Monday, June 03, 2013

Detaching Myself From My Shelf

Summer always includes post school year cleaning and organization. As I update booklists and learning records, add to a high schooler's transcript, file papers, and beam at art-project-keepers, I naturally turn to other kinds of tidying and decluttering.

Sitting in my living room floor, in a box and a few grocery sacks, are 110 books. These are the "few" books that we pulled off the shelves the other day. We haven't been through all the shelves yet.

I have no idea how many books we own. I'm a little afraid to find out. A friend of mine catalogued her books on Library Thing last year. She was extolling the virtues of the site. My first thought was that I would never have the patience for all that data input, but when she told me about how easy it made some of her record keeping, I was intrigued. My Homeschooling-Mom-Brain went into full organizational mode when I grasped how useful the tagging could be ("Ramona's Summer Reads" or  "Betsy: Brit Lit") for both planning and transcripts.

But, this post isn't really about Library Thing (though if you use it, I'd love to hear more about what you do and how you like it), it's about wading through our books, and trying to let them go. "Wading" seems an appropriate word choice, as there are often books on the floor, books in stacks, books everywhere.

I don't so much decorate our interiors as rearrange the way the books look in each room.

Oh, sure, I take books to Goodwill regularly. I have to -- there are always new books coming in to the house. But always, still, a lot of books here.

As much as I adore our books, I sometimes feel weighed down by them. By the stuff of them.  From a spiritual standpoint, books are yet another material thing, and I have long worked toward detaching from material things. It's a long, plodding process. It's working fairly well in some areas: Atticus and I don't care about the size of our home, the prestige of a location, or what kind of car we drive (we just want a vehicle to run and when it runs for several years after the car payments are done, that's even better.) I don't care much about clothes or shoes. I've detached from an abundance of purses and jewelry. I have separated myself from knick-knacks and thingies and stuff from my childhood. But books? They are in a category of their own.

There's the personal to consider ("Atticus, you loved that book when I first met you! I'm not letting you give that one away.") There's posterity ("Will the girls need this? Will they want it? Should I buy two more of this title so they can each have one?") There are beautiful covers (I told you I decorate with books.)

They are "just" material things. But they're not, are they? Not in the same category as the other stuff in my life. They are our personal history, a map of our lives' journeys, our philosophies, our evolution.

It can be hard to toss all of that in a trash bag that's destined for Goodwill.

Still. I want to shed a little of this weight, lighten the load, leave a little less for my children to sift through after I'm gone someday.

So, I'm working on it. (Pssstt ... I would say, "Don't tell Atticus," but I already told him. I think I pulled at least ten of the books he was willing to part with out of the Goodwill bags. Still, giving away 110 of the 120 or so that we pulled isn't a bad start.)

I'll keep you posted.


Melissa Wiley said...

Oh my goodness, we are mirroring. Scott & I spent the weekend doing the very same thing. Goodbye, several boxes of books! These children keep getting bigger and taking up more space. ;)

Karen Edmisten said...

Oh, Lissa, so funny!

Amy said...

Me too! Inspired by a sale at a local park tomorrow. Good luck to both of you with your purging!

Karen Edmisten said...

Good luck to you, too, Amy! :)

nancyo said...

I'm nowhere near as detached as you guys are, but I agree that books are in a special category. So many associations and so much meaning, and then there's the stuff inside the covers! We are awash in books here too, but I come by it honestly: my dad was a used book dealer in his retirement years and loved everything about books.