I hit the point of no-return the other day and lost it completely.
My books and pamplets (already flowing across the floor because all available wall space was lined with stuffed bookshelves) occupied 90% of all availble floor space allowing me a narrow walkway to my desk. And one stack (did I mention the books and papers were stacked up) fell over. I couldn’t get in or out of my office.
I lost it.
Note this doesn’t include our entry-room downstairs that is also lined with bookshelves (although I suspect I can get more shelves in there with a bit more planning). We have books crammed into almost every cranny of the place. And it’s not getting any better as I switch my collection and reading focus.
But, as I said, I lost it.
I got a cup of coffee, leaned back in my chair (I had to steer books out of the way so I could both get more coffee and lean back in my chair) and thought about this condition. After doodling in my notebook – a grand habit I’ve picked up using multi-coloured pens – I decided my new reality of semi-retirement needed some serious breaks with the past.
The majority of the gardening books must go!
That done, there were serious issues to deal with – the main one being which books would go and stay.
I started by trying to set criteria. What gardening books did I use regularly? I thought if I really used it, it should stay. As it turns out, I don’t use a single gardening book regularly. Not one. I tend to hit the Net for the things I really want to know. Latest plants? The Net. Quick answer to a disease problem – the Net. Garden design ideas – the Net. It’s all there.
Effort number two. What gardening books did I use to use regularly or the Internet died tomorrow, which would I keep? Ah, now there was a criteria I could live with as a starting point. I managed to clear about half of the books right off the bat. But I still have way too many books. And now, I’m saving books I “might” use and you can imagine how broad that category can be.
Effort number three: What if I eliminated everything except the raw basics. Those are the ones that have a traditional place behind my desk and have been there, through updated editions, for over 20 years now. Haven’t updated any of them in several years since the last Dirr and Armitage book came out but who knows, I might. The RHS big Dictionary (cost me a pretty penny when it was published) still sits there and would be the first book I’d reach for if I were in the reaching mode. There are another half-dozen classic reference books there.
But what else gets to go and stay? At this point, it’s either feast or famine.
The point I reached and one that will still leave me with an interesting collection is to ditch virtually everything post-1900. I’ll keep a very few from before 1950 (mostly first editions of Sackville-West and a few other like her) Everything else goes. When I did that, piling the go-pile on the floor, the numbers looked better and workable. Not perfect by any means but workable so I can both have some books surrounding me and floor space to walk towards them.
I also decided it was time to redo the office. To build a new desk and organize my funky collection of family heirloom bookshelves (one by my father and one by my grandfather) along interesting lines.
It’s time to open up the space for new ideas and new thoughts. And getting rid of the old is the first step in that process.
I’ll get back to you about how that’s going but after one day, there’s already one less commercial bookshelf in my office and a growing stack of books on the floor.
Now. What do you do with all these damn gardening books?