“Kondo-ing” My College Files

The boxes in the basement.


August 11, 2015

After reading Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I decided the boxes of college papers in the basement had to go. The six or seven banker’s boxes had been moved from state to state over the last 13 years, and not once had I needed anything or looked inside. I was the type of student who kept my add/drop slips, my graduation progress reports, and my transcripts (I was well on my way to becoming a registrar). I had also kept my class notes, blue books with corrected exams, syllabi, and course packets, each semester color coded with a different primary color, the spiral spines now brittle with age.

Here’s what I learned:

My grades were not as good as I remember. And reading some of my papers, I understand why. I think back and wonder if I could have done more: studied harder, focused more, and then I realize I was 18, lonely, and suffering from fairly extreme culture shock. I passed my classes. I did some assignments well, and I learned a lot. That is enough.

My professors gave me extensive feedback on papers. When a graded paper was returned to me, I looked at the grade, and put the paper away. It was difficult to look at what I had written, hastily edited at the last minute.

I did not appreciate the feedback at the time, but I kept, and plan to review, much of that feedback now. Rebecca Connor, David Weisburg, and Sean McCann, thank you. I am so sorry I was not wise enough to apply your comments to subsequent papers.

I was exposed to a vast amount of information. From American Literature to European History to Eastern and Western European Politics, when I put all the course packets and syllabi on the table, my education seemed more cohesive than I remember it. I do feel well-read and well-educated (which makes paying my student loans this month a little easier).

I kept three course packets. One from Kächig Tololyan’s Reading Theories class, because what if I need to refresh my memory of Deleuze, Lacan, or Gramsci? Two course packets from my time in Prague with Naropa University may contain hard to find translations of Czech literature. Douglas Shields Dix, thank you for making me feel like a scholar.

All of my graded papers with comments, syllabi, and a few packets of writing advice will be scanned into Evernote. I think I’ll be able to recycle those if I have an electronic copy.

True to Kondo’s advice, I kept only those things that brought me joy. I thought this uncluttering would be harder, and at the end I felt lighter, as if I’d let go of a big chunk of myself that I was carrying around that was no longer serving me.


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