It's time to clear stuff out

I predicted this time would come, and it has.

I have both feared this time and welcomed it. I have dreamed its conclusion, and I have dreaded the preparation.

Before the end, there will be complete and utter chaos, a horror of the sort that can hardly be described.

Before the end, there will be days of terrible confusion that I will survive only by taking desperate measures and imbibing many cups of calming herbal tea.

I know that, in the end, there will be peace and order and calm. But what comes before?

This November, exactly 18 years after we moved into our home, we are preparing to clear everything out of one particular room: The small home office my husband, Ralf, and I have shared for almost two decades.

The room needs a paint job. The floor needs refinishing.

The task before us will take all our strength. We will have to move books and bookshelves. That is as nothing, however, compared to the contents of many file cabinets and desk drawers.

They hold the detritus of 18 years of life, of work with organizations that surely do not remember either of us or the many texts we wrote or edited.

Our file cabinets hold records that go back decades. They contain evidence of past interests and passions. Goodness knows how many chess puzzles and games may be found with our son's name written across them in a childish scrawl Then there is the closet, a space mostly owned by Ralf.

He is likely to have stored floppy disks from the Stone Age there. I am sure I will find memos from department meetings that date from a decade or so ago, software that would not run on any computer still on the planet, Post-It notes purchased when our child was a toddler, when they came only in limited colors and sizes.

Stationery? Empty notebooks? I would not hazard a guess what I may find in the dark corners.

When I have dared to look behind the closet doors, I have seen, for several years, a dim collection of objects that threaten to topple and fall if I so much as sigh in despair. Closing the doors is a challenge.

Piles of paper have accumulated near the bookshelves.

Only heaven knows what they contain, though I am fully aware that one of them has been standing about for years awaiting my attention. That one pile includes my B.A. thesis, my M.A. thesis, my doctoral thesis and Ralf's doctoral thesis.

They have been neither bound nor boxed and have lain on the floor in a large Tupperware container for umpteen years.

Our office furniture is mostly decades old and decrepit. Drawers refuse to open correctly. Strips of veneer are peeling away under my mousepad.

But you understand, of course. We have been busy working all these years. Who had time to get up from the computer, much less to clear spaces around it? There were papers to grade and syllabi and lectures to write. The chaos was controlled just enough to allow us to continue the hunting and gathering that has led to the present nightmare.

The time of preparation is near. But I have hope. We will survive this time, and we will enter a bright new world. We shall be rewarded with a wonderfully organized and peaceful workspace.

For how long, one wonders?