I like knowing that there are certain things in this world of ours that I can rely on — like the changing seasons and that spring invariably follows winter.
Though I can’t tell from looking out my window that spring is here, I have smelled it in the air for the past few weeks. And, before DST descended upon us and ruined it, I was in awe of the ever growing amount of sunlight, four minutes at each end of each day makes a discernible difference, one I love. Alas. But that story has been done.
Spring brings with it another constant that I like — a time to clean out, sort through, and rearrange.
Before my years in Kazakhstan, I hadn’t been a big “spring cleaner.” Then I learned about their celebration of Nowruz, which I first wrote about here, and became a believer.
This week my focus is my office. Once again. One of my very first blog posts, Weeding Through the Clutter, walked us through an earlier sorting of office stuff, motivated in part by getting a new office floor. My goal this week is to clear my office of past projects, leaving room for the new.
The various piles of paper have been sorted, more or less. Recycle bins were filled and delivered; a few boxes of history have gone either into the storage area behind a knee wall or into one of my two files drawers (I now have a section for “writing projects” that I may just pick up again, someday). I’ve made good progress.
My three-tiered in-box is now sorted into papers to-be-filed, papers to act on, and papers to read.
Then I moved along to BOOKS.
Marie Kondo says we should have no more than thirty books.
Yeah. That’s not gonna happen.
I’ll never meet Marie’s ideal, a fact I accepted when I first heard it. But, I do think differently now about my books. Now I know that they speak to me.
One group of books tells me of a future “someday” — one that may never come, I know.
Another one says, “Just in case.” For, truly, one never actually knows.
And a third says, “But I’m your friend; no one else will understand me the way you do.”
It’s a dilemma.
For example, here’s the pile of books on race, white privilege, and understanding my American culture anew: all topics I hope to write more about. Someday.
I’m currently reading the top book, a new one from a favorite author, Frances Moore Lappé, entitled You Have the Power: Choosing Courage in a Culture of Fear. Great title; I’m hoping to get a blog post out of it. Someday.
The rest, I tell myself, will work their way up to be read, except that I’ve owned four of them for over 20 years and have still not read them. What’s going to change, I wonder. “Just in case,” does me in again.
On my window sill in the living room where I sit, I have a pile of books written by my non-virtual friends and that I’ve promised to read. And want to read, I quickly add. How I’d love to be able to make a competent comment on their book the next time I see them. Alas. Still, “Someday” hovers.
There’s a collection of books in the guest room we rent out through AirBnB. There’s a sign on that shelf welcoming guests to help themselves and, if they haven’t finished it by the time they leave, they are welcome to take the book with them, leaving it in another public spot when they are done. There aren’t many of those books left. My system there works
I had a pile of two next to my bed for a few months. This is a terrible place to leave books for I know I don’t read print books in bed. So, I moved them to my dresser where they’ll now live another few months. But at least my bedside table is empty except for the lamp. That’s a step in the right direction.
I swear, my books multiple during the night!
I have six places where I officially house books, seven if you count my Kindle (which, for our purposes here today, we won’t), which I do read at night. Sometimes.
There is a small nook in the wall of the stairwell heading to the second floor.
There I keep the books that speak to my heart more than my head, AA’s Big Book is there, a few of Harriet Lerner’s classics, and my collection of Zen and Buddhist writings. But, there are also a few political books tucked away in there — Reefer Nation, which I’ve still not gotten to, and Slow Food, which I have, among others. This is truly a hodgepodge at the moment. Good to know; I’ll revisit this spot after the post hits. Seems like a good place to start.
There are two bookshelves in my office. You’ve seen them before:
The first one, to my right as I sit at my desk, is a built-in bookshelf. It’s in balsam fir and pine grown here on the land. This one holds the remains of my memoir collections (sorted by various sub-genres); books on writing and editing; and books on travel. These are the topics that currently make up my life, I tell myself.
And, tucked away on the fifth shelf down, is the first book I ever had published, the textbook on stuttering (cleverly entitled Stuttering) that I co-authored with my speech pathology professor husband (C.W. Starkweather, for those who need to catch up).
Off to my left is the metal and glass baker’s rack I bought over forty years ago when I lived in Ohio.
It used to have brass edges on each shelf. Time has a way of changing the look of us all, even book shelves. It’s been repainted its original flat black twice already. And, I now see it could use another coat. I’ll do that this summer.
On the top shelf is my collection of Bertrand Russell books, which I haven’t looked at since I finished his two-volume autobiography many years ago and fell in love with him — the fact that he was long dead by then, totally irrelevant.
I had them packed up to store a few weeks ago, but couldn’t bring myself to put him in the dark. If I knew someone would love him the same as I do, I might consider passing them on. But oh how I would miss him.
The second shelf holds my books on culture and other old friends. I see Selma Fraiberg’s Magic Years is there, a lovely book for first time moms, as I was when I read it, over and over and over; I recommend it highly.
My copy of Smart Girls, Gifted Women lives there as well; written in 1985, it’s an excellent book for understanding the cultural challenges facing young girls in fulfilling their potential. It helped me understand myself better too.
The two bottom shelves hold the remnants of my music collection. Do you listen to music when you write? I often do. This too could use another good culling. These days I often listen to Pandora or my own iTunes playlists while I write. Do I really need the “hard copies?”
Behind me as I sit at my desk, I have a short shelf with books tucked in; of course I do. Those are my classics on writing: William Zinsser, Natalie Goldman, Sue William Silverman, Lisa Dale Norton, and Julia Cameron live there. Along with my nearly antique CD, radio, and cassette player.
I moved one of my bookshelves downstairs to the living room a few months ago — along with most of the books from my various graduate and undergraduate school lives that were in it. They are old friends that once served me well. I still live with the hope that I will read them again. Someday. When I have time. Or refer to them. Or at least remember them. I like seeing them.
At the other end of the living room, we have a built-in shelf (yes, again from home grown trees) filled with books that feel more like those books visitors look through while waiting for you to return to the room. Movie scenes often add a sense of judgment to the perusal.
I won’t go into those; you’ll have to visit and judge for yourself.
I want my office to feel more spacious, to no longer hold me fixed to the past. I want to sort through, cull, let go of, and pass on . . .
First, I’ll make another pot of tea.
How about you? How do you sort out your books, your papers, your growing collections of whatever? How do you fend off the promise of “Someday” and “Just in case”?
REMINDER! Have you filled out my 2019 Survey Monkey? Just a few more days until it closes.
NEXT WEEK: Let’s take a closer look at this thing we call choice. It’s got my curiosity going. Not sure yet where we’ll end up, but I’m on a roll.