Spring-cleaning those shelves

Spring is here and it’s time to spring-clean my flat!

I was hoping that by placing an exclamation mark after that sentence it would makes the task seem more appealing. It doesn’t. Things I would prefer to do to cleaning include  reading all the spin-offs of Who Moved My Cheese (they have to, at least, be better than the original), beating myself over the head with my copy of Kim and Aggie’s Cleaning Bible (thanks Mum),  and whining about needing to clean my place in front of complete strangers on the internet.

I love having a tidy house, but I am not one of nature’s cleaners. Some people are and, if you find one of those people, you should befriend and then imprison or (preferably) marry them. I had a mate in college who found tidying to be a great way to relax; if you left him in a filthy room you would come back later to discover it sparkling clean with him all zenned out  in the corner. (I was more likely to find the least filthy spot and perch there with a book to distract me from the squalor. He was a far more popular guest than I was.)

One of the reasons I’m not looking forward to spring-cleaning is that my book collection which has taken over every flat surface in the house. The kitchen table, bedside locker, bedroom floor and bathroom cabinets are all adorned with various tomes. And I can’t just go around and grab them all to stow them where they should be – my bookshelves, as always, runneth over. I’ve started playing games of book tetris to get the darned things on to the shelves; if I put a row of books at the back, and another on the front, and then perhaps I can perch more on top without them falling over…

One major disadvantage of this system is that taking a book from the shelves is a task fraught with doubt (“where the hell did I put it?”), trepidation (“please don’t fall, please don’t fall”) and often physical injury as attempts to retrieve a tiny trade paperback results in multiple hardback manuals raining down around on your head.

Another is that dusting is impossible; the shelves quake and roll like an angry Thunder God when any attempt is made to disturb the status quo. Fearing a book landslide, I have taken to storing my books on the kitchen table and grousing horrendously when we have to do move the books as we are doing something completely inappropriate with table, like eating at it.

Something will have to be done.

One possible answer, as raised by me, is more bookshelves, but my long-suffering partner (who also enjoys a good read, just not in such large quantities) has pointed out that in order to do this we will need more apartment and the neighbours, thusfar, have been unwilling to donate their balcony or allow us to knock a hole through the wall and borrow some of their living room.

I have tried asking friends to come over and take a few but they unaccountably just want to borrow one or two as opposed to the enormous sack of the darn things I keep trying to give them. One friend is sulking as I gifted them with three 1,000 page books to read when they already busy most evenings and another has started roaring, “NO!” preemptively when I start mention this great book they could borrow. I tried sending a couple of books to people overseas but discovered that postage costs more to the States than the cover price.

There’s certainly plenty of place for the books I no longer want to read – Vinnie’s, the Salvation Army and a few hospitals are just down the road. They’d happily take a bag or ten off me and I would be able to see my shelves again. It just means that I have to face the horrible, horrible truth.

It’s time to spring-clean the flat.


The images are all from the blog of the wonderful Hyperbole and a Half, whose recently announced book I am hugely looking forward to getting my grubby little paws on, if only to reassure myself that there is someone out there who dreads cleaning as much as I do.

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Sadhbh Warren

Sadhbh Warren is a freelance writer and proud booklover. Her name is pronounced Sive - like five – an Irish name, easier to say than spell! She lives in Sydney, writing travel and humour articles, and is always on the lookout for a great new book.

4 thoughts on “Spring-cleaning those shelves”

  1. I have a special shelf for “books so bad I never want to read them again”. Anyone who wants to borrow one of those books is told they’re not to return it, and periodically the remaining books get brought to the charity shop.

    I recommend that you keep some postits in each room. As you discover a book you want to get rid of, slap a sticker on it. After a week, grab all the stickered books and… the plan falls apart there.

  2. Out of all the types of cleaning, thinning the book collection is always the hardest. I actually have a bunch of books that I hate and know I’m never in a million years going to read, but I just can’t bring myself to get rid of them, because, well… they’re books. You just don’t throw books away.

    Currently steeling myself to make a donation to the local library to add to its already large collection of crap books. (My local library is a source of much disappointment to me, as you can probably tell…)

    That said, send me a list of the ones you’re trying to rehome. If there’s any on our wishlist, we might take a few off your hands. 😉

  3. Seona, I hear you – I have never been able to throw books away no matter how awful they are because I always think that someone may enjoy reading them! I may compile a list and send them on – these aren’t even bad books in the main, they’re just ones I don’t want to re-read.

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