My son and I (with occasional help from my Beloved) have embarked upon a project we’ve long dreamed about. We call it the Library Liberation Project. When we moved into our current home (30 years ago come June 1), I declared that a back room addition the previous owners had used as a rec room was to be the Library.

Some of the family couldn’t imagine what we’d do with a whole room just for books, but others laughed and said, “It’s perfect!” And for many years, it was a good study and writing space, with my office tucked in a back corner amongst the stacks.

Here's a corner of the Library in 2004. Yes, it usually looked a lot more lived-in, but we were getting ready for a party, so I even dusted and vacuumed!
Here’s a corner of the Library in 2004. Yes, it usually looked a lot more lived-in, but we were getting ready for a party, so I even dusted and vacuumed! Sixteen years later, the lamp, the chair and the coffee table have passed on, but we’ve added lots more bookshelves. And loads of other stuff.

Some days I’d walk into my library, take a big, blissful sniff, and revel in the scent of being surrounded by books. Somehow ebooks just don’t smell the same. The Library was a place of liberation back then.

Tragedy strikes. Repeatedly

About a year and a half after I took the picture above, our family began a sad but inevitable process. My brother-in-law Warren died, at way too young an age, at the start of the summer of 2005. Before the end of that season, I’d also lost one of my aunts.

By 2007, stuff had begun to pile up.
By 2007, stuff had begun to pile up.

went to California with my father to settle my aunt’s estate. It was small and relatively simple to handle. But I would benefit from that apprenticeship in the years to come. Aunt Betty was also a writer, and I brought a few of her things back home with me.

They took up a small corner in the Library, but that would only be for a little while. Till I got photos digitized and organized, and went through her papers. The books from Warren found homes on the expanding board-feet of bookshelves. The art supplies and fun boxes and bags . . . well, I’d figure out a good place soon.

Another loss, another deluge

The next year my mother died. Gigi and I struggled to get her house cleared out and ready to sellNot sure what to do with all her stuff–and too heartsick to face sorting through it–we hauled it all to Kansas City.

Some went into storage, and some to my house. Gigi didn’t have room. She was still cleaning out the home she’d shared with Warren, and struggling to deal with abrupt widowhood.

By 2009, the burgeoning piles of stuff in the Library were accumulating at a much faster rate than I could keep up with it.
By 2009, the burgeoning piles of stuff in the Library were accumulating at a much faster rate than I could keep up with it. The Library was beginning to need Liberation, but I already had too much to do.

Piled higher and deeper

My mother also had a library in her home. She’d managed to confine it to one long wall of floor-to-ceiling books in her house, but when she passed away, my library suddenly had a whole new wall’s worth of books to assimilate. Yes, I got rid of a few. But Mom had some really cool books!

I only discovered later that some of the stuff from Mom’s house had originally belonged to my grandparents. And some of that had belonged to their parents or siblings. I had unwittingly joined a grand family tradition of accumulating inherited boxes full of stuff.

The year after that, my father-in-law passed away, and my mother-in-law began to downsize. More things arrived at our house, bit by bit. Year by year. And the Library took the brunt of it.

My kids went off to college and took some of the excess furniture–but a few years later they came back. With all of the same furniture, plus lots of new books. Then my other aunt became ill. My daughter went out to California to care for her, but eventually that aunt, too, died.

The California tsunami

And left us all her stuff. This time I went out to stay with Signy in my aunt’s condominium for several months, while we sorted through decades of accumulated wonderful things. Yes, she also had a full wall of books, but I was out of space and then some (of course, I still brought some of them home).

I read all I could, and wrote several blog post book reviews while I was at it. If you’d like to read them, I reviewed The Keepsake byTess Gerritsen,  The Sentry by Robert Craisas well as The Innocent and The Sixth Man, both by David Baldacci. We donated a large trove of hardback thrillers and mysteries by well-known authors to the local public library (they were delighted) before we left town.

These are most of the books we donated to the local library, so they'd find good homes and we didn't have to haul them across literally half the continent. (Photo by Tyrell E. Gephardt)
These are most of the books we donated to the local library, so they’d find good homes and we didn’t have to haul them across literally half the continent. (Photo by Tyrell E. Gephardt)

Donation mania

That wasn’t all we donated. We never found a good auction company or estate liquidator, and the Realtor was eager to get the place emptied so it could be staged. So we made lists and lists and lists of donations for tax purposes, and then we donated stuff. Clothing by the bales and bags, some of it designer items. Household goods till the local donation center personnel began to recognize us. We even found a place to donate much of the furniture.

But we still had to rent a 16-foot box truck to get the rest of it out of her place. Who knew a three-bedroom condo could hold so much stuff? We hauled it to Gigi’s place first. She didn’t take exactly half of it, but she took a lot. Even so, what was left was enough to swamp the remaining clear spaces at our house.

When we arrived home from California, emptying the truck loaded up our living room. It deluged our dining room. And let's not even talk about what it dit to the Library. Except, not talking about it didn't make it go away.
When we arrived home from California, emptying the truck loaded up our living room. It deluged our dining room. And let’s not even talk about what it dit to the Library. Except, not talking about it didn’t make it go away.

Stop! Stop!

But wait. There’s more! My mother-in-law moved into a nursing home. My father moved from his large home at the lake to a smaller place, then to a condo near us. In both cases a select few cherished or useful objects arrived at our place, along with other stuff that “needed to be gone through.”

We kept trying to live our lives, throughout all of this. To build businesses. Write books. Deal with medical emergencies, and my daughter’s chronic illness. We kept intending to go through all the stuff, but there was never time.

Well, now it’s time.

The Library Liberation Project is ON. We broke down and rented another storage unit last October. The one from last decade, after my mother died, had long been cleared out and closed, and we’d hoped to handle further inflows “in-house.” So, yeah, we caved. 

At this point, it's hard to find any floor space at all in our once-spacious Library (the pet fence is up to deter the dogs). If ever a Library needed Liberating, it's ours!
At this point, it’s hard to find any floor space at all in our once-spacious Library (the pet fence is up to deter the dogs). If ever a Library needed Liberating, it’s ours!

Retreat to the caves!

But we needed some slack. We were like one of those sliding-tile puzzlesbut with no empty space to slide a tile into. The rental’s not cheap. When I say “we caved,” I mean that literally as well as figuratively. Not far from our house is an underground storage facility in a repurposed mine. The good part is that it’s naturally temperature-controlled. You may also have seen it featured on my friend Lynette M. Burrows’s blog.

In 2020, we hope to reclaim our Library for real. We got a slow start in the last quarter of 2019, but we’re determined. But The Artdog needs a better StudioWeird Sisters Publishing needs a real office, and the Gephardts may not be as reliant on the “dead-trees versions” of books as we once were, but we want our Library back! And the Library Liberation Project will (eventually) get us there. We hope.

2020 vision

You may periodically receive updates on our progress in this blog space. You may also periodically see fewer or shorter entries, as I juggle the time requirements to factor in the Library Liberation work. We didn’t get into this situation overnight, and it’ll take a lot of time and hard work to get us out.

I hope by talking about my quest, I may encourage you to tackle any accumulating problems that may be developing in your life (before they get this bad!). Or perhaps you may just enjoy laughing at the crazy woman with a knack for inheriting mounds of interesting stuff. Either way, I hope it’s interesting.

IMAGE CREDITS

Most of the photos in this blog post were taken by me, Jan S. Gephardt. The one of my late aunt’s collection of thrillers and mystery novels was taken by Tyrell E. Gephardt. Feel free to reblog or re-post any you may find helpful, but please only do so with an attribution and a link back to this post. Thanks!