I have a problem. I have too many books. I know, I know ... "one can never have too many books." Yet, I do. I live in a rather small space and have limited storage. I think I have done quite well with the space I have, but it is time to take a good hard look at my book collection and start weeding.
I have two fairly large bookcases ... one in the bedroom and one in the living room. I've also got a great storage system for the overflow. I purchased see-through plastic bins and numbered them. Then I cataloged all my books into LibraryThing and made a location note telling me which shelves or which box held each book. The plastic bins live in the garage ... around 20 of them. So far so good. Then I acquired more books and didn't really want to add to the plastic bin numbers. And I was going to read these books soon (riiiiight). So they sat in a small pile on the bench of my breakfast nook. Guess what. Those books still live there and they have been procreating. I swear. They just multiply. I would really like to have my breakfast nook back ... you know, to eat at ... so I've given the books notice. They must find somewhere else to live. Of course, book lovers that you all are, you already know my dilemma. I want to read most of those books and some I will want to keep, so they won't disappear by tomorrow.
What to do about this dilemma? A plan. Accountability. More books going out than coming in.
I'm a librarian, so I'm no stranger to the concept of weeding the collection. I've just never really applied this to myself ... you know ... to my books ... to my lovely, lovely collection. Gulp. But, I remind myself, I'm feeling overwhelmed. I desire an uncluttered living environment. Books are a major source of clutter in my home. I need to weed. My collection. My books. I need to make it happen. I need to have my own collection development and maintenance plan.
Here is the plan. It is really quite simple.
1. Guidelines for the collection. Basically, criteria for what comes in, what stays and what goes. Should I purchase books by unknown authors or borrow from the library first? (I'm actually pretty good at picking authors/books that I end up liking, so this is a bit of a problem!) Will I re-read it? Does it fit into one of my major areas of interest? Is it special in some way that dictates that I would keep it?
2. A spreadsheet with a page for each month of the year. Each page has 2 columns -- Books In and Books Out. I format each page so that the titles do not wrap around. This makes it easy to see, at a glance, which side is longer. At the end of the month I enter the totals for each column. The Books Out column must be greater than the Books In; preferably MUCH greater until some significant progress has been made.
I can hear your question. "So how is it going??" So far, really well. It has been rather easy to find quite a few books that I'm willing to part with as I begin this discipline. Books I know I will never read again -- OUT. Books I have completely lost any interest in reading -- OUT. The books going out are bagged and stored for about 4 weeks before they are actually sent away. I'm hoping to avoid "OMG! I can't believe I got rid of that book. I want it back!" I'm sure I will regret getting rid of at least a few books, but the waiting period should help minimize this.
I've prioritized reading the books I'm pretty sure I won't be keeping. Does this cut into some of my reading spontaneity? Sure. But it's worth it. I really do want my breakfast nook back!
I know it will get more difficult to identify books to give away as the collection diminishes and I also know that some books will stay because I WANT them to stay. My 19th century Russian literature collection will stay; my Victorian literature collection will stay; my Ray Bradbury collection will stay; books I know I will re-read will stay. You get the picture. I will still have quite the collection and anticipate a need to continue storing some of my books, but hopefully this plan will allow me to reclaim my breakfast nook and develop a more peaceful relationship to my books. I want to appreciate my book collection; not feel overwhelmed by it.
Numbers so far this year:
Books Out = 127
Books In = 41
Net books OUT = 86
*I haven't mentioned that my husband contributes to the book madness and is participating in this latest "bee in my bonnet."
Do you ever feel overwhelmed by your book collection? Have you implemented a weeding project of your own?