-Lots of textbooks. Mostly from college, but I have some "vintage" ones in my field. Sometimes it's easier looking up information in steam tables than dealing with software to calculate it.

I also carry a bag back and forth from work that includes:
-Frequent flier/traveler cards.
-RSA key to get on the VPN.
-Pain killers, lip balm, hand lotion.
posted by backseatpilot at 5:17 AM on September 17, 2010

Emergency food -- I like ramen, hubs likes oatmeal packets. Also beef jerky for protein.

Small tape measure. Comes in useful more often than you'd think. (I actually carry one in my purse.)

Baby wipes (the travel case) -- good for wiping sweaty underarms (before re-deorderizing with the deoderant), cleaning up sticky messes, getting gunk or ink off hands, etc.

I always keep "manicure essentials" by which I mean a cuticle stick (with the pointy end that'll clean under the nails) and a nail file, and sometimes clippers and a buffer, because my fingernails always look like shit and sometimes I need a cleanup before something important.

Sewing kit with extra safety pins

(Of course, I don't have a desk job these days, but a lot of this stuff has migrated to my purse. And my husband is a huuuuuuuge fan of emergency baby wipes!)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:36 AM on September 17, 2010

White shirt and tie for when the higher-ups come a calling.
Change of undergarments for those all-nighters.
Personal grooming kit (razor and foam, toothbrush and floss, brush, etc...)
Full-face vapour-protection mask with a box of standard multi-chemical cartridges
A pair of chopsticks
High visibility vest
a little squirt bottle for my glasses.
Safety boots
A leatherman multi-tool
some zippy bags
nitrile gloves (latex ages too fast and vinyl are just horrible).
posted by bonehead at 5:46 AM on September 17, 2010

blind spot mirror (to know who is approaching)

For this, I Photoshopped a dark overlay onto the far right side of my desktop background (widescreen shiny monitor), which works very nicely.

-Rechargeable batteries (AA and AAA) and charger (for keyboard, mouse, mini recorder...)
-An oak plank, cut to fit on top of the shelf frame in my cubicle
-Map pins—the only thing that works to pin paper onto fabric cubicle walls
-A Beautiful Mind–esque collection of postcards, business cards, necessary lists...
-A loose pyramid of water-bottle caps
-A drawer devoted to plastic grocery bags (to recycle)
-Pain reliever
-An extra toothbrush, mini toothpaste, and floss set
-Headphones (and SimplyNoise bookmarked)
-A great set of search bookmarks on Firefox
-Olive oil; salt and pepper grinders from Trader Joe's/Whole Foods
-A mug (currently holding a motley collection of plastic utensils)
-Unscented lotion (a must when you're handling a lot of paper in colder months)
-Hand sanitizer (doubles as keyboard and mouse cleaner)
-Chewable multivitamins
-Photos of Rupert (RIP!)
posted by limeonaire at 5:55 AM on September 17, 2010

Oh man, and Post-it Super Sticky Recycled Notes—the best.

And ditto the glasses-cleaning set.
posted by limeonaire at 5:57 AM on September 17, 2010

I, and most of my coworkers, keep an entire spare outfit hanging on the back of our doors. This will seem unnecessary until that day when you don't realize your pen exploded and there's ink everywhere. Everywhere.

A small bottle of your favorite booze.
posted by punchtothehead at 5:59 AM on September 17, 2010

Although similar to face wipes and cleaning wipes others have mentioned, a pack of baby wipes. Cheap and great at getting a drip of sauce or a grease mark off of your shirt.
posted by NordyneDefenceDynamics at 6:03 AM on September 17, 2010

A chess clock. I use it to keep track of time on/time off task when I am trying to be more productive, or when I have a specific project that I need to monitor.
Work. Smack. Metafilter. Smack. Work.
Also works well for certain visitors who just don't get subtler hints that you don't want to talk. Just a minute. Smack. What can I do for you? Tick, tick, tick.
posted by Killick at 6:14 AM on September 17, 2010 [5 favorites]

All of these are fantastic. The only one I have that I don't see is a microwaveable teapot. It is good for loose tea, so I can have proper tea at my desk.
posted by winna at 6:39 AM on September 17, 2010

I have a mug-warmer hot-plate thing to assist me in nursing my coffee. As well as a coffee mug, I keep a glass-glass for water. Water tastes crappy out of a ceramic mug, even a sparkling clean one, and I have no idea why.

