Followers of my Twitter account (@krsprof) know that I watch A&E’s Hoarders and TLC’s Hoarding: Buried Alive all the time. After every episode, I look at my bookshelves, desk, and file cabinets and start sorting my belongings into the three stacks: keep, donate, throw away. I think one of the things that fascinates me about the show is even though these people are way, way over the edge, it is easy to see how you could become overwhelmed by stuff – especially if you are an academic. This past week, Inside Education and the Chronicle of Higher Education both had posts on hoarding/collecting/archiving in academica. In Academic Hoarding, Meg Palladino talks about how she is accumulating books, office supplies, and university gear.
“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 I have a giant box full of outdated business cards that I can never possibly use before there is another change to my title, the name of my department, the name of the college or the logo of the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 am very sympathetic to Meg’s plight. I didn’t realize how much stuff I had in my office until I left my job as an assistant professor to work for the federal government. At the time, I taught about the politics of popular music and popular culture. I was probably the only political science prof on campus whose office was covered with hip hop dolls, playing cards, games, posters, etc. When I left to move to MD, I packed everything hip-hop into boxes because I no longer had any place to display them. I also had to find a home for my collection of ten years of articles on Baltimore schools (from my dissertation) and my archive of tabloid coverage of American presidents, all of my books, journals, magazines, music, papers, files, etc. Did I mention that I also had a home office full of even more things that had to be packed up?
When I arrived in MD, I had to make some hard choices about what to keep and what had to go. It almost broke my heart to whittle down two office’s worth of materials into two file cabinets and a couple of bookshelves. It was very, very hard at first. The first step was storage, then letting the storage go, and then being even more hard core about the sort. Even though I gave tons of stuff away, Hoarders has inspired me to get back to the basics. To do so, I merged their sorting method from one I saw on Wife Swap (the wife was professional organizer). For each item, she said to decide:
- Do I need it? (If yes, keep it, if not donate or throw away)
- Do I love it? (If yes, keep it, if not donate or throw away)
- Does it make me money (If yes, keep it, if not donate or throw away)
As my priorities have shifted, I have been giving and throwing more and more things away. I gave most of my academic books to Books for International Goodwill and recycled my magazines/tabloids for my vision boards. I sold the collectibles on Ebay and at a yard sale and sold my fiction books on Amazon. I must say that it is great to have much less stuff in my apartment. Especially when what is left are things that I really love and/or hold an important place in my world.
Right now I have two sets of things that need to go, but I am holding on to them so that I can find them a proper home. What to do with archives is a serious question. When historian Roy Rosenzweig died, his wife had to figure out what to do with an entire basement’s worth of materials he had collected over the years. She was blessed to find an organization that would take possession of his primary and secondary resources. I feel lucky to only have two relatively small archives to give away. One is a collection of National Enquirer and Globe coverage of American presidents from Ronald Reagan to G.W. Bush. The other is ten years worth of microfilms of the Baltimore Afro-American. Even though I haven’t worked on either of these projects in years, it doesn’t feel right to throw the material away. If you are interested in either of these items let me know. They would make great resources for a graduate student (hint, hint) instead of clutter in my apartment.
Are you an academic with too much stuff? How do you deal with it?
One of my favorite things is to use this blog to call attention to causes supported by musicians. Two great causes – the Lupus Foundation of America, DMV chapter and Gifts for the Homeless were supported by examples of Song-in-Action last Thursday.
Lalah for Lupus
In Prince George’s county, I was excited to be invited to listen to the sounds of Lala Hathaway at a Lupus concert/fundraiser sponsored by the Ashleigh Group. Before Lala’s set, Edie Aultmon and another lupus survivor gave testimonies about how their lives have been changed by the auto-immune disorder that affects more than 1.5 million people in the United States. Watch Edie below in Chasing Butterflies.
Kassandra Kearse, Development Manager for the Lupus Foundation – DMV was in the house as well. If you would like to host a concert for lupus, contact Kassandra.
Lawyers Band Together
Across the border, DMV’s law firms put down their subpoenas and picked up their instruments at the Black Cat for the 7th Annual Banding Together Battle of the Law Firm Bands to raise funds for Gifts for the Homeless. GFTH is a local non-profit supported by the DC metro legal community that provides clothing donations to the area’s homeless.
This year Sutherland Comfort (representing Sutherland Asbill & Brennan) was the winning band, a title brought home by raising the most funds for GFTH – $29,000.
Who is Sutherland Comfort?
- Financial Services Associate Naseem Nixon (lead singer)
- Litigation Associate Wilson G. Barmeyer (bass guitar)
- Tax Associate Daniel M. Buchner (guitar)
- Financial Services Partner W. Thomas Conner (guitar)
- Océ staff member Chris Lewis (drums).
- Recruiting Assistant Rachael K. Saltzman (back-up vocals)
- Paralegal Amanda Hubert (back-up vocals)
P.S. If you know of any DMV musicians raising funds or awareness for local causes email me so that I can feature them in the Song-in-Action blog.
Congrats! Bret Michaels rocks out and brings home the title of Celebrity Apprentice.
His cause: the American Diabetes Association. He is a true champion and a great example of Song-in-Action. In his own words: “I’m here to win” and he did, while raising awareness and funds for Diabetes, a disease that affects 23.6 million people in the United States (7.8% of the population).
Last week, one of my friends called to say she had an extra ticket to a lupus event featuring Julian Lennon. Did I want to go? Yes!!! Could I? Sadly no. I missed Julian Lennon performing Lucy, a lupus-tribute and I was kind of crushed. But I decided that it was a great hook for a Song-in-Action blog entry.
Check out James Scott Cook and Julian Lennon on the Lupus Foundation of America website as they explain how the song Lucy came to be and their goal to raise funds and awareness for Lupus research. Watch James and Julian perform Lucy (after interview on the origins of Lucy, app. 3:30).
On a more personal note, I want to thank everyone who supported Team Metamorphosis‘ fundraising efforts during the 2010 DC Walk for Lupus Now.
With the help of my mom and sorors Keisha and Monica, Team Metamorphosis raised almost $1400 (with more coming in before May 30th). I am very excited and humbled by the support of friends, family, and the virtual community formed on Twitter and Facebook. We couldn’t have done it without you.
What could be better than an springtime indoor-outdoor music benefit for social change? An indoor-outdoor music benefit for social change that features great food! This Sunday, May 23rd, the 9:30 club presents the Sound Bites benefit.
Music: WILL EASTMAN • U.S. ROYALTY • FATBACK DJs • BLUEBRAIN • MIDNIGHT KIDS • BEAUTIFUL SWIMMERS With free samples from area restaurants including:
BGR the Burger Joint • Busboys and Poets • ChurchKey • CommonWealth Gastropub • Cork • EatBar • Fresh Start Catering • Harry’s Tap Room • Indique • Jaleo • Maddy’s Bar & Grill • Marvin • Masa 14 • Mie N Yu • Radius Pizza • Sâuçá • Taylor Gourmet • Zola Kitchen and Wine Bar
The Cause: DC Central Kitchen
The DC Central Kitchen is a cornerstone of anti-poverty efforts in the District of Columbia. Founded in 1989, the Kitchen believes that “when fighting poverty, one must fight to win by using every resource available.” By day the organization is a community kitchen, recycling food that would otherwise go to waste in the DC metropolitan area. They also a valuable source of job training opportunities. To learn more about the DC Central Kitchen, visit their website or watch this video.