Thursday, June 9, 2011

What To Wear When You Are Cleaning Out Your Office

The next day, a Tuesday, I had to clean out my office. Strangely enough, I had previously set aside that day as the day to clear off my desk, do some filing, and, in essence, clean out my office. Two years ago I was asked to take over the job on a Friday afternoon because the previous manager had left in the morning. No warning. Just left the office, the piles of paperwork, the responsibilities and walked off into the sunset. The office never stood a chance. I never got the time to do a proper cleaning or filing. Stacks of paper were more or less piled into some semblance of organization.  And Tuesday was going to be the day I could finally conquer and vanquish the clutter and mess. Well, that I did. I finally found the time to clean out my desk. I was finally given the time to clean out my desk. The phone no longer rang, and I had no pressing e-mails to answer. I had all the time in the world.

Advice is given on how to dress for an interview. We all know the rules. Clean shirt, shined shoes, our best foot forward. My grandmother who worked in the banking and insurance business was a stickler for etiquette. If anyone would know the answer to my question she would. What does one wear when you are cleaning out your office? In the morning as I was getting ready to go to my non-work, I stood in front of my closet for almost an hour. Just staring at the clothes. The dresses and suits that I would no longer be wearing were getting in the way of what to wear today. The day after the day I was let go. The day that I have to clean out my office. I was raised with a dress code for every occasion. But I can't remember my grandmother ever talking about what to wear when you have to clean out your office. I am no longer capable of making those kind of decisions. Much like the choosing the beer last night, I went with something familiar. Making decisions is overrated when you are numb and your moorings have been let loose.

I stopped by to get a coffee on the way in to work, as usual. My car seemed to know the route better than I because I was staring at the mountains that I would no longer see everyday, because I would not drive this way everyday, anymore. Before I knew it I was pulling up in front of my local Starbucks. My usual barista asked if I had the day off today--the question startled me. I said yes, I have today off, and then I said to myself, I'll have tomorrow off, and the next day, and the next and the next. The simple questions are the ones that catch you off guard. How to respond to the simple questions? I knew I would have to prepare myself and steel myself for the simple questions. The ones that catch us off guard, when we are at ease, when we are lulling ourselves into thinking everything is going to be all right, or that nothing has changed. Well, the simple questions remind you with a swift kick to the shin that everything has indeed changed and you don't know yet if everything is going to be all right.

I took my time cleaning out my desk and office. I took the time to file papers, create file folders for those papers that needed one, and tossed papers that needed tossing. I stopped for lunch and walked over to HR to pick up my last paycheck. And that's when I began to wonder why I was doing all this extra work. I could just walk away like the other manager did. I felt like I should leave the desk in a pristine condition because that is how I was raised, that is how polite people move through this world. And then I thought, it is no longer my concern. As I was sitting eating lunch, I friend e-mailed me to see how I was doing. When I expressed my dilemma about the desk, the advice was to leave the desk the way you want to be remembered. I liked that. Even though the desk, the office, the work, the whole institution for that matter, was no longer my concern I could leave the way I wanted to be remembered.

And that is the ultimate etiquette lesson.

© pranaknits


  1. "...that is how polite people move through this world." This is great. Anyone can leave a mess because it no longer matters to them, but to make each moment important to oneself, for one's own sake, is a huge achievement. I would even go so far as to say it is the essence of most every spiritual practice that is worth anything: bring the consciousness and attitude that you want to embody into every moment and task, no matter how seemingly trivial.

    Good blog.

  2. Geoffrey, I think that has been a big lesson for me, paring interactions, events, moments in time down to the essential. I felt like I was sleepwalking through my life before, or at best a pinball just reacting to what was going on around me. I want to bring that consciousness back into my life. I want to have the calm inside me again.