Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Of Small Spaces, And Books

Something I realized pretty early on in my search for a new place to live was that, regardless of whether I rented a room or bought a trailer, I was gonna have to do some serious decluttering/downsizing. In a way, although I didn't know it at the time, I got to "practice" this last year when my family was having our upstairs flooring installed and most of our belongings went into boxes while it was being done.

I learned a couple of important lessons through that experience. I learned, for instance, that while I can live with fewer clothes, fewer knicknacks, less "stuff", there are three material things I don't function well without:
  • My own bed.
  • Pictures of my loved ones.
  • My books.
The bed is easy - when I'm done painting and remodeling and unpacking, I'll merely lift my mattress off the cheap frame in the house, walk it across the porch, and slide it into my new bedroom.

Likewise, pictures are pretty easy to move - I'll have less "surface area," so more pictures will probably get hung on the wall, but one way or the other I'll still have my photos.

Books... now that presents more of a challenge.

Books are important to me.

When I finally unpacked my books after the flooring got installed, I had visions of downsizing my library, of sorting through all these unneeded books that surely I had - cuz, I mean, I have over 500 tomes, and I can't possibly love all of them, right?


I unpacked. I tried to be vicious about deciding whether or not I really wanted/needed each and every book.

At the end of this experiment, I rid myself of less than ten books and honestly couldn't figure out how to trim any more.

When I read about how to downsize your library, the first advice they give you is to eliminate all the books you know you'll never really read, or books you'll never reread.

I guess I'm odd, because I don't actually have any books that fall into those two categories. I'm generally picky about what comes to live on my bookshelves, and each book is there for a reason. I return to my favorite stories and novels as though they were the arms of old friends - Lewis for when my soul needs soothing, Bauer for when I need an infusion of joy, my poetry anthologies when I need to see the world another way. I'm guessing I've read about 75% of the books on my shelves, and I've reread probably 95% of them.

As for the ones I haven't read yet - I regularly mark books off my "to-read" list and most of the time the instincts which led me to put it on the list to begin with were good, meaning it stays.

A lot of people have told me to convert to a Kindle or similar eReader. While I know they mean well, there are two problems with this: first, converting my library of over 500 books (even though it's largely made up of classics) would be ridiculously, prohibitively expensive, even when I consider that most of the books I own I bought secondhand for cheap or was given. Also, I like to take my books with me on adventures (road trips, airplane rides, beach or pool sitting... long reads in a bubble bath... etc) and I would never, ever dream of taking an expensive eReader or tablet with me.

Second, I'm a staunch believer that books are more than the words on the page; books are experiences, and part of that experience is the feel of the paper, the smell of ink, glue, and binding (oh that heavenly smell! Made even better if it's a used book with the scent of history), the sound of the rustling pages... and, yes, even the slight weathering that occurs with time.

I have yet to confirm my worst fears - that I just don't have enough room for the library I have now - but I'm anticipating some tough choices in my future. :(

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