Monday, February 3, 2014


Three months after moving house, I’m still unpacking. I’m down to far fewer boxes, but far fewer places to put things once they’re unpacked.
I’m now using one of the emptied boxes to collect things I feel I can do without.
Reluctantly, I’m forced to admit to myself that I’ll probably never open that mind-soul-healing book again – not with several others in a similar vein already on the shelves. Amazingly, now that I have two novels, two novellas and two collections of short stories published, I can do without the book telling me how to get published. How many instruction books do I need for a musical instrument I seldom play? Or for software no longer installed on my computer? It’s time to go through my shelves and make some decisions. Will I ever read this again, or that to begin with? Which of the non-fiction books are outdated? Which will actually be useful?
Why do I keep those I keep? With many of my fiction books, I keep them as reminders of the adventures I experienced and the people I’ve come to know and care about between their pages. A book on a shelf is like a photo in a family album.
Picking up a book, one can open the pages at any time and slip back into its world of people and adventures once again. That world is always there in potential, and I find it reassuring to see all those potential worlds racked on the shelves around me. I love my Nook – mostly because I can have my books and lift them, too – but the presence of a solid book is a magical thing.
 Still, when I have to pile some books in front of others, it takes away the virtue of being able to see those reminders arrayed before me.
A book on a shelf is like a photo in a family album. A person doesn’t get rid of any of the photos of people and times that are truly meaningful. Every single shot holds a precious memory. But, say you only have room to keep one or two photo albums out for display. You can look through all the photos from a special event and keep one or two that are representative, and file the rest in a box (neatly labeled of course, to make future access easy) and store the box away.
Maybe I need every single volume of the Harry Potter series available – I may well want to read them again – but I might keep only the first volume of another series handy, if I knew where to find the rest when I needed them. Maybe I only need the first volume in hard copy if I have the others on my Nook… And maybe there are some stories that don’t mean as much to me as others, which may yet be enjoyable enough to make it worth sharing them with other readers by donating to a library, prison reading program, or even selling off to a used book store. Let the sorting begin!


Julie Eberhart Painter said...

We have book shelves in every room in the house, most are "double booked." I used to lend them and say, pass it on. Those were the ones that came back, so I'm surrounded.

Getting rid of the outdated writing and publishing books sounds like a good place to start. Some of the advice is laughable now.

I have three thesaurus(es). Many words have changed meaning, yet I cannot part with my " 'nice tomes'."

Jude Johnson said...

I think the worst part about moving is deciding where things should go once you're in a new place. Culling the books is always painful. My goal in life is to have a room like the library Henry Higgins has in My Fair Lady: floor to ceiling with a rolling ladder.

Liz Fountain said...

Jude, I've yearned for Henry Higgins' library since the first time I saw that film! When I relocated from a house to a small apartment 2 years ago I brutally divested myself of all but my most cherished books. Now I'm in a house again, and looking at all the wall space, and thinking about bookcases...

I wrote a bit about how culling your possessions is like editing your writing:

Anonymous said...

Sixteen years after moving house...yes, I still have unpacked boxes. And way more books. I feel your pain, Naomi. I almost never get rid of a book or a ball of yarn. Yet I'm approaching the age when one starts to think of downsizing. Yikes! I can never get old!

Julie Eberhart Painter said...

Sir Walter Scott had/has a library like HH. If you are "over there," be sure to visit it.