The last couple of weeks have been very busy. After twenty years of living in rented accommodation, we’ve put down a deposit on a new flat and are currently going through all the admin and paperwork required to apply for a mortgage. Most people of my generation went through this decades ago, but for a variety of reasons we never took the plunge into buying our own place until now – reasons mostly revolving around a series of jobs I had that teetered on the edge of redundancy for years. Thinking that I might have to move away if I got another job, I’d prioritised mobility over security.

Now, though, I’ve got a stable job in a company that’s doing fine, and I’m not getting any younger. We were going to have to move at some point anyway, as our current rented flat is in need of a serious amount of renovation and modernisation that the landlord doesn’t seem very interested in, so when the opportunity arose to look at buying a new-build flat, we took it.

If we’d bought a flat when I first started work, we could have had the mortgage almost paid off by now…

But now the real work begins. The new flat is a similar size to our current one, but lacks any storage space. In addition, we want to make use of the second bedroom as a study/library, rather than a store-room filled with stacks of boxes of books like we have now. This means we have to have a clear-out.

Step one is thinning out the herd of DVDs. I don’t have the emotional attachment to films that I do to books, so I thought this would be the easier job. So far I’ve got rid of a couple of hundred DVDs – some to online “send us your stuff and we’ll give you £0.14 a disc” companies, and some to colleagues in the office. I used to have a huge anime collection – whole seasons of Ghost in the Shell, Fullmetal Alchemist, Neon Genesis Evangelion and so on – and I decided I’d feel better about giving them up if they went to a good home.

Even trying to be completely ruthless, there are some DVDs that I just can’t bring myself to part with. Cowboy Bebop. Haruhi Suzumiya. Air. I consider Haibane Renmei to be one of the finest pieces of art I’ve ever seen. I could no more part with my Studio Ghibli films than lop off a finger: give up Totoro? No chance!

It’s all a balancing act. It’s all about prioritisation. I need to get rid of as much as possible to save space, but I don’t want to give up films and series that mean a lot to me.

Books are going to be more difficult, and there are a lot more of them to sort through.

In the spare room are boxes of books that my parents packaged up and sent down to me when they moved house and didn’t have space for them any more. I’ve got a sci-fi collection that dates back to the early 80s, when I first started buying adult fiction: Heinlein, Asimov, Silverberg, Herbert. Going through those is going to be hard. Logically, if they’ve been hidden in boxes for the best part of 20 years, I’m not going to miss them if I get rid of them – but emotionally, it doesn’t work like that.

My Iain Banks collection is mostly in hardback, several of which are signed – I can’t get rid of those. Will I ever read my Haruki Murakami books again? Perhaps. Perhaps not. But it’s a hard thing to consider leaving them in a carrier bag in a charity shop. I’ve got the whole series of David Feintuch’s Seafort saga – Midshipman’s Hope and its sequels – and they are, objectively, a bit rubbish, but they’ve been my comfort re-read for 15 years, so how do I part with them? (Although I’ve just noticed that they’ve finally been released on Kindle – perhaps that’s an option. Kindle books don’t take up any shelf space…)

Prioritising my book collection is going to be very difficult.


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