The Office Survival Kit

Photo by SlightlynorthYou are about to step into a meeting with the visiting vice-president, and you realized that you have spilled coffee down your shirt, and you are missing a button. Then you walk into the meeting, to find out that the in-floor power receptacle is still under its screwed down cover, and the headache kicks in.

A well stocked office supply kit can mitigate some common office emergencies. Here is what I keep in my kit:

A sewing kit. This was purchased at the dollar store, and contains a needle, several threads in common colors, a spare button and a safety pin. It is useful for quick clothing emergencies.

An instant stain remover. These come in either cloth packets or as a liquid. They won’t make your clothes look absolutely clean, but they will camouflage most stains without leaving the tell-tale water marks of a quick bathroom “wash-up”.

Basic medical supplies. I keep a small container filled with my favorite pain killers, sinus tablets, and a migraine pill. I also have several bandages in there, after discovering that no one knew where the office first aid kit was as I was dripping blood from a really nasty papercut. There are also a few cough drops to be found, as well as a packet of herbal tea for soothing throats.

A small toolkit. This is currently a nicely-packaged job with small pliers, a small pocket knife and a set of small screwdrivers. Before I received this kit (a gift), I kept a small screwdriver that reversed to flat and Phillips heads, as well as needle-nose pliers. These tools have come in handy when popping computer cases open, installing hardware, opening up microphone jacks, and stripping wires to make a cable end.

All of us have favorites. One co-worker keeps a portable television in his desk to check on weather emergencies. Another keeps a stock of herbal medicines she uses. What are your favorite supplies?

Photo by Slightlynorth


  1. Jake says

    My office is mobile, being a Crown Vic with flashy lights. I have plenty of things that are there “just in case”:

    Medical supplies: Not just basic items, but a trauma kit and several smaller things like the Sav-A-Tooth package and a QuikClot kit.

    Extras: I have plenty extras of my usual stuff, ammunition (different calibers), handcuffs, OC spray, Taser cartidges, box of latex gloves, hygiene items, hand warmers.

    Goodies: Sunflower seeds, trail mix, instant coffee, MRE’s, bottled water, hand sanitizer (a 1 bottle per week habit), Tylenol Go Tabs, sinus meds, and plenty of Taco Bell sauce.

    Gadgets: Night vision monocular, GPS, Nextel batteries, spare Blackberry battery, digital camera and extra SD cards, extra chargers for everything that’s portable.

    Car care: I take very good care of my office…foaming tire/wheel cleaner, tire wet spray, detailing brushes, glass cleaner wipes and Lysol wipes, spray wax, air freshener spray, upholstery cleaner, extra fuses.

  2. Paul says

    Stain Remover… I highly recommend the Tide pen, it works when others don’t

    Pack of gum (Breath)

    Mini Sharpie markers in Black, red, blue

    Bottle of water (taking pills, & for unexpected meetings)

    Upset stomach medicine (Pepto / Immodium)

    Spare multi-adapter ended USB cable (Radio Shack $15)

    Earbud headphones for MP3 / PC, or even a cheap MP3 player / FM receiver like Sansa Clip (<$50) (sanity preservation)

    Pair of cheap FRS radios to cut yelling when working over a few hundred feet

  3. Steven says

    An extra golf shirt (we do business casual) and an extra change of underwear. I had a stomach flu with, shall we say, “intestinal disturbances” and the extra underwear came in handy!

  4. Annette says

    1. Flashlight. The restrooms have no windows. When the power goes out, this is crucial.
    2. Safety pins. When that pants button pops, you don’t even need to sew.
    3. Nail polish. I don’t wear panty hose much any more, but nothing stops a run better
    4. Napkins. Quick clean up of coffee spills.

  5. dan says

    I’m curious. I have never had a tailoring emergency in 17 years of work. Nor stained myself (and I worked with a lot of nasty chemicals that could). The medical supplies are in the first aid kit and the tool kit in the server room.

    What do you do at work?!!

  6. jim says



    Spare tie and (white) shirt in the desk. You can clean up a spill, but you can’t always get it spotless. Better change it than run the risk of looking like a slacker.

