We have a blue Ikea bookcase in the hall that has been tilting for a long time now, but there’s been so much else going on that it never seemed important enough to try to fix it or replace it. We have bookcases everywhere, and I have five in my room alone, so one tilting bookcase didn’t seem like an emergency; until one of the shelves fell, and even then we just put “shelf pins” on the shopping list and eventually bought some, and of course, forgot to put them in. And then another shelf fell. And I still can’t be bothered to deal with the damned thing.
It’s not that a bookcase is such an expensive thing to replace, especially if we get another one from Ikea, its more that we’d have to actually go to Ikea, carry the heavy box to the car and from the car to the apartment, and then put the thing together, oh, and also empty the broken bookcase and take the broken pieces down to the garbage and refill the new bookcase.
I don’t have the energy for any of that, let alone all of it.
I’ve been trying to clear out the “extra books” from my collection for years now (so that we wouldn’t need so many bookcases), by re-reading the books that I’m on the fence about. I’ve already filled two boxes with books I no longer need, but giving books away is harder than you’d think. The library never wants them, and finding a place that wants the books, on the third Thursday of the month, at twilight, still requires carrying heavy boxes of books out to the car. So at this point I still have a box of discarded books on the floor, next to the bookcases, and I still have three shelves full of books to read through. I also have a bad habit of ordering more books all the time.
This feels like a metaphor for the way my brain has been lately: overwhelmed with ideas to follow up on, all resting on iffy shelves and waiting for me to start culling through them; but I can’t even think straight enough to do the culling before another ten or twenty ideas pile on. I feel like every day I’m looking at these tilting shelves in my brain, knowing that it’s all going to overflow at any moment, with no idea how to stop it.
I decided to take a break from going to online Hebrew classes for a few months, because I’ve been struggling to stay focused during the classes this past semester, and because the time I spend in those classes and doing the homework for them has kept me from doing other important things on my to-do list. I’m hoping to get back to the classes over the summer, when I have more free time to focus, but I feel the loss of the socializing and the Hebrew already. I still don’t even know what to do with all of the Hebrew I’ve learned so far, or why it’s been such an obsession for at least two years, if not my whole life.
I feel like there’s a path I should be on, and a long term goal I should be working towards, and that Hebrew language learning is part of it; but I don’t know what that goal is. I don’t want to move to Israel, and I don’t particularly want to go back to school full-time to become a translator or a rabbi or a cantor. I would like to go deeper into Jewish education, if I can, working with teens, maybe, as well as with the younger kids, and maybe even doing curriculum development. But I don’t know of a path to get there, and I don’t want all of that to be instead of writing my novels – the notes for which have filled up a bunch of shelves of their own.
I feel like there’s a whirlwind in my brain, pushing me in different directions all the time, keeping me confused and off kilter, and I’m worried that my internal bookshelves are as wonky as the ones in the broken bookcase in the hall, and it will all tumble down at any moment.
My hope is that once synagogue school is over for the year, I’ll be able to concentrate on all of those ideas whirling around in my brain, and organize them, and maybe even choose some to work on. But I’m afraid I’ll be as busy with doctors and tests this summer as I was last summer, without much improvement in my health to show for it, and those wonky internal shelves will just keep tilting.
But I keep slowly reading through my piles of books, and writing down all of my ideas, and sorting and discarding when I can, because this is how I move forward. It’s not especially practical, or fast, but it’s the way my mind works, so it will have to do for now.
If you haven’t had a chance yet, please check out my Young Adult novel, Yeshiva Girl, on Amazon. And if you feel called to write a review of the book, on Amazon, or anywhere else, I’d be honored.
Yeshiva Girl is about a Jewish teenager on Long Island, named Isabel, though her father calls her Jezebel. Her father has been accused of inappropriate sexual behavior with one of his students, which he denies, but Izzy implicitly believes it’s true. As a result of his problems, her father sends her to a co-ed Orthodox yeshiva for tenth grade, out of the blue, and Izzy and her mother can’t figure out how to prevent it. At Yeshiva, though, Izzy finds that religious people are much more complicated than she had expected. Some, like her father, may use religion as a place to hide, but others search for and find comfort, and community, and even enlightenment. The question is, what will Izzy find?
Those little pins that hold up the shelves can be a real pain when they don’t co-operate.
