Let's Get Digital

My wife and I have been talking about moving a lot lately.

We've hit a wall with our current environment, and have been longing for something just a bit simpler for quite some time now.

We're still working out the logistics, but the (probably not all that unique) idea right now is to let the kids finish out the school year, sell the house in May, and then buy a camper and spend the summer looking for our next home (which, if I let myself hope a little, will be in the Pacific Northwest... I love me some rain).

The big question in all of this is, surprisingly, not about where we want to end up, but what do we do with all of our stuff?

We accumulate a lot of junk over the years, don't we? It starts with the furniture. You move into your first home and you buy a couch and an entertainment center, a bed and a dresser, nightstands, a kitchen table, a desk, chairs, end tables, and a bunch of other shit to fill the space.

The Art of Hoarding

But all that new furniture looks so bare, doesn't it? Can't have an entertainment center without a television, can't have a dresser without clothes to fill it, or a desk without a computer, printer, and files; all those empty drawers, cabinets, cupboards, nooks, and crannies just need to be filled with things.

And then, one day, you move, and the process starts all over.

The table you bought for the last house is too small for the new one, or too round, or too retro. The couch doesn't match the carpet, the extra bedroom needs its own furniture, and what the hell are we going to put into that "flex space" the architect inexplicably shoved into the front of the house?

Over time, you have more things than you know what to do with, but eventually you go blind to it.

Until you contemplate selling your house and traveling around the country with your family for a few months, and then you find yourselves exactly where we are: what the hell are we going to do with all of our stuff?

Some of it is easy. Sell it on Craigslist or Facebook or whatever your preferred poison is. Other stuff can just be donated, because do you really need to keep that old bedframe collecting dust in the basement?

And don't even get me started on the things that you've attached personal value to.

What do you do with all of your books, and movies, and video games, and everything else? Obviously, some of it is just going to get packed up and moved into a storage unit, but it's worth asking if it needs to be stored, or if there's a better alternative where you can save on space without getting rid of the contents?

If you read the title of this post, then I'm kind of beating a dead horse at this point. Obviously, you digitize it all.

But, this is exactly where I am at now.

So Many Books, So Little Time

I have a ton of books.

They've found themselves living on just about every surface of my office (including the windowsills and floor). There is a less-than-chaotic organization system happening, where the books on my shelf are ones I haven't read, the ones on my windowsill I have but need to go back through and collect the notes out of, the ones on the floor (and in the basement) are just overflow.

Sound overwhelming, especially when thinking about moving?

Good, because it is.

So I've been taking a hard look at my "collection" and determining what I want to keep, and what I want to get rid of. The line for "keep" is following a pretty Marie-Kondo-y measurement of whether or not they "spark joy," which for me means:

  1. Am I going to read this book more than once again?
  2. Does this book hold personal meaning (such as a gift, or representative of a specific time)?
  3. Is this book rare or collectible in some way?
  4. Does the presence of the book in my space inspire me?

If the answer to any of those questions is "yes," then it goes in the "keep" pile. I'll pack 'em in boxes and deal with lugging them around as needed. But if the answer to every question is "no," then it's gone.

You may notice that "have I read this book yet?" is not one of the questions I'm asking. That's by design. If not having read a book is justification for keeping books around indefinitely, then I'll never be rid of them, because as many books as I have read in the past few years, I've accumulated even more.

And, if we're being honest, if a certain book holds no meaning to me yet because I've never read it, then do I really need to have a physical copy of it?

Hell no.

But eBooks can get fucking expensive, and swapping out a physical book that you own for a digital one isn't exactly the same thing as ripping a DVD or CD (which you can do with tools like Handbrake and just about any media player in existence). Hell, even digitizing VHS movies, audio cassettes, and vinyl records is easier (they even make cassette players and turntables with USB built in), but creating your own digital backup of your books is likely to be a time consuming and expensive process (not to mention all of the handwritten notes you'll lose or get mixed up in the OCR process).


Searching for The Singularity

There are a number of subscription services that can close the gap, such as Everand and Kindle Unlimited, but they cost money and their catalogs are hardly all-encompassing, so it's up to you on whether or not it's worth it.

If you have a library card (you should get a library card), Libby is one of my favorite apps, and is used for borrowing eBooks from your local library for free (you can even read them on your Kindle); but, the same problem of catalog size gets compounded by availability and borrowing length (just like a real library).

Then there's piracy.

I'm not going to advocate for piracy, because that would be bad... right?

But I will say that pirating a digital copy of a book you already own feels like a pretty clear moral gray area. If this is something you are personally interested in doing, then communities like Reddit's r/opendirectories and apps like Calibre are your friend (and, if you've got a fancy Android foldable like me, I highly recommend Moon+ Reader).

If I'm being honest, I'll probably use some combination of all of the above to start lightening my librarial load (that's right, I just made up a word).

What interests me at this point in my life is less the books themselves, and more what I can glean from them. When done right, notes can live on for me long after I've gotten rid of the source material.

Are you in the same boat? If so, I'd love to hear how you are approaching the problem!


If you like this post or one of my projects, you can buy me a coffee, or send me a note. I'd love to hear from you!


This is post 008 of #100DaysToOffload