A couple of months ago RK, who retired from Adult Services shortly before I arrived there in 2000, approached me at the reference desk.  He was weeding his book collection in anticipation of moving to an apartment in a retirement community.  He had a few items for me that he thought the library could use.  In the weeks following, I saw books in the donation bin that I knew had belonged to him:  books about the theater, opera, great composers, Abraham Lincoln, Walt Whitman.

I am not moving, but I feel a need to rid myself of useless baggage:  books that no longer speak to me, files I haven't touched in years, fencing equipment, guns that I will never take to the range, my long-unfinished plywood skiff, the two old computers I keep for the games on them but which I have not actually powered up in a couple of years, my banjo.  It is like confession, admitting what I no longer care about.

My parents left it until too late, and I and my sisters had to deal with their stuff, filling up a boxcar-length dumpster.

Stanley Fish writes about letting go of his books and whether to retire on the NYT Opinionator Blog in Moving On.
In the hours and days following the exodus of the books I monitored myself for a post-mortem (please excuse the hyperbole) reaction. Would I feel regret? Nostalgia? Panic? Relief? I felt nothing. What should have been a momentous event barely registered as I moved on to what seemed the more important task of choosing a new carpet. I was reminded of what a colleague who had left a university after 23 years replied when I asked him if it was difficult to do. He said, “It was like checking out of a motel.”
 Many of the comments are worth reading, at least the NYT Picks.


Jules Aimé said...

Good post. I can't think of anything you left out so I won't try and add anything.

Brett said...

Thanks for reading, Jules.

Steerforth said...

I've spent the last year getting rid of 25 years of book trade 'freebies' that I've never bothered to read, along with novels that I know I'll never return to. I felt a huge sense of liberation as I threw the books into the charity bin.

Brett said...

That is inspiring, Steerforth. I think I could easily get rid of a quarter to a half of my books and never miss them.