#SOL16: Picking the Right Pile

screen-shot-2016-10-21-at-12-05-33-pmThe painters arrive in two weeks. By then, my office will be stripped down, almost bare. Book shelves will be unscrewed from the walls, books piled in a closet in a different room. A tall glass-fronted bookcase will be detached from the wall, emptied of still more books, and laid on its side for safekeeping. First, though, there’s the file cabinet, five drawers high. With the exception of the top one where official papers live, I’m not even sure of the last time I opened a drawer.

I have three piles: Recycle. Scan then recycle. Keep. Ideally, the biggest pile will be Recycle. You can guess how that’s going. In truth, it is the largest pile. It’s just taking a while to decide what belongs there. First I have to look through each folder. Sometimes I toss the whole thing right away. Sometimes I set aside materials I want to keep– I can scan those into PDFs and put them onto a hard drive, where they’ll be more easily searchable. Sometimes I find weird stuff, like the overhead projector arecycle bincetates with notes & diagrams about teaching writing. Deciding what to do with those was easy– I don’t even know where to look for an overhead projector.

The current drawer is full of articles. Some are seminal pieces; I’ve already got them as PDFs. Others? I’m not even sure where I found them, or how long ago. But they’re good; teachers and teachers-to-be would benefit from them. Which pile do they go in?

I think what I’m wondering is when to throw ideas away, how to go about deciding. Personal items– photos, letters– we make our peace with the moments the pieces of paper represent, we add the paper to the Recycle pile. The writer Marie Kondo, creator of a method of decluttering, says the way to determine what to keep and what to discard is to ask if an item sparks joy in you. Joy = keep. No joy = toss. All the books that I’ll be moving out of the painter’s way are touchstones for me. And the articles I’m debating about?

I love that once I taught classes where the students would have benefitted from them. I love the ideas that the students would have made their own. But my own thinking has moved to a different place; were I to teach the courses again, my teaching would be different too.

Yesterday I would have added the articles to the Scan pile. But today is a new day.








12 responses to “#SOL16: Picking the Right Pile”

  1. I have to say this was a delight to read since I am in the middle of a decluttering mess. I like the rule of thumb you found that works: Joy/No Joy. I think I will try that tomorrow but I will only start small because my piles are huge.

    • Karen says:

      I know those piles all too well. While I found Kondo’s book a bit on the woo-woo side, i.e., new age-like, it actually gave me concrete strategies for tackling the piles. Good luck!

  2. I have this vision of you, holding the overheads up to the light, squinting, and reading the past through the light. And hey, finding weird stuff? That’s always pretty cool.
    Good luck with the sorting. Maybe you need a Sorting Hat?

    • Karen says:

      A Sorting Hat– brilliant! Er, actually, though, does this mean I need four more piles, one for each house? Curse you, Kevin Hodgson!

      “reading the past through the light”: lovely. And yes, indeed.

  3. “But my own thinking has moved to a different place; were I to teach the courses again, my teaching would be different too.” I enjoyed reading this quote and thinking about how I have changed as a teacher over the ages. Grateful that I have too!

  4. Adrienne says:

    It’s funny isn’t it, that we keep the paper, even when the idea is still kept in our head. Some of them connect us to other times and people.

  5. Lisa Keeler says:

    You are inspiring me! I have file cabinet drawers I haven’t opened in a LONG time. I especially love that your reason for recycling some things is that while they spoke to you once, and informed your teaching at some point, they no longer resonate. Your thinking has changed. I love how we teachers continue to learn.

  6. Piles as concrete, and sometimes daunting, symbols of taking stock. I like this lens for spotting where we’ve been and where we’re going. I imagine you’ll be even happier when the piles shrink…

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