So Many Books…Part II

CONGRATULATIONS TO PAULA EMMONS! You are the winner of Linda Reilly’s book giveaway! Please contact: jessie at jessiecrockett.com with your mailing address!

By Liz, still trying to organize these darn books before I bring the next truckload here!

So last week I told you all about my angst sorting through my books. Now that they’re mostly sorted (I still have one bookcase at the old place that’s only about half done), it’s time to figure out how to set them up in their new homes (the bookcases I haven’t bought yet).

This part is kind of exciting, actually. I mean, I get to organize my books. What writer/book lover gets to say that? Usually we have so many they become towering piles of possible injury if a breeze blows past in the wrong direction. But all the sorting and donating has left me with just enough that I can now…organize. Theoretically.

I know, stop laughing. I swear I can do this. I’ve actually given it a lot of thought. I mean, do I set up a true To Be Read bookcase, and organize those books alphabetically? Nah, that wouldn’t work because the books are different sizes. Maybe by order in which I want to read them? Probably not, because that changes daily depending on my mood. Plus, if I did a TBR bookcase and then had to move the books to the other shelf when done, I’d have one bookcase that would be overflowing and probably collapse, while the other languished with extra space.

Oh, who am I kidding – I’d just go buy more books.

So this is what I’m going to do. I’m going to do it by category, combining both read and TBR. First, I’ll have my self-help stash, with everything from Brene Brown to Louise Hay to the Crystal Healing Guide. That way, when I’m cranky or depressed or simply just losing my mind, I can go right to the place and figure out who best to help me. Wayne Dyer will always be at my fingertips, because he’ll be on the easy-to-reach shelf.  IMG_2282

Then I’ll have my cozy mystery selection, which is self-explanatory. I reach for these when I want to start a book and feel like I’m visiting old friends, or going to a new small town to make new ones. Then there’ll be my dark and creepy offerings – my Tana French and Dennis Lehane and Stephen King and all the other gut wrenching, frightening, psychological books that keep me up at night. I love this pile!

Then there’s the writer/research pile. All my books on how to write in all their post-it-noted glory. All my research books on the FBI and police and the mafia. My copy of The Artist’s Way. Basically, my working pile.

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Then finally, there’ll be the miscellaneous pile. The copy of A Tale of Two Cities I’ve had since high school that I can’t part with. Lauren Graham’s new book, Talking As Fast As I Can, which is awesomely hilarious. My Joyce Carol Oates books. You get the idea.

I have no idea if this will work – I end up buying books and stashing them somewhere just to put them away with a promise that I’ll reorganize later – but I’m going to give it my best shot. Of course, I need to buy those bookcases first.

Readers, do you organize your books in any special way? Do I sound OCD? Chime in!

In Defense of Clutter

Sometime in the past year I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo. I’d read many references to it, and like quite a few people I lead a cluttered life and find it hard to unclutter.

One thing that stuck with me from the book was the idea that you should keep only those things that give you joy to wear or see or feel. I liked that idea. The problem is, I found that a whole lot of things give me joy. That’s why I got them in the first place, and that’s why I keep them. Even if I have to stuff them in a box just to get them out of the way, when I return to that box and pull the items out one by one, I am happily reminded of when and where I got them—joy in small doses. Which does nothing to solve my clutter problem.

But finally I found a book that defends the Other Side: the clutterers. I haven’t even finished reading it, but the first couple of chapters opened my eyes. It’s called A Perfect Mess, written by Eric Abrahamson and David H. Freedman (two men!), and it was published in 2007. Actually the full title is A Perfect Mess: The Hidden Benefits of Disorder; How Crammed Closets, Cluttered Offices, and On-the-Fly Planning Make the World a Better Place.

Our country has been obsessed about neatness, organization, cleanliness, order, call it what you will, for a long time. One result has been the proliferation of companies and consultants who charge you money for telling you or your company how to be neat and organized. But the question is, do their instructions help? Or to look at the larger question, does it really matter if we’re neat and organized? Why are we convinced that we’d be more efficient and more successful if we are? And why do we all feel so guilty because we aren’t?

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My desk

One basic fact: you can spend a lot of time sorting and filing (and making sticky labels for your color-coded files), but is that the best use of your time? There are actually serious studies that show that you spend more time labeling and filing that you would if you left what you were looking for in a pile on your desk—because you know where to find it in that pile.

One section of the book I really responded to: the authors say “a messy desk can be a highly effective prioritizing and accessing system.” And that’s the way I operate. Yes, there are piles of things on my working desk—but I know what is in each pile, and where to find what I need quickly. Would it be more efficient to spend (or waste) time running around to my filing cabinets and plastic see-through file boxes carefully assigning each piece of paper to its very own slot? What I have (say the authors) is “a surprisingly sophisticated informal filing system that offers far more efficiency and flexibility than a filing cabinet could.”

Maybe it’s taking the logic a bit too far, but I tend to save articles and publications that catch my eye, and stick them in a pile. Over time the pile threatens to topple, so I put the the whole stack in a box. I will not tell you how many boxes I currently have that are labeled “Misc—TBF” (translation: Miscellaneous – To Be Filed). They are not filed. But when I recall that I read a pertinent article years before, I know where to hunt for it. And sometimes while I’m digging through those boxed piles, I come upon something I had forgotten, which inspires me all over again. I’m guessing that’s how a lot of writers work—you save ideas for when you need them later.

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The Files (and this is only half of them!)

Maybe humans have spent centuries trying to establish order, and all the rules that go with maintaining that, because they are trying to create a sense of control in their little corner of the world, in the face of a chaotic and unpredictable universe. That’s understandable. But if you ask me (and Abrahamson and Freedman), it’s kind of a waste of time.

We need to stop guilt-tripping ourselves because we’ve failed to meet some arbitrary standard of neatness. Tell me you haven’t heard almost every woman you know open the door to a guest and say, “I’m sorry the place is such a mess!”

Stop apologizing, and find joy in your mess!

How about you? Are you a neatnik or a clutterbug?

Please stop by my refreshed website at http://www.sheilaconnolly.com

and see what’s changed!