Wednesday, March 30, 2011

I guess it’s time to clean out the office

I’ve been putting this off. I’ve even been putting off thinking about why I’m putting it off.

Not because of nostalgic memories or having to face feelings of sadness upon leaving. Although I do sit in my comfortable desk chair (embarrassingly stained with salad dressing from years of eating at my desk) and say to myself, “I’m really going to miss this old office.”

BAGMAN: “No you’re not.”

He’s right. I’m not really going to miss it much. At my retirement party the staff gave me a tote bag on which they had all written obligatory “We’re going to miss you”s . And Kelley, who once cracked a raw egg over my head at a company picnic, wrote: “Remember that the windshield is bigger than the rearview mirror for a reason.” I’ve always been pretty adept at leaving. Sometimes too adept or my own good.

I’ve been putting off cleaning out the office because it is stuffed – bookcases, credenzas, file cabinets – with things I didn’t know what to do with at the time. How will I figure it out now?

BAGMAN: “Don’t even look at it! Just throw everything away!”

But I’ve still got five days left before I actually vacate the office. I’m still the Director. I can’t just drop everything and start cleaning it out.

BUTLER: “Mark, Mark, Mark… For the next five days, you may be responsible for signing payroll but be honest. When was the last time your telephone rang? You’ve done a good job of methodically turning everything over to Chanda who has been promoted to follow you. You don’t even have any emails in your inbox! You have nothing else to do for the next five days. So start cleaning out!

Not that easy! But not impossible. The decision logic is limited to the following categories:

1. Confidential stuff – shred or burn

2. Confidential stuff -- pass along to appropriate management for follow-up or documentation

3. Stuff I might find useful later – training materials, etc.

4. Stuff someone else might find useful later

5. Absolutely worthless pieces of paper

6. Office supplies that should be put back in the supply cabinet

7. Personal stuff to take home

I pull out a huge notebook titled: “Emails -2008.” I used to keep selected emails I wrote with the expectation that I would take them home when I left. At the time I considered them wise or clever and worth keeping with my personal journals.

BUTLER: “Like that long-winded email you sent to the entire staff giving the philosophical and linguistic rationale for not using obscenity in the workplace.”

I read a few of the emails in the notebook and realize that I sounded like a self-righteous preacher in love with the sound of my own words.

BAGMAN: “Hey! Just like you do on Blogspot!”

Okay! Okay! Into the burn bin! And I start pulling stuff off shelves and out of file cabinets.

1. A funny cartoon I clipped out of the newspaper in 2005. Put it in the new Director’s box. She could use a laugh – she’s now wearing all the stress that you’ve shed.

2. A contract with the local mental health agency. So that’s where I put it! Return it to the contract files where it should have been in the first place.

3. Notes and exercises from the Leadership Institute I attended in 2001. Take them home in case I ever start doing management consulting in my retirement. On second thought, into the trash can.

4. A hundred paper clips of assorted colors and sizes in my desk drawer. After staring at them for ten minutes, I close the drawer and figure I’ll get to them later.

5. Folders of documentation we used to defend the Center against a lawsuit that was settled eight years ago. Burn bin.

6. Books and articles on financial management of healthcare institutions, addiction, marketing, leadership, time-management, etc. I give some to the new director, leave some on the shelves, throw some away. Too heavy to take home where my bookcases are already full.

7. 17 coffee mugs with cute sayings, mostly gifts from staff on “Boss’s Day.” I keep three of them.

8. Four of the other coffee mugs are filled with five hundred more paper clips. How did I get all these paper clips?!!

Suddenly I’m frozen with indecision. We’ve cut the budget for office supplies for the last three years in a row. I can’t just throw them away. I don’t have a box to put them in.

9. A photograph of my wife. Put it lovingly in the gift tote bag I’m using to take things home in.

As I lean down to put the photo in the tote bag, I spot, lying on the carpet near a bookcase, a large silver paper clip. I lean over, pick it up, and stare at it. Despite a 35 year career of decision-making, I don’t know what to do with it.

I begin to hyperventilate.


  1. You can do this. . . yes, you can!

  2. Oh Mark, I will never forget the day they took my name off my mailbox in the mailroom. I thought surely they could have waited until we were all gone. In about 2 weeks you will look back at this and laugh. LOL might as well laugh now.

  3. Believe me, I'm laughing. At least I have a nonstop grin.

  4. At the moment, I am faced with the opposite task: building my home office work place from scratch. So far, I have a company's laptop, my own printer and telephone, and I nead a headset for the phone and some other stuff which I am going to buy before the end of April, sending the bill to my new boss.
    Actually, I am quite enjoying this!

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