13 December 2005 by Published in: General musings 13 comments

I can’t decide whether it’s a good thing or a pathetic thing when one has to move in order to accommodate one’s library. That is, however, precisely the dilemma that Susan and I are facing. And the decision that we ultimately made is not to get rid of books but instead to get rid of the house.

Here’s the situation. We bought our existing home in 1995. It was never our dream house; it was very convenient, and it was what we could afford at the time. Most importantly, it was exactly halfway between Susan’s mother’s place and her grandmother’s place. Both had significant health issues, so accessibility was an important thing. Unfortunately, both women are no longer with us, so that means that the convenience factor has now been removed.

The present house is a five bedroom house with about 2500 square feet. It was built in 1968, and it shows. Aside from its early Brady Bunch decor (most of which has already been replaced, because we just couldn’t stand it), the use of space is not good–we have a formal living room that is 13×28 feet, meaning that it, alone, is 364 square feet, or 14% of the total square footage of the house. You could almost roller skate or bowl in that room, it’s so big. It’s also almost completely wasted space. In order to accommodate our library as it existed in 1995–Susan also collects books in areas that interest her (we have a massive collection of computer books and an even larger collection of vampire and ghost stories that’s all her stuff)–we took one of the bedrooms and had 24 linear feet of floor to ceiling bookcases built in. The entire library–all of it, hers and mine–fit in there then.

The problem is that both of us have added books exponentially since then. Her stuff gradually got squeezed out of there as my collection grew–I now own about 1500 Civil War books alone–and it had to go somewhere. Consequently, we now have at least one bookcase in every room in the house, except for the kitchen and the formal dining room (only because there simply is no room for one with the dining room furniture, or there would be). Those bookcases are now full, and because our basement is damp, we are completely out of room for additional books. There is just no shelf space left. New books–I bought two on Sunday–are now beginning to just pile up on the floor in my library because there simply is nowhere to put them.

This summer, a year after Susan’s mother died, we came to the inevitable conclusion that it was time to look into moving. We quickly realized that unless we built a home, we were going to have an extremely difficult time finding something that would reasonably accommodate the books. So, we set out to find a builder that had a workable floor plan that would also work with us to give us what we want/need. Fortunately, we found just that, and we’re about to break ground on a new house. The new house will have two offices–mine and Susan’s. Mine will have approximately 45 linear feet of 9-foot tall floor to ceiling bookcases, which will not only accommodate my collection but also leave room to grow. Susan’s office will have another 16 or so linear feet of floor to ceiling bookcases, which will accommodate her stuff. The builder says it’s six months from breaking ground to closing, so we’re looking at moving into the new place some time around July 4 or so. I can’t wait. I’ve never particularly liked our current house, and I am frankly tired of pouring money into a bottomless pit. At nearly 40 years old, stuff is dying or wearing out. In the last 18 months, we’ve put on a new roof, had both chimneys re-bricked, replaced the central air conditioning unit, and replaced the main sewer line, since the roots of the 40-foot-tall silver maple tree in the front yard smashed up the existing masonry pipeline. And there’s plenty more where that ugly little list came from…..

So, when push comes to shove, the simple truth is that we’re moving because we need more space for books. And I can’t decide whether that’s a good thing or a really pathetic thing.

Scridb filter


  1. Tue 13th Dec 2005 at 6:59 pm

    One thing I would be interested in hearing is how people pack their libraries for moves (especially significant distances). I am anal about damage to my books and it seems every book has different dimensions these days, so you end up with a box that is half empty due to weight or size concerns. For my last move I ended up using styrofoam dividers inside larger boxes and stacked books between them with some padding to fill in the empty spaces. it is truly a horrific job to pack a library for moving.

  2. Paul Taylor
    Tue 13th Dec 2005 at 8:22 pm

    Eric, I concur with you. The house has to go, though my wife would probably consider ditching me before “her” beloved house! ๐Ÿ™‚ She’s constantly on me to “thin the herd,” but I simply cannot part with any books, even the $5 remainder table junk that I can’t remember why I bought in the first place.

    Her company paid for our move to metro Detroit a few years ago. The allowance given us to pay the movers was based in large part on the assumption that our stuff would not weigh in at more than 20,000 lbs. Everyone assumed, me included, that that was more than adequate. In the end, we came in no more than a few hundred pounds under the limit. You can guess what added so much tonnage to the move! I still catch flak for that. I fear what the next move will be like, what with books closing in everywhere– maybe akin to what Lee felt like at Appomattox.

    Paul Taylor

  3. Tue 13th Dec 2005 at 10:45 pm


    When we moved into this house, we paid the movers to pack us. That way, if anything was damaged, it was on them.

    I expect to do the same thing next year when we move into the new house.


  4. Tue 13th Dec 2005 at 10:46 pm


    I’m lucky here, because Susan’s dislike of this house exceeds mine by quite a lot. She REALLY is eager to be out of here. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Moving all of these books isn’t what I fear, since I’m paying pros to do it for me. Nope, what I really dread is unpacking the damned things when we get settled in the new house.


