on loving books and hoarding

note: see addendum at end of post for an update on this.

Last night was the third time we had watched the A&E show “Hoarding”. Like the other times I’d seen it, I was both apalled and deeply affected. As a friend who had also seen the program said to me a few weeks back, “we all have some of that in us”. He was talking about we book people, those of us who have more books than we can read, more than we can easily shelve, yet we continue to look at and obtain more books.

The show fascinates me, yet it is scaring the hell out of me. After watching it last night I had nightmares in which I had way too much “stuff”, including books, and horrible things were happening.

Some of the people in the program last night said they got a thrill out of shopping. If they were sad or depressed, frustrated or angry, a trip to a favorite store cheered them. They got a happy fix when they put something into the cart, when they bought it and took it home. Sound familiar? I get that when the Postal Carrier comes and leaves a book or two. I get it when the UPS truck stops outside my house. Uh-oh.

Okay, I admit I love books and I have a lot of them. They are beautiful, useful, entertaining, educational, fun and very much more. They are comforting. I’m NOT in the same league with these people who have completely lost it. I don’t have to wade through piles of detritus, clothing, papers, trash and “collections” of whatever to get into the house or go from room to room. My books, except the ones being read and the small (six or seven) on the nightstand are all either on bookshelves or in boxes stored in cabinets in the garage behind doors. in a space designated for them. There are no books in the living room, bathrooms, dining room. They are only in the Study and the master bedroom. In bookcases or on shelves. There are none on the floor. My home is clean, sanitary and tidy. But if I could see my home through the eyes of someone who doesn’t care about books, what would I see?

But is there a point when enough is enough? Do I have a… book addiction? Should I, could I, stop buying books?

April 19, 2:00 p.m. PDT  –  ADDENDUM

I’m encouraged by the comments so far, and beside that I’m feeling a little better just with some time and a little perspective. My wife doesn’t consider the books a problem, any more than I do her fabric and quilting equipment. Also, we got a flyer on the door that a local charity is picking up clothes, bedding and such stuff tomorrow and we just went through the closets and bedding / pillow storage areas and have 4 bags of stuff to put out in the morning. This all resulted in a lot of found room, which will allow us to move some other things… it’s all good. I just wasn’t differentiating between my having a nice stock of books and the people who haven’t cleaned anything off the kitchen counter for two years and can’t throw away a broken hanger.


About Rick Robinson

Enjoying life in Portland, OR
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21 Responses to on loving books and hoarding

  1. Jerry House says:

    Dammit, you are sick, sick, sick! Only one possible solution: Send all of your books to me and start afresh.

  2. Patti Abbott says:

    Unfortunately for me, the novel I am just finishing is about a hoarder and it may be old hat by the time I try to find a publisher.
    We have books in the living room-three sets of build in shelves, the dining room-one bookcase, my husband’s office-wall-to-wall books, the tv room-one bookcase, the bedroom-one small bookcase, my office, one small bookcase, the third floor-two large bookcases. So I am worse. And that doesn’t begin to talk about my pottery. Plus I give away hundreds of books a year–but then I buy that many.

  3. Richard says:

    Okay, Jerry, just as soon as I can get them boxed up and onto the wagons, the mule train will head your way. Might take a little while, though, the twenty mule team is hauling borax out of Death Valley just now.

  4. I’m a hopeless book addict, Rick. Occasionally, I try and weed my collection. And I’ve made substantial book donations to SUNY at Buffalo. But I haven’t stopped looking for books and buying them. I’m resigned that that will never change.

  5. Richard says:

    Now wait a minutes, Patti, if this post is going to make people feel guilty, I’m going to delete it!

    I will say that the woman who had a lot of books had them scattered ll over the place, on, in and under bedding, clothes, piles of stuff. They weren’t shelved or organized in ay way at all.

  6. I think being a book addict is part and parcel wuith most of us. I read an awful lot of books and still can’t get ahead. Looking for books is a big part of the thrill for folks like us.

    You know, tracking down favored volumes. I have a spiral notebook with all my favorite series, titles listed in order. If I own a copy, I have a dot after the title and before the ones I’ve read, I have an asterisk. There’s probably as many with no asterisk as have them.

