What Does a Fellow Keep in his Drawers?

Now that I am an AIA Fellow and I’ve officially hit the big time, people are continually stopping me everywhere I go and asking me, “O Supreme Leader, now that thou hast hit the bigeth league, couldst thou bestow upon us regular folk your secret?

Well, after writing a blog like mine for 7 years, you don’t have very many secrets left, but I do have one, and it’s something I’ve never shared on this site before … the only secret I have left is what I keep in my drawers. I’m not even sure how the topic came up but last week some of the people in my office had me show them everything I keep this particular drawer – and while I was a little reluctant to show them my goods, in the end, I decided it wasn’t that big of a deal. After having a few laughs at the randomness of the stuff I have held onto, it was suggested that I turn the contents of this particular drawer into a blog post – an archive of sorts. Everybody has a drawer like this – some people have one at their office, some people have one in their home, and some people have both. I know that in every house I work on I know that there will eventually be a drawer that is full of garbage – the things you think you should hang onto because it either seems wasteful to throw them away or you think eventually you might actually need whatever this thing is (that you don’t actually need.) I know that in my house, that drawer holds a bunch of random stuff with a disproportionate amount of fortune cookies, delivery menus, and individually packaged fork/knife/napkin sets.

Okay – I have acquiesced and the contents of my work junk drawer will be a secret no longer … so let’s take a look at what I keep in my there, shall we?

Prepare to be underwhelmed.

Bob Borson's office junk drawer

This is the drawer that we will be focusing in on today. At my workstation, I technically have of these types of drawers but this is the only one that is full of random stuff that I don’t really want to throw away, but I don’t know where to store other in a drawer relegated to this very purpose.

Bob Borson's junk drawer - plan view

I did not clean it out prior to this post, which made me a bit nervous because there is some stuff in here that I have touched or thought about since I put it in here. I was a little surprised that it was fuller.

Architects go through a lot of headphones

Headphones, and a lot of them.

After I took this picture I realized that these 6 don’t even represent all the headphones I have up here at the office – I had forgotten about the ones that are currently sitting on my desk.

Yes, they all work.

caffeine in the morning


I am not a coffee drinker – even though I kind of wish I were. I’m not anti-caffeine and I’m not completely anti-hot drink. As a result, I tend to drink tea when the mood strikes me and I am partial to Irish and English breakfast teas (probably from the time I’ve spent over in these locations).

yes - I keep toiletries at the office


If you are going to eat and drink stuff while up at work, it only makes sense that you have the ability to clean your mouth afterward. I keep the razor up here for those occasions that I decide to go all mountain man only to realize that I have a client meeting. Because of my Viking lineage, I can grow a beard in a few days … except now it’s gone white on me and I’m not ready to look like an off-season Santa Claus. If I was smart, I would also keep some shaving cream up here … lathering up using soap from the hand pump doesn’t work too well.

nose tissues


These would probably serve me better if they were actually set out on my desk.



We have an industrial size container of ibuprofen in our break room but I like to keep some at my desk for those days when walking to the break seems like just too much. The other is Dayquil … that I think expired back in 2015.

old Life of an Architect business cards

Business Cards

These are the collector’s edition – if you have one of these then you and I must go way back. When I first started writing this blog, I was making a lot of connections and since the firm I worked appreciated the separation between my actual job work and the work I was putting in on the blog, I had these business cards made so that people would contact me through non-work channels.

melting Snowman

Melting Snowman

This thing is stupid and funny at the same time. My wife came home with a huge bag of these things for my daughter to pass out to her friends at a party. Well, I took one for myself and brought it up to the office. The premise is simple enough – you use the parts to make a snowman and over time (about 30 minutes) the snowman “melts” and you start over again.




I am pretty sure this baseball only exists in this drawer because it was rolling around in my car and was driving me crazy. I know what you’re thinking … “Why not bring it home and put it with the rest of your baseballs?

This is the only baseball I own and I didn’t even buy it. Why would I want it at my house?

architectural reference manuals

Reference Manuals

While I endorse both of these small books, I rarely look at them. Actually, the only reason they are probably in this drawer is that they would get lost if I put them on the bookshelf.

stress relief

Hand Squeeze

Is the name of this thing? I used to use this thing all the time but once it made its way into this drawer, I forget about it and as a result, I don’t use it anymore.

Christmas Ornament

Christmas Ornament

This is an actual maple leaf that has been preserved in iridescent copper and it was a gift to me years ago from a colleague. I think this thing is pretty neat actually but it doesn’t fit the theme I have on my Christmas tree.

That’s right … I have a theme to the ornaments I use on my Christmas tree, I’m not a caveman just putting whatever up on my tree. If I ever have a “leaf” themed tree, I’ll be glad to have this metal leaf.

portable hard drive

Portable Hard Drive

This is the hard drive that I use to back up the content on my laptop. You might recall that my house was broken into a few years ago and the bandits made off with my laptop, which was a drag but things weren’t as bad as they could have been since I back up my entire computer once every few weeks. I keep this hard drive at the office so that it is easy to access but primarily because I don’t want my laptop and my portable hard drive in the same location.

a level


Doesn’t every architect have a level handy? I also have a 4-footer but it doesn’t fit in my desk drawer.

project keys


I typically have a copy of the keys to every one of the projects I am working on because I tend to go by these projects at off-times, and those trips are typically unscheduled. The only problem is that I tend to never return them or throw them away and as a result, I have about 10 keys on my key ring to projects that finished years ago. Before you start on me about my future career as a cat burglar, none of these keys work once the project is completed – my keys are temporary construction access keys.

a ziplock bag

Ziploc Baggie

Okay … the only reason I find this interesting is that it is a GALLON sized Ziploc baggie. This makes no sense to me either.

Emergency Lunch food

Emergency Ration

I am typically well organized enough that I am not scrambling to meet my deadlines but there are days when I simply don’t feel like leaving the building and I didn’t bring in a lunch. Soup is a perfectly fine choice … but I’m sure my family would appreciate me bring the glass bowl back home.

PS – the soup is good until September 2018 … which makes me question whether or not I should eat it in the first place.

very random stuff in my drawers


A Formica laminate chip, two paper clips, and two binder clips. Not bad considering, I would have thought there would be a ton of remnant garbage at the bottom of this drawer.

Letters to Bob Borson


Anybody who has ever sent me a letter or postcard, I’ve kept it. I actually have a special archival box at home reserved for this things and I make a deposit about once a year (give or take – it’s just about that time). I really appreciate it when someone takes the time to send me a note – and I treasure every one of them that I receive. I tend to always keep a few on hand for those times when I need to remind myself why I do what I do.

So there you go – I officially don’t have any more secrets. Now you – along with the people in my office – know what I keep in my drawer. I’m quite positive that everyone reading this post has a similar drawer with similar contents.

(but I bet your drawer has candy in it)


Bob signature FAIA

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