It’s not my fault the publishing industry has fallen on hard times and bookstores are going out of business. I buy books. And I keep them.
Right now they’re all in boxes. In 55 boxes.
If there are 30 books per box — and that’s a conservative number since a lot of them are mass market paperbacks — that’s 1,650 books.
Thomas Jefferson had 6,000 books, back at a time when there weren’t nearly as many books available. I used to think that was a good number to shoot for, but sanity has prevailed. Thomas Jefferson didn’t have to pack and cart his own books, not to mention dust them. And his house was bigger than mine.
I’m sure there are some first editions mixed in with my books, but since I bought them to read, not to collect, they’re not in pristine condition. A few things might be valuable, but mostly this is an eclectic reader’s collection.
I know how many boxes there are because I’ve been sorting through all the boxes, looking for the things I need. The books are at the bottom of the move-in list because I do not have enough bookcases for them and I swear that this time I’m going through them and getting rid of the ones I don’t like, will never read again, have more than one copy of, and otherwise don’t need.
I’m trying to do that with everything on this move. Sorting through the other boxes, I found a number that contained a pile of unrelated items, some of which are very important to me and some of which are overdue for trash or Goodwill (depending on their condition). And this is despite the fact that when I moved from D.C. four years ago, I actually got rid of a lot of stuff.
This move has taught me a lot about myself. I already knew I was a pack rat, inclined to save things out of sentiment or — worse — because I didn’t know what to do with them. I knew I had too many books — they were taking over my apartment. I knew I was overloaded with computers and their periferals, since my employer provides me with equipment to do my job and I already had my own.
But I didn’t know how much my possessions reflected my personality until I sorted them for this move.
Here’s what I have:
- A well-equipped kitchen. A gourment cook wouldn’t be satisifed, but while I like to cook, I’m not fancy about it.
- Sufficient clothes and shoes (though they need sorting, too, since I have far too many things that don’t fit, are worn out, or have only been kept out for sentimental reasons).
- Lots of earrings and assorted other jewelry, none of it particularly valuable.
- A hakama, four complete Aikido uniforms, assorted Aikido weapons, bags for carrying same, a sword rack, and braces for every part of your body you can brace. Also two ice packs in the freezer. (And right now I’m not even training regularly.)
- A sword.
- A djembe — West African drum.
- 13 boxes labeled “art,” which is an eclectic category but probably doesn’t include things I want to get rid of.
- Other general stuff, like tools and towels and too many pieces of paper that ought to be filed or tossed.
Here’s what I don’t have:
My futon couch and my bed both bit the dust before the move (I was already planning to replace them). A cheap desk didn’t survive being carried around. I don’t have a lot of chairs. And I realize that I’ve begun to hate several of the things I do have.
The truth is, I don’t like having too much furniture. When I first saw this house, it was packed with the former owner’s furniture — couches and overstuff chairs and tables and large beds and big dressers. I had to close my eyes and think what it would look like if there was more open space.
And while I like comfortable chairs and tables to sit at — my knees are too creaky to want a Japanese-style life on the floor, much as I like that — I find a lot of furniture most people consider necessary to be ugly and too big.
I need furniture and I want furniture, but I want the right furniture. At the moment, I’m not quite sure what that is.
I have a sword. I have a drum. I’ve got paintings and photographs and prints and pottery. I have a ridiculous number of books. I have a pair of gold Doc Martens. I have a pizza stone for cooking bread. But I don’t have a couch, enough chairs to go around my dining room table, or anything like enough bookcases for all those books.
I suspect this means I’m not really a grown-up. But you know, I’m kind of happy with who I am. I lack furniture, but I think my priorities are straight.
Flashes of Illumination, a collection of my short-short fiction, is now available here from Book View Cafe. This 52-story ebook collects the flash fiction I published weekly during the first year of Book View Cafe, and adds in a few later stories as well.
My novella Changeling remains available as an ebook through Book View Cafe. It’s a coming of age story.
Both books are $2.99 and available in four DRM-free formats: mobi, epub, prc, and pdf.