Finding time for writing has been difficult these days, as I’m packing and preparing to move (and still looking for a new place too– yikes). But I did manage this quick collaboration with Peter Wyn Mosey. What do you think?
Moving, always moving, from place to place.
Accumulating more but never keeping it,
never keeping anything of value.
She kept looking for something,
something worth staying for.
Something she would never find.
Moving to escape the lonely places,
but they always followed.
Read Peter’s response piece here. Don’t forget to like or leave a comment while you’re there 🙂
As someone who’s moved enough times that I’ve lost count, I have plenty of experience in the unenviable task of moving a large book collection. It’s easy enough to move books when you have only a few– you can tuck them in with other belongings, or pack a box or two. But what if you have hundreds or thousands? Get ready for a lot of work…
Start packing your books as soon as you know you’ll be moving, because it’s a slower process than it seems. You’ll also need time to gather enough boxes and other packing materials.
Sort As You Go
Normally I would never advise getting rid of books, but when you have to move them, sometimes you can have too much of a good thing. Take a second as you pack to ask whether you really want each book. If you decide you can part with a few, try donating them, giving them to friends, or having a yard sale (a good way to get rid of other stuff you don’t need anymore too). While you’re at it, you might also want to start sorting by size and weight; this is going to come in handy.
Use the Right Boxes
Size: I’ve had movers tell me that bigger, heavier (but fewer) boxes are preferable; others have complained about the weight after the first dozen or so. Ultimately, I think it’s best to stick to smaller boxes that won’t be too heavy– everyone’s backs will thank you.
New or Recycled: Either is fine as long as they’re strong, clean, and dry.
Other options: Some people recommend using rolling suitcases instead of boxes. I disagree. Suitcases tend to have rounded interior corners, which will leave you with a lot of wasted space, while also possibly damaging covers. The wheels might not be able to handle the weight of books, either (and wheels or not, at some point you’ll have to pick the thing up, and carrying a heavy box is easier than trying to hold a heavy suitcase by the handle). Most importantly, you’d need a lot of suitcases for anything more than a few dozen books.
First, make sure the bottom of your box is taped well (use extra tape if your boxes are recycled). Line the box with packing paper (or bubble wrap if the books are fragile).
Although ideally you’ll keep books from the same shelf together, that doesn’t always work out. You get the best results when you pack the same size books together (you quickly learn how many sizes of books there are once you start packing them). Keep similar weights together too– you don’t want very heavy books crushing lighter books.
You can pack books in three positions: flat on their backs, spine down, or standing up with the spines against the box’s sides. If you’re laying them flat then put heaviest books/hardcovers on the bottom and lighter books/paperbacks as you fill the box. I like to also put a layer of hardcovers on top, if possible, to help protect the paperbacks underneath.
If your books are somewhat valuable, you might want to wrap them individually in (preferably acid free) packing paper. If they’re antiques or very valuable, wrap them individually in acid free paper, place stiff cardboard between each book, and line the box with bubble wrap and paper.
If you have extra space, fill it with packing paper or something light (like clothing).
Use a marker to write the contents on the box (at the very least mark the box as books so you can more easily find them later). Mark boxes of antique or delicate books as fragile. If you have the time and patience you can keep a separate detailed list of specific contents. Number your boxes too– it’ll help you keep track.
Leave a Few Out
I have an e-reader and a library card but I still need to keep a few books unpacked– just in case. If you’re anything like me, you’ll probably want to do the same. These “survival” books can be tucked into a bag at the last minute so you’re never without something to read.
In the Truck
Professional movers know what they’re doing, but if you’re moving yourself it might not occur to you not to stack boxes of books. Things shift inside trucks and stacked heavy boxes can cause a lot of damage if they fall on lighter or more delicate items. If possible, limit their placement to a single layer on the floor.
If you need to put your books into storage, make sure they’re kept in a clean, dry, temperature-controlled environment. You might want to seal any gaps in the boxes with extra tape to give a little more protection against dirt and bugs. If they’re going to be stored for more than a couple of months, use acid free paper to wrap them and line the boxes. And check the tape before taking them out of storage– old tape can dry out.
