When Your Home is on the Market
GRAY MATTERS: Update on Saul

Sorting a Lifetime of Books

category_bug_journal2.gif It's a long way from Portland, Maine to Portland, Oregon – somewhere, according to Google Maps, in the realm of 3,300 miles depending on which highway you drive – and the moving company is going to charge a lot of money for that trip.

To keep the price down when moving day arrives, I am divesting myself of as much stuff as possible. There were 75 boxes of books when I moved here from New York City; I'd like to reduce that by half for this next move.

I was recently introduced to a fascinating, young woman named Michelle Soliere. For the past several years, she has been the author of an ongoing series of stories titled, Strange Maine (soon to be a book), described on her website as:

“Freaks. Weirdos. Unmapped roads. Whispering rocks. Deadening fog. Ghost pirates. Lonely islands. THINGS in the WOODS. Home of Stephen King & Glenn Chadbourne. A place where the 4 seasons really know how to live.

“Maine: the way life should be! This site is a nexus for conversation about Maine's unique strangeness, people who love it, people who have experienced it, & people who are intrigued by it. History, mysteries, legends, current events, cryptozoology, & more.”

Green Hand Logo Last November, Michelle opened a used book store in Portland, The Green Hand, and appeared eager, when we spoke a couple of weeks ago, to purchase any and all books I am willing to part with. Yesterday she and her husband, Tristan, arrived at 8AM for our first session at weeding out my library.

Every inch of my shelves was full – nay, overflowing - when they arrived. Here is what it looked like after they left at 10AM:

Library Shelves

There are probably as many books spread through three other rooms in the house, so this doesn't seem like much progress to me. Michelle and Tristan will be back next Tuesday for another go.

I did the best I could at hiding my anxiety at parting with these old and new companions. I think I kept any dithering to a minimum. I'll never read John LeCarre again, but he has given me much reading pleasure over all my adult life; it seemed unkind to remove him.

It's amazing how large my collection of books on various aspects of aging has become. Since I don't intend to quit this blog any time soon, I decided to keep all of those except the for worst kind of trash I am sometimes sent – the how to stay young forever claptrap.

Of course, I kept everything written by friends, living and dead, and all of Gore Vidal – not a friend in the ordinary sense; I've never met him – but a lifelong friend, nevertheless, in the written word – one of the handful of writers I re-read with regularity.

You can bet money and win that it will not be long before I'm wondering why I can't find a certain book and then remember – in fury with myself or sadness – that I sold it to Michelle. In fact, that will probably go on for years. It's not easy letting go.

I am writing this in the late morning on Thursday, right after Michelle and Tristan left and now I must stop. Removing all these books – even if nowhere near enough yet – revealed an amazing amount of dust on the shelves that needs to be cleaned before Friday house showings. This was not how I planned to spend Thursday afternoon.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marcia Mayo: Middle Cotton


I am watching with interest what is going on in your area. One year ago in the process of building a smaller home in my hometown. I moved to the big city 2 years before to be near children.
Thought it was time... It was not time.
I was up and down the road (1 hour trip) supervising building and began to downscale for the third time in 10 years - so everything is at a minimum. Our books are like friends but my smaller collection is a pleasure to look at. I am settled in the country and the city home is still on the market.
Hopefully it will have a sold sign on it soon.
Good luck on your sale, finding a home and relocating-----
it is tiring, exciting and a new life.

Been there, got the T-shirt, felt the pain (many times). Yes, it's an ouch and yes you'll be searching for exactly the volumes you sold to Michelle.
But once you get over there and go into Powell's we all know those shelves will start filling up with interesting new books. Clouds, silver linings...

I tried hard to prune my books before I moved, but the boxes of books still ended up being the major cost of moving. I figure it cost me a dollar a pound to move my books, so you are doing the right thing. Any books you really miss you can probably pick up cheap at your new location through a good second-hand or internet dealer. Or who knows, maybe you'll go the Kindle route!

Good luck and courage to you!

I love books, too, but I have somehow managed to part with a lot of them over the years. I now keep only as many books fit on one small bookshelf. When it can't hold anymore I get rid of one.

I believe I mentioned giving 150 books to the 'Friends of the Library' when I made my last move. I have not missed a single one of them because there are so many new ones to read that I don't have time to get to all of them, much less read old books.

There were still many I couldn't part with and my children will have to sort them out when I make my next move to the crematorium.

Lose as many books as you can, just keep those very special ones. For the cost of moving them, you can buy more when you get out there. There is something liberating about freeing yourself from possessions.

There is bound to be a good library where you're moving.

We have friends, retired English teachers in fact, who have cleaned out their shelves to just a few. They use the library most of the time, buy books when they need to and pass them on.

Good luck.

I am practicing a newish discipline, for me, about books -- trying to get ahead of the accumulation. When I ran out of bookcase space here, I decided that whenever I got a new one in, something had to go to the Friends of the Library. So my books very gradually turn over.

I find that the oldest ones -- books I seldom look at but which formed me -- tend to survive each purge, but recent enthusiasms turn over.

