Setting Our Books Free


We are in the process of severely de-cluttering our townhouse. Even though we’ve been in the habit of regular-ish trips to the Salvos/Anglicare/Vinnies, the stuff just keeps mounting up. Or to quote Himself “we’ve brought in more than we’ve got rid of”.

Sisyphus and his rock - painting by Titian. Image from Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sisyphus

Sisyphus and his rock – painting by Titian. Image from Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sisyphus

The decision making of what to “get rid of” and what to keep has been causing me lots of grief over the past months, not least because it seems like a sisyphean task – you know how you’re pushing a very large rock up a hill and you’re in imminent danger of an avalanche. I’m consoled by the fact that I’ve been feeling increasingly weighed-down by our belongings in recent months (years?) and so decluttering will shed that big rock and let me fly…well perhaps float a little.

One strategy might have been to consider the following questions should a severe cyclone come round:

  • What would we take as precious-to-us items?
  • What would we want to replace if the items were lost?
  • What would we not miss at all, and perhaps be relieved we were shed of them?

However there are less extreme rationales to use when decluttering. Entirely coincidentally one of my friends shared this post on Facebook and it’s been wonderfully helpful. Appropriately it focuses on books, which along with papers, are the bête noir of this household. I was so relieved when I read this story as it made the process so much clearer. Hence, my strategy is going to be similar.

We will be keeping:

  • Most of my family history reference books.
  • Coffee table books which we particularly love.
  • Books which are relevant to our own personal history.
  • Books we want to re-read again and again.
  • Books that changed how I/we see life, or which made me say “me too!”
  • Any books which are not held elsewhere in Australia (there are a few).

    Maps and War and a bit of Queensland

    Maps and War and a bit of Queensland

We will be releasing:

  • Books we’ve enjoyed but would only look at occasionally in future.
  • Books which no longer have relevance for us eg our Kathmandu collection.
  • Books which have been superseded by new information/new editions.
  • Ones I know I’ll be able to find in a local library (mostly fiction)
  • Ones that may be in a reference library I can access – provided I don’t use that book regularly.
  • Ones I’ve started to read but can’t get into.
  • Books I feel I should read but just never get to.

DSC_2736

DSC_2738One of the big questions I’m dealing with though, is whether to keep some of my childhood books which I’ve only just re-acquired in the past 18 months. Like everything else children’s book fashions have changed massively since dinosaurs roamed the earth so they don’t suit the grandchildren’s reading styles.

Do I treasure them a little longer, purely for the memories? Or do I tell myself, you didn’t have them for 40+ years so why will you miss them?

Rather than just sending the unloved books to a charity store, I’m thinking of which of my friends would really love that particular book. Hey, don’t good friends share things – even clutter?! Others of our poor rejected books will go to the casual “library” of pre-loved books which Mr Cassmob set up at work and which has been quite popular.

Wish us luck – Himself will need more than me as my study is FULL of books. Perhaps that’s why it’s freaking me out more?

20 thoughts on “Setting Our Books Free

  1. I would recommend keeping your childhood books – one day your great-grandchildren may own them, and they will provide a tangible link from you to them. One of my regrets about my grandparents’ house is that, when Mum asked us what we wanted before she went over, I forgot about the French dictionary my great-great-grandmother had owned, so it was cleared away with all the other books …
    As for books you know you’ll be able to find in your local library – they do some pretty severe weeding, I think – books that I would like to reread are no longer in the catalogue. So I’d think about how easy it would be to find another copy of those books before offloading them.

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  2. I would also definitely hold on to your childhood books, as we have… I’m sure that doesn’t surprise you. Our grandchildren only showed a passing interest when they were small, but as they have gotten older, the ‘very old books’ have become more appealing. I agree with Rebecca, it’s a link to your childhood for generations to come. When I posted this, http://thebackfenceofgenealogy-crissouli.blogspot.com.au/2012/08/first-loves-of-books.html
    it received so many comments on and off line and still is one of my most visited posts, simply because it evokes memories of early years that we long to hang on to.
    I find it so hard to pass on books, and I certainly do reread…I can’t see me ever having a dedicated library, so the variety of bookcases throughout the house will have to suffice. I have just managed to pass on some old reference books, which are way out of date and unable to compete with what we can now find on the net. As for the rest… ell, let’s share over a cuppa one day…

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  3. Find the kids books a temporary home – a storage unit perhaps. I have never forgiven my mother for giving most of my books away (I won’t mention my Beatles scrapbooks).

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  4. I agree with Rebecca – do NOT rely on being able to find books in local libraries. Brisbane City Council, for example, severely culls its collection. I picked up some great books in one of their sales. And I’d recommend keeping children’s books if possible. If, in the future, you can’t find family members who want them, you may be able to sell them for a huge sum as collector’s items. 🙂

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  5. Think like this . How would you like to have your grandparents of ggp childhood books? Family books , like this and diary’s and documents I have from 1940s 30s and back , I am scanning and sharing between relatives to increase their survival thru future generations.

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    • That’s a good point Elizabeth. Of course, by and large, our ancestors didn’t have the array of belongings that we have today. I’ve taken on board what everyone has said and will be keeping the children’s books.

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  6. Glad to hear that, Pauleen – I treasure my mum’s books from when she was a girl. And sadly it’s true about libraries being unsentimentally ruthless about culling books, here in the UK as well as in Aus. Good luck with your Herculean, Sisyphean task! I dread the thought when it comes to my time…

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