Thus, Furnace Girl and I are in the midst of sorting and organizing the contents of our household-- boxes everywhere!--in preparation for the move (Muffin, the two year-old, helps where she can). Most rooms in the house are in a topsy-turvy state, and with boxes stacked to the ceiling, I've found it difficult to even find my laptop, let alone get up a post.
Today however, an idea struck me, one I felt I needed to share with you, dear reader.
You see Furnace Girl and I are members of a breed of the most terrible interminable kind of packrat (the sickness will be on the little one soon as well, I fear). We keep everything. Old pots. Pictures. Gardening equipment. Motor oil. Christmas decorations (OK, maybe this last one is allowable).
Every three years or so, each time we move, we pledge to winnow down our household menagerie, to commit to garage sale-ing the excess, to find a way to dig up willing foster parents for those items we can bear to part with. Historically, we've had some success, but never as much success as we'd like.
In the field of Packrattery, I am undoubtedly the most skilled--uh, er, the worst offender, and I am positively incurable when it comes to keeping books. Most of our furniture stands against walls in the form of bookshelves whose sole purpose it is to receive with open arms the many many dozens of texts purchased over the years. How-To's. Travel guides. Reference books. Poetry. Fiction. Non-fiction. You name it and we probably have it.
But a decision has been made: No more! Recently, Furnace Girl and I vowed to each other (and to whomever else will listen) to live more simply, to lighten our load, to decrease our footprint. In plain language, that means owning less stuff. For me--and here Furnace Girl gives me THE Skeptical Eye--less stuff equals fewer books.
That brings us to this morning. As I dove into my assignment--beginning to sort through the various texts to choose the ones to give away--the literary equivalent of butterflies stewed in my stomach (OK. Not really. But I want to be a fiction writer, so bear with me).
Steadily, my discard pile grew--books like Vonnegut's "The Sirens of Titan" and "The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens" and a biography of Tesla by Margaret Cheney and "The Story of Sushi" by Trevor Corson. I felt good. I sipped coffee between rounds of purging. All was going well. When I stopped to survey my progress, I realized that the books chosen to be put up for adoption fall neatly into two categories:
1) Books I read long ago but now realize I will never read again ("Sirens" is one example, a book I truly love);Sitting here typing this, I am looking at the pile of books in this second category with some amazement. You see, dear reader, there's been a change. I've discussed TBR management before, but gazing upon these volumes, I somehow feel a sense of relief. I think I know why.
2) Books I purchased hoping to read, but now realize I will never read (at least not in the next twenty-years);
Let me explain. In years past, when I bought a book, I felt certain at the time that I would read it--and soon. However, after some intervening period, the unread book went on my shelf and became part of the tableau, part of the stock scenery in the house along with other volumes--some read, some simply eye-candy. Even then, my intent to eventually devour the book's contents still existed. For awhile.
But sooner or later, the book inevitably stopped having a mental or physical presence in my life; rather it became an idea, an aspiration, a "maybe someday." That's when I should have gotten rid of the offending text. But I didn't. I couldn't. Somehow doing so would have felt like giving up.
Now, after having been away for a year, after having lived for weeks at a time with only two or three books by the bedside, finding myself surrounded by several hundred "maybe somedays" feels all wrong. It doesn't fit.
It's like all these books are someone else's "maybe somedays." Giving them away feels like the right thing to do now. Let them go out into the world and brighten someone else's days.
Rest assured, there are still plenty of volumes I have dubbed keepers: Joyce; Hemingway; a hundred others; a few unread books to inhabit my bookshelves and bedside and TBR; it is not as if I am giving my soul away. But I can tell already that once these books are gone, the lack of clutter will breed focus, and I suppose that's what we were after all along.
What about you? What steps do you take or have you taken to clear away the clutter and sharpen your focus, both in your writing life and in other areas?