Transitioning to Retirement: Packing Up and Moving Out (1)

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December 30, 2013 by Jean

As I prepare to return to Pennsylvania for my last semester of teaching at Gettysburg College, I’m starting to make concrete plans for packing up and moving out. Like any faculty member leaving at the end of a long career, I have decades of accumulated academic books and papers that need to be sorted, given away, thrown away, or moved.

Chief among the items to be moved are books – but not all of my books. My academic office has more than 100 linear feet of (mostly full) bookshelves, and there are more academic books on shelves in my study at home. My new at-home study for my post-retirement years will have one wall of floor-to-ceiling bookcases, with about 60 linear feet of shelves, and about half of these will be designated for academic books. This means that I will only be able to keep about 1/4 to 1/3 of my academic books. I have already begun to think about which ones will make the cut. They tend to fall into four categories: much-loved books that I want to own and re-read, books that I have always meant to read but never found time for, a few classics and reference works that I can’t imagine being without, and books related to research that I hope to continue with after my retirement. Most of the remainder will be given away. I plan to spend a half day each week sorting through all the material in my office. As I do so, I’ll put books that I am not keeping out on currently empty bookshelves in the public area of my department and invite students and colleagues to take any that they want.

Dealing with all the paper files in my office will be made much easier by the digital revolution that has happened during my academic career. Several book shelves in my office are filled with paper copies of academic journals that I’ve subscribed to over the years – journals that are now readily available in full-text databases and no longer need to be kept in paper. I would like to keep copies of recent teaching materials (syllabi, assignments, class notes, grade books, etc.). I know from retired colleagues that I will be fielding requests from former students for letters of recommendation for about 5 years after I retire, and I’ll need records of those students’ work in my courses to write those recommendations. In addition, I want to allow for the possibility that I may teach some of this material again. Happily, all of the academic material that I need to keep can be stored on a single flash drive, and paper copies can go into the recycling bin.

Some material from my office will probably go to the College archives (either in paper or electronic form). Because I was the founding director of my college’s Women’s Studies (now Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies) program, I have quite a bit of material documenting the history of that program that is probably not available elsewhere. I plan to get in touch with the archivist at the college library as early in the process as possible to find out what kinds of material they are and are not interested in.

Cleaning out my office will be the easy part of this process. Packing up and moving out of my 6-room Gettysburg townhouse will be a much bigger job. But that is a subject for another post.

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12 thoughts on “Transitioning to Retirement: Packing Up and Moving Out (1)

  1. As I shifted jobs, I gave away lots of books no longer needed. When I was retiring, I gave away all my books but a few to an assistant principal who happily took them and just got her first principal job. I kept a few things and records as well as digital files of letters of rec I have written over the years…but for me all the rest will stay when I go.

    How exciting to be a founding member and having your records archived…you have so many amazing achievements Jean! As I cleaned out most of my things in July and brought back little when I returned, I have an easy job of it when I go. One box will do it. For me it will be harder to actually go and move on, but it is time. A mentor just died as she was retiring and left a family at barely 58 yrs old…my sign and lesson that I need to make the move finally as my latest request to work part time until June was granted and taken away again. Oh well more signs that it is time.

    • Jean says:

      Donna, I’m so sorry to hear about your mentor; this sort of thing does serve as a reminder to us to enjoy life now and not assume that we can wait until tomorrow.

      I don’t think the office packing up will be too difficult; I’ve already done a lot of sorting in my head. It will be interesting to see what the archivist is and isn’t interested in.

  2. Ah, the books! I have no idea how many boxes (and boxes and boxes) of books I gave away to the university library for their annual book sale. As I’m sure you already know, the cost of intrastate moving is based, in part, on weight as well as miles. And books are HEAVY. Your criteria for keeping items in your library is pretty similar to mine. Though I also had a big section of books I bought knowing that they were important to my field, but never finding the time to work through them. I counted to ten and gave them to the book sale. It’s been 6 1/2 years since that move and there have been books I’m sorry I let go, but nothing devastating. And I’m glad I kept my paper files of syllabi and notes. The digital copies are fine, but I was always given to adding material in pen and forgetting to transfer the additions to the computer. Can’t wait to read the condo packing post! Books and papers are actually the stimulating part of packing–or so it was for me.
    You haven’t mentioned it, but I’m assuming you weren’t too badly affected by the ice storms? Hope not. Happy New Year! Happy New Life!

