#springclean2022 | those books have got to go ... no, don't start reading them!

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Spring flowers on my back porch - the world is waking up!

We've had the most beautiful weather in the Middle Lands of England for the past week or so. It has been mild and sunny with just a hint of chill in the mornings when you open the door to bring in the milk. Together with the lengthening days and warmer temperatures, you start feeling motivated to do more than curl up under a duvet with your knitting.

I'm getting ready to have some work done on my house. The main thing is, after twenty-odd years of living here and cooking meals for up to eight people, I am finally getting a larger kitchen. It wouldn't be hard: my current kitchen is like one of those cupboards you find under the stairs - that little space where you keep your vacuum cleaner? Well, that size.

At first, I thought only the downstairs would be disturbed and we moved lots of things upstairs. But now, as the house will disrupted and we won't be able to live in it anyway for a couple of months, we decided to get re-new the wiring and radiators upstairs as well which means the whole house will have to be more or less empty.

I have been steadily de-cluttering for some months: the garage is almost clear; clothing and household linens have been streamlined; lots of things we needed when a family was living here have gone from the kitchen and living room and last month I tackled my craft stuff, donating threads and fabrics and equipment to my sewing group.

Now we're getting to one of the really challenging tasks: tackling my books.

I've loved books all my life, I've been able to read for as long as I can remember. I always got books for Christmas and birthday and I set up my own library. As a child I wanted to work in a library: I wanted to have those nimble fingers that raced through the little boxes of library tickets with the cards from issued books tucked inside them. They were always so deft, those librarians, their fingers hovering over the tickets like exotic butterflies before they delved into the box again, surfacing triumphantly with the correct cards. I wanted to do that.

Later, I was an independent bookseller, with a tiny shop in the city centre, and an adjoining venue where we ran live literature events, wonderful evenings of poetry and readings and open mics and always with lots of food and hospitality. I had a lot of books when we closed the shop in 2008. I donated lots, but I still had enough to fill two enormous bookshelves.

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I've been offloading books for several years now, but I still have all these plus others around the house.

My plan is that these bookshelves will hold all my books plus any paperwork and documents I need to keep and my art magazines. They are also the only place where I will display ornaments. I'm decluttering now so that when I have to pack them for the house renovations, I will only have the books I want to keep.

I'd already learned from my previous de-cluttering experiences that I can only do a little at a time: I find the number of decisions I have to make becomes overwhelming if I let it go on too long. I usually plan to spend an hour or so in any decluttering task, spending the first half sorting out and making decisions and the second half clearing away whatever I've done: loading the car for the re-cycling centre, cleaning any new space that has appeared, those kinds of things. I have a rubbish bag and a donation box with me, and a box for "not sure, decide later" things, rather than getting bogged down in that moment with trying to decide what I want to do with an item.

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There were some things it was very easy to discard: Nigel Slater is lovely but those books are heavy and I'd read them cover to cover. If I want to brush up my Italian, I'll buy new. And financial management for charities: I'm not sure anyone needs that book in their life.

I did very quickly get bogged down, though. After an hour, I had piles on the floor and furniture and was feeling increasingly stressed. Some of that was about deciding which books to keep, some was about trying to sort where unwanted books would go - sewing group, charity shop, recycling centre. And some books were very heavy and after not very long at all, my arthritic hands started to hurt.

There was also the problem of finding enough suitable size containers to put discarded books in. I had some small fruit and other boxes: they had to be small enough so that I could lift them when they were full of books. I was quickly running out of options.

I decided to leave things for then, before I had a conniption.

Back to the duvet and some knitting.

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Re-vitalised the next day, I ended up with the first lot to off-load. The bag on the left will be going into the British Heart Foundation container around the corner and the other bag and boxes to the charity bookshops in the local shopping centre on Monday morning.

I realised this morning that I was trying to do too much, make too many decisions, in one go. I decided to pick out only the books that I knew I didn't want and to put everything else back on the shelves. I didn't worry about sorting them out, just about getting everything off the floor and onto a shelf. I was able to fill my boxes and I have already loaded them into the car. Once they have gone, I will have some headspace for the next pass of decluttering.

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These haven't made it yet to the bookshelves - my collection of art magazines and knitting books and patterns. Next time, maybe!

