Last week I packed up all of my personal belongings from my office and brought them home. After five years of working in the same large office space, I’d filled up the shelves with books, placed artwork on the walls, and arranged photo frames and trinkets on the desks (for some reason I have two desks and a meeting table, probably just to fill up the ridiculous amount of floor space). It felt so liberating to remove everything personal from my workplace.
When I first moved into this office I was embarrassed by its size; I often say to people that it’s larger than the first apartment I lived in when I got married. Now that I’ve removed the personal items I’d accumulated over the years, the office feels even larger, but it’s also become sterile and barren. This week I plan to replace the personal artwork with material from our recent advertising campaigns, so that should restore some vibrancy to the walls, but the art will now reflect the organization’s branding and not me personally. I think that’s a positive step for both me and my employer. I want to avoid any sense of entitlement or complacency at work. My office is not my home nor do I have any ownership over it. While I do want to feel valued and respected, I don’t want to be taken for granted—and I shouldn’t take the organization for granted either.
Today at home, I gathered a few books and put them in a small brown box along with a photo frame of my family and a personal item for my desk. These I will permit myself to bring back to the office. The personal item is a blown glass orca whale given to me by my mother after I completed my graduate studies and we travelled to Vancouver Island together for my convocation weekend. The orca reminds me of many things: the unfailing love of my parents; walking on Long Beach in Pacific Rim National Park where my brother’s ashes were scattered; and the accomplishment of receiving my master’s degree (the glass orca is much more beautiful to look at than a framed degree mounted on a wall). I’ve decided never to accumulate more personal items at work than I can quickly fit into one small box, which I plan to keep beneath my desk as a reminder.
I suppose if I was more courageous, I’d delete the previous two paragraphs and share the real reason why I packed up all of my personal belongings last week. Either way, I do feel more free.