Over a hundred books have moved on to greener pastures this week. I have about two hundred more that are destined to be packed up for Goodwill when I acquire more boxes. Quite a few are earmarked for handing down to other people’s children. Three boxes full, with any luck, will sell on Half.com. I’d say the lucky ones that have earned a permanent home here on the homestead number around five hundred. That seems like a lot, but what remains can be comfortably shelved, and these are books that I know will be read or referenced. (This does not take into account kids’ books, which will be dealt with as they outgrow them. However, I do think I will utilize the “one in, one out” rule- anytime they buy or receive a new book, one gets put into the donation box.)
There are about two dozen of my father’s books that I am having a hard time emotionally letting go of, and I have decided that I will reread them (or, for some, guiltily read for the first time) so that they may have a proper send-off into the world. And these will truly be released into the wild: I plan to register them on Book Crossing so I can monitor their travels. The hope is that my father’s notes and cross-references will bring meaning to some other avid reader, some other wandering soul.
Which brings me to today’s decluttering/ emotional overhaul crisis:
Like my father before me, I read with a pencil and paper. In an effort to capture those things I find meaningful, useful, or just interesting, I write down quotes, thoughts, and cross-references as I read. Where my father and I differ is that he would generally write in the margins, whereas I cannot bring myself to deface a book. What this means in the long term is that I have piles and piles of paper and notebooks. Whenever my cleaning brings them to my attention, I tend to read them over, and I still find the bulk of it amusing, or touching, or whatever. So back into the box or drawer or book it goes.
Every once in a while I make an effort to sort through all these bits of paper, putting them into binders or files. What that means is I have a lot of binders and files. (There is a file in my file cabinet labelled, in my father’s hand, “Papers”. I kid you not. This file is specifically quotes from books I read in high school or just random things I wrote down, and they have survived the cleaning out of my childhood bedroom, two moves, and a basement flooding.)
What to do with these fragments? The first step was to locate the two boot-size shoeboxes (bootboxes) that I keep all my high school letters in. Back in the early 90s, there were no “free minutes” or “fave 5”, and long-distance ran a dime every sixty seconds, more if you had urgent mid-day gossip to share. To survive those never-ending summers, and avoid the wrath incurred by $150 phone bills, my friends and I resorted to good old pen and paper. And cringeworthy as it may well be, we were damn funny. Over the years I have gone through these letters and discarded those that were boring or from people I don’t particularly care for or about anymore. From people still on the “good” list, I kept only the very best of the best. And still: two good size boxes.
This morning I went through them one last time. I read through maybe three, looked at the pile, and thought, no way. I do not have time to read all these. And into the recycling bag they went.
So easy! So liberating!
Why didn’t I do this before?
And now I have two more empty boxes. As I come across the scattered ghosts of books past, I’ll toss them into these boxes, and every day I’ll post two or three or ten. This plan has multiple benefits:
- The paper gets slowly thrown away;
- The thoughts get documented for future use;
- Perhaps someone else will enjoy them as well;
- I now feel obliged to log in and daily and write something, anything.
- These pieces of me will be there for my kids to access, to help shape their understanding of who I am and how I think, without the future burden of having to get rid all these bits of sentimental flotsam.
Today’s quote? I believe it was the copy for a Guess jeans ad. I found it emblazoned multiple times on the envelopes. A tribute to the embarassing, but ultimately empowering, aspects of high school memories:
Walk away when you must.
Walk the goddess walk.
( April 5th: I found this quote today in one of my binders. It is
actually from a Calvin Klein ad, 1992. In case you were really, really