Book Hoarding Made Easy

Family dragged me into the digital age of reading books on a screen. I wasn’t really kicking and screaming, more like whining. At first I balked that the screen didn’t have the heft, the tactile knowledge of nearing the last chapter, the smell of ink and paper, and the visual reminder of a world once explored. And then how could I get a copy signed by an author? Okay, and I also harbor a general leeriness toward fad-of-the-moment technology. What if digital book technology was like the Sony Walkman, pagers, Betamax, Super 8/8mm video cameras, laser disc players, floppy discs, or 8-track type players? Why bother deciphering the user manual if the thing would soon go the way of the manual typewriter?

All whining quieted after Hubby bought me a Kindle. A generous soul by nature, hubby gave me this device for a thoughtful reason and a selfish one. The thoughtful reason catered to my voracious appetite for reading. The Kindle enabled me to buy books instantly, and who doesn’t love instant gratification?


The selfish reason hubby bought the Kindle was to satisfy his longing for more order on the bookcases in our home. Stacking books two deep on shelves didn’t appeal to his aesthetics. He often urged me to read the books we own before buying more. But honey, I said, when I go to writers conferences they GIVE me books…and the used bookstore in town takes trade-ins. Supply and demand remained in balance for the most part. Fine. I’ll admit that I spend money on books as fearlessly as congress spends our tax dollars. Not on that scale, mind you, but with equal abandon.


Could I be a hoarder? My name is Joni. I am a book hoarder. Wait, no. Let’s call it collecting. Hoarding books isn’t as frightening as say, hoarding broken clocks, or mismatched china, or human teeth. Right? The signs of hoarding include:

  1. keeping things most other people don’t value.
  2. being unable to use parts of one’s house for their intended purpose.
  3. having so much clutter that it causes distress or impairment.

Like good manners, I suppose many people these days don’t value books as they once did. I can’t use the sofa in the study because of the stack of books on it. And–uh, oh–hubby is distressed by the stacks and I’m too embarrassed to show photos of the worst of the overstuffed bookcases. Egad. I’m three for three. My daughter might be dialing a reality tv show producer at this moment. So many it’s time for a Kindle.


The first major selling point on the Kindle was the vast collection of freebie classics! Free! Like a kid in a candy store, I think I drooled  as I scrolled through pages of freebies. I’ve lost so many books over the years from lending them out to moving from Indiana to Louisiana to Florida that uploading classics felt like reclaiming long-lost friends.


The second major selling point on the Kindle was the promise of magic–being able to pack HUNDREDS of books in my purse. Like Mary Poppins’ carpetbag, or Hermione’s magical handbag carrying a tent and supplies for Harry Potter and Ronald Weasley, the Kindle contains worlds. In the mood for a hilarious romance? Click on a title by Kristin Higgins. Horror? Stephen King and Dean Koontz’s works are a touch away. Various versions of the Bible at the ready and word searchable. Sort your collection by title, by author, or by most-recently uploaded with a Midas touch. Honestly, I couldn’t find which room, let alone which bookshelf a particular fiction book might be in my house. This magic slab of plastic and metal will keep all nineteen–soon to be twenty–of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum books together in one place instead of migrating from house to car to suitcase to friends. Organization and instant access, the device is my personal librarian, or a genie at my command.


The third major selling point on digital books is that oh-so-handy Kindle application that can connect me to my digital library from my laptop, a tablet, a smart phone, or my Kindle. Never again will hubby and I have to wrestle over the only copy of Dan Brown’s latest book. If the house blows away in a hurricane, my digital book collection will be safely stored in the cloud.


The fourth major selling point, the one that obliterates my last objection, is that authors can digitally sign books. I have amassed signed books from over 100 of my favorite authors. These books reside in a glass-enclosed bookcase in the study where children cannot play with them. Meeting the author adds more meaning to the book. Each book signing marks the bond between author and reader. Even though I am an author, I am first a reader, a devourer of stories. Though I haven’t asked for a digital signature from an author yet, the time will come. And who knows when an author might sit beside me on a plane? It will be easy to have a copy of his or her work on hand.

So when pastor sees me looking down into the glow of my device during service he might suspect I’m texting, or trolling the internet, but I’m following along in King James, New American Standard, and New International Version. Because I can.

So there. Let book purists weep over me. I’ve gone to the dark side, gone to digital for the freebies, for the instant access, for the ease of finding one book among hundreds, and to prevent buying a fourteenth bookcase. Now only and I will know how many books I’ve hoarded. Hehehehe. And no, I’m not getting rid of the cloth, leather, or paperback bound books filling our bookcases. Sometimes I still need the feel and smell of them.

For the Love of Stuff

It is human nature to want things. It is human nature to want more things. It is also human nature to want more things immediately. For me, this urge to acquire things manifests itself as books stacked three deep on shelves. Books bring me insight, knowledge, and yes, joy. I enjoy the heft, the smell, and the substance of them. Sure, we can call it retail therapy, but in truth it is greed. I have more books than I can read. Hubby and I reached an agreement–for every book brought into the house, one must leave. And then he bought me a Kindle.

love of moneyPossessions, belongings, objects, collections, things. Stuff. How much life is spent searching for, finding, selecting, buying, collecting, sorting, cleaning, repairing, maintaining, arranging and getting rid of stuff? Why devote so much time to stuff?

I have fallen for the lie that things can make me happy. Advertising tells me that if only I have thing shiny new thing, all my problems will fade away and bliss will ensue. Our culture promotes the concept that he who dies with the most toys wins. Lottery fever entices us with greed-based fantasies at the potential of instant wealth. Who hasn’t entertained the fallacy that all problems can be solved with enough money? Ah, but what is enough? Donald Trump hasn’t stopped working yet.

The Pharaohs tried to take their treasures into the afterlife by stockpiling them in their tombs. How’d that work out for them? And how many lottery winners declare bankruptcy within two years of their wins?

I have looked upon people who subsist on what they carry with both pity and envy.

While some people live with only the things they carry, others hoard stuff until their living spaces become hazardous. In our materialism we obsess over objects, collecting them, owning them, displaying them. Ever visit the House on the Rock in Wisconsin? It is the ultimate hoarder’s dream.  A reality television show called Hoarders features owners with homes so packed with belongings that family and friends intervene. We collect stuff in galleries and museums and warehouses and attics and basements.

Witness the urge to collect stuff at weekend garage sales and flea markets, discount malls, second-hand stores, and mega malls. Thanks to the internet, we can troll for things to buy without leaving home.

Whether collecting salt and pepper shaker sets or vintage airplanes, though we prefer to believe we own stuff, at some point stuff owns us.

Possessions consume our time—the most precious measure of life. Time spent on possessions is subtracted from time spent with people, time spent exploring the world, and time spent forging a legacy worth remembering.

I daresay that a combination of greed and impatience has led to the near economic ruin of our country. We could blame Congress for fueling our greed—they promise more than they can deliver to get elected and then tax us to try to make good on their false generosity. I say false generosity because giving away someone else’s hard-earned money is closer to theft than generosity. The moment a politician gives away his own hard-earned money could be considered generosity, and a miracle.

The Bible declares that the love of money is the root of all evil. Money itself isn’t evil, but the love of it is, because when we value money above all else, we place it above family, friends, and God. I have yet to meet a dying person who says he wishes he spent more time earning money. Dave Ramsey, author of The Total Money Makeover and host of The Dave Ramsey Show, teaches debt reduction and money management. Of his Ten Financial Commandments, he warns: Thou shalt not try to acquire happiness through material things.

If granted a giant do-over for the last ten years of life, would you change the amount of time spent on your possessions? How would you spend that time?