Genealife in lockdown – cleaning out

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Ever since I retired at the end of 2011, I have said I need to start cleaning out my house. But the problem is I have one spare bedroom where I stashed all those boxes of essentials when I left teaching. You know that ‘I will need them some time in the future’ so they never get tossed away.

Then because I had a huge personal library in my classrooms, I also have a back shed with about 4 bookcases full of children’s books and teacher references. I did donate some of them to schools around the world through a non government organization NGO. I also have lots of games and jigsaw puzzles stored in there.

Lastly I have another spare room which is supposedly a third bedroom that is now my office with my computer, filing cabinet, a couple of desks and some bookshelves. I did clean out the filing cabinet and got rid of two drawers relating to teaching stuff. Those are now full of family history files and folders – not colour coded yet but sorted slightly into certificates, pedigree charts etc.

Counselling / Pixabay

Then of course there is the floor of that office – when I can see it. I did get it clean once or maybe twice but I tend to drop things on the floor and forget to then sort them out and put them on shelves or in the cabinet.

Dad is an amateur historian who has bought so many books related to Tasmanian history which he used when he was on the Nomenclature Board in Tasmania. He also used them when looking for cairns on top of hills when he used to go bushwalking with the Hobart Walking Club. But as he is getting on in age, he is now starting to get rid of some of his books. I must get my hoarding from him as he also has an office with filing cabinets, bookshelves, desks etc.

So I am now inheriting many of his early Tasmanian books and I now need to find space to put them on my bookshelves.

Readers: Have any of you had luck at cleaning out your office or family history stuff? What is the best way to do it?

5 thoughts on “Genealife in lockdown – cleaning out

  1. It’s so hard to dispose of treasures. It took me 9 years and a house move to dispose of my teaching resources and I haven’t missed them one little bit. It’s a different story with family heirlooms, genealogy files and books.

    Good Luck!

  2. Sue, I resonate so well with your “cleaning out” attempts. Both my husband and I retired from teaching 13 years ago, and have freed ourselves of old teaching resources but continue to acquire books, and now, family history records, currently filed in bedside table drawers in a spare bedroom. More book shelves are needed, and the precious family history collections need resorting as their individual lineages are bursting from their folders. I’m finding it very difficult to cast sentiment aside in order to free up another bedroom for its original purpose too! By the way, in your father’s collection of books, is there a copy of Leonard Rodway’s, The Tasmanian Flora (Hobart, 1903), the first standard reference of Tasmanian Flora? Leonard Rodway was my grandfather’s uncle who came to Hobart as a dentist from Torquay, England. Leonard had a daughter Florence who became a noted portraitist of people such as Dame Nellie Melba, Henry Lawson, and Alexander Archibald of the Archibald Art Prize that celebrated its Centenary this year. Unfortunately COVID has disrupted the viewing of the Archibald award exhibits at the Sydney Art Gallery, which we usually enjoy visiting, but we did appreciate the ABC TV program highlighting past winning portraits, shown a few months ago. You have now spurred me on to break down my resistance to “sort” – thank you!

  3. What a great collection of books. If you decide you don’t want all of them on your shelves, would a history society or archive or museum or other institution be willing to accept them so other researchers can use them? Just a thought. Sometimes it’s difficult to part with such items. But by giving them a good home elsewhere, you’re giving them a new life also 😉

  4. Hi Sue – oh I feel your pain. Being an only child I inherited Gran’s china and furniture, then my mother’s china and furniture and I fear it won’t be too long before I will be doing the same with Dad’s furniture and books. He is already passing stuff on to me. It helps me having a daughter who is in love with the Marie Kondo method, so she has come over on several occasions to help me de-clutter. It tends to get on my husband’s gander though so we have to tread carefully. His computer tinkering and “desks” have spread from the original study, to the living room, to the family room and one of the back bedrooms. I try to keep my stuff in one of the spare bedrooms i.e. sewing and family history. The other spare bedroom has been kept for the grandchild to sleep and play in. I have tried putting coloured sticky notes on various filing drawers and bookshelves with months written on them indicating that I should clear, sort, file or toss in that month. Nothing was done for August ! I wonder why???? They are the only tips I can give; find a friend or relative who will help you make those tough decisions and do up a timeline of when you want it all done by and do a monthly check in to track progress. Unless you measure it, it doesn’t happen. The checklists from the Downsizing with family history in mind book by Devon Noel Lee and Andrew Lee have been very helpful in this regard.

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