My life on the shelf


This is the ‘after’ photo. I didn’t think to take a ‘before’ photo.

Hello everyone, I am not dead.

When I wrote my last post, I had no intention of taking a hiatus.  But that is what has happened.  You see, we are moving house.  Let me start at the beginning.

Maus and I have always had a vague plan that when we were dogless we would lease our house in Perth and have a flat as our Perth base.  As you all know, sadly, last year our three babies died.

Then … just before Christmas we got an email from our real estate agent advising us that the long-term tenant in our flat had given notice.  Maus immediately took it as a sign.  We would move in.  And so we are.

So, for the last six weeks, I have been renovating our garden, disposing of excess possessions and cleaning, cleaning, cleaning.  I cannot believe:

  • how much work is involved;
  • how neglected the garden was;
  • how dirty the house was (it looked clean); and
  • how much stuff we had.

We have not stopped.  There have been trips to the tip, multitude trips to the op shop. Ute loads of stuff carted to Bridgetown and still there is stuff everywhere.


Hooly Dooly!! Check out the dust

Today, I started boxing up my books – my life on the shelf. One set for Bridgetown and one set for the Op shop.

I have always said books reflect your life.  Mine certainly do.

We have about 3 metres of photo albums – photos of our families, photos of our dogs, and photos of every holiday we went on before digital cameras were the go. They all went to Bridgetown, but I think their life is limited.  We never look at the photos and there is no one who will ever be interested in them.

I still have my school maths book and my literature books.  It is interesting that those are the books I decided to keep.  Surprisingly, there are virtually no psychology books, commerce books or law books.  Clearly, university knocked those interests out of me. Only one university text-book from these faculties survives, my first year statistics book.  Geez I’m weird!

There are a multitude of Australian and Victorian literature books.  This is what I was studying when I met Maus.  Alas, I never finished that degree.  Love and hormones won the day.

So what to throw out and what to keep?  With the poetry books, I decided, if the poet touched me at the time, they stay.  If I look at the book and say, “Who’s he/she?” It goes out.  Of course my Randolph Stow poetry book must stay.  I still remember his poem, Forbidden Fruit.  And William Blake stays – who doesn’t love The Tyger?  And Judith Wright and Robert Frost.  Oh, too many went into the keep box.  Then there were the plays, piles of them.  All the ones I studied at school and uni and more, many more.  George Bernard Shaw, Arthur Miller, Ibsen, Oscar Wilde, and of course, Shakespeare.  All the books of short stories went, something had to go.

And then there was the sexual politics stage – feminism and gay liberation – (oh, those were the days), and my photography stage and my Photoshop stage and my technical analysis stage and my tarot card reading stage and my arty farty stage and my pottery stage and my cross stitching stage and my penguin stage – yes, you read right, penguin stage.  Oh … the ‘how to succeed at work’ books and management theory books and how to get rich books, went.  I don’t think I will be needing them.  All the cookbooks and gardening books survived as did the soap making books.  The wine books and computer books went – they date.

And then there are the travel books.  There are books on countries I was gunna go to – Canada, China, Turkey, Malta and Micronesia and those that I have been to – France, Italy, Lebanon, India, Sri Lanka, Portugal, Ireland and Thailand.  There is our old battered 1981-82 copy of Let’s Go Europe that was carried around in our back pack for a year  And there are the foreign dictionaries …and the English dictionaries – The Shorter Oxford and the Macquarie – I am fussy about my dictionaries.  All my life I have coveted a copy of the Oxford English Dictionary – all 20 volumes of it. Secretly, deep down, I still do, but where would I put it?

And the memoirs – they all stayed.

The novels are interesting.  The trash can go, everyone has their fair share of trash.  I am proud to say that there are lots and lots of classics and I have read them all. The Brontes, Dickens, Thackery, Hardy, Steinbeck, Joyce, Trollope …  There is Daphne Du Maurier too!!  Ten in fact.  Gee that was a stage.  I was a young dreamy teen at the time. They must go.   I will never go through that stage again.

There are lots of books by Indian authors and about India.  That was my Indian stage.  They can stay.  So too can the dog books, we may get two babies.

Interestingly, there are an inordinate number of ‘How to be Happy books’ – mmmm, I wonder whether I will need them in the future?

I am sitting here looking at the last few books on the shelf – Lassie and Gilligan’s Island stare back at me.  I remember when mum bought me those books.  Do they stay or do they go?  No, they go, I can’t imagine going through another Lassie or Gilligan’s Island stage.



A small sample of the many boxes. These are the last to go. The pile on the right is for the op shop.

My life is now in boxes.

I kept all these books for two reasons. Firstly, they represent who I am and secondly, I always thought I might reread them when I retired.

