Living with books

I’m wary of going home these days. Sorry, Mom. After three years of successfully feigning momentary deafness to her appeals to remove the boxes of my childhood keepsakes and books that languished under her guest room bed, somehow, on a recent visit, they ended up in our car. Books, my elementary report cards, boxes of disposable camera photos from summer camp, of friends in braces, school dances, a portrait gallery of all the pets we ever owned and adored — bonfire anyone? — it was all there. I accepted these gifts under the delusional confidence that I would dump everything in the correct recycling bin as soon as we got home.

It will surprise no one, perhaps, that these boxes did not move from our living room floor for a month. We are the couple who hosts a standing monthly dinner party for the sole reason that if we didn’t have people over regularly, we would never tidy up. In frenzied preparation for one of these dinners, we moved the boxes to the office floor where they remained for another two months. Then a terrible thing happened. I steeled myself and tucked into the long days work of going through them. Finally my cluttered mind and apartment would benefit from the great purge of 2014. No one would be spared. Or so that was my intention. That is not what happened. The unsentimentalist got sentimental. After an entire day’s work, I only managed to carve out one box of throw-away.

“So what?” the sentimentalist says. “You’ve gotta keep that stuff, it’s personal history.” For the person with a mortgage and every intention of staying put for a while, yes, this is a fine solution. The kids you raise in your family home will one day derive hours of mirth and amusement from looking at your school year books and reading your 5 year-old stories about Frisky the cat.

That is not us. We have places to go still, many more years of suitcase living left. Stuff is our nemesis. Storage is a four-letter word. What are we going to do with all this stuff? Where will we put it? These are the questions that torment the nomad. And the most tormenting of all: What are we going to do with all these books? Because, you can’t talk about stuff without talking about books.

Herein lies the great dilemma. For two people who value our impermanence, our pick-up-and-goability, as highly as we do, we have a damn incompatible obsession with printed books. I’ve even changed my tune about eBooks in recent years, although it must be said, I still don’t gravitate to them. Theoretically, I can get down with eBooks, but in practice I know me. I will always buy and read and prefer the printed book. Done. End of story. So, what do we do?

As I ponder this emblematic first world problem (what to do with this stuff that we own because we have jobs and a place to live where we can keep it and money and health and… everything!), I am inspired by the rooted ones who are finding creative ways to live with their books. This family, featured on Cup of Jo today, are the latest. 

Which is all just to say we’re looking for storage solutions for renters. Got any suggestions?

In other news, this guy just wrote another book. I was, no exaggeration, just saying (to a friend at a recent clean apartment dinner party) that I wish he’d write another book because The Imperfectionist was just so perfect and timely and everything I wanted. And he did! Debating whether to pre-order or to wait and buy it as an eBook — :/.

(Photos from A Cup of Jo)

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