So I’ve been trying to tackle my office in bits and spurts. I have been in the same space for eight years and have certainly built up a steady accretion of papers, books, and assorted detritus over the years. I dumped a bunch of journals two weeks back, spurred on by the recognition that they held little enduring value (other than as some sort of ego support for my professional identity), but there’s still lots more to clear out.
Today I went through some file cabinet drawers, tossing away yellowed photocopies of articles and essays, handouts I haven’t used in years, etc. I found two, thick manilla envelopes filled with journal tear sheets–reprints of articles I had published back in the 1990s. I can’t think of a reason why I would need 25 print copies of an article when I could email a PDF to anyone who might request a copy (now there’s a thought!) far more easily.
But then I unearthed what must truly be the epitome of an office supply well past its expiration date: ten years’ worth of weekly calendars! I am sure I held onto these documents on the thought that some day in the future, I might want to look back at what I was doing on a random day twelve years ago….
No, I didn’t flip open to April 22, 2002 to have a little peek. Instead, I threw away the whole lot of them, without cracking a single page.
Perhaps some of you might argue that there is some historical value to documents like these old calendars–I mean: what better way to capture the minute details of a college administrator’s daily life than to have access to such precious records?
Haha! My aunt-by-marriage is a prof of library science. She reworked my world when she said it was an archivist’s job not to decide what to keep, but what to not throw away.
Sage advice indeed!
After my grandfather passed away, we found his mother’s calendars – she wrote down a sentence or two every day about what she did. Pretty neat, although I really have a hard time imagining myself keeping my own records around for my great-great grandkids to read…it seems like storytelling is a better way to pass along information about our relatives.
Oh, if only those calendars held such morsels of history. My entries are more like: Department Meeting 12pm; Dentist Appointment 9am; etc. I doubt my great-great grandkids would be too interested in my dental hygiene!
I make sure I toss out my diaries at the end of each year! I go through them to rip the pages out to be able to recycle the paper part. Nothing interesting ever catches my eye in the content! Well done you for all that purging!
Hmm…now I wish I had taken that extra step of taking off the plastic cover and recycling the pages!
You’ll do it next time round 😉
I’m impressed that you could toss the diaries without even going through them! You are inspiring me to find those old diaries of mine I put somewhere… 🙂
You know–I used to hold onto canceled checks for five years, and then during the sixth year, I would look at which checks I had written back then, and try to remember what was going on in my life at that time. It’s not a terrible practice, but to be honest: I’m much better off chucking the whole lot, rather than opening up a can of worms.