This morning, I was collecting online journal articles for the chapter I'm putting together. This chapter builds a lot on research that I did for my MA thesis, which got me wondering where I put the journal articles I photocopied for that.
And then I got reading Lifehacker's "End-All Guide for Getting Out From Under Your Office Crap," which got me realising that the closet in my office was filled with file boxes full of papers that haven't been purged ever. Since I started saving papers in file boxes in 2003. I had one box for all the papers associated with my MA, one box for everything from my PhD (mostly from coursework), and one box marked "Misc", which I hadn't opened since we moved here five years ago.
Huh. This might be a problem.
And so I got sorting. I started with the newest box, and found that I could put most of the articles and handouts from my coursework into the recycling. At this point, I can recognise what will be useful for teaching and what I need for my research, and was able to get rid of the rest. I collected all of my assignments into a single file folder and marked it clearly. I purged most of the paperwork associated with past TA work, keeping syllabi and anything else that looked useful for future teaching work, and kept that in a single folder.
And then I got looking through my MA file box. It turns out that half of the box was filled with drafts of my MA thesis, and other paperwork that I couldn't bear to throw out five years ago. I found the useful journal articles, collected the syllabi and other helpful teaching resources, and by that point the recycling pile looked like this:
It was good for me to go through that box. I found a file that held my favourite papers that I wrote during my undergrad. I found all of my acceptance and award letters and remembered that I have received many letters that began with "Congratulations" rather than "We regret". And, as I found my old research notes and teaching work, I remembered my old enthusiasm and idealism.
And then I tackled the "Misc" box, and found that it was mostly filled with junk and office supplies. I got through that box quickly, wondering why I was always too intimidated to open that one. And I'm glad that I didn't go through it too quickly, because I found a stack of cards that I received when I finished my BA in 2003, and one of those cards had a $20 bill in it. (Good thing it wasn't a cheque.) I also found dinosaur stickers!
I needed that. I went back through my past and was able to let go of everything that doesn't matter anymore and keep everything that was good. I'm not done yet (my office looks worse than when I started), but I feel like I'm in a better place to deal with my dissertation now. And with the future.