Monday, 27 April 2015

The Confessions of a Book Hoarder: Lynn Huggins-Cooper

Until recently, I was drowning in a sea of books. A happy 'problem' - but a problem nevertheless. About four years ago, I moved from a large farmhouse into a small cottage. My book collection was huge but it didn't matter; whenever the piles of books started to topple from every surface, I just built more bookcases. Now, once I made the move into the cottage, I had to decant a gallon into a pint pot - and it didn't work. Books were piled three deep; there was no room for more bookcases. I even had boxes of books in the study. Trying to find books when I needed them was a nightmare and I wasted many frustrated hours searching for the books I needed. The house where I grew up was held up by books. It was a small three story town house, and every flight of stairs and each passage were flanked with book shelves. The bedrooms and my dad's study were crammed with books. So the child of book hoarders became a book hoarder, as you do. Again; a happy problem but a problem nevertheless. This year, I have felt the urge to 'downsize' and simplify even further. I have happily sorted through wardrobes and cupboards and taken bags of items to our local charity shop. I have even donated some items of furniture. But the real test came when I recognised the need to cull my book collection. A scary thought. Giving away some of my home library...shudder.

 The funny thing is, once I started it wasn't as alarming as I thought. I started with cookery books. I had far to many, stretcjing back to my student days. considering I am now fifty, some of those bedsitter-on-a-budget books didn't really fit my needs any more. Then I moved into the living room - more books than anything else. It gives the delicious feeling that one is watching television in a library. However, books were piled up higgledy-piggley and it did not look inviting. More books were collected for redistribution. I took two huge sacks of craft books to a women's project and they were delighted by their treasure. I took blue IKEA bags and boxes of books and donated them to the charity shop - they were very happy with their haul and will hopefully make some funds. I am delighted to think books that I haven't opened in several years will gain a new lease of life with new owners. I kept going - more and more books made that journey to the charity shop. I have given away piles of 'free' author copies of my books to charities and clubs. It has been lovely seeing the pleasure these rather neglected books are giving to new owners. Although the flood has now slowed to a trickle, I have kept donating. Apart from showing me rather embarrassingly that I buy several copies of favourites (handy when it is so hard to find what is needed - but who needs four copies of 'Food For Free'?), culling my collection has taught me some other things. I am ashamed to say some of the books had almost become wallpaper, and I didn't 'see' them any more. No book deserves that! However, with books now all safely and sensibly homed on shelves, I can see what I have more easily. I have rediscovered forgotten gems. It almost feels as though I have a new book collection, without spending any money! I have also moved some of my books into different rooms, and shaken up the mix a little. It is encouraging me to browse and graze happily on books I have not read for years. Give it a go - you may find it quite refreshing.


Sue Bursztynski said...

I thought I was the only one! My own shelves are overflowing and yes, there are piles of books all over the house. Your idea of getting rid of cookbooks you aren't using and such is a good one. I have been giving away to my school library books I enjoyed at the time, but know in my heart I won't read again. But not enough! Never enough!

Good on you for doing this, you brave person!

Susan Price said...

But - but - but = The historical value! Will you ever be able to find that book again when you need it?

Emma Barnes said...

I have books I have never read, never intend to read, suspect nobody in the family will ever read...and yet I struggle to give them away. I'm feeling inspired by your example to go and look at my own collection - especially the book case in the hall which is currently collapsing.