A colleague of mine was getting herself ready to leave. I met in her office to talk about the kit that she would no longer need. It was a grand office that befitted her position. Even though she had been here for a shorter period than I had she had managed to fill it with paper. Much of it she had brought with her from her previous job and now she was sifting through it, hesitating over whether to throw it away or not.
She was going through the museum of her working life.
I wondered why she had accumulated so much. I wondered why she hesitated to discard it. What was the unseen force that bound her to the physical manifestation of her life’s work? It is not as if it will be much use to her in the future. By her own admission she hadn’t referred to it since she had brought it with her. The past is no guarantee of the future but I doubt that things would change. In her deserved retirement the last thing she will refer to are the reports and circulars that seem to be the life blood of our bureaucracy.
I questioned her and we chuckled about it.
She even had some stuff from her university days. I can understand the sentimental. I’m not immune to it myself. I can understand the stuff of which we are most proud yet the majority of what we keep could never fall into either category.
We expand to fit the space available. The more space there is then the more we keep. The higher up the organisation you go the more space you are given to keep the stuff that you have collected over your long and illustrious career. Think how much space is given over to the unnecessary and the clutter. Think how much we invest in its retention.
When I go, I will delete some files, switch off and quietly say my goodbyes.