Wednesday, July 2, 2014

On This Episode of Hoarders...

So Geary and I had a serious discussion about hoarding.

Here's how it happened:

I have been thinking a lot about this lately. Ever since I wrote my essay, Acts of Grief.

I have a


collection of books. I have been collecting books my whole life. When I visited Geary in Utah after WIFYR week, I went into her room and looked around and thought, "This looks like my room," and then I thought, "Geez, this is a lot of books," and then I thought, "Holy crap, we're hoarders."

I told Geary that we're hoarders and she kind of laughed, because it's kind of a joke, but it's totally not. So I have been consciously and deliberately thinking about it for about a week. Even before I went to WIFYR, I had started thinking about getting rid of some books, but every title that I looked at with the thought that I could get rid of it, I started to feel very anxious.

So I called Geary and we talked about it at length. For about two hours actually. We talked about our WIPs. The emotional catharsis that is happening as we work on them. We talked about the psychological reasons for our book addiction, what we are attempting to avoid, what the real cause of the collecting is.

Why do I have two copies of The Artist's Way? Why do I keep books I KNOW I will never read again? Why do I need the security of this collection?

Our reasons are generally the same for both of us. They have to do with loss and grief and evidence. So we agreed that we're ready to cull our collections. I'm starting with novels.

I know that I come (genetically) from people with hoarding issues, Tyler has hoarding tendencies, and I know the reasons for all of it, but I want to get away from that. When I talked to Tyler about it, he expressed a lot of resistance, and said, "Compared to other things that people could collect, books are good." And yes, it's better than collecting thousands of rats, or empty bottles, or piles of trash. But the REASONS for collecting them are the same. Clothes or rats or or plates or books. The reasons are the same. And the reasons are about things that have, until relatively recently, buried in my subconscious. Now that I've extracted them and looked at them in the light of a rational and consciously decision-making mind, I don't want to carry those reasons around any more.

Here's a box of books that I pulled from ONE SHELF of the book case. It's about thirty books.

Actually, most of my collection is in storage right now, so I can't access all of it. But I gave myself permission to start with the novels and not worry about picture books (even though a couple of them made it into the box), non-fiction, anthologies, or art books.

I took the box to Changing Hands, the indie bookstore down the street, and I filled out the paperwork and checked the box marked "Donate" for the things they couldn't shelve. It was a strangely harrowing experience. But I'm looking forward to doing it with many other books in the future.

I love words and I love the experiences I have with books, but I've realized that I don't need to own the paper on which the words are printed to own the experience and save it in my body. I don't need evidence that I'm a strong, intelligent, cultured, intellectual, well-read woman. I am those things. Those things aren't dependent on belongings. They're dependent on experiences.

Here's to letting go.


  1. I had a similar horrifying but worthwhile experience last year when I purged before moving to Panama. It was heartbreaking and on a few small cases I made mistakes but now I have books that signify a connection that is super strong for me. I had books I never got around to reading and to be honest I never was going to. Some purchases were motivated by feeling like I needed it because someone I liked mentioned liking it. The Artist's Way was in my collection for a reason like that and I glanced at it occasionally but never with any actual real desire to consume the words inside. I do miss looking at a packed wall of books though... and being able to pretend that I just hadn't made it there yet.

    1. Yeah, I love The Artist's Way and another book of hers that I read called Finding Water. I had two copies because I thought, "I'm going to find someone who needs this book and I'll be able to give it to them." But then I realized it's not out of print anymore, and I can recommend books to people without handing them the physical book. A lot of it was my identity as a smart and literary person. Geary and I decided that we like to have evidence of things, and the books are evidence of certain things that are comforting. But I don't need the physical evidence to know that I love books. So I am just going to keep the ones that are my mostest faves of all times.

  2. You're awesome, and brave, and a total example to me of letting go. I love you!


What do you think?