June 9,1997

First Person:

Confessions of a packrat,

or how to flunk 'Moving 101'

As part of the addition and renovation of the Woodruff Library, most staff members and some collections will have to move to temporary quarters for some period of time. I was part of a preliminary "mini move" in March along with my colleague Brenda Gresham. In the General Libraries internal newsletter, Brenda described the ideal way to prepare for and execute a move. Brenda is a very neat and organized person, and she was able to plan and pack for our March move in just the methodical and efficient way she described it.

I, on the other hand, am a packrat and a procrastinator-a lethal combination when it comes to getting ready to move. Around the Christmas holidays, I began telling myself, "you need to come in on the weekend and start packing for the move." I did come in on lots of weekends, but I always found something else to do: a report to write, e-mail messages to respond to, preparations for ALA [American Library Association]. During the week, there were always meetings or people dropping by my office on an impromptu basis.

By two weeks before the move, I had spent perhaps four hours weeding my files in preparation. But anyone walking into my office wouldn't have been able to tell that I had done a thing.

Panic began to set in. I spent most of Saturday going through files again, meticulously sorting papers that could be recycled from those that should be trashed, taking off paper clips so that I could recycle, etc. But I couldn't come in on Sunday and once the week started, I was unable to get back to packing at all.

By the time the last weekend before the move rolled around, I was in the deadline-induced state of overdrive that only a true procrastinator can appreciate. I came in and sorted through files methodically, ruthlessly-and I did not turn my computer on. My office took on a truly chaotic appearance and stayed that way until Tuesday night before our Wednesday move. Some people can handle incremental chaos, but I can't. I put it off as long as possible and then have to immerse myself in it totally.

After sacrificing all of that final weekend to the move, I found that there was still more left than I would have imagined. So, I took the drastic step of not going to some meetings for which I was scheduled and closing my door. I stayed as late as I could, given that it was spring break. Nevertheless, it got to be Tuesday evening and there were still files I had not reviewed. I ended up throwing them in boxes and had to face sorting through them as I unpacked.

What should I have done differently? I should have started earlier-way earlier. As one of my friends once said, "Things take longer than they do." Whatever the amount of time you think it might take you to pack, double it and you might be close. If you are a procrastinator, think of some way to fool yourself into believing that the deadline is earlier than it really is.

Ditto with boxes: it will take at least twice as many as you estimate. Don't be a perfectionist about tying up loose ends as you go. I may offend some of my environmentally minded colleagues by saying this, but don't spend a lot of time preparing paper for recycling. All the time you spend removing paper clips and staples adds up.

There were a couple of things I did right: I labeled all my boxes so that I knew which ones to look for first. I kept a survival box of really important files to get me through the first day or two without a desk, a phone and a computer.

Also, Brenda made a point about being around on the day of the move to direct the movers. If you can't be there personally, be sure you've labeled everything and that someone else understands exactly what you want where.

The best thing for a perfectionist, procrastinating packrat would be to undergo a total personality change before having to prepare for a move (and they do have self-help groups for people like me!). Short of that, one needs to recognize one's shortcomings when it comes to moving and develop a strategy for accomplishing the task anyway.

I firmly believe that the reason that I am one of the two people moving three times is to provide a worst case scenario for the rest of you: "If Jane can do it, so can you." And it's true. Anyone interested in joining the support group, just let me know.

Jane Treadwell is director of Collections and Technical Services in the General Libraries. In August, virtually all library staff will be moving again as will employees taking up residence in the new Goizueta School and 1525 Clifton buildings.

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