Several of the guys around my labs also keep a tie, or sometimes a shirt-and-tie combo if they usually wear non-collar shirts, or sometimes just a blazer jacket to go with their normal polo - basically, one item of clothing that they can put on to convert an average working-day costume into a slightly classier attire for "oh, didn't I mention that Dr Z is visiting from Germany and specifically wanted to see your project results?"

I keep a pair of worky shoes at my desk so I can bike in wearing sneakers.

I also keep the standards - snacks, tea, ibuprofen, band-aids, nail file, spare change,lotion. Only thing unusual is sunscreen for when someone says "let's go eat at ___, I love their patio seating!"
posted by aimedwander at 6:44 AM on September 17, 2010

A small set of blank all-purpose and thank you cards with envelopes, stamps, and addresses at the ready. Sometimes you discover during the day someone is going through a rough time or it's their birthday or you forgot to send a thank you note over the weekend for something or whatever, orrr a coworker does something awesome for you, and saying thank you in a classy way is as simple as writing a couple lines and popping it off. This helped me enormously in my first desk job; I could tell my colleagues thought I was totally on top of things.

Mints/breath freshener, floss packs, little compact mirror for those days you eat spinach for lunch and don't have time to run off to the restroom to check. Wet wipes for cold season as well as days your lunch is messy enough you need more than a dry napkin. Medicine of choice depending on what ails ya--I always kept pepto tablets, cough drops, ibuprofen, and some form of quick sugar like hard candy or lollipops (I used to have lots of hypoglycemic fainting spells when I was younger).

I'm probably being too weird/Type A here, but I had a little plastic three-drawer doohickey where I stocked small amounts of standard office supplies--a stapler with a box of extra staples, rubber bands, post-its, paper clips, a ruler, calculator, pencil sharpener, extra lead for refillable pencils, markers, pencils, pens, highlights, tape, thumbtacks, etc. just for days the supply room was out or the stapler went missing or I just didn't feel like getting up to grab more of something. It's not necessary but it's really nice, and it didn't take up much room or cost much at all because my supplies lasted a long time; they weren't what I always turned to, just sometimes when it was easier that way. It does something for my mental well-being and work attitude to feel super duper prepared for anything, self-sufficient like that.

A back up emergency plan for lunch/late nights--for me it was those pull-tab cans of soup, a microwavable container, a couple wrapped plastic spoons/napkins, and a can of soda. Definitely NOT my ideal lunch, but it put the pressure off sometimes knowing in the worst case scenario, where I'm frazzled and totally forget to pack my lunch, I still have something quick that isn't fast food at the ready. I also brought tea bags and resealable packs of trail mix and cheese crackers. Yes, a roomy leakproof tipproof vessel for liquids hot and cold.

Yes yes yes to a comfy but attractive all-purpose/versatile sweater. I had a favorite thin but warm black cardigan I kept at my desk and it was great for those fall days when the AC was on full blast for no reason. Hand lotion for the same issue. Sunscreen for times you go out in the middle of the day. A reusable shopping bag if you ever do errands occasionally on your lunch break, or for times someone gives you something unwieldy like leftover party cake or tons of documents or a present to take home. If you wear stockings, a back up pair sealed to protect it from snags. KLEENEX (if you're like me you can never have too much)! Yes to tampons/pads (kinda goes without saying really). A little not-too-crazy-loud timer. A little umbrella, because the one in your car won't do you any good unless you park in a connected garage...

I could swear we did this before, let me check my activity...yeah. Not quite the same, but lots of answers there will apply here too.
posted by ifjuly at 7:36 AM on September 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

If you keep food at your desk, make sure it's packaged so that mice and roaches can't get into it.

A couple cans of soup, salt & pepper, fork, spoon, cheap paring knife, mug.
Cupholder - I bring my travel mug in with me, and a roll of packing tape is a. useful as packing tape, b. useful as a cupholder.