  5. Barbara Siek
    Wed 14th Dec 2005 at 7:05 am

    At last! others who cannot bear to part with a beloved book or even that fifty cent find at a resale shop. Facing a move with all my books strikes terror in me ๐Ÿ™‚ It would be wonderful to hire a pro to pack them, but that’s not an option. The worst part is scrounging around for boxes, squeezing them into the car, and then packing them, only to realize that one box barely makes a dent. My coffee-table size books, the ones with all those gorgeous photos are the hardest to pack. And being the type who hates to wrinkle a dustjacket, carefully packing each book takes hours. I did manage to give one box away to the local library sale, but when I realized bags of books were going for 75 cents, that thought gave me more anguish than just packing them to move. Cheers to all fellow book lovers who would rather move than part with them.


  6. Wed 14th Dec 2005 at 11:37 am

    Hey! Now just what is wrong with “Brady Bunch” decor?!?

    Seriously, Eric, I know you’re tickled to be going to a new place. You’re familiar with my home, and even at about 4000 square feet much is also wasted space. My library is also jam-packed, and I can see making a library out of our daughter’s bedroom once she’s flown the nest.

    That would be my dream as well – designing a new home that includes plans for a modern library. I’d also design in a map table on one end, etc. However, since we plan to stay here until moving south when I retire, that either won’t be an option until then, or we’ll try to find an existing place down there that accomodates us.

    You’ll be much happier in the new digs, and I look foward to seeing it ๐Ÿ™‚

    J.D. Petruzzi

  7. Wed 14th Dec 2005 at 11:51 am


    I agree. Since we have to be stuck here in the frozen Arctic wasteland of Ohio, we figure that we might as well live in a place we like and which provides us with what we really want/need in a house. I think that the new one will do just that.


  8. Sun 18th Dec 2005 at 12:01 pm

    I’m the heretic here. I’ve moved so much in my life that I have become ruthless about keeping anything I don’t use. I culled my vinyl and CDs by adhering to this rule: If a blind man came in and set his hand on any selection, I would happily put it on.

    Books are a bit tougher, but I’ve kept things manageable with the same diligence. When I got out of the service, everything I owned fit into two foot lockers. I doubt I’ll ver be that unencumbered again, but it’s something to shoot for.

    It helps that I’m married to a pack rat. Yin and Yang, you know.

    (BTW, this is my first time visiting here, but it won’t be my last. My grandfather’s grandfather was the color bearer for the 42nd Georgia Infantry and I live a mile from Bennett Place. The Civil War is still very much a part of our lives here in North Carolina.)

  9. Sun 18th Dec 2005 at 5:49 pm


    I certainly understand your philosophy. The problem is that the vast majority of my Civil War books are used regularly in my work, so what you propose is really not much of an option, although I understand where you’re coming from.

    I’m glad you enjoy your visits here. We have some friends who live in Pinehurst, and I’ve made three visits to Bennett Place so far. In many ways, what happened there is more important than what happened at Appomattox, but I find the contrast between them stark and striking.


  10. Sun 18th Dec 2005 at 6:04 pm


    Indeed, one size does not fit all. I have a great many reference books, too, from The Death Investigator’s Handbook and Crime Classification Manual, to Mosby’s Medical Encyclopedia and the Complete Guide to Service Handguns. But I’m sure my working library is a shadow of yours.

    I haven’t been at Appomattox, so I don’t know what’s there, but can guess. The people here at Bennett Place seem quite dedicated, but their funding is constantly being cut and as a tourist destination, it ranks somewhere below Allen & Sons Barbecue.

    We’re used to being overshadowed by the Army of Northern Virginia. Poor Bentonville is little more than a dusty field hospital and a collection of rutted fields. When I visited the site the staff treated me like visiting royalty, they were so desperate for attention.

  11. Sun 18th Dec 2005 at 6:30 pm


    Please see my blog post today, which your post inspired.

    And I do absolutely agree with you about Bentonville. I’ve been there three times now, and the most I’ve ever seen out there is about a dozen people. It’s quite sad indeed.


  12. Burke Raymond
    Tue 20th Dec 2005 at 2:15 am

    The books are a difficult problem. We have over two thousand books, mine are mostly history and the wife’s are medical, crafts, and fiction. I’m over 70 and thinking about moving the books keeps me in the house we bought three years ago. However, if you really want a problem add several hundred bottles of wine to the mix. I drink it as fast as I can but there is always moe at the end of the year than there was at the beginning. Books on the floor because the bookcases are full. Wine in the packing cases because the wine celler is full. There are worse problems. I could be broke and homeless.

  13. Tue 20th Dec 2005 at 9:13 am


    True enough.

    And we do have a small wine cellar, which only complicates things. Ah, such problems. ๐Ÿ™‚


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