My overstuffed shelfies are driving me mad

Recently, I was looking for a book I knew, with absolute certainty, lived somewhere on my shelfies. The *real* ones. The ones that hold my paper books.

So many pretty books on my shelfies. Now if only I could find them.
Here is another beauty.

Though I am a devoted e-reader (and devoted to my e-reader), I love paper books, especially hardcover paper books. Hardcovers have weight and heft. They have physical presence. They feel friendly in my hand. They can be art objects in themselves. Here, the first titles that come to mind are The Enchanted Wanderer: And Other Stories by Nikolai Leskov, The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker, and Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami.

This is one reason I have so much trouble getting rid of paper books, even the ones I probably won’t reread, or (ahem) read for the first time. It’s their beauty and sense of possibility.

When I first ordered the massive bookshelf that takes up prime real estate in my living room, I did so because I was sick of never being able to find my books. Many were stuffed haphazardly on bookshelves in our home office. Still others were piled in stacks throughout the house. Many more had been put away in boxes in the absence of sufficient shelving. What was the point of having my beautiful books if, at the very least, I couldn’t admire them?

Shelfies - delivery
Like Santa’s sleigh full of toys but better because it’s a bookshelf.

The day my bookshelf arrived, I was hopping around the living room, looking out the front window every seven minutes, and generally behaving like a small child on Christmas Eve. Then, the excitement of setting it up. Acres of books piled 15 high on the floor as I attempted to sort them alphabetically. And then by category. And then roughly in whatever way I could get them up there because, you guys, it took days.

Pretty shelfies
Not bad, eh?

The end result was extremely edifying. Here were my books lined up in a quilt pattern. It might take a few minutes to locate a specific title, but still. At least it was doable.

Now, let’s fast forward to two-and-a-half years later. Can you guess what has become of my shelfies? Of course you can. They are, once again, overstuffed, with books stacked two deep, the end result being that I can’t see half the spines. Trying to find a specific title is like trying to find the Rosetta Stone, without the benefit of Napoleon’s army.

Trying to find a specific title on my shelfies is like trying to find the Rosetta Stone, without the benefit of Napoleon’s army.
It only took two and a half years to get out of hand.

Every few months, I think about culling my shelfies. Surely there are some books I can donate, I’ll chide myself. Surely. I will go through and pull out certain titles that I know I will never read for the sole reason that I can’t: The font is too small and tightly packed. It would never work. Then I’ll think, But what if I want to lend it to someone? What if I wake up one morning and – It’s a miracle! My eyes are fixed!

Anyone else familiar with this form of magical thinking? Any insights on how to part company with at least some my books and make my shelfies functional again? Because I don’t have room for another bookshelf.

2 Replies to “My overstuffed shelfies are driving me mad”

  1. I hear ya…. We have only two, relatively small bookshelves in our apartment (not counting the extremely small one over our bed and the one in my son’s room, for his picture books), and the only way I’m able to manage that is because we have a parking garage where we put, not a car, but our stuff – very much including boxes of my books. The fact that I know I can go and find them (well, with a bit of a walk, unlocking of various locks and doors, etc. involved) makes me feel more at ease about putting piles of books in boxes and taking them out of my apartment.

    Another thing that’s helped me is not making the money I used to at my former job. This has forced me to use my local library more than I already did, and also to be vigilant about things like e-book deals. Books pile up in my house WAY less than they used to. Talk about a silver lining, right! 🙂

    All that to say, do you have a basement, attic, or some other such place where you could keep some of your books in boxes?

    1. Thank you, Alysa! We do have an attic where we have a few boxes of books. What I really want is to be able to stop hoarding books so much. I’ve stopped going to library book sales because I end up bringing home so many that I don’t know when, or if, I’ll get to reading. Once I have books, it’s hard for me to let them go. I overstuff my shelves, then pack books away, where I’ll forget they exist. Ah, it’s a crazy cycle. I’m with you that using my library is the best. I’ve been trying to use it more this year, and I have to say, that has been very satisfying!

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