Saturday, March 19, 2016

Demonic Bookcases, Part 2

Part 2 of guest blogger Kathryn Ptacek, a writer who lives in rural northwest New Jersey and shares her old Queen Anne home with lots of books, the requisite author cats, teapots, and the occasional visiting mouse.

She's tackling the most common writer clutter problem: Crowded bookcases.

Demonic Bookcases, Part 2
by Kathryn Ptacek

One of my "supervisors"
Let me back up just a bit. Before I started the decluttering, I sat down and made a diagram of the bookcases in the living room, dining room, and front hall (the last of the tall bookcases is there). I estimated how many letters could go in each bookcase, taking into account that there seem to be numerous authors with names beginning with H and M and S. They would need slightly more room. T through Z authors go out into the front hall. As I went through the shelves I found a lot of books I could put out there in the hall—they'll be dealt with later.

Shelf 1, After
After investing in many long hours of scrubbing shelves and wiping dust off books and bending and reaching and clambering up and down a stepladder, I finally finished the first bookcase. Hurray! I put back a few teapots. It's great to see some of my collection now—and truly be able to see each piece.

The next day I started work on the second bookcase (D, E, F, G, and some H). That's finished, and I set out some teapots selectively and took photos. Now, I'm about to finish the third bookcase, and I've already swept everything off the last bookcase in the living room and the one in the dining room. The one in the front hall will have to wait a while. It seems to have ended up with a massive amount of things, some of them refugees from the other bookcases. I'm going to need a bigger box, I guess!

Living Room, After
As I've gone through more books, I found some that were by A, B, and C authors, and I've set them on that bookcase. There are now about thirty of them, with no room on the shelves. That means I have to cull at least thirty books from there. Again.

Am I happy to be getting rid of some of these books? In one way, yes, because I feel a tad "lighter."  I've heard people mention that they feel they have less of a burden on them when they dispose of something, and I can understand that. But I love my books, and I am parting reluctantly with them. All this would be solved, of course, if I could just swing some floor-to-ceiling bookcases. I have a Queen Anne–style Victorian, so the ceilings on the first floor are high, and those bookcases would be huge! As it is right now, I look at the foot-plus space over the doors and windows and think about all the books that could rest nicely there. Well, perhaps if I win the lottery ... Some books, though, I'm boxing up, such as the Ellery Queen paperbacks. I want to keep them, but I don't want that multi-book series on the shelves. Is this cheating? I'm not sure, but I can't have it both ways, I guess.

Front Hallway, After
So now I hope to finish the M authors in a day or two, then move on and get to the end of the alphabet by next week. I have some deadlines looming at present, so I've had to cut back my book sorting time. (One night after I'd just started all this, I worked until 2 a.m.) On breaks, I'll head downstairs and cull a few more books for a while. It's a fun task where I don't really have to think too hard about anything.

And my goal? Not to allow the stuff to creep back onto the shelves. I want to display my collection of teapots. What's the sense of collecting something if you and your friends can't see it? That won't be easy, but I'll keep trying. The hardest thing, though, will be that when I buy a new book and bring it into the house, I know I'm going to have to get rid of at least one or two old books. But I'll manage. What's a few more books into the culled pile, right?

Of course, now I have all those boxes of shells and stones and keys to sort through ... That's my next challenge!


Kathryn's novels are now out as ebooks from Crossroad Press and Necon Ebooks. Her first collection of short stories, Looking Backward in Darkness, was released by Borgo Press in 2013. She has short stories in two recent anthologies: Fright Mare and Expiration Date.

She can be reached at or through her Facebook pages.


  1. Replies
    1. well, nearly five years later, i found your comment, connie. hahahahaha. thanks. i was shocked to find that i wrote this--and did those bookcases--so long ago! how did all that time slip by? and here i am still decluttering and still sorting!

  2. I love those tea pots. Oh my gosh, so fun. And yes, it's hard sometimes when a spot is open. Things can collect so fast. Too fast!!!!!


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