The bookshelf challenge

I find that setting a goal before I even delve into the project is the best thing for me to do.

I knew that I had four (and a few extra here and there) boxes of books in the basement.  I have always been a bookworm, but several things led to my willingness to purge books:

1. I got a Kindle for Christmas.  Having books in a digital format means I can carry a whole library with me without the physical burden of carrying books to a second-floor walk-up and taking up valuable space in my 500-square foot flat.

2. There exists a rather magical place called a library, where I can get my fix for the feel and smell of paper books, and then just return it when I’m done.

3. I haven’t even read half of the books I own.  I bought many of them because Border’s went out of business and things were on sale and I just couldn’t stop. This ends now.

So I opened up all my boxes, removed all of my books, and loosely organized them in giant piles on the coffee table.  Then I cleared off a small two-shelf bookcase and deemed that my goal.  I would only move as many books as I could fit onto that one bookshelf.  And that’s what I did.  My Harry Potter series and Dark Tower saga took up one of the shelves completely, leaving me with one shelf for the rest, including cookbooks.  I managed! I went from 116 books to 34.

I let my mom and sister go through the books I was getting rid of and select anything they fancied to keep for themselves.  My best friend will get to go through next, as she shares my love for books and all of hers were destroyed due to damage to the porch where she was storing them.  I’m happy to let them go to a good home!

Cleaning out the closet

I started my journey to less with my closet. And dresser. And chest of “off season” clothes.  I have too many articles of clothing.  Pants and tops that don’t fit — and haven’t in years, pants too long that I meant to hem, clothes I bought so I could get over $25 to use a coupon in a store, clothes my mom suggested and that I went along with because, according to her, they looked good, but that weren’t my style in the first place and I have subsequently only worn each of them once.

I enlisted my sister to help and we went through all of my (clean) clothes.  I didn’t count the dirty hamper, I figured I actually wore the stuff in there so it was pretty safe.  My goal: To pare down my wardrobe to 50 articles of clothing.  Socks, underwear, and bras don’t count.

Started with: 11 tank tops, 15 short-sleeved tops, 9 long-sleeved tops, 24 tee shirts, 3 blazers, 1 suit, 10 pairs of dress slacks, 1 pair of khaki pants, 5 pair of jeans, 10 sweaters, 5 sweatshirts, 1 vest, 3 shawls, 4 dresses, 6 cardigan-ish coverups, 1 pair of leggings, 4 pairs of shorts, and 1 satin cape.

Ended with: 5 tank tops, 8 short-sleeved tops, 7 tee shirts, 2 blazers, 3 pairs of slacks, 3 pairs of jeans, 5 sweaters, 1 vest, 1 shawl, 3 dresses, 3 coverups, 1 pair of leggings, 2 pairs of shorts.

After doing laundry I will post the final count, but for now I have pared down my wardrobe from 114 articles to 44.  Mission accomplished.

The most surprising thing about my clothing purge was that it wasn’t even difficult.  I had been holding onto sweatshirts and tee shirts (I found a whole cache of them in storage in the basement that weren’t counted here – probably 15 more) from high school and college and graduate school, always intending to turn them into a memory quilt.  But I finally realized that if I hadn’t gotten to making that quilt over the past several years, I probably wouldn’t ever get around to it.  So I tossed the sweatshirts and tee shirts.  I don’t even really like sweatshirts!

The items I kept are items that I can layer for different looks and occasions, and that are simply designed – I only kept a few tops with patterns.  Part of the reason I had so many blouses and pairs of slacks is that my graduate degree is in educational administration and I had intended to end up in an office at a college or university, rather than the jeans-and-sneakers every day position I wound up in an office at a chemical manufacturing plant!

The ease of the clothing purge was inspirational, and I thought I could finally tackle my growing library of books taking up several boxes in my mom’s basement.