Tip Your Movers
Moving is hard enough work without adding in heavy boxes of books. In Canada and the US the guideline for tipping is $20 to $25 per mover for a half day, or $40 to $50 per mover for a full day– plus a bit extra for “heavy furniture” (or stacks of books). If you enlisted the help of family and friends instead of pros, don’t forget them, either. While you don’t usually thank friends with cash (although they probably wouldn’t object if you tried), make sure you at least feed them. You might want to give some gift cards too, because friends who’ll help you move are gold, and friends who’ll help you move books are priceless.
Nothing makes your new place feel more like home than getting your books onto shelves. Books should be one of the first things you unpack– not only for the homey feel, but also to get all those boxes out of the way.
Learn from My Experience
In my last move the movers taped the actual shelves from my bookcases together. I guess it was easier to move and store them that way, but after a few months in storage the glue from the tape had melded to the wood. It came off with “goo gone” and a lot of scrubbing, but I had better things to do with my time. If your movers insist on bundling shelves together, tell them to use twine instead of tape (or at least ask that they wrap them in paper or bubble wrap first).
A commenter suggests adding silica gel packets to the boxes to help keep moisture levels down. I think this is a great suggestion! You can buy them at craft stores, hardware stores and various places online.
A commenter recommends wearing soft jersey gloves when unpacking books. The gloves will protect books from sweat, skin oils, or possibly blood if you get a paper cut, as well as protecting your hands from drying out or getting cut.
Do you have any other tips to add? What’s your experience with moving books? Share in the comments…
Last year I posted about Writers and Cats, a combination that seems as natural as pen and paper. But just because cats and writers are inextricably linked in most people’s minds, doesn’t mean that dogs aren’t equally ideal writing partners. Judging from all the books about dogs out there, they’re just as inspiring as cats. Poems have also been written about dogs, including this one by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. And no one can dispute that dogs are excellent companions, keeping writers company in their lonely work and getting them out of the house once in a while.
“When an eighty-five pound mammal licks your tears away, then tries to sit on your lap, it’s hard to feel sad.”
Here are a few dog-loving writers and their pups…
What do you think? Are you a cat person or a dog person? Or do you like both (or neither)? Share in the comments…
You might remember a few months back when a certain minimalism peddler debuted her show on Netflix and then went ahead and called books clutter, telling people they should get rid of all but a laughably small number in their homes.
Yeah, I wasn’t impressed, either. And neither was writer Anakana Schofield, who tweeted that “every human needs a v extensive library.” You’d think people would rally around that kind of noble sentiment, but before Ms Schofield had finished hitting send on the tweet, people were calling her out as “elitist” for suggesting people needed their own home library.
Allow me to gently point out that “needs” an extensive library does not mean “must have” or even “should get.” But whatever your stance on the issue, if you agree that books clutter up your empty space, please feel free to forward them to me (seriously, though, please give them to someone–don’t feed landfills for the sake of a minimalist aesthetic).
For those of us who do know the value of books and a home library, we also know that building a collection can get pricey. But it really doesn’t have to. Here’s how you can get “a v extensive library” for next to nothing.
Before I get to that, though, just a quick note to say that if you can afford to buy books at full price, please do so. Authors (other than a lucky few) make hardly anything from the months and years of hard, gut-wrenching work they put into a book. Authors also make nothing from most of the suggestions I’m about to share. Give the author a reason to keep writing by buying their book(s). If you like an author’s work but really can’t afford it, you can still support them by posting reviews, sharing on social media, and telling your friends about the latest great book you just read. There’s many ways to support authors and we appreciate every bit of it ❤
Now, how can you get books cheap (or free)?
I’ve never stopped by one of these sales and haven’t found books. The selection varies and you won’t always find something good, but if you stop by toward the end of the day, you’ll get great deals (or stop by early for the best selection). You can (usually) haggle too.
