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Letting Go

I grew up in a house filled with books. My parents, when they built the extension on the house before moving in, requested an entire wall of built-in shelves, which were always filled to overflowing. I had my own over-full bookcase in my room, as did my brother and sister. When we went through my Mom's estate, we discovered she'd added even more shelves, in every single room. It didn't quite look like a library, but it was obviously the home of a book lover.

Yet, despite how much Mom read, I don't remember her picking up books a second or a third time. Rather, I was the one who would often pull down her books on children's literature to look up lurid nursery rhymes and half-forgotten dark Grim Brothers tales. Except the the often-used cookbook shelf, most of them simply gathered dust. For decades. And then she adopted dozens of cats, and all those books became unusable.

I guess going through the experience has taught me a lot, and my thoughts on what I'm willing to get rid of have changed. Now that we are moving to a new apartment -- in a better school district -- we need to serious pare down our possessions. Aside from the poetry books and writing manuals that I often reference -- and my collections of comedy-related biographies and vampire books -- I am saying good-bye to a good number of books now that I might otherwise have wanted to keep. Even the shelves of books "to read later" are being sorted, as I have to admit that, much as I may have once intended to read "Women Who Run with the Wolves" and be a good feminist, or read the half dozen Bruce Sterling books someone gave me and be a good cyberpunk, I never actually feel like picking them up.

My final test when on the fence was the same thing I do in bookstores: open the book to a page and read. If what I see doesn't excite me enough to want to know more, it went in the donation box.

As we were going through things at our Mom's house, my sister kept reminding me, "Memories aren't in things; they're in us." It made it easier to part with objects that would have been destined to clutter up our homes the same way they had cluttered up hers.

Comments

( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
sara_merry99
Aug. 24th, 2016 02:43 pm (UTC)
I love it when I pare things down and get rid of stuff that doesn't give me joy.

When Abner and I split up, I moved into a 500 square foot apartment and had to really trim down not just my books but *everything*. With pretty much every item, I asked myself, "Do I know it to be useful or believe it to be beautiful?" If the answer wasn't yes, away it went.

Books were kept if I loved them and/or I knew I'd be going back to them.

When I was done, I felt gloriously liberated!

I hope y'all get to enjoy a similarly glorious feeling! :D
alycewilson
Aug. 24th, 2016 10:24 pm (UTC)
I am getting that glorious feeling, hard-won as it is. I had no idea how many clothes I had in storage or in my drawers, lurking around from my pre-pregnancy days. Though I lost count, I would estimate that, between my husband and I, we got rid of something like 20 kitchen bags full of clothes we couldn't wear anymore!

Who knows? Maybe that was what was holding me back from losing the weight? I mean, wouldn't that be just like the irony of life, to finally lose the "baby weight" after getting rid of the pre-pregnancy clothes?
bleodswean
Aug. 24th, 2016 02:57 pm (UTC)
Congrats on being able to make a better school work for your family. This is such a vital issue today and the situation isn't improving anytime soon. We had to do this but it didn't happen until it was almost too late. :(

I look at my thousands of books and realize that someday I will have to pare down. It's hard to imagine. But decluttering always feels good. I don't care for reading on a device but have gotten better about picking up used books rather than new. ;)

Don't dismiss Women Who Run With The Wolves as feminist. It is an IMPORTANT book, it's Jungian, and is filled with countless doors that will open for you. Especially as a creative thinker and poet. Jungian interpretation of fairy tale is a gift that we are able to reap in these modern times.
alycewilson
Aug. 24th, 2016 10:29 pm (UTC)
Hmm. I may have to reconsider that particular book. At least now I would have a reason to actually read it: because you recommend it.

Certainly, I could have acquired many more books over the years than I have, but I've had a tendency to live in small places and to move around. I've actually lived in this particular rowhouse for 11 years, which is astonishing when you consider it's not one of my favorite places to live. I'm looking forward to the new place, though. It has serious potential.
ryl
Aug. 24th, 2016 09:40 pm (UTC)
There are only two things I want to inherit from my parents: my mom's ivory elephant (which I already have) and all the books in the house. I've started gathering the second part. I'm not keeping them all, but I want them. I'm very possessive about the Old Home Books and I'm trying not to be upset with Oldest Sister for getting some of them (especially one I really wanted) but family peace and all that.

I specifically requested Mom's old Shakespeare book from college. The one that's sitting on Oldest Sister's bookshelf. That one. Screw it, I'll get the Folger editions.

Feels good to get that out of my system.
alycewilson
Aug. 24th, 2016 10:19 pm (UTC)
There were books I really would have wanted to take, too, and now I wish I'd grabbed them years ago. I understand that inclination.
joeymichaels
Aug. 25th, 2016 10:21 am (UTC)
Hey there! Sorry I've been vanished.

I empathize with you. For the longest time, i felt my books were like my friends and every time i had to part with one, it hurt. There's so little space, though, and i can always get a new copy or borrow one from the library. My Marx Brothers shelf is the only thing that's stayed with me for decades now.
the_dark_snack
Sep. 8th, 2016 10:04 am (UTC)
Happy Birthday!
alycewilson
Sep. 8th, 2016 09:05 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )

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