Thursday, May 1, 2008

how not to reorganize a bookcase

Ever get fed up with something in your house, and think "I can't stand this another *#@% minute!"?
Well, I'm kind of famous for getting an idea on the spur of the moment, and starting a project, like, RIGHT NOW.

The other day, I walked into the front hall and took a long, hard look at the built-in bookcases flanking the window. The bookcases covered with hippie fabric I bought on sale years ago at this place in San Francisco.

The very same bookcases crammed with just a small portion of the vast collection of books on every subject, from boogers to zinnias, that take up lots of space (and collect lots of dust) in the house.

Okay. I admit it. I'm obsessed. I love books. But it's my parents' fault, really: we had tons of books around when I was growing up. Stacks of them. Bookcases and shelves groaning under the weight of them. Fiction and non, all categorized like a library. I can't help it. They make me happy and nostalgic, and I usually don't like to part with them. (because you never know when you might need to research how to replace the seal on your toilet, or read up on what to do when your kid has a suspicious looking rash.) But the other day, something came over me, and I had to reorganize those shelves RIGHT THEN.

So, I ripped off the fabric (which was there in the first place to shield the books from the eyes of a certain canine who loves to read chew the spines off them when he gets bored) and started sorting. And dusting. And I actually managed to bring myself to put a few in a box for Goodwill or to pawn off on our less disciplined neighbors. The rest I stacked on the floor in the hall as I continued to sort and discard, the four-legged book eater lover drooling over my shoulder the whole time. As with any project I start around here at Camp Cactus, the mess morphed into something bigger and bigger, then ultimately moved by necessity (remember who's drooling over my shoulder?) to another floor, making an even bigger mess.Of course, by the time I got through reading sorting and dragging 2,000 pounds of books up the stairs and over the baby gate, I was ready for a glass of wine. And the shelves were nearly empty, ready to receive their makeover.

After taking a big swig deep breath, I started arranging objects on the now empty and dust-free shelves. This sounds easier than it looks. I'm a freelance photo stylist by trade, you see. It's a profession which requires a degree of attention to detail usually found only in people with a terminal case of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (hereinafter referred to as OCD). In fact, just this morning I worked on a job at a local well-known athletic shoe company, where I spent close to an hour picking infinitesimal bits of stuff out of the stitching on a pair of soccer shin guards, readying them to be photographed. It's not unusual for a stylist to spend long periods of time artfully arranging french fries, or painstakingly placing wrinkles in just the right place on a blanket made to look as if it were casually draped over a sofa. Really. So, when I tell someone what I do for a living (and right after they ask me if I do hair and makeup, which I don't) they usually assume that my home must be a showplace. Of course, I don't actually deny it; it is kind of flattering, after all...but it eventually becomes clear that it's a case of the cobbler's children going barefoot.

Every now and then, though, I manage to get fed up enough with the sorry state of my showplace to change things around a bit.

Here are the "before" and "after" pictures. I have to say, I do feel much better about the bookshelves now, and I'm glad I finally got inspired to reorganize and prettify the front entry. I did cave and put a few books back on the shelves, seeing as it's been several months since the knucklehead has eaten any, but I recognize that the reality of living with these two Labradors is something akin to having a couple of 80 or 90 pound toddlers who will never fully grow up past the baby gate stage. I'm not done yet, though.. I still have to decide where to put all those displaced books upstairs. Wish me luck.


Mercedes said...

Wow, your newly redesigned book cases look great! But, you're reminding me that I have yet to organize any of the books in my house since I moved in...

foolery said...

For ten years I owned a gift store with 15 display windows and a floor-to-ceiling mahogany bar, so I know about displays (though not to the degree of intricacy that you do, not even close). But I didn't own ANY tchotchkes, other than books and a handful of table frames, at my house, because I didn't want to have to dust or design ANYTHING at home.

Very lovely and tasteful results, by the way.

-- Laurie