One Step Forward…

Normally, making a stack of boxes in the hallway nearly two years after we moved in would drive me wild, but this is actually progress. When we moved out to renovate, we boxed up 100% of my teaching files, 90% of our books, and random other stuff, stacked the boxes in Ben’s enormous bedroom closet, closed the door, sealed the door with plastic against construction dust, and set off for Mill Valley.

One year later, with a 7 month-old baby in tow, we moved back home. We’d lived without the stuff in the boxes for so long, we couldn’t remember what most of it was. We’d accumulated plenty of more stuff in the intervening months (not to mention that new member of the family!) and were in no hurry to unpack. Even if I’d had any burning desire to unpack, frankly, there wasn’t the time to do it.

So the boxes continued to sit there quietly. Periodically, we would make an expedition into the closet in search of a book, an old syllabus, or a piece of clothing. A couple of months ago, I found a box of 12-18 month clothing that I’d carefully stuck near the front of the closet, knowing we’d be back home again before we had a baby that size. Oh, well. I sent that straight to Goodwill.

Eventually, we knew, we’d want to empty it all out, decant the boxes into bookshelves and dressers and other closets, but that required a a level of organization and a plan that we hadn’t yet achieved. Well, now we think we have. There’s a plan involving a bunk bed, and Ben and Eli sharing a room, and this closet (which is huge, by the way), will hold all their clothes, most of their toys, and still offer room for a fort/reading nook.

So it was time to empty it out.

Friends offered to take the boys for the day. A nice guy came and gave us an estimate on building some living room bookshelves. A bunk bed’s been chosen, and closet shelving, too. We just had to reclaim the closet.

And here’s what we found (because I’m so into list-making these days):

  • 24 boxes of books, labeled things like “Fiction G-K,” “Tony Fractal-ish books,” “Cookbooks to read (living room),” or “Dad’s books” (yes, an entire box of my father‘s output). Keep it all.
  • 1 bankers box of my dissertation notes and drafts – keep. I still think there might be a book in there somewhere.
  • 1 bankers box of notes and essays related to my PhD qualifying exams – keep, just because I’m still sort of impressed at how organized I was, and how much I read.
  • 1 bankers box of old financial records, tax returns, and the like – keep. Because They say you should.
  • 1 milk crate of Tony’s videotapes, things like Fractal Luminations, Images of Chaos, and Harry Smith’s Early Abstractions.
  • 1 milk crate of my videotapes: copies of my dissertation films (Leave Her to Heaven, Shadow of A Doubt, Lost Boundaries, Pinky, and others), movies I taught (Heathers, The Searchers, Manny & Lo, and more), plus clip tapes I made so that in those pre-DVD days we didn’t spend valuable class time searching for the scene I wanted to discuss.
  • 2 bankers boxes of my teaching records: syllabi, evaluations, course readers. I’m almost ready to jettison this, except this past spring I dug out my “How to Make An American Girl” syllabus and sent it to a friend working on a new book. So this stuff comes in handy sometimes.
  • 1 box of writing handbooks and readers, like Writing Essays about Literature, the Bedford Handbook, Andrea Lunsford’s Everyday Writer, the Random House Handbook – both the student and instructor editions. I’m ready to give these away (anyone want ’em?)
  • 1 framed movie poster for Rebecca, the one that shows Joan Fontaine’s head emerging from the du Maurier novel, which hung over my desk as inspiration while I was working on my short-lived Hitchcock book (I wrote the Rebecca chapter and then put it away)- keep.
  • 1 box of audiotapes, mixes from my brother like Sixties Soul Singles, and mixes from dj friends of Tony’s, like “Mushroom Jazz”, and even a tape of Tony’s old group, Bass House Funk, recorded live at SF’s Kennel Club–transfer to digital and then jettison.

By next week, I hope, the boxes will be empty and we’ll reclaim the hall!


  1. isis says:

    What a great list! Am still trying to reorganize myself after our last move (five years ago [!]–there went the “everything in its place” idea) and after two kiddos (there went my office). And I also have a completed diss. chapter that didn’t go in the final version…keep thinking it’s going to be an article but when I go back to it, I’m immediately caught up in the tangles that prevented me from using it the first time. Maybe we should start a new anthology, like Random Discarded Dissertation Chapters That We Love. 😉

  2. Caroline says:

    Ah, that anthology would be a real labor of love, wouldn’t it!?