Spring Cleaning: What I Rediscovered About Myself By (Finally) Dusting Off My Bookshelves

Who knew Diane Keaton would be responsible for inspiring me to rethink and redesign my small but meaningful home library?

Apr 30, 2012 at 2:41pm | Leave a comment

I'm obsessed with the idea of renewal and fresh starts.  I believe strongly in taking time for self-reflection and purging things that no longer serve a healthy purpose, in all areas of my life, including my home.  No other time of year revs me up for this task than the spring.  This time around I have felt blocked as to where to start.  Sitting in my apartment I felt really overwhelmed. This past year could be summed up in one word -- transition.  

In order to decide where to begin organizing my house (let alone my thoughts), I decided to stop trying to force the process.  I sat on my bed and just stared out the window looking at the East River. It was a beautiful day and the water always makes me happy -- but nothing. I turned my attention to my bookshelf. Looking at the completely random and dust-covered assortment of travel books, self-help tutorials, music scores and biographies I had spent hours pouring over at various points of my life, I figured out where to start.  

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Certainly not on the scale of the collections featured in Ms. Keaton's article, it's still a reflection of me.

 As I began removing several years’ worth of dust from the all-but-abandoned books I had been collecting since childhood, I began a journey I hadn't been expecting.  The biography my grandfather wrote in honor of my grandmother after she died, the music scores with nearly illegible notes, the cheesy (albeit necessary at the time I bought them) self-help guides, travel books and of course the required collectors' set of Harry Potter jerked me into a tunnel of introspection.  

When I finally focused back on the task at hand (organizing and cleaning), I was struck by how much of me was sitting on these shelves. Polishing up the covers and the shelves was the easy part. What do I do in terms of presentation and order? 

I found an article posted on on our sister site Remodelista titled  "Artful Home Library With Diane Keaton".  This was inspiration jackpot! Not only was this the perfect launch pad for inspiring the recreation of my personal library it was coming from someone who has inspired me professionally as well.  In the article, she writes: "Home libraries are unique. They're yours and they reflect your interests. My library is visual. It consists of photography, design, art, and architecture books. One thing for sure, my library illustrates a kind of visual intelligence: a way of seeing -- seeing different. And that's what I wanted. I wanted my home library to be a 'picture library.'"

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Diane Keaton's "picture library"

Working with what I had hibernating in front of me, I decided I wanted my library to be one of memories and emotion. By grouping books together by the memories and feelings they evoked when looking at them or holding them, I was once again able to appreciate why I brought them into my life to begin with. No longer was I looking at stale shelves of books boringly grouped by type. Now my shelves had energy.  

For example, Harry Potter fit very nicely next to the travel books and music scores I had been studying during the time I spent working on cruise ships. Albeit random for some to look at, it made beautiful sense to me and also allowed me to bring a little bit of my past into my newly clean, organized and re-energized present.

I was inspired the most by what she said in the beginning of her post; "That's the thing about a home library: it changes. Sometimes it's startling; sometimes it seems to be subdued by shadow and light; sometimes it's filled with a sublime beauty." No longer a refuge for killer dust bunnies, my library is a reflection of the journey I have taken; my history if you will. As my personal story evolves, so will what lives on my shelves.

If Ms. Keaton's article can spark such inspiration for my bookshelves, I wonder what she might be able to do to help me organize my closets? Diane, if you are reading this, do think you could lend a hand here too?

For more home and living related inspirations be sure to spend some time with Remodelista.

To hear me "wax poetically" on how I manage to organize my underwear drawer follow me @BryanStendahl