  7. LJ says

    @Jake: You really made me do a double take with your comment. :) But since your office is a “Crown Vic with flashy lights” I suspect you run into more serious “emergencies” than just popped buttons. Thanks for sharing!

  8. LJ says

    @Dan: I am a programmer. Granted, I am a very klutzy one, and if I make it through a day without spilling something, it has been a good day.

    Even one of my mild-mannered colleagues gave me a look of exasperation when I knocked a bottle of water into the same open drawer twice in one day…

    Perhaps many of the clothing emergencies would have been prevented if I had learned sooner to clip loose threads instead of pulling….

  9. LJ says

    @web doyenne: How could I have forgotten the elixir of calm?!?!? Actually, I find that chocolate that is in the drawer disappears with amazing rapidity. :)

  10. says

    All this is in the bag I take to work with me or on my person while at work.

    Trial Size bottle of hand lotion (more useful during winter, my skin gets really dry in the cold)
    Spare AAs
    Bandaids, moist towelette, eyeglass/screen wipes.
    Contacts travel pouch with spare bottle of solution and case
    Stain remover
    Rag to wipe glasses of monitor

  11. jgodsey says

    (for women, certain popped buttons MUST be attended to, sewing emergencies do come up.)
    My supplies also include duct tape, swiss army knife, Leatherman, small assortment of bungee cords, cheap blue tarp, batteries, flash drives, disposable camera.

  12. amanda77kr says

    Ibuprofen, deodorant, hairspray, hair bands, quarters (for the coke machine), eyeglass cleaner, and most of the stuff everyone else mentioned (except Jake!). Mine is the office’s emergency supply drawer, too…I’ve gone through two Tide pens and only actually used it once myself. I get “repaid” with snacks, so it works out nicely.

  13. says

    I keep a little bag full of things I might need if I can’t go home but need to freshen up:

    Toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthwash and floss. Electric shaver, deodorant, and hair gel.

    Another essential is Clorox bleach wipes. If I have to use a public toilet… it can at least be a clean public toilet!

  14. PJ says

    I have a mini sewing kit, a AA battery cellaphone charger, harmonica (Hey, you never know how long the lights might be out), couple dietary type bars, lipton powdered tea packets in several varieties, Leatherman tool always on my hip, Mini Mag next to leatherman, black sharpie, Keys with things like a metal match, razor knife, 8gb thumb drive, Leatherman E4 on my keychain for electrical work. All of this is in my go bag for easy access and to know it’s always there with confidence when needed. Oh yeah, and a water bottle, usually with water and previously mentioned tea in it.

  15. Jeffrey Harris says

    A charming post from Jake about his mobile office. Makes sewing kits seem pretty tame. My wife asks if his kit includes a radar speed gun.

  16. SB says

    A tie, a clean dress shirt, and a small toiletry kit — for the unexpected meetings that require me to dress up a little.

  17. says

    We have at our office: small sewing kit, a box with different batterys, toolbox with essential tools (screwdriver, pliers, etc) , Leatherman tool, MagLight, razor knife, medical supplies box, napkins, windproof matches (dont know what for), scissors, calculator, duct tape, bottle of vodka, bottle of Porta Reserva 2006, bottle of still water.

  18. Matt says

    I have a pack of painkillers which are generally used by everyone else! I can see the point of the other stuff but couldn’t bring myself to stock my desk with it. If I was fired then I wouldn’t be able to cope with the embarrassment of having to make the walk of shame with a spare pair of underwear!

  19. Steve says

    Chocolate! I can’t work productively if I’m hungry. Trader Joe’s has a good price on a chocolate bar that’s weighs over a pound.

  20. Dick C. Flatline says

    1. Two fully-comped Springfield DA M1911-A1 .45 ACP’s with 4 extra mags each of 230-grain hardball and a spring-loaded double shoulder rig.

    2. A throwdown in some fairy caliber.

  21. Linda says

    Better than a Tide pen and cheaper, Wet Ones…I’ve taken out leaky ink pen stains from a white shirt, catsup, grease. Of course I’ve got to have mints, gum, Tylenol, nail file, sewing kit (I have had to use mine). I put a small bar of soap (ahem.. provided by last vacation’s motel visit) and washcloth in a small zipper bag, along with toothbrush and toothpaste

  22. patrickben says

    Pocket knife – always in pocket.
    Aspirin, several dollars in change, and a packet of tissues – always in go bag.
    Paper towels, snacks (mostly cookies), band-aids, deodorant, toothbrush/paste – always in desk drawer.