Fleece vest.

A duplicate of my travel kit with toothpaste, toothbrush, deodorant, corn starch, brush, nail file, nail clippers, tiny sewing kit, safety pins. I leave out the shampoo.

Extra presciption meds, bandaids, pain reliever, hand sanitizer.

small toys, stress balls
posted by theora55 at 7:39 AM on September 17, 2010

Am I the only one whose desk has sea monkeys? Because my desk totally has sea monkeys.
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:08 AM on September 17, 2010 [3 favorites]

High-quality tape measures (US customary & metric), Micrometer and Vernier Calipers: because you never can be too precise, even in desktop publishing.

Model 301 Panavise: astoundingly useful in infinite ways, for holding up reference documents at the very least.

3-in-1 multipurpose oil: to silence mechanical things that irritatingly creak and squeal.

Duct Tape.
posted by lordcorvid at 8:25 AM on September 17, 2010

I keep my daughter's school picture on my desk, not just because I'm a proud parent, but because when I have that "OMFG I'M WALKING OUT OF THIS HELLHOLE AND NEVER COMING BACK!!!" feeling, I look at her picture and I'm reminded of the college tuition bills coming in a few years.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 8:50 AM on September 17, 2010

I can't believe how long it took me to get a pepper grinder for my desk. Definitely an upgrade.

My computer tower is under my desk and hard to access, so I have extension cords for headphones (mentioned above) and for a USB port.
posted by yarrow at 8:56 AM on September 17, 2010

shoes, nailpolish, washcloth, snacks, music, gum
posted by PeaPod at 9:08 AM on September 17, 2010

toothbrush and toothpaste.

please do not bring a nail clippers. nothing grosses me out more than listening to my cubemate practicing nail hygiene right next to me, only to find their cut nail in my cube later.

posted by wocka wocka wocka at 9:43 AM on September 17, 2010

One of my coworkers clips her *toenails* her desk. Don't be that person.
posted by spinturtle at 9:49 AM on September 17, 2010

Chapstick/lip balm.
Something good smelling to breathe in when someone nearby is not.
Shoes I could run in or don't care about getting ruined (mandatory if you worked in downtown NYC after 9/11)
Antibacterial wipes. I don't trust the cleaning crew.
An extra pair of glasses.
A little folding stand for my iphone so I can have a ballgame on in the background, especially when working late.
High protein snack (almonds are your friend, a handful will get you through to lunch)
Local takeout menus
Calendar - I know I have one in outlook, but I use the one on my desk more. Then again, I'm OLD.
Headphones that go over my ears - I can't have in-ear headphones since I have to talk to people & I won't hear them otherwise. Plus it tells people MICAWBER CAN'T HEAR YOU. It also will repel many coworkers who just want to shoot the shit and waste your time.
Hand sanitizer (for when I can't wash my hands)
Ibuprofen or something for headaches.
Tide stick/shout wipes.
posted by micawber at 10:08 AM on September 17, 2010

a little leatherman. i just used mine three times already today.
posted by lakersfan1222 at 10:14 AM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Ok, the non-obvious items:

I wear a big ole pair of Sennheiser's at work. Way more intimidating for someone to approach you and make you take your headphones off to ask you something stupid than if you've just got a pair of earbuds in.

A small, blank usb drive so that if it seems I'm going to get laid off or fired, I can quickly take my latest work with me (for portfolio purposes).

Neon toy clay, nerf guns, a Man in the Yellow Hat suit, various little figurines, a small rock garden with tiny flying monkeys in it. Basically things that remind you not to take work too seriously, and not to take office geegaws like tiny rock gardens too seriously either.

An old blue TI-108 like the sort you use in grade school. I use this for simple calculations for budgets I have to put together and shit. It takes the edge off the horrible boringness and ersatz gravity that seems to halo about things like budgets.

Various snacks in mason jars. Watch for mice. Oh, your office doesn't have mice you say? Mmmhmmm. Ok.

Old set of dominoes. Sometimes if I have some really simple task, like putting something in the recycling, I'll set-up a long chain of dominoes to do it for me. It's a not-so-subtle subversive statement about busy work.

