Downsizing: Keeping the Quirk

Books for Donation

Cliff and I don’t plan to spend our golden years in our 180-year-old Victorian house, despite its eight fireplaces, heart pine floors, and bedrooms so big my daughters built small cities with appliance boxes.

Life here can be cold (in the winter) and maintenance, including cleaning those handsome floors, is a bear.


We’ve been looking at smaller houses. New ones.

New means windows that open and close. Walls that aren’t cracked and porch floors that hold paint.  And new promises, maybe, a few less spiders and the bug who shall not be named (but that name starts with an R).

We’re starting to crave normal. Closets. Ceilings you can reach with a stepladder. Hot water that appears in less than five minutes.

“These new houses don’t have many built-in bookcases,” I said to Cliff after we toured a model. “And the open floor plans don’t allow much space to add our own.”

“You’ll need to give away a large quantity of your books,” he said calmly.

Say again?

Cliff hates to get rid of anything. Fruitcake tins. Consumer Reports highlighting electronics long off the market. T-shirts from his freshman year. That’s college AND high school.

He’s never put pressure on me to clean out my stuff either. He’s not a husband made nervous by clutter.

His words shot daggers into my book loving heart.

But c’est vrai. I owned too many books.  Bookcases stuffed with them in five rooms.

I’d keep only my favorites. Let the book weeding commence…

You’ve maybe done it too.

Every volume represents a bit of you. A hobby. A trip. Your vocation. A story you loved. A birthday present from a friend. An intriguing period in history.  Childhood books torn and worn. Self-help that didn’t  end up revamping your life but sure made fun reading.

The easy part of the project was gathering the sturdy liquor boxes.

“It’s your lucky day!” the woman said. “Take them all.”

Bourbon Box

I went through my library three times.  With each pass though, I got tougher, even more ruthless.

Here’s my takeaway tip, my book thinning rule, the deal I made with myself:

You can pull a few books back out of those boxes.

That’s allowed.  And I did. And it assuaged the trauma, some.

Right before I carried the last load to the car, I rescued a final volume, Edward Lear: The Complete Verse and Other Nonsense.

Because even if my house is new and normal, I don’t want myself, or my writing, to be 100% normal.

Heck, maybe not even 50% normal.

I’ll sit in that brand new living room and let the quirk of Edward Lear, whose limericks are almost as old as my old house, inspire me.


PS: If you want to read more of Lear’s limericks, come visit me! I’ll read to you. (Learn about the history of the limerick here.   Read lots more of the work of Edward Lear here at Project Gutenberg.)