Seven years ago, my house had 20 floor-to-ceiling bookcases, and about the same number of half-sized bookcases — about 5000 books, excluding the comics. The house was essentially full of books and comic books. Today I have ten tall bookcases, and a couple short ones. What follows is the road map from here to there — halving the number of books in my life. I have been hearing of many friends having to smallify their space, and maybe this will help!
I guess the first issue is, are your books organized now, or not? It’s tons easier if you’ve alphabetized all your books by author, or at least have all the comic books or the SF or the European history crammed, stacked, or shelved in one (or two or three) spots. In any case, look to do this in small bites, or you’ll die. My husband said he’d shed one shelf (30 books) a month. He was not happy.
The easy first cull is duplicates. If you have four copies of DUNE, surely one is sufficient. Pick one and start an outgoing box with the other three. When making that choice, consider sentiment (it’s my dad’s copy!) or value (Frank Herbert autographed it! To me!). If you wonder about the value of that first edition, pop onto Ebay and look it up. If 43 copies are available for 99 cents, I’m sorry, but it’s not valuable.
But wait. That last copy of DUNE. Think availability. And vision. Do you need your beloved college edition of WUTHERING HEIGHTS, printed on cheap sheer paper in 9 point type? Any time you want to read about Cathy and Heathcliff, the text is on Project Gutenberg, where you can biggify the words to where you can read it without eyeglasses. Anything you can find on Gutenberg or at your public library (CHARLOTTE’S WEB, say, or THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK) you can find again any time. And yes, DUNE is to that level of popularity. Remember, you can buy this paperback back again for 99 cents on Ebay. You can get it in ebook format on Kindle Let others store all those classics for you, and let it go!
Are you ever going to reread that book? When was the last time you touched it? Are you over the crush on Francis Crawford of Lymond or Han Solo or Horatio Hornblower? I decided that my set of Nero Wolfe detective novels could go, because I couldn’t remember re-reading them recently.
It goes faster if you can select entire categories. All the research volumes you amassed for your Ancient Greek trilogy, or the fantasy with the medieval Portuguese overtones — aren’t you done with those? You might have written more volumes if Steven Spielberg made a movie of the first books, but mysteriously Steve hasn’t called. How long can you wait? After all this time, you surely have moved on artistically, to woods and pastures new. Writers are sharks, we must move forward or die. Leave the books behind when you leave Ancient Greece.
All research and reference volumes that are out of date? Out! Dictionaries? Even the one with the magnifying glass in it should go. You can look up words on line, faster than taking the big volume out.