Bye bye books

This past weekend I gathered up nearly all of my paperback books–four cloth bags and a cardboard storage box in all–and dumped them into a book donation bin.

The majority of books I had already read–in some cases decades ago–while others were bought on a whim and then forgotten, unread and still in pristine condition. Most of the books were in near-perfect condition, actually, only the ones I loaned to friends were worn. My 43-year old copy of The Exorcist was definitely showing its age, though, with the cover taped on and the pages yellowing and getting a bit foul [devil/possession joke here].

On the other hand, some other books nearly as old almost looked brand new, because I was a very careful reader. Why, I cannot say. Looking at my bedroom, you would never have said I was a neat kid. And yet my books were treated like treasures. I suppose in a way they were. I read all the time when I was younger and the last few years I’ve rekindled [Kindle joke here] my love for both novels and non-fiction.

So why did I toss nearly all of my books away, keeping only a precious few, like signed copies or reference guides that are still relevant? Because I am determined to strip away the clutter in my life, and the books hold no sentimental value for me, though some had pretty snazzy covers. Most of these books I’d read long ago and were stuffed away in boxes and bags. It’s been many years since I had a bookshelf, and given the, shall we say, uneven quality of the books I indulge in, I feel no great need to hang onto them or display them for all to see.

And so off they went, to find homes elsewhere. I don’t know if someone will want to read my 1980 paperback copy of Salem’s Lot (I finally read the eBook version in October 2011), but it’s in darn good shape if they do.

In the meantime, I have less clutter, both in the condo and in my mental space. It feels good. The de-clutterfest will continue this coming weekend.

September spring cleaning as reported in October

I’m going to write about the spring cleaning I did in September in October.

It all makes sense. Mostly.

Last weekend I went to fetch some dirty clothes from the spare bedroom and it was…untidy (it’s usual state). I noticed a crate had slipped from the bed (don’t ask) and was leaning hard into my bike, which was leaning against other stuff. This didn’t look good for the bike. I straightened the crate and wheeled the bike out to the living room (which is really very clean now, actually).

And then I got hit by spring fever, four months late. I’d been meaning to start going through a lot of my old stuff–the things packed into boxes and bags that travel from one move to the next and never come out of their boxes and bags–and finally start tossing them. I’d read that shedding possessions is liberating. And I’m a liberal guy.

I started with the clutter surrounding my “nightstand.” I put that in quotes because my nightstand is six artfully arranged storage boxes with a blue towel on top. This actually works reasonably well as a nightstand, and it hides a lot of storage in plain sight. But surrounding this was a collection of old tech boxes (iPad Air, etc.) that I had no reason to keep. I gathered them up into a cloth grocery bag. I had some small piles of notebooks and photos I wanted to keep and stashed them in a temporary holding space in one corner of the room. I then moved to one of the “closets” in the bedroom. I put that in quotes because there is no door and without a door I’m not sure this counts as a closet, but it’s a nook with a bar for holding jackets on hangars, so I call it a closet. This one is filled with all kinds of junk, including many old books, a bunch of unsorted coins, a Boggle game from the 1970s (really) and more. I tidied up the coins and put them into a box (labeled “Heavy” as it is), then worked on the books, dividing them as follows:

  • books I would keep
  • books I wouldn’t keep

The latter was further divided into hardcover and paperback. Some of these books date back almost 40 years, having followed me from Duncan to the dozen or so homes I’ve had in the Lower Mainland, ending here in New Westminster. Most books I’ve read. Some are in near-mint condition, though the paperbacks tend to be yellowing due to the cheaper paper stock. The books I kept were a small handful, hardly enough to make a single volume of a Steve Erickson novel. I also found a giant stash of old game manuals and had no hesitation in turfing the lot, with a few sentimental exceptions, including:

  • Doom II. The manual is actually nothing special, but this evokes real nostalgia for me.
  • Tribes. Full color and reflecting of a game that never was, thanks to skiing. Again with the nostalgia, too.
  • Fallout. Spiral bound and includes recipes. A classic for the (atomic) ages.

I also kept a few GTA maps, though I’ll never play (or buy) another Rockstar game again, because the maps are kind of neat. They’ll probably go in the next cleaning, though. The attachment is not strong.

In all, I ended up clearing out nine bags of stuff, plus boxes for an Xbox 360 and Xbox One. This is a lot of boxes.

And you know what? I do feel liberated! And I can’t wait to tackle the “nightstand” (and get a real nightstand), empty out my dresser, toss a bunch of old clothes, then get a new dresser that looks like it was made in this century instead of 1919. After this, I’ll move on to the computer nook, the bathroom cabinets and anything else I can find (the spare bedroom is Jeff’s task, though I will probably help once a safe passage is carved through the space).

All of this started because I was looking for dirty socks. It’s like some variation on the butterfly effect, but with stinky clothing and fewer butterflies.