31 March 2009

Spring/Life Cleaning, Part 2 - Books

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It's 10 a.m. and I'm taking a break from making my lists of all the things I'm putting into bags; bags that will go to the local thrift store later today. The lists are for tax deductions, which I highly recommend doing. Every cent helps, especially these days.

I really don't mind seeing the clothing go. We tend to buy inexpensive clothing (thrift stores, Walmart, Target) so when a piece of clothing is worn out or has simply worn out its welcome, out it goes. Again, this doesn't apply to my husband and my son. They like to add to what they have and keep everything forever and ever.

But I digress.

The clothing and other old or useless stuff is going. The books, however, are a different story.

On our first date, my husband and I discovered that we both love to read, love to share our books, and love to KEEP our books. On that first date, which happened to be a blind date, we actually went into a bookstore and compared many of the books we've read. We enjoyed the similarities and suggested to each other what he or she needed to read next. It was a match made in heaven.

After less than two years of marriage, it was time to move (after all, he was in the Navy, it's what Navy people do, you know). Thankfully, the Navy not only pays to move its people, it packs everything for you. Oh, the luxury! But I remember the packers commenting about how many books we had. I shrugged it off. I grew up in a household of readers and we always had lots of books around. Books were something you had like you had a bed or a sofa or a kitchen table. They weren't extras, they were essentials.

After a couple of moves, we landed in San Diego and were lucky to have Navy housing that was full of cabinets and built-in shelves. Ah - the homes for all our books! Then we began homeschooling, and we accumulated a whole new category of books. I had the privilege of teaching each of my three children to read, which has been one of the highlights of my life. Actually, to be fair, when my middle daughter was five, she taught her four-year-old sister to read, but I take credit for it because I bought them the books, gave them the opportunity, and was supermom and all that.

I kid. About the supermom part, not the rest.

Before long, my husband's time in the Navy came to an end and we decided to settle in Maine. Thankfully, the Navy gave us one last move and paid to bring us, all our stuff, and all our BOOKS to Maine.

And now in my raging desire for minimalism and simplicity, I'm over my book fetish. Or so I thought.

I decided we were going to get rid of every book unless it was very old, had significant sentimental value, or was out of print and could not be found in a bookstore or library. Of course, the first books to go were all the paperbacks. Who needs those? My husband had many from college and high school. Yes, HIGH SCHOOL. And guess what? He didn't share my desire to get rid of the paperbacks. Get rid of his worn, falling-apart, beloved copy of The Old Man and The Sea? Blasphemy! Give away his old copy of Shogun, in which half the 800 pages are falling out? Never! There are also his military books, history books, leadership books,... and the list goes on.

The problem was that when I said we could keep books which had significant sentimental value, my husband wanted to keep them all. Not only did the books hold value to him, he liked to remember reading THAT SPECIFIC BOOK, regardless of its current condition.

I pushed and coaxed him into giving up some of the paperbacks, but not many. And forget the hardbacks - those are staying. Sure, he's read them all, but that's beside the point. He may want to read them again. Or he may just want to look at them and remember.

Yet I, being the emerging minimalist (and far superior human being because of it) was going to get rid of all MY books. The homeschool curriculums were the first to go. I sold a bunch of the books and materials on ebay and gave away even more. Of course, I thought I might like to keep the high school books my son used. Just in case my daughters need them. Oh, and there are a few young readers that hold sentimental value. And there is that shelf of children's books from my childhood that will stay with us forever. And I do hate to let go of all those nice art books - it's the next best thing to going to a museum! There are also my favorite Steinbeck books and a few of my literature anthologies from college. And then there are all the books on writing, the plays, the poetry. Those are USEFUL, so they should stay.

And there you have it - our bookshelves are still quite full.

I figured the next logical step would be to eliminate bookshelves, which would force us to get rid of the books. I took out one of the two bookcases in our bedroom and the one in the living room. The next thing I knew, books were stacked everywhere, because they no longer had a home. Still, this prompted me to really consider each one. I began putting them in boxes. It was not an easy thing to do.

But then, I remembered my local library has a book sale each summer (I'm one of their best customers, so I should know!) I contacted them and they said they would gladly take our books, perhaps to use in the library, or to sell in the sale. It made me realize that even if one of our books wasn't currently in the library, once we gave it to them, it would be. Imagine! It was the best of both worlds - we could have someone else "keep" our books for us, and we could go visit them anytime we wanted to (during normal business hours, of course).

I'm continuing to fill the boxes with books. So far I have about a dozen boxes full, waiting until May, when the library will begin to accept donations. But amazingly, most of our bookshelves are STILL FULL. I might add, too, that all those boxes have only a handful of my husband's books.

But I'm not bitter.

I will keep working on him and I WILL break him down.

Copyright © 2009 - Paulla Estes


Ken Walden said...

We are just like you guys, long-time book hoarders. I finally turned the corner and starting being able to get rid of them. But one of the things that really helped was joining paperback Swap It was much more fun to get rid of a book when we knew someone was looking for it, and it gave us credits we could bank up and pick out books we had been looking for. I find I pick up less books than we send out, so less clutter. We're also able to transfer the credits to their sister sites and pick up used CDs and movies. It's been fun.

Anonymous said...

I just stumbled onto your blog. Just wondering why anyone would move up here to Maine? As a life long Maine resident, I can't wait for day I can spend winters as far south as I can get. I guess the one good thing about winters up here is that its nice to crawl up next to the wood stove with a good book!