Funnily, since we have lost our babies, I have taken up reading with a vengeance.  I have scoured many ‘100 best books’ lists  and am making my way through them.   I buy three or four at a time but still I am reading them faster than I can buy them.  So the other day, I took a book from my shelf that was on a ‘best books’ list and started reading it.  It would have been thirty years since I last read it.  Sadly, I had no recollection of it, what so ever.  It was like I was reading it for the first time.  Maybe I will read them again.  Why not?


37 thoughts on “My life on the shelf

  1. I’ve been saving this post to catch up with what you’ve been up to and it sure sounds like a lot! Not that we’ve got immediate moving plans but in case it sound happen, I’ve been sorting and purging. It’s been a slow process but at least I feel as if I’m moving forward instead of back by accumulating even more stuff. My downfall has been a full size walk up attic so it’s incredibly easy to just haul everything up there where it’s out of sight and out of mind. That’s in addition to what gets stored in the basement but we walk through the basement to get to the garage so that’s always in plain sight mocking me.

    I hope that you’re settling in andnhave everything unpacked by now.

    • Hi Diane, do go throw your stuff before you need to. It is so traumatic throwing everything out when you have no option. We threw out a skip full about 5 years ago and we haven’t missed one thing. I am sure we won’t miss what we have got rid off this time either bu it is still hard to get rid of it though. We are wanting to move out of our Perth house and into a flat as we are sick of looking after two houses.

      • Funny thing is that most of the things that ‘need’ to go are my husband’s junk. He dragged home stuff from his parent’s house, then his aunt’s houses, and of course my daughter never really moved out.
        We keep saying that we’ like to downsize & not have maintenance and it would be nice to move into the city but the prices are crazy! We’d get about 1/4 of the space (maybe) for what our house would sell for. Hard to say what we’ll do but getting rid of clutter is a must do,

        also, very sad news is that our beautiful Bernese Mountain Dog Lola died last night. She was 11 1/2 years so definitely a very elderly Berner but oh, as you know, it is so very hard.

  2. Oh I do feel your pain! After doing what I thought was a pretty thorough clean out when we left Shanghai I was appalled that we had to ship 170 boxes of ‘stuff’ to Tokyo. Then I listened to a couple of podcasts from The Minimalists and had an epiphany and now I’m busy going through ‘stuff’ again. Photos are the big ones – I’ve just thrown all but family photos out.
    Happy reading and I hope you are settled soon xx

    • Hi Nancy. I know you understand. I have so much in boxes. I too have thrown out a lot but when I get to go through those boxes more is going, including those photos. Thumbs up for digital photography. Funny, Maus brother spent days putting all her family photos in a USB drive and now Maus has no idea where the drive is. Just show how important they are. Ps. We are on the look out for the drive. It just be somewhere.

  3. I was beginning to wonder where you’d disappeared to! I find it interesting that books hold such importance to us. After all, if we throw it out then we can usually just get another one but for some reason, they can be difficult to discard. We have books on our shelves that were here when we moved in (my parents-in-law lived here before us) and which we’ve never read. I suspect that they’ll still be here when the next generation move in.

    • Anne. It is so complicated. A few years ago, Maus’ brother wanted to borrow one of my books. I was so nervous he would forget to return it, I went out and bought him a copy. I then had two copies of the book, both of which have now gone. At last I realise they are no that important and will eventually be thrown out, so why not do it now.

    • Hi Debi. I am so glad that eventually, I am able to throw it all out. Clearly we go through stages and at last I am at the “let’s get rid of all this crap” stage.

  4. Hello there Glenda, moving is a great excuse for another declutter… I feel for you! We took five carloads of stuff to Vinnies just recently, and a carload of books to Lifeline for their book fair. Hope it all goes well xx

    • Holy Dooley Liz, 5 car loads. That is huge. You are much better than us. It makes me so sad that we have all this stuff, when many in the world barely get by.

  5. Good to know that both you and Maus are well. I can only imagine how stressful at times moving home would be. What to leave and what to take? I think the same about some old photos too and wonder why I bother keeping them. I am sure you still miss your lovely dogs. Best of luck 🙂

    • Hi Moyà. I think those photos have a limited life. We are moving from two studies to one so some things have to go and they take up so much space. Digital photos are the best.

  6. You will come out the other side but while you’re in the midst of life changing it is incredibly consuming on all levels. You’re fortunate, as we were, that you have one stable base and not everything is in flux.
    I have reinvented & relocated my life a few times…leaving home, marriages ending, house shifts but my books are one of the few constants along with family keepsakes. Some meaningless books were shed along the way, but now I buy less and unless they are very special they are read and donated on immediately.
    Houses always look dirtier when they’re empty. For our last two moves we’ve brought in professional cleaners… makes it so much easier and less exhausting to move on.

