I did a very difficult thing today.
I gave away books. Lots of books. Lots and lots of books.
I wish I’d thought to take pictures of the stacks and later bags upon bags of books that we culled out, bagged up and donated to the Arlington public library this afternoon. Standing at the loading dock, in the midst of 40 grocery bags full of books, we were quite a sight. I’m guessing we donated around 800 paperbacks and 200-300 hardcover books this afternoon–mostly mine, but a few bags of Jeff’s as well. And we still have more to bag up, as well as five bags of DVDs and VHS tapes to deliver.
There’s a branch of the Arlington library just up the street from us, but the library web site said that large donations were best delivered to the loading dock at the central branch. When we arrived, there was no one at the loading dock, so we parked the car and went inside. Tucked into a corner next to the small shop where donated books are for sale was a small collection bin (looking and shaped much like one of those roofed trashcans at amusement parks); however, 1) it would have taken us 20 trips to get all the books inside from the car to the bin, and 2) there simply wasn’t room in or even around the bin. We asked at the desk, and one of the staff there went to see if they could find someone in the back to help us. We walked back over to the collection bin to wait, and a few moments later a volunteer showed up and offered to meet us at the loading dock once we told him how many bags of books we had in the car.
When he looked in the back of the car (we’d put the back seat down, and had filled the entire hatch from behind our seats to the back window as well as putting more bags on the floor), he said “Ah, book hoarders. Exactly the kind of people we like.” It took three trips with trolleys to get all the books inside, and he noted that it looked like nearly a lifetime of books; I realized later that it’s probably just a (sizable, to be sure) percentage of about 25 years’ worth.
As we left, he gave us a receipt for the charitable donation, and I told him I’d be back again this week with the remainder of the books and with the tapes and DVDs. Jeff joked that they should put up a plaque naming their book shop after me.
My friends and family who know me best are almost stunned that I’ve been able to do this. And honestly I did get a teensy bit emotional after the deed was done, but mostly I feel liberated by this and the rest of the intensive housecleaning that’s taking place preparatory to our move (as with the shredding and tossing of years’ worth of bills, statements and receipts); on a more practical level, when you’re paying by the pound to move yourself across the country, the answer to the question “Is item x really worth paying someone amount y to move?” more and more often is “nope.” There are libraries in California, if I want to re-read any of my books, and with Netflix delivering DVDs to our door in a couple of days, there’s no real need to hang on to most of our videos, either.