I hadn't realised the emotion that would be tied up with going through the books or what a mammoth task it would be. With some of them it is comparatively easy to decide, with others, I need more time to consider, and with still others, I find I start reading them! Most of my university books have gone and anything to do with digital media and society or networked society. Some are out of date, like the Rock Discography, and for others you can find so much information online now. For some reason I had four dictionaries and a huge one in French. I just have one in English now.

One of the pieces of advice I have had about decluttering is to just do fifteen minutes each day. I think my next stage is to take a shelf a day and work through the books on it. There are sixteen shelves, plus the magazines and pattern books on top of the wardrobe, so that is probably my decluttering challenge for April, right there.

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First pass shelves with definite "no"s removed and books from everywhere else collected together. Can you see the difference? 😂

You can find out more about spring cleaning and decluttering in The Minimalist Contest: Spring Clean and Declutter - lots of great ideas in the comments and contest entries.

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Three things newbies should do in their first week and, for most things, forever afterwards!

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48 comments
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the weather is one of the things that makes me really wish to come to England

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It certainly has lots of variety!
This is a beautiful time of year when everything is fresh. April is even better.

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We've got a lot of books too and it is hard to part with them even when you know you'll never have time to read them again. Some will go to charity as we keep running out of shelf space. Some are forever though.

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Yes, trying to be realistic about what you will be able to invest in, timewise, in the future, is quite a challenge. But I have some books I like to re-read and others are good to keep for dipping into from time to time. But I was pleased to get rid of all those books about the Internet. And cryptocurrency 😂.

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Hello @shanibeer,
I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your post, and I found all the tips super handy.
It seems that you have your decluttering skills to the tee, so I will definitely bookmark this post.
I especially like that you were able to portray what could seem like an impossible task, so effortlessly and stress-free.
Great post and I would love to hear more about your follow decluttering exercise.
Nice one:)

PS. Yes, the bright sunny days have been fantastic. It's all smiles everywhere!

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Yes, I have been thinking about the follow-up, too. I should make a note to make another post in a month's time about this particular project 😍.

I'm working on the kitchen design just now, so that might be the next post.

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That would be wonderful 😁.
There are so many possibilities and choices with kitchens, especially in small spaces, so I am eager to see what choices you make;)

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(Edited)

Hello @shanibeer,

You've been a busy 🐝 and from this post it's clear you'll be at it for a while. It's nice that you've devised a system to get it all done though.

I pray you'll stick to your own rules so that you are not overwhelmed with the challenges ahead. Fifteen minute intervals or one shelf at a time.

I must say that sixteen shelves sounds like a public library to me.lol

This was a great read that I thoroughly enjoyed but you may need a few more hands.

Have a great weekend. 😊

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Sixteen shelves is the edited version. It used to be twice that!

I do need some more hands, you're right 😍

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I hadn't realised the emotion that would be tied up with going through the books or what a mammoth task it would be.

Never go through them. Just get rid of them 😅

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(Edited)

😂 😂 😂

😱

I guess that will be like the two bins of superfluous tech cables I had!

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Don't do it. The day after the binman has been you'll suddenly discover you have binned a cable you now need! The regret will last a lifetime!

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Already done, they went months ago!
There were a lot of scart leads involved 😂

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I wish that i have enough books to consider decluttering them 🥲

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If we were nearer, we could help each other 😍

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Okay, so I have invited @bearmol over to visit and I think he has subscribed ... the other person who might enjoy this community is @rarej.

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Subscribed!

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Excellent, I thought it might appeal to you 😍.

!LUV

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(Edited)

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You have a book entitled 2000 Orgies ??!!!!! I'm shocked Ma'am !

But seriously, this...

I wanted to have those nimble fingers that raced through the little boxes of library tickets with the cards from issued books tucked inside them. They were always so deft, those librarians, their fingers hovering over the tickets like exotic butterflies before they delved into the box again, surfacing triumphantly with the correct cards.

is beautiful and perfect and reminds me of being a child in my local village library. In my case though, it was OCD being soothed by the beauty and perfect organisation and the neat lines lol...

Decluttering isn't for everyone, just do what you're comfortable with. Dust sheets can cover everything until the work is finished. many people like their 'stuff' and find it comforting to be surrounded by it...even books about orgies ;-)

Hope you're having a great weekend :-)

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It's a small book for 2,000, though 😂

When I moved back to my old house after working away for six years, I went round to the little pre-fab local library to re-join and the librarian delved under the counter and came up with a little box with my tickets in it and said, "oh yes, you have overdue fines for £8.56 from [six years previously]". I loved that she knew and could put her hands on it precisely.