    • Jean says:

      Emily, Happy New Year! Turning the page to this retirement year has added some extra zing to the holidays.

      When I moved from Maine to Gettysburg, the moving truck driver said that he had never seen so many boxes of books — and that was 25 years ago! I think the hard part for me will be the books that no one wants; putting perfectly good books in the recycling really goes against the grain.

      Lots of snow and ice here, but not enough to do major damage or knock out the electrical power. It’s also been very, very cold — good weather for staying inside and snuggling up with a good book.

      • Jean says:

        Check with your local library to see if they take donations of books for book sales to raise money. Our local libraries holds four a year so no book ever goes in recycling…at least by my hand! They accept donations all year long.

        • Jean says:

          Good idea. The only books that I can imagine going into recycling are some of my teaching books that are heavily annotated and literally falling to pieces.

  3. Jean says:

    I’m glad you’ll have a half day a week to devote to pruning your book collection. Even so, it’s going to be hard to say goodbye to so many old friends. Knowing others at the school can make good use of some of your books will make it so much easier, though. Your criteria for keeping books seems like a good guide. One tip I would offer is if you hesitate too long with a decision to keep or give something away, create catergory pile of ‘decide later’ then revisit those books at the beginning of your next work day. If a little time doesn’t make the decision easy then you’re really not ready to let something go and you’ll regret it.

    You will have so much fun setting up your new library in your new home and if you run out of book shelves, think coffee tables, end tables and side boards that are made like book shelves.

    • Jean says:

      Jean, This is such good advice. I tend to be a “When in doubt, toss” person and do sometimes later regret having gotten rid of something too hastily.

      I didn’t mean to suggest that the wall of book shelves in my new study will be the only book shelves. LOL. I have book shelves in almost every room of both my houses. It’s just that the academic books will live in the study, sharing space with gardening and books and reference books. I’m planning to redecorate the living room in conjunction with the new addition, and that room will have one wall devoted to an entertainment center flanked by floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. And, of course, there are always piles of books on coffee tables, night stands, and the floor. :-)

      • Diana Studer says:

        I have a friend who down-sized due to loss of mobility – and her deepest regret was the books she gave away, as she could no longer get to the library.

        Jean, once you ARE retired … I hope you will find time for Google Plus. So many of the conversations I enjoy stretching my mind on there, I would love to hear your voice contributing to. I miss your sociologist’s view of social media and today’s world.

        • Jean says:

          Diana, Last year I got myself an e-reader and discovered that I can borrow e-books from the library without ever leaving my home. It’s perfect; I have a ready supply of books that aren’t taking up space on my shelves. I even downloaded some classics that are available free in the public domain from sites like Project Gutenberg.

          Although I am signed up on Google Plus I’ve never had a chance to learn how to negotiate the site or to spend much time there. I’m looking forward to that and for time to get back to concentrated effort on my garden blogging research.

  4. I’ve never had an academic library of books like you describe but we did make a cross country move ten years ago and gave away all of our books so we didn’t have to pay by the pound to move them. I must say I’m now a very happy library patron and enjoy the privilege of reserving, reading, and returning. You have a good attitude, are very organized, and I’m guessing your packing will go just as you plan. :-)

    • Jean says:

      Judy, In the past, I’ve taken advantage of the US Postal Service’s special low rate for books; I’ll have to see if that is still a good deal. I love libraries, too, but I’m sure I will still have many hundreds of books even after paring down considerably!

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I am Jean Potuchek, a professional sociologist who has just stepped into the next phase of my life, retirement, after more than thirty years of college teaching. This blog is about my experience of that new phase of life.

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