I’ve been trying to pare down the amount of stuff I own, and I started the other day to go through my bookshelves, after a lifetime spent accumulating (and accumulating, and accumulating) books. For some reason I started with my poetry essays/textbooks/how-to-teach/interviews/anthologies. I offered several dozen to my daughter-in-law – she took about six. My son didn’t want any. I made a few stacks to donate to the Seattle Public Library for their bi-annual sale. I made a stack to take to my sister next time I see her. I made a stack to try to sell to Powell’s. All in all, maybe 40 or 50 books. And this is the result of culling just a couple of bookshelves in the dining room – I hadn’t even started with the books in the living room (floor to ceiling) or my study (floor to ceiling) or the basement rec room (floor to ceiling.) The weight of all those books just felt like it was pulling me down.
Lightening up was feeling pretty good until we had dinner with a young man – a realtor – who helped my son and his fiancee find their first home (we helped out financially, so we got the steak dinner as a celebratory thank-you.) I asked him about finding me a place like my great-grandmother and grandparents had when I was little – an affordable beach cabin on Puget Sound with a beach full of logs and rocks, though to be perfectly honest I was imagining a place like this:
I know that kind of place (built in the 30’s, rustic and charming, pure beach with no bulkhead, direct access to the saltwater, Heaven) just isn’t out there anymore, and even if that sweet young man could find something similar, just about everyone in Western Washington would want to buy it – I’d have to get in line behind Bill Gates. Then I asked him, to keep the fantasy going, what would be the five best things to do with our home if we ever found that cabin and wanted to sell our little 40’s bungalow in the city. It seemed like a nice little bit of conversation. I thought he would suggest things like clear out the clutter, re-finish the floors, re-do the kitchen cabinets, get stainless steel appliances, etc. I watch Home and Garden TV, I watch House Hunters, I know that American families want granite counter tops and walk-in closets. I was interested in what he had to say about our house. He visited several times during the long house hunt. Here’s the Number One bit of advice he gave me:
“Well, don’t get rid of any of your books. Those books and bookcases will sell your house.”
So. Back onto the shelf the books go, for the crassest of reasons: they look good. I feel like a woman who has had an affair, ready to abandon the love of my life, my high school sweetheart, for some flim-flam man. My books know I was unfaithful. Oh, dear. How to win them back?