Last week I finally organized my bookshelf. My filing system had imploded over the past couple of months, and I couldn’t keep track of where I kept what anymore. I knew it was in urgent need of organizing, but kept putting it off because somehow I related “organizing bookshelf” with “getting ready for thesis correction.” I wanted to start with a clean slate–materially and emotionally–before reading my thesis again, and with the beginning of the term approaching, I knew I couldn’t put it off anymore.
In normal circumstances I usually like organizing. It provides a sense of accomplishment with immediate results. But clearing things out is never as simple as it sounds because you’re also going over memories. Sorting through my old thesis notes and drafts, printed journal articles, fiction I no longer read, Christmas and birthday cards, art and festival programs… they reminded me of the things I did over the past few years and realized I’ve accumulated much more stuff than I thought. It doesn’t help when I’m a bit of a hoarder when it comes to keeping art and film festival programs. I had to tell myself to part with them otherwise I would run out of space for books.
My thesis notes also brought me heartache as they reminded me of the times I thought I had a research breakthrough. At one point I had about seven to eight piles of documents surrounding me, waiting to be categorized. I thought I was going to break down and sob.
I couldn’t just throw everything away though. I carefully checked for one-side printed pages as these can be used for scrap paper. Most of them consist of old thesis drafts that I no longer need. There is something contradictory in academia when it comes to printing and photocopying. I print journal articles, thesis drafts, and sometimes the introduction from a book so I can make notes, but this uses up a lot of paper. I try to justify whether I really need a journal article before printing it because most journal articles in film and cultural studies are at least thirty pages long. I also feel guilty about printing my thesis drafts, but sometimes I need to get the feel of how it reads on paper compared to how it reads on the computer screen. I’m going to try to give them new life by turning them into notebooks following this method.
I started organizing my bookshelf around 1 o’clock in the afternoon, and managed to finish just before dinnertime. Even though it was hard, I took the first step to prepare myself for the corrections.