This isn't downsizing -- that's in the future.

Oh, it's so hard. I have books I'll never read again, books from my English major days, books I like to own because they are part of who I am.

I admire you for keeping your dithering and hovering under control. It can't have been easy.

There are lots of ways that books disappear: moving, lending, forgetting in airplanes and hotel rooms, theft, and the place that every house I ever lived in had, the book hole into which they mysteriously fall.

I don't fret about this anymore. I love to buy books, and I love to see unused space on bookshelves. It's opportunity!

You're not "getting rid" of books. You're just sending wonderful old friends to a different location to be enjoyed by new friends. It is a good thing to put good books where others can acquire and read them.

Gabby got it right. (I tell myself.)

I agree with Gabby. Of course, I work in a library so I am spared any sense of book deprivation. Just think of the immense joy someone is going to feel when they see one of the titles you surrendered for sale! I've known the joy of that kind of shopping as I usually buy used books and donate them to the library when done with them [unless they rock my world to its foundations].

Oh!...and Holy Cow, Ronni, as Marian stated you have Powell's in your future! Your pointed towards BIBLIO-MECCA!


Oregon is indeed a state of BIG readers. There is the fabulous Powells, of course, but used bookstores abound also. Good libraries, too.

The purging and parting of getting ready to move is sad and hard, but you're not moving (thank goodness) to a Siberia of literacy.

When I went through this drill, I was chagrinned to discover how many of my precious books I'd never read. Always bought with the best of intentions, they had--obviously--gotten lost in the shuffle. Somehow, this fact made saying goodbye to them easier. Except for the ones I set aside to read at a later time.
Uh huh.

Powell will soon fill your shelves again. ;^)

New friends to meet! Yay!

I use paperbackswap.com to read all I want and get rid of what I'm ready to part with -- works quite well!

I kept my first editions (amazing how many of them there were) and my classics and I still miss the fact of lots of books on my walls.....

Painful parting. I have two shelves of leather bound Harvard Classics that belonged to my grandmother and have been moved everywhere I go. But as previously mentioned Portland has great bookstores and even good books at garage sales; the libraries are fantastic. Wish I was moving there.

Oh I've gone throuhg Book Purge 5 times. It hurts soooooo much. But never fear, Goodwill has sale days of 5 for $2 and I am constantly amazed at how this house has filled up tighter than a drum with new books, unread books, old read books. This is exciting Ronni, view it as opportunity....

I am considering moving and book purge scares me. Getting rid of books for me is like kicking an old friend to the curb.

I envy you the bookcases...

Never have I had so many books as in this tiny condo. I swear, they grow. I just bought one, used, from ABE books minutes ago. Then again, I'm thinking about getting rid of mysteries. And Sci Fi.

You, unlike deprived me in San Diego, where Warrenbrocks just closed, are going to live near nirvana.....Powell's. Imagine, a whole department of Children's books in two languages. Imagine, a whole building of cookbooks.

Mr. kenju and I need to cull the shelves that are in every room of our home. It is a daunting task. I wonder how many of our books those people would buy? lol

Now there's a newer question about holding onto books. Should those of us who still believe in their historical importance hold onto them as artifacts?

Once a year the AAUW here in Hilo has a garage sale, and I always sell books there. I donate a lot of them, and so do others. I make a fair amount of cash for the organization, and I know the books go to good homes!
What books don't sell go to the Goodwill. I have to sort through books again soon and get them in boxes and so on for the sale, which is in April this year.
Your move sounds exciting, Ronni, and all these postings remind me of the hours I spent in Powell's when I lived in Portland. Not to mention meeting Naomi there, what was it, a couple of years ago, which was exciting!

I just sent a message at your contact form but it stalled for so long I mistrust that it was sent.
While looking for something totally unrelated just now I came upon a blog post by a woman in Portland Oregon in which she highly recommends their real estate agent there. Just in case you are still taking recommendations...Go Here. :)

Me again. I didn't realize that the post I linked above was written only days ago, so this is fresh information for you. Because she is an artist and has numerous tabs at her site it took me awhile to get to the main page to read her latest post. Check THIS out! Posted yesterday, it is a celebration of their first year in Portland...and there is a picture of their marvelous house in the Sellwood District (love that district).

Incidentally, your bookshelves are shocking! Great people you found there in Maine to help you clear the shelves like that.

Ronni -- I understand your pain. I have given away multiple libraries of books, hundreds if not thousands of dollars worth of them. I also lost many unpacked cartons of books when a storage area flooded and they grew irremediably moldy before I discovered this.

I miss my annotated volume of great poems and a few other things, but I have found the more I purge, the freer I feel.

Best wishes with this.

good job, ronnie. nice shelves appearing!

Now it is December 2010, and I came back to this entry through a link. My shelves are beginning to look like these. I've sorted the sci-fi, the cookbooks, and the mysteries. I've lightened the linens but not deliniated the dishes. Slowly my loads grow lighter too.

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