Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Weeding My Collections

For the first 25 years of my life, I was a collector.

As a child, I collected spoons from vacation spots. (Remember spoon collecting? Do people still do that?) I collected rocks (and named them, but that's a post for another day). I collected (I swear I am not making this up) napkins, like from birthday parties and weddings and holiday celebrations. I kept them in the special napkin basket that I used when I was six and my job was to pass out napkins at my cousin's wedding. I'm probably the only person who remembers when weddings (at least in Utah) always featured napkins embossed with some cute little pictures and the names of the bride and groom, because I had napkins from every wedding reception I went to as a child, and there were a lot of cousins and siblings and neighbors getting married. I collected dolls and their accessories, stuffed animals (subcategory: stuffed tigers), Cherished Teddies (yes, yes I did) and so much other stuff that I have probably forgotten was once very important to me.

When I got older, my major collections were CDs, DVDs, and books. When CDs stopped being much of a thing, I collected digital music. I have SO MUCH DIGITAL MUSIC. My enormous iPod is bursting with music that I have barely heard, but can't bring myself to delete, because what if it is amazing and I just haven't gotten there yet?

And then I got married to another book collector. And then we moved three times in our three years of marriage.

Guys. Having a lot of books is fun when they're on your shelf. They're such conversation starters, and I love browsing my shelves and trying to decide what to read next or read again. Having my favorite books around makes me feel like I'm surrounded by old friends, and having books that I picked up on a whim somewhere and haven't read yet just feels like a new adventure waiting to happen. Plus, keeping my books from college reminds me that I am smart and well-read, even on days when I am doing nothing but wiping a toddler bum and finding new ways to trick the same toddler into eating the occasional vegetable while keeping her from coloring on the laptop.

Moving 30 boxes of books is not so much fun. Also, unpacking them, especially into multiple rooms.

This week my husband and I decided to start weeding and organizing our collection. ("Weeding a collection" is a term I picked up in library school. It means junking the books that are no longer checked out, accurate, relevant, holding their shape.) Here are some of the things we discovered:
  • We have a lot of duplicates. We had two copies of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (which we both felt was more of a fun idea than actually good as a book). We had two copies of the complete Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series, two copies of several classics like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (both mine!) and Anna Karenina, (and, I later discovered, two copies of Great Expectations, which I despise, despite more than one attempt to change my own mind - we chucked them both and just kept the big Dickens collection that included it)  two copies of a random book about World War I memorials because we both took a WWI class at some point in our college careers, and a whopping three copies of Jerry Spinelli's Maniac Magee, Frederick Forsythe's No Comebacks (which I think I may have accidentally purchased a couple of times at used book stores thinking that the copy I had on the shelf was my dad's when actually I had already purchased it . . . twice? I guess I really liked it.) and The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis, which I don't think I've even read. 
  • We have a lot of books that I never care to read again, and although sometimes I like to hang onto books like that so I can look back on them or lend them to friends or just have because they look smart on the shelf, if I'm honest with myself, I'm never going to lend out books that I just really didn't care for. I know lots of people really liked The Shipping News, but I didn't, so why is it still sitting on my shelf? So I can point to it and say, "Hey, I read that once. Meh?"  
  • Also, why on earth do we have an MLA Style guide from several years ago? I really, really hope I never have to worry about writing in MLA ever again. (I won't even talk about the biology and chemistry textbooks my husband is hanging onto from his undergrad, because he isn't talking about the literary theory books that are shoved into various corners of my shelves. We both managed to let a couple of books in each of those categories go.) 
  • As much as the librarian in me loves building a collection, part of me just wants to be able to get all of our books to fit on our FOUR bookshelves and maybe have a little room for a picture or something here and there. 
  • At some point, the insane clutter of books means I can't even see what's on the shelf that I'd like to read but keep forgetting I have. (My iPod is similarly cluttered, and some days I scroll through my days and days of music and can't see anything I want to listen to. Probably time to weed that as well.) 
I guess what I'm saying is that at some point, I think I stopped becoming quite so much of a collector - or maybe my true collector self just realized that what I've been lately is more of a hoarder. In any case, we just sold one huge box of books to the used book store (so we can buy more books on credit later) and the box they wouldn't take is being donated. And then I might see what else needs to go to clear up my life a bit. It's time to make room for new friends, new stages of life, and new additions to my collections that matter to me now. 

Of course I'll still have four bookshelves. Let's not get crazy. 

What do you think? What crazy collections are cluttering up your life? 

1 comment:

Whitney Ehle said...

I'm still trying to get my collection of books to my house. I haven't had many of my old friends for ten years. At Christmas I asked my mom to use some of our Christmas money to ship them to us, and then the practical side of me decided that a collection of money was better than a collection of books I've lived without for ten years. But if I don't get them soon, I'll start buying all of them over again.