A few months ago our letting agency hiked up the rent on our Edinburgh flat, using some flimsy pretext of ‘current market conditions’ to justify themselves. Heartbroken, Mildly irritated, my poet husband and I set about looking for a cheaper garret to hang our moleskines.
The hunt for a new home was dismal, as is traditional. We saw many terrible flats, and had many more viewings cancelled because someone else had taken it before we even got there. I very nearly committed us to move into a place we didn’t want due to a combination of being fed up, and a miscommunication with a letting agent. That’s right, in a manner that would make the ‘Very British Problems’ Twitter account proud, I genuinely thought it might be better to just take the flat than point out that the guy had misread my email. However, we eventually found somewhere, and we’re in the process of moving in even as I type.
In order to pay less rent money, we are downsizing. We previously had a luxurious box room that could be used for storing books and house guests, as well as for writing away from distraction. This is no longer an option if we want to stay in Edinburgh without selling our organs, and that’s fine – but the change has led us to the not-particularly-startling realisation that our book collection may be reaching crisis point.
As writers, we both read a lot, and accumulate books like Magneto accumulates magnets. Feel free to suggest a better simile in the comments. To save space we do use libraries, and I also have an e-reader, but we’re both pretty terrible at walking past a second hand (or first hand) book shop without going in for a browse, which usually leads to a buy. When birthdays or Christmas come knocking, new books are always on my list. Books are also my favoured form of interior decorating – one of the first things I did in the new flat was demand that we get the books out on their shelves to make it feel more homely.
Before moving, we had a serious conversation about the size of our stash, which resulted in us getting rid of around 60 books. Some were donated to charity shops, others to the good people at Armchair Books. This cull felt quite dramatic at the time, but in reality it barely made a dent. We’re now sitting in our new living room debating how many sets of floor to ceiling shelves we need to order from IKEA so the rest of the collection can come out of its boxes. I haven’t brought up the three shelves worth I still have in my parents’ houses that I will be reclaiming someday when we’ve got more space.
When I sat down to write this post, and thought about my actions in particular (the husband, in fairness, is a lot better at not buying books than I am), it occurred to me that there are two interpretations of this behaviour. One, I am a hoarder, and will probably die walled into my own home by the entire works of Terry Pratchett and unable to escape. Or two, I should continue collecting books at this rate and never donate any to charity again, biding my time until we have enough to build our own house out of them.
I’d like to see the estate agents of Edinburgh ‘current market conditions’ that.