How moving made me purge my books

The moving rate for U.S. households has been fairly constant since 2008, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. About 12% of households uproot themselves and move every year. With over 150 million households in the U.S., this means about 18 million households are on the move in any given year.

This year is my year. It’s been seven years since my last move and, apparently, I’d forgotten most of the pain and trauma. Funny how that works.

It all comes back to me as I stage the move from New England, where I’ve spent the majority of my life, to Florida. The boxes, the boxes, and the boxes. And tape, can’t forget the rolls of tape. And packing paper. Who can forget the packing paper?

I make countless trips to Home Depot, loading up, after I check online and see no one can beat their $.77 price for a small box. As I realize the extent of the job, I decide to start purging. I’d accumulated so much over 20 years and, while I’d tossed dumpsters (about five or six of them) when I moved from a house to my condo, there was still more to be done.

I start with the heaviest items first – the books. Does anybody read books anymore? I do. That is, I read books on airplanes and airports, when there’s nothing else to do (i.e. no free Wifi, nothing on TV, or I’m not on JetBlue). The wonderful thing about books is they can’t make you shut them off when you’re in descent. Yes, I travel quite a bit so I’d figured this out.

But I don’t re-read books.

This is my great realization.

There are bookcases in my basement with all sorts of wonderful books that I’d read but I hadn’t opened again. I go downstairs to ponder their fate.

As I open some of my favorites, I realize they have yellowed, fragile pages. That’s how long I’ve kept them.

This is the moment I realize how much the electronic age has penetrated my habits. I no longer want to have them around. They don’t seem necessary anymore.

When I was younger, I’d walk into people’s rooms or houses and learn so much about them from looking at their books. I’d peruse their shelves and immediately understand what we had in common. What history and what passions we shared.

Not anymore. Books, if they exist, are hidden. In my basement, for example. Or in boxes. In attics. Not in living rooms (who has a living room anymore?). No – we have family rooms. Open area planning.

So I purge them. All. I keep a couple of old yearbooks that are signed by people and the photograph albums – those aren’t really books, anyway. I notice that as soon as smartphones entered my life all those printed pictures (and albums) stopped. They date back to about 2008 or 2009 at the latest.

That’s my story – how I purged my books. What I thought were my childhood friends – my prized possessions. Now, if I want to see one again, I can look online. Order it from Amazon and have it in two days. Or, the old-fashioned way, go to a bookstore, or library.

Do you still have your books?

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