A perpetual task is sometimes compared to painting the Sydney Harbour Bridge. When you finally finish, it is time to begin again. This is how I feel at times about keeping my growing collection of books in some sort of order. I go through phases of being Very Stern with myself about adding anything, and have tried approaches including ‘one in, one out’ but this never lasts. I wouldn’t say that I’m addicted to buying books, but they do provide me with inordinate joy and satisfaction and it is only when the piles begin to totter that I tend to go through and have a good clean out.
I have started a methodical sorting, the first big clean out since I moved here. Books have left the house in the past four years in spits and spurts, but not quite on this scale. It has been good to group together books by the same author and books of similar themes. The non-fiction books are generally kept separately, and I try to keep my extensive collection of short story books together, although they do seem to flare up in other spots without much encouragement.
A friend’s passing comment about minimalism tripped the current clean out, as it coincided with an end-of-the-year-and-start-of-new-year compulsion to tidy things up a bit. On a show about living with less stuff, there was discussion around emotional attachments to collecting things which is fine if it brings you pleasure, but not so good if it is just for the sake of keeping up with the everyone else. Whilst the books in my life usually aren’t purchased to impress anyone else, quite a few are bought on a whim or are read and are no longer required. Better to let them move on into someone else’s life.
A few years back I won a large box of new books in a competition in a bookshop and I have carted these books with me, reluctant to let them go as they were new. And free! Never mind that the books haven’t been read as they weren’t of interest to me. I did give a few away – it was a large box of books – but now I am finally ready to let the rest of them go. One of them was a beautiful book about a collection of Dior dresses with exquisite drawings and a felt dress on the cover. I’m sure someone else will actually appreciate it, rather than keep it and never open its pages.
How would you manage mountains of books that need sorting?