Have you ever seen Hoarders on TV? It’s a semi-exploitative reality show about people who refuse to throw anything away, to the degree that they alienate family and friends and are threatened with having their homes condemned.
Watching it will compel you to vacuum the carpet and wash the dishes during the commercial break in a panic response to all the filth, bugs, and accidentally mummified pets you just witnessed on your television screen. It’s no mistake that they advertise cleaning products between the segments.
I’m definitively not a hoarder. I can’t stand clutter and have little tolerance for things that don’t fit neatly onto a shelf next to other things exactly the same size and shape. It’s my good fortune that I like to collect movies and music, which suit my orderly world of rectangles. If a thing ain’t a rectangle, I put it in a rectangular case.
I also love books. Yeah, they sort of follow the rectangle theme, but that damn size variance! There’s just no way my coffee-table book on Gothic cathedrals would work if the pictures were shrunk down to the size of a passport photo, yet I have no use for a paperback mystery in a 72-point font. Both would be unwieldy, in their own ways, at anything other than the proper size.
Which means my bookshelves look like an earthquake at a library. More books than shelf, and then there’s the rather unforgiving shelf dimensions. X high, Y deep, and Z wide, take it or leave it. My biggest book is 15-inches tall (complete works of Michelangelo), and my smallest is a quick spelling reference at 5-inches tall, with titles at every size in between. It’s my little mad hoard in the middle of all that geometric clarity.
Maybe it wasn’t so little. Did I forget to mention that I had a closet stuffed with boxes of books at my mom’s house too?
Well, on Sunday, my wife got into one of those moods. If you are a married man you know the mood I’m talking about: If you don’t get rid of this shit, I’m calling a lawyer.
I have to admit, it was cathartic and cleansing at the same time. At first I was making excuses, like, “I might read this again. It was pretty good,” and, “Aunt Gertrude gave this to me. Sure she passed away five years ago and I’m never going to read it, but…”
However, once I got into the groove, I went full-on rampage. I cleared out almost every novel I own, except for my five favorite Agatha Christies and a couple of classics everyone should have. I made stacks for my mom’s church flea market, stacks for eBay, stacks to chuck because the pages have yellowed or the binding glue has rotted, and stacks to keep.
I kept most of my art, film, and music books and a couple of science ones I use for writing reference. The rest is gone. The storage boxes are gone. The sneezing is over. The dust mites are saying, What the f*** just happened?
Most importantly, my shelves are now neat and tidy, and every remaining title is easily accessed. And that eBay stack? The ones I was sure would fetch me enough to buy a new car? I looked them up, and their average value appears to be somewhere between $1.75 and $4. I guess I’m stuck with my Malibu for a few more years.
How about you? Are you a book hoarder? Would purging your bookshelves be liberating or be like giving away your children?
Note: Today’s theme was inspired by my blogging pal Tuesday and her post on a similar subject. She’s just began a countdown of 20 favorite books she’ll never give away. Now’s your chance to get in at the beginning!
Honestly, I’m not crazy about Red Hot Chili Peppers, but I can’t think of a more appropriate song for today’s piece.