Packing Up

A few months after my viva, when my corrections were all completed, it was time to pack up the desk in my shared office.

I wish I had considered it properly at the time. Instead, I just packed everything into boxes. Things were grouped together, but I wasn’t sure of what I would be doing in the future. Maybe I would still do maths research at some point. Best to keep all of the papers, notes, books, curios, desk toys, excess stationery and bits and bobs – just in case!

When my wife and I moved in together a few years later I brought those boxes with me. When we were able to buy a house three years after that I took them with me again. More time passed. Finally, somewhere in the last five years I’ve been able to open the boxes and start to shed some of this stuff that I’ve been holding on to for over fifteen years.

In 2008 I should have asked myself:

  • Do I need all of this?
  • Is there anything I can just let go of?
  • Is there anything I’m carrying around simply because I’ve had it for a long time?

It would have been helpful to ask these questions as I was packing up!


I think it could have helped a lot if I’d asked similar questions when I was getting ready for my viva too.

Did I need to focus on every page in my thesis and all of the papers and ideas I’d been thinking about? No! I could have been kinder to myself by being more focussed.

Were there things I could just let go of? Yes! So much. Ideas for developing my work further, ideas about whether things were good or not.

Were there things I was carrying around for a long time and just kept them with me? Yes. I took my nervousness in presenting as a sign that I wasn’t good at presenting or speaking. I carried that idea for a long time before I was able to set it aside.


There’ll come a time when you have to pack up your PhD. Maybe you won’t be moving offices or taking things home, but you’ll still have to say, “This is over, time for something else.”

Be kind to yourself. Pack up only what you need.

And start the process during your prep to help you focus on the work that will help you get ready. Take time to explore what you can let go of as well.