I am hoping you had a great weekend, since we did not.
A “stager” visited us earlier in the week — a woman who’s very smart, no-nonsense. She rummaged through our house and took copious notes on what we needed to do to spiff up the place before we put it on the market.
I could have sworn we were prepared for this, in our own hopelessly disorganized way. Hadn’t we already painted, refinished the floors, cleaned out our side yard and planted buffalo grass, given away roomfuls to Goodwill, removed family photos from the walls? Weren’t we already pared down? Ha.
Our first monumental task was to get rid of many of our books. Which is what my husband and I did this weekend — both in preparation to put our house on the market and to move into a smaller place.
Books. We spent our weekend pulling down handfuls, armfuls of books. It was like seeing a slide show of our interior lives over the past 40 years. There were the zeitgeist books like My Mother, Myself, Open Marriage. The feminist collection, including Backlash, Against Her Will. My husband’s Japanese novel period, my own Russian literature tomes. Books that haven’t aged well (Tom Robbins’ oeuvre), books that have gotten better with time (anything by Alice Munro). The college books. Books I happily discarded since I’d only pretended to like them (most of James Joyce’s novels, Tom Robbins again, Henry James). My husband, who never liked Dickens or anything by the Bronte sisters, cheerfully pronounced their paperbacks to be too yellowed and dry to keep.
The books spilled onto the floors and every available horizontal surface. They obscured the hardwood floors.
It was funny what we kept: books we’d loved and would never part with (Confederacy of Dunces, Hunter S. Thompson’s insane, but screamingly funny books, some of Larry McMurtry’s best, Bel Canto, Enemy Women, anything by Alice Munro); some great biographies on Lincoln and Truman; books friends had written; books we’d written ourselves; our own yearbooks, our kids’ yearbooks, my parents’ yearbooks; Texas-themed books.
After our weekly walk on Sunday, I insisted my friend Betsy come over to browse through what we were giving away. She left with a good 30 or 40 books, being as big a sucker as I am for a good read.
Our son swooped in and deposited a couple of carfuls of books at Goodwill (about 1,500 or so, we estimated). We’re looking now at more streamlined bookshelves and much we still have to address.
What we’re really addressing, though, whether we say it aloud or not, is that we are at a very different time in our lives. Once, we were acquisitive and more profligate. Now, we are training ourselves to lighten our belongings.
Look around at the emptier shelves and you’d swear it’s about books. But we both know something deeper is happening. We’re learning to let go.
(Copyright 2010 by Ruth Pennebaker)
Check out one of my favorite posts about seeing my good friend one last time