Moving office, preserving sanity

Office ready to go

Originally uploaded by t.rickards

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?

Next week

I pass over to the other side. Watch this space.

3 Responses to Moving office, preserving sanity

  1. Procratination King says:

    …Then there is the challenge of designing a new system which does not generate ‘stuff’…. ??

    I am a terrible hoarder of information in various forms. My fear is that I chuck something away, the memory I have associated with it will not have an object as a cue.

    I have anxiety when I don’t know where things are: they are part of my creative tool kit. Sorting though objects is something I have to be able to do, even though it is very unlikely I will ever need to or even ever want to.

    I’ve bought these big plastic boxes and put the stuff in there. It is reassuring. They are in the loft now, along with my collections of stones, sticks, magazines, guitar effects pedals, leads for electronic devices sketchbooks, notepads, photographs and shoes. I like to see these small things of no interest to anyone else. It reminds me of what I was like and what I thought at different times – not always productive.

    The disposal of stuff is a problem. The puritan and economic options of chucking stuff and keeping it present a tough problem. The economic should come out the determining factor. Sometimes it makes the ‘joy’ of giving something away difficult to achieve.

    I have a laptop a friend gave it me, bagging the feel good factor related to its worthy disposal. It is not worth anything to anyone – it needs its screen repairing to make it safe to look at for any length of time it is not economic sense to get it repaired. I read that sending laptops abroad leads to horrific environmental disaster and human misery. The operating system is no longer supported, so there is not a printer to work with it, the memory is too small to take a small free operating system… it is rubbish… literally.

    A piece of furniture which I bought from a charity shop when returned for them to re-sell (in a polished up state a few years later); Did they want to sell it to another hard up new home-owner? No. It is in the shed broken into nice useful looking wood – its teak, waiting to be put to use ‘as a shelf or something.’

    I also rent out some space in a building I own as storage. The value of the goods, some very interesting books of acting techniques, a great collection of classic and contemporary literature is nothing to the amount of money that has been spent in its storage. All items could be bought many times over for the rent money I have received. Another tenant is storing things for jumble sales to raise money: it will not raise enough money for it to occupy the volume in the room currently it exists. The first collection is creative tool kit, the second a well meaning puritan’s stash.

    So what happens when you try to address the problem of stuff? Best case? A new system which auto achieves and delivers improved productivity. Worse case? For me it is procrastination which lead me to write stuff, like the above. I am convinced it the time of year, the cusp of the seasons where everything stands still.

    Further procrastination: A distraction – on my new Ikea ‘Billy’ bookcase (part of my new system!) – Vivienne and Jenny Lo, daughters of Restaurateur and food writer Kenneth Lo – In ‘150 Recipes from the Teahouse’ Acupuncturist and Chinese medicine scholar writes:

    “Grief is the emotion appropriate to autumn – as we review things past and let things go of old attachments to happier times a melancholy mood seems to compliment the wide skies…”

    She goes on to recommend some suitable ingredients for an autumn banquet: more meat and spices, more variety after the summer diet of cooling bland foods.

    I will go and cook now something I have not cooked before. I have some plums from the allotment… i wonder… with tofu and beansprouts, some chilli… some puritanical brown rice, Chinese mushroom.

  2. Tudor says:


    This moves and shakes me. But the wonder of the blogosphere is that its attic is open to all callers. Maybe your ‘gifted’ thoughts (as in donated, as well as talented) will be found by others.

    I read a book I liked recently and wanted to give it to someone I knew would like it. So what did I do, I bought another one to pass on? Then I thought I’d buy a couple more as I thought of two other people .. But for the moment I have three copies squashed up on my bookshelves concealing others behind them … (I do not do this habitually. The story is about the way stuff accumulates even with the best of intentions).

    The book:
    The man who changed everything
    by Basil Mahon.

    I think I might blog about the book, thanks to your procrastination. Which will also be a further way of putting off another bit of writing I have to do …

    Anyway, hope the tofu tastes tops ..

    Best wishes

  3. Procratination King says:

    “Then I thought I’d buy a couple more as I thought of two other people ”

    Here is a related story…

    I once tried a jacket on in Armarni at the top of Kings street near my club*, the St James in Manchester. It was amazing: it felt like I had owned it for years. It was leather, and the extra of skin made me feel tough – I am sure this is why many men like them – but also incredibly intelligent and enlightened not to mention sophisticated and suddenly very ‘in the know.’ The key was the material – tis particular leather was tough flexible and also very light.

    I immediately understood all the fuss about clothes and fashion. It wasn’t pretentious twaddle after all! I understood why I had to pay the gifted Mr Armarni for his design skills. It is all about how the garment makes you feel!

    This new deep understanding, gleaned from my skilful accumulation of difficult life skills, would, thanks to this magical jacket, now open up society and let me take part in a modest, stylish and understated brilliant way. Handsome financial compensation would be a by-product. I would use it well to help people. I had a plan for life.

    I was told that the coat was made from a particular type of mountain goat by an artisan in the Italian mountains – one which Mr Armarni had a close working relationship with for decades. Only a few could be made each year and the colour tended to vary each year depending the weather. The plants used to dye the leather produced different shades each year and the cherry colour deep in the depth of the deep tan in that year’s leather was very rare. A great vintage. Like a fine wine it would just get better and better, and probably rise in value too.

    Anyway the price tag was £3,000 and as I was just starting a university degree was beyond the student loan. I promised myself I would buy one when I graduated.

    Then a bloke came into the shop as I was looking at myself in the mirror again. He said to me, ‘nice jacket mate. I’ve got one of those. We discussed the coat, dreamy tears almost raising to the eyes, both proud we could identify quality, but I knew why at a deeper level I though.

    ‘Actually I bought two. I had to get one for my mate’, he said, ‘I just had to’

    It had not occurred to me to do such a thing. Does this make me bad? I told all my friends the coat story. They wouldn’t want a three grand coat anyway.

    The End

    *note: “my club the St. James” was included using my artistic licence. I am not been, nor ever have been a member.

    I have toyed the ‘buy one for myself and one for a friend’ book manoeuvre: Stafford Beer’s Designing Freedom. The $115.00 price tag is causing me to procrastinate on this.

    Procrastination King

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