A Day Inside, Organizing Books

Photo by Stanislav Kondratiev on Unsplash

Not many people would write about the time spent organizing bookshelves. In fact, if I began to talk enthusiastically about an afternoon spent carrying books from one room of the house to another, people would likely not understand my excitement, be bored, or suggest that maybe I invite Marie Kondo over for a cup of coffee so that I could swap tips with the best in obsessive tidying (though Kondo would likely not approve of my expansive book collection).

Far beyond only taking pleasure in reading, books and their presence in my home have become a true pastime for me. A selection of cookbooks chosen for their beauty more than their recipes graces the top of the buffet in my kitchen. Every year at Christmas, I purchase the latest Pulitzer, Printz, Newbery, and Caldecott winners in hardcover to add to my collection. I think about where to best display, and how to group books by genre, series, or author, or location in the house.

The polar vortex blew into Chicagoland on Tuesday evening, bringing temperatures of -50F with windchill. I knew by Tuesday afternoon that the elementary school would be closed for the next two days, and that my day care would also be closed.

Even though weekends bring hours of everyone being in the house together, usually the days are broken up by something. Errands on Saturday, church on Sunday, or a kid birthday or playdate. The idea of being stuck inside for two entire days with no escape was enough to make me feel squirrelly.

My husband and I both work from home, so on Day 1 we plotted passing the kids back and forth between meetings and other work responsibilities. I continued working late into the evening, after everyone was asleep, trying to catch up from the day.

By the time I woke up on Day 2, I was exhausted. I am fortunate that a flexible work environment means that I don’t have to work, so while my husband attempted to put in a “normal” day, I took it easy. Purged the kids’ play area in the basement, removing an entire large black garbage bag of stuff that they later did not even notice was gone. Put laundry away. And while the toddler napped in the afternoon, I began rearranging some of my bookshelves.

We are in the middle of a home addition project, and when done, I will have my own office. I already know that one of my bookshelves will be moving with me into the new space, so I was trying to plan ahead. Simultaneously, I was making updates to my Goodreads shelf, trying to ensure that everything was “in sync.”

Books that I physically possess are given a special tag in Goodreads. Furthermore, that tag is specific to the exact shelf in my house. So I have a tag for my main shelf, a different tag for the living room shelf, and so on. Yes I know. I am a complete dork that way.

I was removing books in the nonfiction and memoir category from the main shelf in the master bedroom. The shelf had little space left and I decided to classify it as fiction only and take the other books elsewhere. This had a cascading effect in my organization and I was trying to sort it all out.

The books that were to be relocated were strewn across the carpet when my husband came into the room. He eyeballed the floor and then proceeded to talk about something else. I wasn’t happy about being interrupted and tried to keep my answers short, but he wasn’t taking the hint.

Finally, I pointed out to him that I was in the middle of something. I had wrangled the kids all morning, while he worked, and my way of unwinding while the toddler napped was to work on my books. He apologized and said “I’ll talk to you later about your book project. I know that it is important to you.”

It was such a sweet sentiment. First that he knows how much I cherish my books, and second that he would take the time to listen to me babble on about why I had made certain decisions about how my books were organized. That’s a good partner — willing to listen to the passions of the other, even when they have no interest themselves.

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