Best Bets: Kids books, older bestsellers, books on obscure topics that were clearly unwanted gifts
These aren’t as common as other sales, but they’re well worth seeking out. Although they sound like something exclusively for the wealthy, that’s not the case, and sales can take place in any neighbourhood with items available at all price points. Not all estate sales will include books, but the ones that do can be like hitting the jackpot. As with yard/garage/rummage sales, go early for selection and late for deals (you can luck into entire boxes full of books for only a few dollars). Tip: Consider moving sales too.
Best Bets: Entire collections, vintage books
My personal favourite, these happen when libraries need to cull older/less popular books to make room for new additions. My local one also accepts donations from the public and donates the proceeds to an adult literacy program. Tip: bring small bills/change and your own bag(s). Also, look into specialist organizations that have their own libraries. Our local botanical garden has a book sale a couple of times a year featuring gardening books and magazines. If a group specializes in a topic you’re interested in, you can score some fantastic finds, cheap.
Best Bets: Fiction in all genres, large-print books, kids books, a bit of everything the library carries
Thrift stores always seem to have more books than they can handle, and prices tend to reflect that. If you’re willing to look through disorganized shelves/piles, you can find some sweet deals.
Best Bets: Obscure older cookbooks, vintage craft books, loads of interesting books donated by people getting rid of “clutter”
Flea Markets/Swap Meets
Flea markets aren’t my favourite places to shop, but you can find some bargains (haggling is also expected). It’s easy to get distracted, so focus on finding books before looking at anything else. Going at the end of the day will also result in the best deals. Swap meets are apparently very similar to flea markets, although some of them actually involve trading items instead of buying and selling–a great idea if you can find one that includes books.
Best Bets: Vintage and collectible books
I don’t know how other recycling depots work, but there’s one about an hour and a half from where I live that collects not only recyclables like glass and plastic, but also donations of all kinds of items, similar to what you’d find in a thrift store. They’re set up in a warehouse and have an ample collection of really cheap books. I haven’t been in a while but when I lived closer it was a favourite, and I’d almost always find something that was on my wishlist. Tip: bring your own bags or boxes.
Best Bets: Required reading for English classes, general fiction, quality nonfiction, kids books
Although the prices will be higher at a secondhand bookstore than at any of the other places I’ve mentioned, the selection and quality of the books will also be better. Bonus: you’ll be among fellow book lovers who can direct you to awesome books you didn’t even know existed. These stores sometimes have bargain bins (or even free books) to help keep things within budget.
Best Bets: Obscure and quirky books, vintage books, recent bestsellers
At some point you’ll likely end up with books you no longer want. A good way to make room and get new books for nothing is to trade. See if any friends or family members might be interested. Swap meets that still involve swapping are an option. You can even try something like kijiji or craigslist (exercise caution when meeting strangers).
Best Bets: Hit and miss, but anything is possible
Sometimes it’s as simple as letting people know you’ll take their unwanted books. Because people know I love books, they’ll often offer me the ones they no longer want. When a history teacher I was friendly with was retiring, he couldn’t take his personal collection home (his wife was decluttering before decluttering was cool). I scored boxes of history, geography and Canadian lit books. If you know someone who’s moving, spring cleaning, or who inherited a collection they don’t want, feel free to speak up. In most cases, the other person will feel like you’re doing them a favour.
Best Bets: Bestsellers, older books
You need to keep an eye out for these ones. I know of at least one bank and a hospital that have permanent book sales set up. The money goes to fundraising/charity and the prices are cheap. Other places you visit might have a table or rack of books available too. Tip: have exact change–these sales tend to be based on the honour system and usually don’t have anyone around to make change.
Best Bets: Mostly older fiction, occasional gems
These books won’t look pretty on a shelf, but you can find a lifetime supply of free and cheap ebooks online (and not the illegally downloaded kind, either, which will curse you with terrible karma anyway). I recommend Smashwords, which has an awesome collection of indie books at reasonable prices (or free), and available in all e-reader formats (even pdf and online reader). If you don’t have a Kindle, but want to read Kindle books, Amazon has a free app you can download for any device (they’re not all evil). You can start with my short story Blood Magic (available free everywhere except Amazon–they’re still a little evil) and my novel Love Lies Bleeding(only $2.99).
Where do you like to get cheap or free books? And how do you feel about books as “clutter”? Share in the comments…