I think I might be a bit OCD: I was at a research seminar where we were given a pile of mixed Lego each for the exercises we were going to do. While the research lead was explaining, I sorted all my Lego into neat rows.

Life is good, I'm planning the kitchen at the moment, halfway there. It's lovely having bright days but still cool, great for doing jobs.

Hope you're okay, too 😍.

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This post reminded me that I still need to declutter some parts of the kitchen, specifically the unused spices that aren't so good anymore.

Cleaning up things like books and close always has that danger of hitting the emotional wall, the connection to these objects which you technically don't need, but still want to keep.

!hivebits

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I think decluttering is a lifelong journey 😁

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I was just reading one of those random articles that crops up on social media, and it was "interesting things found in people's houses." One of them was "I found these old spices from when they came in TINS!!" (photo of old spices)
I was like...
They still come in tins! Like I literally have some in my cupboard that are still good in tins?? That isn't a dead thing, you know! 😂

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Lol, I had to google 'spices in tin cans' just to visualize what they look like. Interesting how they switched to plastic containers which keeps things fresh for shorter periods of time.

!BEER

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Sometimes they are in plastic, sometimes in tins, and sometimes (most often, I think, here) in glass. It really depends on where you are shopping, I think.

Here is, from the left, glass, plastic, then tin.

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Admittedly the dill and mustard seeds are ones I don't use very often so they are old but they're still fine. I run through a lot of paprika, cayenne, and garlic though. :)

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Ah, a fellow anti-vampire. We have kilograms of garlic use monthly. Goes in almost everything. !LOL

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🤣 I measure garlic with my heart. No need to get measuring spoons involved.
!BEER

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The beautiful flower on the back porch, do you water it every day?

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It's very damp where I live, so it doesn't need too much water at this time of year. In the summer, I have to pay more attention 🙂

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Great work! I can def see the difference on those shelves! :)
Do you have Little Free Libraries where you are? That's where most of my decluttered books went.
Woah, what a HUGE renovation you're undertaking! Where are you going to stay while it goes on?

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AREWETWINS????? Sorting through books is nearly impossible for me. I start with good intentions and then… I hug them and put them back (bad thing my husband is the same). We even buy them constantly. Books are our sin 🤣
Ok, I have exaggerated as always. Parting with dictionaries is doable, but parting with our art history book from university not really (although we do not need them anymore).
My secret plan when younger was getting so rich that I have my own library at home. I envisioned an old mansion with a two story library, huge windows and a fireplace. (Even more secretly I set my hopes in your renovated home, because in my stereotyped ideas about England such libraries exclusively belong there)

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Hehe - my house is modern, built in 1973, so I must dispel your illusion! My friend called it "Mondrian House" because it has those grid patterns (part of what attracted me) in the architecture and windows. I'm emphasising those features and patterns in the re-design (well, that is my plan).

Most of the books I have discarded are "trend" books, they were fashionable at the time, when Web 2.0 (now we call it social media) was in its early days and everyone was so excited. I've kind of assimilated those ideas (the worthwhile ones about continuities and discontinuities and social media being a social environment) and use them anyway, I don't need to keep the books and someone else may benefit from them.

But there are other books where I am not sure yet where they fit into my future, or whether they fit into my future. That needs more time, but really the time is for me to process(?) where I'm going, who I want to be, rather than about the books.

That's okay, I like the reflection.

This conversation is echoing my thoughts about the Boro post 😍.

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I have been doing as well as I am moving (gradually) a few states over. It is a somewhat painful process for me. I hate to get rid of things I spent money on. But book are both bulky and very heavy! Making it even harder is many of the libraries dont want to take used books anymore, even though they are running book sales non stop.

I see that you did make a few little holes of progress LOL. Good luck!

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It's hard, isn't it? But I look at them and think how many boxes it's going to take to pack them up and that spurs me on! A great thing, though, is not trying to do it all at once.

Mr P is removal man and the number of stories he tells me about arriving at places to load the van and people haven't even started packing 😂. Followed closely by "it's only a wardrobe and a few boxes" (code for: it's a van-full) and "I don't have your money on me right now". The last one, he drives them to the nearest cash point 😁.

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