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Academic Hoarding
September 23, 2010 - 9:45pm

During a recent cleaning spree, I came to a slightly upsetting conclusion about myself: I am a hoarder. I hoard three things: trial sized beauty products, plastic shopping bags, and lip balm. The trial sizes are in case I need to take a vacation, I am ready. The plastic bags are for walking my dog; I never want to need one and not have one when he needs to go. The lip balm… well, I like lip balm.

Discovering my hoarding tendency at home made me take a look at my office to see what types of things I hoard there. I have a lot of pens and magic markers in various colors. I have a lot of paperclips; I especially prize the square or pointy paper clips that come from other countries, and I have a black and yellow striped paper clip that I like. I have a giant box full of outdated business cards that I can never possibly use before there is another change to my title, the name of my department, the name of the college or the logo of the University. I also have a lot of books. I have multiple copies of some books, in case students or faculty need to borrow them. Finally, I have a stash of university-branded swag – backpacks, mugs, magnets and key chains. Those are tools of my trade.

I also have gifts from students from all over the world: a small garden gnome from Germany, a brown porcelain Chinese dragon statue that sits next to my stapler, a sandalwood letter opener from Thailand, a wooden bowl from Mexico, a statue of the Eiffel Tower, and a blue flowered scarf from Turkey. These are the rewards of my trade.

I dug deeper and took a look at my computer, which contains the contents of my work world. Again, there were many practical files: meeting notes, faculty guides, syllabi and book lists. I hoard emails that make me feel good, and emails that make me feel bad. I hoard links to websites, articles and online resources. I have a collection of no less than 23 rubrics for assessing writing.

As a manager, I also hoard things outside of my office, in other areas of the department, and guide others on what to keep and what to throw away. In the kitchen, I always want a full stock of coffees and teas, many flavors. I never want to run out of spoons, plates, cups or dish soap. I never want to throw away the leftover condiments from lunches. The supply closet has a stash of outdated brochures.

I am by no means a compulsive hoarder, but I do want to be ready for anything, within reason. I don't want to be caught unprepared whether walking the dog, on vacation, just for fun, or helping students progress in writing.

As a part of the DIY generation, I am always thinking of ways of re-purposing things. Those outdated brochures could become someone’s art project and I also think that my hoarding tendencies have increased as I try to be environmentally conscious.

Although I don’t think I would qualify for a spot on Hoarders, I do think that I have a hard time de-cluttering. Any recommendations?


Meg Palladino is the Creative Director and one of the Founding Editors of the University of Venus blog.


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