The Break Room: Happy National Clean Off Your Desk Day!

An Open Letter to My Colleagues RE: National Clean Off Your Desk Day

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This satirical column is part of our series The Break Room. Each column takes a humorous look at an aspect of the workplace. All the characters and scenes are fictional.

Dear Colleagues,

I am aware that National Clean Off Your Desk Day is January 13, and I am writing to let you know that I have gotten the hint. I received the all-company email, had a “totally-casual-and-not-at-all-pre-planned chat” with Jackie from HR about the occasion in the kitchen the other day, and have observed small packs of you gesturing toward my desk, snickering and making gagging motions. So, yes, I get it, (Now don’t you feel terrible about yourselves?), OK.

I am writing to let you know that you can rest assured that I fully intend to participate in National Clean Off Your Desk Day, with a few important caveats, which I will outline here:

1. With regard to the half dozen dirty coffee mugs, I keep those at my desk as a courtesy. I know we usually run the dishwasher first thing each morning and I want to put them into the dishwasher rather than leave them in the sink. However, I usually have meetings in the morning, and when I don’t have meetings the dishwasher is often already full. So I really don’t see how any of that is my fault.

2. With regard to the half dozen dirty water glasses, see above.

3. With regard to the stack of used takeout containers, which I am aware you call “The Leaning Tower of Nausea,” I am being a conscientious citizen by waiting until I have an opportunity to thoroughly rinse them before putting them into the recycling. But again, I have so many meetings!

I’ll say this: I know most of you have come to trust “computers” and “the Internet” to keep organized, but I still have my doubts about both.

4. The T-shirts from old company picnics are also there for a reason. Those are my gym clothes. I have a membership to the gym and I’m planning on going any day now. And I’ll need gym shirts to wear when I do. So those have to stay.

5. Many of you have asked why I need so many stress balls, wondering how I could ever need more than 2. But I find that different colored stress balls have different levels of effectiveness depending on the kind of stress I’m experiencing. So those, too, must remain put.

6. Finally, with regard to the stacks and stacks of paperwork, every receipt and every expense report I’ve ever submitted (many of which were reimbursed years ago), tax forms, hard-copy printouts of outdated spreadsheets, and PowerPoint presentations, along with company paperwork dating all the way back to my original offer letter from 8 years ago, I’ll say this: I know most of you have come to trust “computers” and “the Internet” to keep organized, but I still have my doubts about both. I’ve put in requests for a file cabinet in which to keep these items with 3 different people and have been met with replies of, “Nobody uses those anymore,” “I wouldn’t even know where to get a file cabinet,” and “What is a file cabinet?” respectively.

Items I will be throwing away include the moldy orange, even though I’m sure it’s still good under the skin (you win!), the dead succulent, and Alyssa’s notebook, which is technically on her desk, but the corner of it has been touching my desk for several days now and I’m sick of it.

You might also be pleased to know that I recently turned my keyboard upside down, resulting in a cascade of dust, lint, and bits of food like cookie crumbs, bagel seeds, and even tiny bits of meat and cheese. I haven’t had time to put that little pile of keyboard debris into the garbage yet (so many meetings!), but I fully intend to do so this Tuesday on National Clean Off Your Desk Day.

… Unless, of course, I have meetings.

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