After fifteen years, I am moving office. There are still unpacked boxes of stuff from the last move. What an opportunity (as they say) for letting go, starting afresh, chucking away all that unwanted baggage …
I am heading East. Next Monday I check out of a room in the West Wing and relocate across the road. ‘One small step for man …’ . Some colleagues have already made the Eastern voyage; others are travelling in the opposite direction. Only a minority will remain in situ .
Margaret who has worked with me for a few years tells me this is her ninth move, quite a few on the East-West shuttle run. Her former office is next to the one I shall be leaving. It is at the moment stripped of all evidence of prior human habitation. Mine is stuffed to the gunnels with boxes of books, files, plastic bags, stationery no one wants any more, metal shelving (ditto), table and chairs (staying), work station (going).
At first I thought it would be easy. One pile of boxes (to go); the rest to be dumped.
The Puritan tendency
Several factors stilled my hand. One is the old injunction about throwing away something of value. There’s a lot of stuff here which other people would like to have. Glenis downstairs has a nearly full container of books for sending to various places around the world. Some books add to the consignment Now, what about local schools? Surely the residual stationery? All those nearly-new box files? The Puritan wins out over a few items, then eventually concedes to the economist muttering about transaction costs.
The ego barrier
The ego barrier turns out to be even more significant. There’s part of me that has to accept that in the wider scheme of things, the person most likely to care about over thirty years of residues of a work life is myself.
But ego is not as easily quieted. ‘There’s a archive in that office’. An archive with memorabilia of celebrated business leaders and pioneers of organizational theory going back over thirty years.
What to do?
Well, I am obviously in denial. As long as I’m typing, (uncomfortably. Chair displaced from its normal place), I’m not making any more decisions, even tiny ones. Soon I’ll be able to persuade myself it’s time for lunch.
At some point, a moment of awareness. The main thing worth preserving is my fragile sense of … [go on, say it] sanity. There. That didn’t hurt much did it? Where’s the black plastic bag provided for packing that?
I pass over to the other side. Watch this space.