Dear Aging Coach,
I have way too many books but I love everyone of them! They are like old friends to me, but soon I must move to a very small apartment in a Senior residence and space will be limited. How can I pare down my book collection when it is so hard to choose?
I heartily sympathize with you. I can’t imagine a life without books. I have pared down my book collections considerably using the following methods.
- I have used my imagination to think about which books I would take with me if I were to go on an adventure, living in a recreation vehicle for instance, or maybe live on a boat. Knowing that space would be tight, I would select maybe five books each on all of my favorite topics. For me this would be cookbooks and gardening books. I have actually done this without carrying through on it. I set out on a table my five “can’t live without” books and evaluated whether I could leave behind the many others that I did not select. Fortunately I did not have to carry out the selection and they went back on the shelves to join their companions, but it did help me to cull some of the books which I have since donated.
- I have instilled some self-discipline in the form of “one book in = one book out”. When I buy a new (or used) book I single out a book from my shelves to be discarded or donated. I’m apt to discard any paperback books that have deteriorated from age or the acidity of the paper they were printed on.
- I have switched to downloading e-books that I can read on my tablet or iPad. My aging eyes appreciate the ability to enlarge the font with just a touch command. This is better for me than large print books because the tablet is much lighter than a printed book.
It happened again in my small town. Another elderly person who lived alone fell in his home and was not discovered for two days, after a neighbor noticed there were no lights on at his home. After his hospitalization he must now remain in a rehab facility indefinitely while social services determine whether his home is a safe place to live on his own. Almost all Seniors want to maintain their independence and stay in control of their circumstances, and you can do that if you use your imagination to picture how you would maneuver in your home with a walker or even a wheelchair. You can determine which items are apt to cause a fall and which furniture could be moved or removed to provide better access to hallways and for doors to open. Maybe just conceding to wear some sort of medical alert system will put relatives at ease and let them give you your independence. Be proactive and maintain control.
One of the advantages of living to an old age is to be able to look backward and see the patterns in your life. For instance, thinking of my relationship with money – when I was a young married woman I didn’t want any responsibility for handling money. I wanted my husband to deal with all things financial and tell me what to do. I had grown up in a home where my parents fought constantly, mostly about money issues. I was truly frightened by their fights as a small child and decided that money was something that caused fights and I wanted to avoid it.
That attitude changed, many years later, when I became one of the first two employees of the Rising Tide Market, a natural food store in its fledgling days. I was also asked to become the bookkeeper, to my horror. But I was coached by two remarkable women who did not get upset when I made a mistake but, instead, showed me how to track discrepancies and make corrections. This took all the emotion out of it and soon I was enjoying the activity much as I would doing jigsaw or crossword puzzles. I eventually took courses in bookkeeping and accounting and developing a business of traveling to small local businesses and keeping their checkbooks balanced and papers filed. This was in the days before personal computers.
Eventually I bought a Sears Catalog and Appliance Store franchise and ran that until Sears ceased operations of such stores. In the years since I have developed my talent for bringing order out of chaos by becoming a professional organizer and downsizing consultant. I have often helped people untangle their financial messes and set up filing systems for retrieving the information that proves vital at critical times.
Looking backward reveals the way life opens up for us when we let it.