Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Retirement Downsizing – Condensing the Bookshelves

Almost everyone who is downsizing for retirement has to face the daunting process of condensing shelves full of books. I’ve finally psyched myself up to attack this task. I begin with the bookshelves in the second floor hall, scanning groupings from top to bottom.

There’s the Women’s Lib section. Excuse me… Women’s Empowerment. I think I can part with The Female Eunuch and not put my self esteem at risk. There was a time when I might have thought Sexual Politics was an oxymoron; now it sounds like redundancy. Either way, it’s gone. As I recall, Men—An Owner’s Manual was not much help when I first got it. It doesn’t seem like a title that would improve with age, not that I'm a good one to judge. Besides, "In the land of the blind, the man with one eye" and all that.

I need the step stool to see the books on the very top shelf. There’s an entire section of poetry that I would have bet I had tossed two moves past. I count eight volumes of Rod McKuen. He was too cool in the sixties. Now I’d need to hide him under a brown paper wrapper. Who admits to reading titles like Listen to the Warm? Listen to the warm what? I wonder if he’s still alive. Some Googling confirms he is, but his appearances are limited to autograph signings. This makes sense, since Amazon lists most of his books from a penny to $3 or so.

One section that should be easy to trim is business management; I’m retiring, after all. I’m tossing everything with the words “Excellence” or “Minute” in the title. I learned long ago that when it comes to business, it’s far better to under promise and over deliver. Ditto on trimming the “How To” section, where I’ll toss everything with “Dummy” or “Idiot” in the title. I don’t need to be constantly reminded of my self image when I bought them.

Ah! Here’s a group I should be able to thin out—foreign language and travel. I pick up one that I don’t remember; it’s a street and transportation guide to Paris. It’s so detailed it includes a section on one way streets. The book was published in 1977. In all likelihood those Sens Unique are four lane roads today. (For those who are wondering, Sens Unique is not French for psychic powers.) The most use I’d get out of this book at this point in my life is as toilet paper. It’s better quality than what was nailed to the stall walls the last time I saw Paris.

I should really get rid of most of the pocket sized dictionaries, but they take up so little room. You never know when you might be called upon to translate something into Latin. At the very least, I should get rid of the guides for any countries that require more than two immunization shots. At my age, I’ll limit my travel to places that have flush toilets and pouffy duvets.

I expect to cut back a lot of the section on doll collecting, toys and miniatures. Then I remember that four of those stacked a certain way are exactly the right height to lift a box fan set on the dresser enough so its breeze passes over the footboard of the bed. Since I can’t remember which four and I don’t know if I’ll have central air where we retire, I’ll need to keep all of them.

Those books on collectibles are thick suckers, as are my many art books. I remember the comment of someone I had coerced into helping me move to a new apartment many years ago. As he was lugging yet another pile of books to the van, he asked, “Do you buy your books by the pound?”

The answer of course was “no.” But when I consider the cost of relocating our household, I just might get rid of some books based on how much they weigh. Suddenly those thin little Rod McKuen books are looking like keepers after all. Maybe I’ll even get them autographed. Or not.

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