Cleaning out is a process. First, ID the item to be donated, then  put it in a closet or another room–out of sight, out of mind. Wait a couple of weeks, then revisit.  Maybe deciding, ‘nah, I’ll keep it’ or ‘okay’, and move to to a box.  Wait awhile and if nothing,  move it, boxed, to the garage.

I recently did this with my books.  Giving away books is traumatic! But admittedly my books were, in some places, three deep on the shelves. It was time.

So first I went through all the shelves, out came reference books, writing books, children’s books, history books, spy books, non-fiction, graphic novels,  fantasy books, science fiction books.  All piled in the corner of my study.

A lot of them. I left them there. Thought about them, remembered some titles and made sure they were still on the shelf and if not, searched ’til I found them, moving them to a pile halfway between the ones going out the door and the ones that were safely on the shelf. Next I moved them to the garage, pile by pile, into boxes. Let them sit for another two or three weeks then it was time. Last stop, open each book. One last decision making check.

Although I have some beautiful bookmarks, a set from as far away as China, like my mom, I use whatever is handy at the moment. The afternoon, in a hot and sticky garage packing up books was like a walk through time. A receipt for gloves and a bag  from1977 from Dextor’s  in  Rockefeller  Center,  when I worked for  Warner Communications.  Or an  ad  for a job  in  the  WSJ, obviously pre-internet times.  I found a EOB from 2007 on Tom’s insurance. A  mimeographed class room assignment from God Knows When, although it was August 26,  along  with  a  page  from  a  calendar  with  the question ‘Who was the only president born in Illinois, the Land of Lincoln?  Answer: Ronald Reagan.

There was a hotel receipt from a stay at the Sheraton Baltimore North for a wedding.  And one from a Hilton in Miami where apparently I valued my privacy over a turndown bed and a chocolate.  Which, admittedly, is sort of amazing that I would pass up chocolate!  A  birthday  card  and  my favorite, tickets to the Warner Bros. Employee Screening  room that was across the street from 75 Rockefeller Plaza to see Beau Geste ,   a fun  perk  of  job,  along  with  working  on  the  same  floor  as  Pele’s  office  and  being  able  ride  up  in  the  elevator with Pele on  Monday  mornings  after  a  Cosmos  game.

And, of course, there were bookmarks. From Benjamin Books, in the World Trade Center, and from Lauriat’s in Boston, a couple of author giveaways, and a $500 with John Marshalls picture.

The best was  inviting the three kids next door, ages 12, 9 and 6, go through the children’s books first. There were books from Alan Gratz, John Claude Bemis, Stephen Messer to name drop. The 12 year old was so excited she told her dad ‘we can organize by genre and then author’…a child after my own heart. They walked away with about 75 to 100 books many of them series–because I like series.

At first it felt like a loss. Then I was extraordinarily happy. I had my bookmarks, memories to keep from the books I loved and let go. And some one else will be able to read and treasure incredible stories and valuable information!  What a gift!

And I still have a room full of books, autographed, signed and curated–yes, by genre and then author, on my shelves.