Thursday, June 18, 2009

Academic Squalor

Inspired by Sisyphus' musings on office decor, I've started the task of cleaning out, redecorating, and steampunkifying my office. This is clearly all still part of my ongoing post-tenure and post-sabbatical recovery process, but I think it will help me and I may even enjoy the project.

Over the past 14 years, I've had 10 different offices. Before that, I had moved offices yearly for 5 years. That's almost 20 years of moving offices. I'm really good at moving now. I've had lots of practice. What I'm terrible at is unpacking. I've had no real practice at that. I have boxes which I still haven't fully unpacked from grad school. Partly, this behaviour is simply practical. If you know you'll be moving in a semester or two, then leaving some things packed will simply save time. The boxes will be ready and waiting for the next move. Partly, this behaviour is simply neurotic and my own personal physical symptom expressing the uncertainties that haunt contingent academic labor. Fine. With tenure, though, and with the recent threat of moving buildings yet again lifted, I'm determined to actually unpack and make my office my own. In order to help motivate myself to finish the job this time, here is a "before" picture of my squalid office as it looks today:

Awful. Note the generations of dead computer equipment and office furniture underfoot; the piles of papers; and the clutter on every possible surface. I must fix this. Here is my goal:

This is Freud's Vienna office circa 1938. I'm particularly fond of his desk chair. I don't think I'll quite make this goal, but any small steps in this direction are all to the good.

I'm going to try to be very intentional about the things I include in my office, and ruthless about the things I throw out. I have various objets d'art that I've acquired over the years that have never found a home. Some are very nice. Some have more sentimental value than artistic merit. Others are simply too horrendous to be welcome at home and so have been banished to my office.

I've also given up on having my university buy any furniture for my office. Even in times of flush budgets, that has been very hard to do. Now, it's simply impossible. Plus, institutional furniture is always too ugly anyway. So, instead, I will spend a little money of my own here and there to help things along. Wish me luck. I will need it.


  1. If your office represents squalor, then I think mine represents squalor cubed. You've inspired me to try to slay the vortex, however.

  2. Steampunk yay!

    I may be no expert on fung shui but that chair with the computer on it, turned to the bookcase ... it may need to be rearranged.

    Keep us posted with the progress! And more pictures!

    PS a rug would do wonders ... go by a discount rug store (or even one of the online places) and pick up something for some color.

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