what's on my desk

What’s on Modern Citizen Co-Founder Jess Lee’s Desk

How someone organizes their desk can tell you a lot about how they get work done. That’s why we’re stepping into the offices of enviably creative (and productive) people to look at what’s on their deskspens and notebooks and gadgets, but also décor and tchotchkes. Today, we’ve asked Modern Citizen co-founder and CEO Jess Lee to show and tell.

Drinking water is really high on my to-do list, yet is somehow never accomplished. So this makes for a nice alternative. When I put this on, it has a gel texture, so it almost feels like your face is drinking water. Instead of sticky, it’s cooling, so it’s not like you’re putting lotion on your face — and it dries really quickly.

We’re blessed with mostly sunny days during the summer in San Francisco, so I like having this sunscreen handy when I’m running in and out of the office. It has a dry texture, so it doesn’t feel heavy and it’s easy to reapply.

The temperature in the Bay Area is very inconsistent. If you’re in the shade, you’re freezing, and if you’re in the sun, you’re sweating. So I always leave at least one of these sweaters on my desk chair for layering — an essential skill in San Francisco. When it’s warm, you unzip the sides and create your own ventilation on the left and the right, which I think is always really helpful.

The girls in our office are avid readers, so I’m always picking their brains for the next novel to keep in my bag. Right now Jenny Zhang’s Sour Heart is next on the list. One of the things I love about Jenny Zhang is that she’s a young Asian-American woman with a novel that’s making waves. I’ve been following her on Instagram because I wanted to understand more of who she was, and I’m excited to finally dig in and start it.

I think cord management is an underrated art. This dongle always comes in handy for keeping things organized and prevents my many tech-cessories from becoming an eyesore.

My dog, a Labradoodle, comes to the office almost every day. And there are days when he’s more or less fragrant, so we have candles all over in case he had a particularly aggressive day at the park, just to help freshen up the space.

I like this one for functional reasons and also because it’s really beautiful to look at. Most of the things on my desk are really minimalist, in black-and-white color tones, so this is the one thing that adds a little pop of color. I don’t love it when anything’s too sweet on the nose, too, so I like this particular scent because it’s a mix of grapefruit — which is citrusy — and tobacco, which adds a little smoke.

I like this box for storage, though it usually depends on the day for what I keep in here. It’s usually just knickknacks I need to sweep away and hide from my desk, honestly.

And this tray is something I like to use for storing physical mail, just to keep things organized.

I buy a local fashion or art magazine to thumb through on flights whenever I travel, like The Gentlewoman from the U.K. or Le Bon magazine from Sweden. I always try to pick up a local-language magazine, even if I can’t necessarily read the content, because I like to see how different editors approach graphic design and photography and layout. Obviously, the Scandinavian magazines tend to focus more on negative space, and then if you read a Chinese magazine, for instance, it’s almost the exact opposite. That’s always interesting for me to be able to pull references from different places.

There’s something about this photo that just makes me happy. I can’t remember where I first saw it — probably deep in a hole on Instagram — but I love the spirit of what the photo communicates, which is that she’s moving forward and her husband-slash-lover is holding her down to the ground. I think you can interpret it in two ways: in a positive, funny way that says he’s keeping her grounded, or you could see it as him holding her back. My girlfriends and I were joking recently about how much more efficiently we could run our lives if we all had domestic partnerships with other women, so I find a little bit of that humor in it.

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What’s on Modern Citizen Co-Founder Jess Lee’s Desk