    Fortunately I don’t have to wear nice clothes or attend lots of meetings, so I usually don’t worry about spills or lost buttons.

  23. ric says

    It’s all on my keyring: Leatherman Squirt P4 (cross/flat head screwdriver, knife, pliers and a few other bits), LED torch – the type that runs off a single CR2032 battery and has a locking on switch, Crucial Gizmo Jr USB pendrive (with Truecrypt, my CV, a load of PC-fixing bits and bootable Windows password resetand one of those post-these-keys-and-they-get-back-to-the-owner keyrings. Oh, and some keys.

    Add some paracetamol in the desk drawer and I’m good.

  24. Rick says

    Slim Jims, extra key to the car, an empty 35mm film canister filled with quarters, bottled water, Leatherman Wave, Exacto blade, fist full of napkins, MP3 player, breath mints, Tide to Go pen, spare digital camera, and an MP3 recording of my typing to play through the computer speakers to sound productive.

  25. Mr OCD says

    I have lots in my cubical:
    – Medical supplies (i.e. ibuprofen, latex gloves, allergy meds, sanitizer, nasal spray, etc.)
    – Nail clippers
    – A titanium spork (from
    – Lysol wipes
    – spare batteries
    – spare headphones
    – usb adapters, splitters, chargers, etc.
    – battery operated tv (for emergency news, although won’t pick up channels after February of next year)
    – FRS radios
    – extra flash drives
    – wifi detector
    – food (i.e. poptarts, hormel dinners, crackers/peanut butter, water, water additive packets, etc)
    – spare mouse, keyboard
    – spare phone batteries
    – solar panel phone charger with built-in back up battery
    – gum, mouth wash, mints, mouth spray, toothbrus w/ built-in toothpaste
    – plastic cups/paper plates/packaged plasticware/napkins
    – spare polo shirt, spare khaki pants
    – shoe cleaner

    My OCD has a major emphasis on “just in case”.

  26. says

    Mine is similar to Jake’s except not on the To Serve and Protect side but more on the foreign lands, foreign people side.

    Despite the fact that when I’m on the job I’m already carrying and using what some people put into their Go Bags myself and others fancy ourselves to have some sort of escape and evasion kit. The contents vary most have a knife at the very least.

    Truth be told with enough training no one really needs anything…in the wilderness. For office troops during a city wide crisis, stuck in the concrete jungle, what you have in your office or car might be your lifeline over the course of a day to several days.

    Water, non perishable food, extra clothing, are all great but you need to tailor your needs to your location and some possible situations. If you want a good resource, the US Government spent tons of money putting together a resource specifically for this. http://www.Ready.Gov. Check it out and you’ll see that whatever survival kit you may have might not have everything you might need. Sometimes we miss things.

    Take a minute and check it out.

  27. David Young says

    My wife bought me a leatherman squirt a few years back.. it’s on my keychain, and goes with me everywhere I go. It’s amazing how often there’s call for a knife, screwdriver, or tweezers.

    Oh, and a USB stick, with portable apps, puTTY, etc.

  28. John says

    Excellent Suggestions!
    To go along with the “Sewing Kit”, I have mini fold up lint brush. Great for removing pet hair, lint, debris, etc. off your shirt and pants.

  29. jgodsey says

    After reading through everyone’s lists, it occurred to me that i have hardly ever had to use my emergency stuff for myself. Sewing kit, stain remover, tools, etc have all been used in the service of other folks. Do that enough times and you get a reputation, and folks ask you first.

  30. LJ says

    @John: I actually borrow the big roll of packing tape to serve as a lint brush. It’s the only thing that seems to pull the pet hair off my clothes.

  31. LJ says

    @Amy: I never thought of using a sharpie for “polishing” shoes, although I did use one to touch up some scratches on my very cheaply-made company-provided nameplate…

  32. Erasmus says

    Can’t beat a clean, fresh pair of undies. Especially after that Mexican lunch.