My biggest challenge so far this summer (other than the cold that won’t go away) has been cleaning out my office as I prepare to transition to another institution. When I moved into my current office I had just completed my dissertation, which prevented me from taking the time I should have to weed through my belongings. The fact that my office had two large closets also allowed me to move things in without considering whether I actually needed them. Since I will not have any closets in my new office, I have spent the past week sorting through the things I’ve accumulated over the past five years as well as those I had accumulated through seven years of graduate school.
It turns out that one can accumulate a lot of paper in twelve years. In my closets, for example, I had my class notes from every class I’ve ever taught, even though these notes largely repeat from one semester to the next. Along with these notes I also had the attendance sheets, often with student ID pictures, that I used to learn students’ names. As I recycled all of these things I was struck by how few of my students I actually remember from my graduate school teaching. For every student that brought back fond memories there were three or four that I had no recollection of at all. I guess that my mind cleared them out to make space for new students long before I rid my office of their detritus.
In all, I got rid of nearly 40 binders of various sizes in addition to a filing cabinet full of old exams and papers, unnecessary materials from graduate school (why did I still have teaching dossiers from 2005 and 2006?!), information for advisees who graduated several years ago, and a few dozen books. Throughout the process, I was conscious of the fact that these things accumulated because I had space for them. Indeed, most of them were just sitting in disarray on the shelves of one of my closets, preventing me from easily accessing any particular piece of information even if I had wanted to.
I hope to be more disciplined (and deliberate) about the things that I keep in my new office. The lack of closets will probably help, but maybe I also need to set aside some time for summer cleaning each year. Twelve years is too long to wait.
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