Display of name badges from every conference or event or whatever I've had to go to. These badges of dishonor make me seem extremely important.

I bought a bag a plastic jewels from a craft store and a magnet sheet. I made a whole bunch of jewel magnets and put them all over the file cabinet next to me. These are my riches. There's something inspiring or comforting about them.

I put up pictures on the wall people I admire. Right now I've got two of Quincy Jones and one of Macgyver.

I keep two old bowling balls under my desk. I have not found an office use yet for these, but it seems that I will.

An inflatable inner tube. We put this on when we're in need of life-saving.

One large plastic horse head mounted to the wall behind me. I work in fundraising and I threaten to leave this in people's beds.

A piece of egregiously bad sculpture art that has been shot through with various firearms. I work with a lot of 'wish we didn't have to have a day job' artists. It's calming.

A voodoo doll on the cork board. Easy to stab with tacks. I cut mine out of rejection letters.

A plush hammer that makes a breaking noise when you hammer it on something. Insanely handy. Really.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:44 AM on September 17, 2010 [3 favorites]

Stash of Chocolate
posted by wcfields at 12:18 PM on September 17, 2010

Two trackballs (exactly the same thing as billiard balls but completely gray). I use them to keep my hands exercised and stretched by manipulating them the same way you would Boading balls. The benefit of the trackballs is that, since they have no bells in them, they don't irritate everyone around me if I use them for an extended period of time.

I also keep a rotary phone plugged into a voice over IP modem, just to prove to people that it'll work. (plus, it's still a nice phone to take calls on.)
posted by quin at 3:00 PM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

A picture of author Douglas Adams. When you're dealing with a F**KING IDIOT for a boss you can just glance over at Doug and it will all wash over you (smug grin optional).
posted by TheOceanRefusesNoRiver at 3:21 PM on September 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

woopsie, I'm like the work experience kid, I'm new here, not sure if pretending to use potty language is frowned upon... apologies in advance.
posted by TheOceanRefusesNoRiver at 3:22 PM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

>> ... your pen exploded ...

Or your ass.
posted by Bruce H. at 5:18 PM on September 17, 2010

not sure if pretending to use potty language is frowned upon... apologies in advance.

You're more than welcome to swear for real if you want. Welcome to MetaFilter.

And to answer the question, I keep moisturizer in my desk when I start feeling all HVACed out. And spare postcards, with stamps, in case you need a little postal therapy.
posted by jessamyn at 7:20 PM on September 17, 2010

Regular basketball. Good for tossing around at meetings.
posted by cseibert at 7:48 PM on September 17, 2010

I can't tell you how often me or my co-workers dig into my 'tool drawer' - tape measure, olfa knives, multi tool, multiple different types of tape, sharpies, magnets... etc.
posted by gillianr at 9:01 PM on September 17, 2010

A jump rope so I can go into the parking garage and get some quick cardio before the urge to kill my cubicle mates overwhelms me. Plus, sitting is gross.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 10:07 PM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

4 inch magnifying glass. Some things need a closer look.
posted by ptm at 9:50 AM on September 18, 2010

Fragrance free baby wipes.
Battery powered screwdriver.
posted by mecran01 at 6:22 AM on September 19, 2010

Also: folding foam futon chair/mattress, 5' wide wooden pterodactyl puzzle, Clif bars, illuminated vanity mirror, and a trophy scavenged from outside another office.
posted by mecran01 at 11:58 AM on September 19, 2010

Advil or Tylenol.
Toothbrush, toothpaste, dental floss. Breath mints are also good.
Cough/sore throat drops.
Lip balm. Small mirror (esp. to see if I need the dental floss, haha)
Lint brush.
Mini-container of contact lens solution.
Hand sanitizer. Half the time I use it when I have a cold, the other half I dab it on a tissue and wipe off my keyboard and mouse.
Loose leaf tea and tea pot / tea ball: so much nicer than the tea at the office.
Honey for tea.
Some non-perishable snacks. I especially like granola or energy bars (when I have a meeting in 10m but I'm starving) and almonds.

