Thursday, August 25, 2011

Cleaning My Desk

Once I planned to write a book of poems entirely about the things in my pockets. But I found it would be too long; and the age of the great epics is past. - G.K.Chesterton ("A Piece of Chalk," in Tremendous Trifles, 1909) 

Last night I cleaned out my desk and emptied the two-drawer filing cabinet next to it. I kept some treasures but I also threw away Christmas cards, newsletters, birth announcements, notes from Bible studies and sermons, receipts from purchases of long ago. How long do you save things like that?

I think I know why I save them. When someone teaches me something and I write it down, or passes out a resource list at a workshop, or sends me something in the mail, some part of me seems to believe I have to hold onto it in order to honor that person, their preparation, the connection we have with one another.

Do all these pieces of paper have the same effect on you, or is it just me? How thankful I am that the world has taken a decided turn away from paper. I still print things out, write things down, and open the mail. But I don't have to hold onto that article; I can find it on the internet. I don't need to save your card; I can find you on Facebook. If I need to save my notes I type them up. And most of the newsletters come to me by email now.

I don't have a scanner. Maybe that's what you were going to suggest. I do still have a key to the old office if I wanted to use the one there. So far I haven't. It's easier to throw the paper away.

The things I chose to keep, at least for now, may not be "more important" than what I tossed. I'm not sure. But since there are fewer of them, they may prove more useful. Less likely to get lost or forgotten amid the clutter. I'm hoping to travel more lightly through the world. Or at least through my next move. I've been in this house since 1997.

The reason for this season of purging is that I'm getting ready to move to Oregon and start a new life there. Knowing that Chris is there waiting for me makes it easier to let go of stuff and the relationships they represent, relationships that took the place of family for me for so many years. (Sorry, family!)

Maybe I'll write a blog post or two about the treasures that turned up on these boxes. And share my the list of reasons I'm grateful and excited about the adventure before me.

When I finish going through the personal and household items I will have another go at purging work files. Will continue the process I wrote about here (and probably elsewhere). It's true that about once a month I dig into my four-drawer file cabinet or the boxes in the garage to find something I don't have on my laptop. But most of it is on the computer.

And what about the carefully packed and labelled boxes they agreed to keep at the old office for me? They're still there, and I still have a key. Do I bring them home or take them to the dumpster out back? Will I have a place to put them when I get to Oregon? After all, it's not like I'm leaving my job; it comes with me. I like being the one people can ask when they are looking for some long-lost thing. I see myself as more archivist than packrat. The truth is somewhere in the middle. And with most of those files, it's a long shot that I'll need them again. I think that with my eyes fixed on the future I can release more of those papers and folders as well.

>> See also: Moving On After Moving In (and other articles) by Susan Miller

1 comment:

Paul Merrill said...

Good on you for going light.

You DO have a scanner - it's your digital camera. You can take close-ups of some of the stuff you just have to keep digitally. Just make sure the lighting is OK.