Friday, July 30, 2010

Is Hoarding the Eighth Deadly Sin?

My relationship with books when we lived in Hudson,Ohio, circa 2007:

Lately, two themes are dominating my life, economy and simplicity. Illiterates and family members alike would say that I read to excess and acquire books like a redhead gets freckles. Every now and then without warning, there's a new crop.

Books were clogging up my life kind of like French fries clog up my pores (no matter what McDonald's publicists might say) and the heaviness I felt maintaining them took away the joy of reading them, not to mention the free time I would have were I not trying to organize books I own but have not yet had the opportunity to read.

The obvious answer was to get rid of three-quarters of my wardrobe, so I donated six garbage bags crammed full of clothes to Goodwill. None of my friends can believe it when I show them my winnowed closet. Men are particularly impressed. I have never gone naked even a day yet -- actually, the thought rarely even crosses my mind. I enjoy pointing that out.

With all this newly found space, I was able to convert half the closet into personal book shelves. (An added plus was that I could hide new purchases from those who might realize and object to them.) In a heartbeat, that space started to overflow, too. Our house was built in the 1960s and closets in this era house are not the same size as the kitchen. They are small because back in the 60s, all the builders were single guys so they didn't know how much closet space women wanted – that's just my guess.

At a yard sale, I splurged for a nightstand with shelving. When it too was bursting at the seams, I found a funky old basket and loaded it up. Part of my kitchen shelving was magically transformed into a home for most of my cookbooks.

When I started to stack piles of books around the house randomly, my son suggested that I fearlessly cull my collection. At first I thought he was a traitor but after he explained himself, I gave him credit for being the genius that he is. "What will happen if you have empty shelf space, Mom?" he prompted. Right! I will have space for more books - and no guilt! (Being guilt-free is becoming more and more attractive the older and closer to death I get.)

I set about the task of paring down my books. I had a little three-day garage sale then donated bags and bags and bags of books to the library. Then I went through the shelves again and gave fifty more to the Salvation Army. Wow, did it feel great! The burden was lifted and I felt physically lighter with this odious task behind me. Immediately I enjoyed the peace of being in my living room now that I could actually sit down.

Everyone knew it was only a matter of time before book piles started spreading like summer kudzu in Georgia, but for the moment we all reveled in the knowledge that folks who dropped by could actually come inside without danger of stumbling over a pile or two of books.

We all even knew the exact date that the parade of new books would occur. Our library book sales are the first Saturday and third Thursday of every month. Need I say more? Only dire circumstances keep me from attending a library sale. If blood is spurting from someone I really care about, I will detour to the emergency room but after the wounded have been cared for, we will stop at the library on the way home. This is a fact that surprises no one.

My salvation seemed like coincidence but was a simple answer to a heartfelt prayer. I stumbled upon a website where you can swap books! The idea is that you send books from your library to others who want them and then you can request books from someone else in an even one-to-one exchange. So, for every book I send out, I can get another one free! The key words in that last sentence are: send out. In order to receive, you have to give. This way, the books I've read can find new homes and I will have space to store the new ones. It's deceptively simple and economical, as well. All ya have to pay is the postage of the books you send out.

Media mail rates are a lot cheaper than a home addition.


Betsy Wuebker said...

We're selling ours on Amazon. So we've become bookmongers, among other things.

Jennifer said...

I am also a book hoarder. After tearing out built-in shelving when we remodeled two years ago, we recently acquired (after painstaking searching) new bookcases. It was like Christmas, opening up all of those boxes of books, packed away before the demolition began.

Karl asked me if I was going to weed any books out before putting them in their new place of honor. I replied, "Of course!" I think I pulled two out the first go through. I did get a little more real about the purging and found enough to fill a box eventually.

I still have several boxes of books in a closet, to go into a freshly painted bookcase upstairs. This does not include the books stashed under my bed and beside my bed - oh - and the books sitting out in the living room and the dining room, that I read while I am in there - and the book I always carry with me in the car because I might have a chance to read in a moment of arriving early at an appointment, or while getting my hair colored. There is also the ottoman, that I don't think Karl is even aware that the top comes off. It is stuffed with books.

Cookbooks are another story.

Did I mention all of the beautiful picture books I bought for my daughters as they were growing up? They are safely packed away, waiting for grandchildren. (Which you are beating me to, Chris!)

Ummm - I am also starting a children's book publishing company - Jiggy Jog Press, within the next three months. My first book is almost ready for a layout artist.

I think it is fitting to be a book hoarder. It looks like I am in good company :)


peggyjane said...

cousin chris,
the more i read your blog the more i believe in genetics. we are truly related!!!! there are more books in my house, garage, barn and storage shed then there is anything else!!! and yes i do purge once in a while. i just have a horrible time deciding which ones have to go. some i keep just to reread on a rainy or snowy afernoon, or even a sunny one for that matter!!! some are like old friends i keep around because they remind me of long ago.
i think "book hoarder" is a very harsh term and shouldn't be used around those of us that love a good book (or two, or three - hundred???)
i wish we lived closer, i think we have a lot in common and would love hanging out.