Friday, March 06, 2009

Thoughts on decluttering a bookshelf

(c) 2009 Ms. Huis Herself at

You know, one of the hardest thing about decluttering is not so much getting rid of the items themselves.

It's getting rid of the idea of them, or their potential, or what they meant to you.

I say this as I work on (gradually, a crate at a time, a few crates a day) taking all the books off the bookshelves in our office, in preparation of repainting the room. Since they were shelved all willy-nilly, I've been pulling them in groups so that when we REshelve them (reshelf? reshelve? bwah?) it'll be easier.

(Can I just mention now, for the record, that we've got a REALLY LARGE number of house design books, garden design books, and gardening books... 90% of which I've never (yet) read?)

(Also, "Practical Beekeeping." Pusher, you start with your chickens and we'll follow with bees!)

As I go through, I'm seeing college textbooks from my theatre minor, or Mr. Kluges's German major, or random cool college classes. I'll probably never ever look at "Stages of Drama" again, but the thought of getting rid of it makes me nostalgic for the dusty smell of the Black Box curtains and the bustle of the scene shop.

No, actually, that's not true.

It's makes me lonely for the person I was then.

(Not that I don't enjoy my life now, and the person I've become, you know, mostly and in general... it's just different. Two forks diverged and all that, you know?)

I guess that's really it. By getting rid of the books, it almost feels like I'm discarding that life experience (though that's obviously impossible). Or that I'm finally forever closing the door on following any dreams I may have had tied up with it all. Not that I've GOT any dreams of the theatrical life, but it was such an interesting, cool part of my life for a while.

(Also, writing introspective posts is just NOT enhanced by periodic interruptions from the wee ones or annoying scrape-scrape-saw of my husband, who is apparently cutting some sort of metal pipe in the basement exactly 4 feet to my right and just below the floor. *sigh*)

Not to imply it's only college and/or theatre books I'm torn over. There are books I read when I was younger, or that were useful at a different time, or that I've always MEANT to read, but just haven't yet. They sit on the bookshelves, mute, but with potential or guilt or dreams or memories permeating the pages.

I'm thinking (hoping) that thinking it through out loud, so to speak, will help me look at them a little more dispassionately. To consider each one on its own merits. Because we've got a heck of a lot of books, and I'd love to reclaim some space on the shelf for books in more active use.

But why does it sometimes feel like thinning down my books is casting them off adrift as orphans?


Syl said...

I used to keep all of my books. Then I lived with Pusher and she helped me "let go of things." By which, I mean she ridiculed me with the absolute idiocy of 12 boxes of books stuffed in my tiny bedroom in our apartment until I broke down and admitted there was no reason to the fairy tale books from when I was 3.

I'm much better about them now, but I'm considering sending Pants to rehab at Pusher and Puck's.

Allknowingjen said...

I like how you put this: "I'm lonely for the person I was then."

As a fellow book lover, I know exactly what you mean. I get very attached to them. The Dude is currently cataloging ours with a program called Delicious- with the intent that once we can see what we have we'll be able to thin some out. We've even discovered some duplicates.

Happy Veggie said...

Ok, well, ajd's collection of gaming books aside, and the fact that HE cannot throw any thing away (donate, give away, etc), I feel it comes on me to do. Our house is too small for so many books.

I just recently started going through things, and right now they've made it to the basement. I don't know where to donate the three books on writing kid's books. When I figure it out, more will go. But it is so hard.

Speaking of that, any body want to do a cookbook giveaway/swap. I need to get rid of many.

MaryP said...

Our library takes used books, which they then sell to raise funds for the library. (They don't seem to put them in circulation, though I could be wrong about that.)

When I lived in a different city, which didn't have an annual library sale, after I'd done the round of used book shops, friends, and a garage sale... and STILL had some left over?

I made a after-hours trip to the library and made a surreptitious "donation" of used books through the book return slot.

Ahem... :D

nonick said...

I'm not sure of the best way to handle this, but I know I may be interested in some of those books, so a post of those you're planning to get rid of may help. If you know they're going somewhere where they'll be used, especially to friends, it may help you let go.

Beekeeping? Awesome - that's been buzzing around (sorry, couldn't resist) in the back of my head for a while now, too.

Ms. Huis Herself said...

NoNick - good idea! I suspect a lot of our discards wouldn't be of interest, but we do have some duplicates, etc. that others might like. Maybe I'll post a list a little while before our next trip back to MN...

Syl said...

I have your Sailing to Sarantium.

kittenpie said...

Like you, I find it SO hard to get rid of books - I thinkyou're right about th potential. There's that wholethought process of wishing you had time to pursue this or that interest, and knowing that it is never likely to rise high enough on the list of prioirities that is a little disheartening, because there are just SO MANY interesting things out there...