From the Blog

Wrestling A Bear

This past weekend in Portland, we got hit with one of the first winter storms of the fall, meaning, it was rainy AND windy. So while the rain pounded and the trees swayed outside, we hunkered in and, wow, what a shit ton of stuff we got done over here.

I listed a bunch of stuff on Craiglist, and Dave pulled out some of his boxes from the bowels of our closet. He has boxes full of papers going back twenty years. And strangely, every bill and receipt from 2003. Only from 2003. He showed me the folders, for “electric bill,” and “phone,” and “long distance,” and everything else. All neatly filed, with every bill from that year. It was kind of cute.

In the early 2000’s, Dave had his identity stolen and it was a huge mess to clean up. So I believe his PTSD manifested as saving every bill, every credit offer, every scrap of paper that year. He has been avoiding looking in some of these boxes, but he worked on a couple over the weekend, feeding papers into the shredder. There was shredder confetti all over the floor. It was like a party. Goodbye, 2003!

I pulled about 10% of our collective book supply that had the most potential for resale. Mostly, the books I discussed over here. After some pondering, and knowing that our future will be smaller and lighter, and hearing other peoples’ downsizing stories, I came to the conclusion that I was ready to let the books go. Almost all of them. And the book shelves too. When you loosen up your idea of “home,” that it may not always be one solid structure, with a garage and extra bedrooms and large closets, or you know, walls with bookshelves, it makes you reexamine what you’re holding onto and why.

It was easy to get rid of books I know I won’t read in the next six months. It was like a dam breaking. Two shelves worth, to start. I braved the weather to get my hair chopped off, and to bring my first two boxes of books into Powell’s. Carrying these heavy boxes down a Hawthorne sidewalk on a Saturday morning was like wrestling a bear. Bears are ferocious. You know what that makes me? It makes me very brave.

I was out of breath and sweating by the time I flopped the boxes down on the counter. As the friendly Powell’s guy scanned through the books, I looked at the price tags on the back. Holy crap, these were expensive. These were college books from 10 to 15 years ago. I was paying $19 for thin paperbacks. $67 for giant Riverside volumes. I was waiting tables as I went to college. I don’t know how I afforded these books on a waitress salary. When they were new, all these books probably cost $500 or more.

At the end, they took almost all of them, and I got a check from Powell’s for $125.50. I normally would have taken the Powell’s credit and run off into the stacks and said “Yay! More books!” But I took the cash. It’s going in the piggy bank with any other proceeds from our downsizing. We’re saving up to buy something BIG and COOL.

Just 90% of our books to go.


  1. Good for you! I found when I was get rid of books that it took several go throughs. One time, I got rid of 10, the next time, 10 more, the next time, a few more, etc. etc. I did it again before I moved in April, and even after we moved I found a few more I was willing to part with. I have learned that getting rid of books is a process, not a day project…

    I heart Powell’s. You have made Powell’s better. You can expanded their awesomeness. Nice work.

  2. Wow! I’m so impressed! Good job. I’ve recently been doing a similar purge (over the past year, actually), and I’ve had to wrestle bears down Hawthorne, too. The sweat, the realizations, and the sense of fears vanquished are all familiar. My one beef with the process is that selling books at Powell’s is really not that friendly to the seller. I mean, come on. It does NOT have to be as schleppiitarily miserable as it is in fact.

  3. my knee-jerk reaction to “getting rid of books” was noooooooooooo!
    but then i remembered that i did it to, when i moved to redding. I mean, really, 12 boxes of books is way to many, esp when you’re paying by the lb to move them. i miss them though.
    every now and then I’ll go on a frantic search for a particular book, only to realize it went with the purge. then I have to debate hitting the used bookshop and buying it back. insanity. all around. =)

  4. I’m disappointed. I was thinking you got lost on one of your mountain camping trips and wrestled an actual bear. That would be AWESOME! As long as you won.

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