I have also seen:
Needle & thread.
Small gift/thank you cards.
posted by SarahbytheSea at 6:50 PM on September 19, 2010

Chopsticks. They're dirt cheap by the case, and don't require I clean them very much.

Immodium. Any other drug-store thing, I can wait on. The once every five years I need this, I *need* this.

Envelopes, stamps, and packing tape.

Spare shirt, pants, and socks.

Two packs of gum. Two boxes of tissues. Actually, pretty much two of anything, so when I'm down to one, I have a few days to stock back up.

Soy sauce. This makes a shitty lunch less bad, and makes some good lunches great.

A phone charger.

A box of Clif bars, or any other quick snack. I get cranky without food, so I do not go without food.
posted by talldean at 8:45 PM on September 19, 2010

Late to the party, but I'm adding a small tub of (Michigan cherry) coffee grounds and a 2-cup French press to my desk because our coffee machine spits out a rancid abomination.

A few pre-cooked rice bowls.

Poseable figures. Mine's Yotsuba.

Cheapo refurb mp3 player full of Korean bubblepop for when I'm having a really miserable day and need to turn it around.

Pictures of my puppy for the same reason.

A good book for lunch breaks or internet outages.

Cell phone charger because my cube is a dead spot and it kills my phone's battery.
posted by specialagentwebb at 6:22 AM on September 20, 2010

A small flashlight (change batteries at least once a year). In several places I've worked the emergency lighting does not include the bathrooms.
posted by KneeDeep at 11:23 AM on September 20, 2010

A high-capacity stapler. It's really the best thing ever.
posted by asuprenant at 9:22 PM on September 22, 2010

All of these are great! A few additions:

+1 for rearview mirror. ThinkGeek sells these nice ones that stick on the corner of your monitor. For certain office layouts, though, only this ultra-wide bad boy will do. Some armature wire might come in handy for mounting and precise positioning.

General Purpose Cleaner. You will spill shit on your desk. Clean it up. Also those Swiffer Duster things are great, if usuriously priced.

Rubbing Alcohol. For the OCD among us, it's the best way to clean your keyboard, mouse, laptop exterior, LCD screen (cut 1:1 with water), etc. Especially effective on those little nubbin scrollballs on recent Apple mice, and on all your cords—you'll remember what color they actually are!

Medications. Extras of whatever you're on, in case you forget, or pull an all-nighter. Also, digestive meds and pain killers are essential for emergencies. Band-Aids also fall into this category.

Sponge and Dish Soap. At least at my office, there's no guarantee that the employee kitchen will have these at any given time. And even if there is, it's probably covered in bacteria! I don't trust my coworkers' hygiene.

Napkins, paper towels, silverware, plates, etc. Never assume that the office will be well-stocked. Extra sugar, creamer, stirrers, etc also fall into this category. you'll save yourself trips back and forth to the kitchen, and using real forks/plates/etc is less wasteful.

Toddy cold-brew coffee maker. So much cheaper than going out for coffee, and way better than whatever free mud your office supplies. Buy good beans, fill it up before you leave for the night, and filter it the next morning into the carafe. Stick it in the office fridge, and you have great coffee (hot or iced) for a week or two or three. Way less acid. I also keep a squeeze bottle with simple syrup to sweeten up iced coffee, iced tea, etc.

Maybe later today I'll take a full inventory of all my goodies, which fill a desk drawer and two cabinets.

Things I wish I had and that I am considering manufacturing:

On-Air Light. A light above my cube, visible from all directions that turns on whenever my phone is off the hook (including my headset!). I'm always getting interrupted by people who don't realize that I'm on the phone. It's intensely irritating, especially since I have a hard time hearing the folks on the other end with the weak conference room phone.

Motion Detectors. For when the rear-view just doesn't give enough coverage (can you tell I hate being surprised?). One mounted in each direction on the outside of my cube, connected to a little indicator box mounted under my monitor, with lights indicating from which direction I'm about to be ambushed. Great for knowing when to hide MeFi.

Anyone who has electronics manufacturing experience and wants to help?
posted by joshwa at 6:31 AM on September 24, 2010

« Older Bad vibes to ask for some protection?   |   One continent. Six months. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.