So, I am stiillll going through every room purging stuff, getting ready for the garage/yard (threatening-to-spill-over-into-the-neighbors’-yards) sale that will happen… sometime this summer- sheesh! And there was one area I had a very hard time downsizing: our books. Our books! Our lovely books.
I agree with Edan Lepucki that our books tell a story about us. Our books tell our values, interests, and life journey. Like Edan, when I go into someone’s home, I am always drawn to their bookshelves and linger there, taking in the occupants’ story through the choice of their books. After all, books on a bookshelf tell us a story, beyond the words printed on the pages between its covers.
I didn’t think I could ruthlessly part with our books, our story. But I did.
Because… there might just be such a thing as too many books. Yes, our books told our story (from college texts to my son’s board books). But the majority of our books usually sat on shelves gathering dust. Wouldn’t our books better serve someone else who would like to read a few? Wouldn’t our books be better off moving on, circulating, offering someone else: a quiet rainy afternoon’s enjoyment; information or instruction; or a tome to add to their drafty bookshelf? I thought, Yes. So, it began.
I started a bit slowly but soon got in a zone and started tossing book after book after book onto the floor, from the to-the-ceiling bookshelves. I ended up with five piles:
- The largest (hundreds of books!) pile was for the garage sale; after which, they will be donated to a local charitable thrift store.
- One small pile was recycling (the book pages were falling out or the books were damaged beyond simple repair)– we will recycle the paper.
- Another pile was for books to take to school for my students. I purposely tried to keep this pile manageable and smaller.
- One tidy pile of four books belong to others- I looked in the front cover of a couple books that I was unsure when or where I got them and found I had borrowed them. They are ready to be returned to the rightful owner.
- One last pile of three books will be mailed to two of my students. I believe the students would particularly appreciate owning them. I will mail the books this summer as a special surprise for them.
After I finished purging and the knee-deep piles of books were hauled out to the crowded garage, pile after pile after pile, and the bookshelves were cleaned and the remaining books were dusted and rearranged a bit, my son said, “Wow, it looks empty in here.” It did. And it felt more than fine, it felt good.
While it is true the books on our bookshelves tell our personal story, remind us of our journey, and show others we value reading and learning, for me it was time to let them go. I still value reading, learning, and growing, but I no longer have decades of floor to ceiling books packing shelves which tell my story. And it is okay.
So I’ll leave you with this~ LOVE! The good folks at the Iowa City Public Library purge books too. Here is an inspired way they recycled some of their children’s books:
The Library playhouse is child-size, of course, and built by Nathan Nissen, a University of Iowa Civil Engineering graduate student at the time. After, it was finished, it was painted by artist Deanne Wortman and her son, Eric Wortman.