I’ve been so frustrated with particle board shelving units that I stopped buying them. I’ve been using metal utility shelves that are assembled with bolts. I have one home-made shelf system in my den that uses concrete blocks and wood planks. Try Google Images for ideas. I’ll never go back to particle board shelves that require pins for support.
I’ll give it a look. Thank you!
Now, this post makes me want to reevaluate my physical and mental bookshelves, too. Though I can never really have the strength to give away my books, even those I don’t particularly like!
I have actually thrown away books when I hated them so much that I didn’t want anyone else to read them. I still felt guilty, though.
I have pretty much decided that my heirs will have to deal with my library. I am very careful not to add new books (except Kindle books), relying on the public library instead. But we have bookcases in every room except the bathrooms (including four in the hall), with books in front of books, books on top of books, books falling out all over, so I can definitely sympathize. Actually, we also have boxes of books in storage as well. Ouch!
If I had more room, I’d have more bookcases, so I totally understand.
Letting go of books is very difficult. I am always happy when someone I care about wants them. Luckily, we have Veterans thrift stores nearby which I feel comfortable donating to. In my last purge I trashed two books. They were in mint condition. But after learning that the author had been accused of harming woman, I could not in good conscience allow them to be anywhere but in the trash.
I love the comparison between the bookshelf and the brain. “Overwhelmed with ideas resting on iffy shelves.” That so perfectly describes mine also. I wish I had a reasonable suggestion for some high speed culling but the more I try to clear some of those ideas, the more ideas I end up with! Good luck to you, Rachel. I hope the summer cooperates with you and you get to move a few more steps forward than back.
I’m slow at getting rid of books, but at least we have places that take them. Good luck.
We are downsizing and just packed up many, many books. They are boxed and going to a used book store for redistribution to others so that they can be enjoyed again. I hate getting rid of books, but we had to. I dug in and the two of us got the whole operation completed in an afternoon.
Ha ha yes the Ikea bookshelves are not the sturdiest. I’ve been there. Despite being from Sweden I cannot say I am proud of the Ikea bookcases. Whatever you do don’t try to lift them or move them with the books still in them. That’s how one of our Ikea bookshelves turned into a rubble pile of wood and books.
We have a lot of books but getting rid of books is difficult. You may have learned things from books or experienced things reading them and you still have it if they are on the shelf, but if not, it’s gone unless you buy it again.
Does Veterans of America serve your area? Around here, they will come to your house/building to pick up unwanted items.
It was hard at first when I started re-homing books. Eventually I told myself that I was “sharing” them, not getting rid of them, so others could others could enjoy them. ❤️
I’ll look into that. Thank you!
How I empathize with you and all other readers, when having to re-home our books. I wrote exactly about that feeling of lose in one of my Daily Prompts which I called, Too Many Books and Not Enough Time, but when the time came to give the books away, I decided to give to the under privileged schools, old age homes, and other less fortunate people with a lust for reading and knowledge. As I live in South Africa, you can imagine the books went quickly. I did not have to move any myself, the people just came to my house asking as news travels fast here.
Take the books you’re done with to a tiny library if there is one nearby. The metro stop closest to our apartment has a repurposed red British phone booth…. I find an excuse to visit it every time I’m out running errands. And I drop whatever books I’m finally ready to part with on the shelves. (Sometimes I don’t even take a book or two home!) I call it the book booth and it definitely makes my life better.
I don’t think we have one near us, but it’s a great idea!
I did enjoy reading this, Rachel, and sympathise hugely with the overloaded brain and wonky bookshelves- and thoughts about the effort required to fix these practical obstacles in life that seem so overwhelming. I have found though that moving the finished with books on does help clear the mind……
I hope so!
I hope you can find a willing person or group who will take the books. I’ve found it difficult with everyone wanting a digital version rather than a hard version of a book.
I think that’s probably an issue here too. But I love actual books!
I have rarely had any luck with Ikea furniture. It is a good price, but reminds me that you get what you pay for. I would suggest buying second-hand bookcases that can be delivered. I bought two that used to be used for ledgers in a commercial office. They are incredibly strong and well-built. I am sure they will outlast me.
Best wishes, Pete.
That’s a great idea! Thank you!
Everything will fall into place once you organize your bookshelves!
That would be awesome!
Listen to Cricket (or her pal): Just be yourself! Do what you can when you have the energy: take Hebrew, read, make notes, write, teach.
Or, as my late husband would say: live one day at a time and don’t worry. And be kind (which I suspect you are!).
