I am the person at my workplace who ends up doing the stuff that no one else will do. Toilet clogged? Call Spark! Computer won't go? Call Spark! Ants in the kitchen? Call Spark!
Colleague died, leaving 1.5 offices full of stuff to be sorted through? Call Spark!
How did this fellow manage to fill two desks with his stuff? He had one office for seeing clients (the tidy office) and one in the staff-only area (the messy office). Although frankly, by my standards, they were both pretty disorganized. (No offence to his memory. He was a brilliant but absent-minded-professor type of guy.)
Technically I could have delegated the task of going through his belongings, but honestly I didn't want to. Not because it's a laugh riot digging through a dead guy's desk, but because I wanted it to be done right. And you know what they say about that.
It's a weird experience, to go through a colleague's personal stuff when you weren't that close in the land of the living. I mean, we worked together for 12 years, but that's different from handling his half-used underarm deodorant. (Right Guard spray, in a gold can.) Definitely different from packing up his spare pair of well-worn shoes into a box together with framed photos of his grand-children. I feel like I'm getting one last weird chance to know him better, after he's already gone.
I can see the layers of his forgetfulness in his desk drawers; read how he asked his administrative assistant for some blank file folders, transcription request forms, and mailing labels every few months. The strata of office supplies are separated by random accumulations of industry journals and sales flyers. Eventually, when the last lot of unused supplies was fully buried, he'd go get a fresh batch. I stacked them in growing piles on the desk as I proceeded with the excavation.
His most-hoarded office supplies were binder clips of all sizes, and stacks upon stacks of 1.5" x 2" sticky notes in every colour of the rainbow. I picture him stashing them deliberately, like a squirrel burying nuts for winter. I retrieved at least 150 binder clips and dozens upon dozens of stickies from his two desks and returned them to the office supplies shelves. We won't have to order more of those for quite some time.
There are still a few cupboards and three drawers of a large filing cabinet to be gone through. I have been at the task for a week, but I can only manage around 90 minutes per day. It's not that it's emotional, although it is a bit, but it's just a lot of decision-making. After staring at the umpteenth document and trying to determine if it belongs in the shred, file, recycle, or reuse piles, my brain seizes up.
I think I will feel most sad when the job is done and all reminders of him are tidied away. Fortunately, that doesn't need to happen for a while. No one is in a hurry to take over his office space. I'm going to leave his papers in the filing cabinet for a few months, to give his widow a chance to get over the worst of the shock. Maybe I'll give her a call in the fall to ask her what she wants done with all the papers. There is also a box of personal financial records that I stashed away where they won't be discovered by all and sundry. I didn't read them closely, but it's nice to see that she'll be amply provided for.