  7. Chris says:

    I get the same feeling of horror when I see that kind of thing, Richard, though I’ve never watched the program. I try and keep the books I keep limited to what fits on the shelves, but they are still a bit scattered around. I do okay, but need to do better. I was the same way with music, but I’ve pared my CDs way down, and kept the vinyl manageable. My overriding motivation is that we plan to trade way down in house size in a couple years, and just won’t have the space. We’ll see how that goes.

  8. Jeff Meyerson says:

    Fortunately, I’ve never seen the show, Rick. Unfortunately, blogs like yours and the others only give me more titles to look for, and thigns like PaperBackSwap.com make feeding the addiction easier.

    Luckily we have a big den with lots of rooms for our bookcases, and built in shelves in the hall for the rest. The bedroom is now a book-free zone.

  9. Bill Crider says:

    I’ve deliberately never watched the show. I know I’m too close to the people on there.

  10. Richard says:

    Randy – I have it all catalogued on the computer, with a column for a “Y” once the book has been read. Room for up to 3 “Y” marks, actually. When I’m off to book hunt or order or collector shows or whatever, I winnow the list to wants and print it out. It’s a bit like your spiral notebook except not portable since I have an iMac,not a laptop or iPad.

  11. Richard says:

    Bill – I bet you or Judy clean the kitchen counters off at least every month or two…

    Jeff – a book-free zone I understand, but the bedroom, where you need to reach out and take hold of a book the minute you finish the last one while reading in bed.

  12. Richard says:

    Chris – he idea of downsizing scares me, but then we are trying to figure out how to upsize, but then we’re in the little 2 bedroom townhouse I bought 22 years ago, and we have outgrown it, what with the need for 2 bedrooms (ours and a guest room), a studio for quilting and art projects and a library-office. That’s two more bedrooms than we have. We might be able to combine the quest room and the studio, but we’re still a bedroom short.

  13. Jeff Meyerson says:

    Rick, I believe bedrooms are for sleeping, not reading or watching television. When I want to read I get up and go into the den or living room.

  14. Cap'n Bob says:

    If that place was tidied up a mite it would look like my office. The rest of the house is normal, though, unless you want to count my hobby room. It houses my toy soldiers, extra books, and some miscellaneous junk Linda stuck up there. I read in bed almost every night, but I only keep a few books on the nightstand.

  15. Evan Lewis says:

    Oh oh. I have books on shelves and in boxes and in cabinets and closets, sure. But they’re also in every room in the house and (yikes) some are on the floor. Maybe it will get me on TV.

  16. Richard says:

    Jeff – I love to read in bed at night, half an hour or so before lights out. There are 3 bookcases in our bedroom, two for my and Barbara’s TBR and one which holds the graphic novels. It’s a matter of space, but I’ve always had a bookcase of some kind, even if only a small one, in the bedroom.

    Bob – it would probably take more than a mite of cleaning up that room, the woman had to climb over stuff like she was mountaineering .

  17. Richard says:

    Evan, it’s okay, and a few books won’t get you on TV, I don’t think.

  18. Patti Abbott says:

    Unlike books, you can’t pile pottery. Do I have any takers?

  19. Carl V. says:

    I’m coming in on the back end of this a bit…damn work getting in the way of my blogging!!!

    I personally feel that no hobbies are a problem as long as the person keeps a balance with the other things that are important in life: spending time with family, being financially responsible so that one has money during retirement years, etc.

    Non-book-lovers don’t understand book lovers and would certainly view your home as having too many books, but does their opinion count? 😉

    I think that as long as you are neat and tidy and aren’t hiding years of mounting depression under compulsive book buying then what you actually have is a healthy love of books and a respect for them as both objects of art in their own right and great ways to spend time. And if your wife is on your side you’ve won the battle!!! I wouldn’t feel bad at all. You are not in any way close at all to the people with real psychiatric problems who live in those cluttered pig pens that they feature on that show.

  20. Richard says:

    Carl – I agree, the show Sunday night (actually it was a double header, two 1-hour shows, back to back) just knocked me out for some reason. Those people, their problem with hoarding and their denial, willingness to live in filth and trash, it depressed me a lot. I had nightmares about it that night and woke up really bummed. Then wrote the post. I should have waited a day or two!

  21. Carl V. says:

    Ah well, we can all learn something from another’s misfortune, even if we aren’t in the same position that person is in, and a little self-examination can be a good thing.

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