I love that! Thank you!
What a great metaphor! I so identify. My internal shelves have all collapsed and it is just too discouraging to have to pick through the resulting piles. And my house is about the same way. I have been able to get rid of excess books and things in the past by donating them to organizations having rummage (or trash-to-treasure or indoor garage) sales. Some of them are even willing to pick things up. I need to get moving on that!
One can never have enough bookshelves. In my dreams I have a spare room that becomes a library, my sanctuary, that has floor to ceiling book shelves.
That’s what I want!!!!! And a rolling ladder to reach all of the upper shelves!
Absolutely! Wouldn’t that be heaven?
I find it easier to part with things when I donate them to an animal rescue organization. Love Ikea! Lucky I haven’t had the shelf problem…………yet. Take Care
I wonder what an animal shelter would do with the books…
The Halo rescue by me has a re-sale shop that benefits animals. They sell everything you can think of.
Our house looks as chaotic as yours Rachel except that I have 4 cats instead of 2 dogs. I had planned to declutter once I retired but now I’m retired I’ve only done half the house. My son says that the reason I haven’t done it is because I don’t really want to. I think that is true. I want my future self to do it but when I get there I find that I haven’t changed into Marie Kondo after all, I’m just me. The thing is that I’m hoping that I die first so that my husband will need to declutter and not me. He hates decluttering too so we are just outwaiting each other. It is a jolly good reason to keep as fit as possible.
Ha! I love it!
😅 the last photo of your dogs crazy fur is classic…otherwise i find it a darn shame the library stopped accepting books, people still buy physical books i can’t imagine people not also borrowing.
There’s a lot worse things to be addicted to than books…can you take the ones you are culling out to the sidewalk with a sign on the box that says, “Free books?”
I’m afraid that if I did that, they’d end up in the garbage.
Even when you discuss the things that are “weighing” on you, Rachel, you write so beautifully.
Thank you so much!
Just don’t let the bookshelves fall on the dogs! They are innocent bystanders. Your brain will sort itself. I’m sure.
Ha! They are safe!
When energy is low little tasks seem bigger. Can you leave the box of books with a thrift shop?
I don’t know of one nearby that takes books, but I will keep looking.
Getting rid of books is so hard! My mother lives in a senior retirement home, and they have a large lending library where all the residents make contributions. I pass the books along to her, and then she leaves them in the library to share with others. Parting with them now gives me pleasure knowing someone else will enjoy them.
I love that!
You can have all the books you want without taking up any space at all if you use the Kindle app on your phone instead of buying physical books!
But I love real books!
“This feels like a metaphor for the way my brain has been lately: overwhelmed with ideas to follow up on, all resting on iffy shelves and waiting for me to start culling through them”
I know that feeling – what an excellent way of describing it
I love that you created a metaphor from your bookshelves to your studies. It’s hard to keep everything piled up, sorted, organized in either case. Good luck with finding new, sturdier shelves. I am so glad I still have the solid wood cases I bought so many years ago and moved them with me across the country. My daughter has the IKEA ones too.
I keep thinking one day I’ll grow up and get real furniture, and then I think, spend the money on chicken treats.
It’s hard to argue with that!
Sorry you are so overwhelmed lately!
I think you would really like my latest post on http://www.motownsavvy.com
Let me know. . .
Oh my goodness I was just saying to myself I need another bookcase because mine is tilting. I’m gonna do a DIY bookcase as suggested here in the comments with bricks and planks. Great idea. Thanks.
Reblogged this on By the Mighty Mumford and commented:
Ever since moving to Germany, I stopped buying physical books. I think it’s important to keep a few classics or favorites in hard copy, especially if you already own them, or if they were gifted, but I have thousands of books on my to-read list! And I don’t have a room for thousands of books. Ebooks have been a big turning point for me. I read more than ever before, quickly and easily, and never have to worry about the burden of carrying hard copies for my next move. Recommend!
I fully empathise with your issue with books: they are very difficult to cull from your collection and, as you point out, not that easy to give away. Fortunately we have two charity shops in town which take a limited number of books BUT there is the schlep of carrying all the bags and boxes of books downstairs, packing them into the car and then to unpack them on a busy street at the other end …
There’s nothing wrong with how your mind works – you are brilliant. God bless. Oh…perhaps a charity bookshop? Would they take them? Just a throught.
There might be one that takes books. Thank you!