  7. Reading this has taken me back to seeing you through all your stages, as I went through mine…some of our early ones together…recalling our shock/horror reaction at ‘Tis a Pity She’s a Whore at the Octagon…discovering David Bowie at 14…and Obelia’s at 18. Life goes on; some things change, some stay the same…glad to know our friendship has been, is, and always will be, eternal. (Now I’m getting soppy in our old age!) XX

  8. I understand completely. We packed up one house in 2014 and another in 2015, sold one, leased the other and shifted to Brisbane. To be honest I don’t think I could do it again, getting too old for the emotional and physical exertion involved. I love the downsized lifestyle. Good luck with the move and the next phase of your life

    • Thanks Sandra. I think the main problem is, we have done this so rarely. We have been in this house over thirty years. People who move regularly seem more able to throw stuff out.

  9. Great post Glenda- I so related as we recently got rid of a heap of books – I think I had all those different types of books too- must be why I like you so much !!
    And Randolph Stowe- apparently after he left WA he basically went to Europe and never came back- someone wrote a biography about him a couple of years ago and I heard them interviewed on Radio National- very interesting- you might remember there is a Geraldton law firm called Alterfor and Stowe and I often wondered if they were related?

    • Hi Em. That is interesting, I know Randolph Stow had a sister. I don’t know about a brother. Is there is an “e” in the Stowe in the law firm it wouldn’t be the same.

  10. Glenda, I feel so much empathy for you. Recently, I sent u pictures of my 2 pomeranians, who to some extent gave me my life back after my husband passed away in 2012. Although Bill and I were very close, my best friend , he could never be replaced. Wolfe came to me in April, 2014 and then, his daughter Luna who he sired just before I adopted him. They are still young, Wolfie turned 4 on the 6th of Feb equating to 28yrs old if he is a homo sapiens but, I worry that they may survive me, now going to be 75 soon, and how they will be affected with my passing. On the other hand, I am also worried that if ssomething happens to them, I would not have the strength to go on living. I do have a 42 year old bachelor son who loves them very much but, he does not have the time nor the patience as I have for them, I also worry what happens to my estate , my dream house that Bill my husband, who retired at the age of 59 as a patent lawyers, physicist had devoted the next 16 years of his life ( excluding the last 2 years when he was sick, had to have Bone Marrow Transplant) working, 12 hours a day both in the house and garden creating a sanctuary for me. I can barely keep up with the extensive garden and upkeep on the house because of the way the US tax aw is structured( Another story) I worry that my son who has inherited the estate may not have the financial ability to keep this house going and what will happen? An estate sell? When I talk about that possibility, friends tele they will camp out ini front of my house if they have to! Since 2004, I had moved all my cookbooks to the library as I can now go on one and practically find all the recipes I want, and if I cannot do so, I will then go and look for them in my library. I only keep garden books ( Bill used to joke that i had more to offer than the libraries here), some favorite coffee table books of France, UK, Greece etc, and the photos I organized for 3 months after BIl passed away. It took me so much time to lift them out of their albums, re mount them in archival albums at considerable time and expense .I doubt if my son will ever even look at them.
    I am sorry that I did not find your blog till recently but am glad I had the pleasure of doing so. I hope you enjoy the last days of your life in your home and keep on blogging!

    • Cristina. I got the photos. Thank you. They are beautiful. Life is full of stages and I guess I am about to enter another one. We intend to lease the house for a year. If we don’t like living in the country we can always move back to the city, that is the beauty of having both.

      • great. I sent u pictures but some came back, i do not know which ones went thru , but certainly my babies which I hope u will find comfort if you should choose to adopt a couple. It is not that we forget the ones that passed away, who we will always love. They will always be close to us, in our hearts and mind. Take Care.

  11. Since I retired 3 years ago I have been doing lots of culling but we still have way too much stuff. It is very cathartic isn’t it? Today I sorted thru a drawer that was overflowing with bookmarks and potential bookmarks- old postcards etc. It was full to the brim. Now in pretty good shape. Good luck with the move.

  12. I was thinking of you this morning thinking we hadn’t heard from you for a while then remembered you were probably moving and just too busy. Love the ‘stages’, I too have had many (didn’t do penguins though) but have culled most books along the way. I’m doing this again now we are finally setting up. I’m using the ‘if I haven’t needed it, thought about it for 12 months, or it has no sentimental value then out it goes. Funnily, I have been seeking some of the old children books that I loved and disposed of from online book stores. I notice the books that indicate an enquiring mind are staying??? Good luck, it is an exciting new chapter.

  13. I love purging and cleaning and sorting but only when I am in the mood. 😀 Book, hmm, Pete and I thinned out our ever growing pile and we couldn’t even give them away. I was amazed at how people don’t want books. We didn’t want anything for them, just for someone else to enjoy them but alas. I was eventually able to donate them to a prison of all places.
    Happy reading and settling into your flat.
    🙂 Mandy xo

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