Rookie Mistake #1: How Not to Pack Books

Who knew that packing to move was such an art? I thought I had it down: labeling ALL sides of each box, listing not only the contents but the final destination (living room, bedroom or the soon-to-be-Lady-Hoofers-World-Headquarters), and writing “fragile” on my collection of centerpiece vases stolen from the Sugarhouse Casino.

What I did not consider is that packing one’s books into “as few boxes as possible” is not a good idea. It’s a terrible idea. Especially if you were homeschooled, pursued a double major and a minor as an undergraduate, went on to acquire a rather eclectic and interdisciplinary Masters degree and subsequently developed a minor addition to the gallery guide clearance section in the gift shop at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Suffice it to say, I have a lot of books. And packing all of them into three very large boxes—although satisfying—was, I soon discovered, not my most brilliant plan. Each box weighed approximately 900 pounds and you can’t keep friends if you ask them to help you move 900 pound boxes, not even if you reward them with beer and pizza and artisan gelato.

So, I spent the afternoon repacking them into eight much smaller and much more manageable boxes, all the while complaining to the European about A) my general stupidity and B) the fact that the eight much smaller boxes totally ruined my organizational schematic (Box 1: Design, including everything from architecture and fine art to costume history; Box #2: Dance, Box #3: History and anthropology).

He told me about a couple who, upon merging their book collections, had to decide whether to organize them thematically or by color.

I told him that if we ever reached that point organizing by color is out of the question.  I mean seriously, its cute and extraordinarily magazine-worthy but where is the functionality here? 


I’d be willing to wager, in fact, that books-organized-by-color is one of the leading causes of divorce.  (In which case, I’m glad we’ve got that potential deal breaker sorted out.)

13 Responses to “Rookie Mistake #1: How Not to Pack Books”

  1. Landlord

    When we moved the last time, I finally had to purge my book collection…it broke my heart as many of them were FABULOUS books for children, travel, gorgeous horticultural porn (for me), and whatnot…but 8 years later, I do not miss them, and have really pared down acquiring any more. But then again, I’m no longer “homeschooling” or running workshops that need new content that I can’t acquire elsewhere. I also don’t have room for the shelves ;( I will happily help you move, and unpack your treasures. Color coding does speak to me, but the library aide in me is horrified! 🙂 Even our small collection in Hooper is somewhat categorized.

    • Kat Richter

      Yes, sadly the 8 boxes represent the already-culled collection but I did get rid of about 2 or 3 dozen volumes. Not too bad 🙂

  2. Jerseyite Lurker

    I say, organize them by theme. When you have a lot of books, the challenge is being able to find the book you need when you need it. Geertz’s “Interpretation of Cultures” is easier to find when it’s not nestled among the romance novels and the cookbooks.

    • Kat Richter

      Haha! I used my mom’s organic produce delivery boxes for the first 6 and wine for the last 2. It’s bugging me that they’re not all the same though- I might have to gauge out my eyes to avoid looking at them!

  3. Laurie

    I saw this on an episode of Sunday Morning: Now you can color-code your library with custom book covers and still keep it thematic. I doubt if I will ever go to the trouble of recovering my library. Each book has a memory and a feel, so I look for the small red binding or the blue-gray skinny paperback. I just moved back after a 2-year+ renovation, and have 27 bookcases (some already double-deep with books) and three elsewhere that I can also fill, yet I might have 30 more boxes of books. I have already given away two boxes, but mine is a working library that always gets weeded, because it keeps on growing. I have to do some serious pruning this month. When you have these many books, they all have to go by subject, and then alphabetically, or else it’s hard to find what you know is there. Books are my addiction. I just visited a used bookstore, promising myself that I would buy none, and walked out with only six – all marvelous folktales from far-flung cultures that I will use in my classes. Oh, well.

  4. becky119

    So I’ve fallen way behind on your blog, which is sad and happy. It’s happy because now I’m catching up and binge-reading – always fun. It’s sad because I don’t know what’s going on and the facebook updates are just confusing. But anyway… I got excited when there was a post about books.

    I do not think it would be possible for me to fit all my books into eight boxes, even big ones. I have a lot. Like, A LOT. An entire set of encyclopedias, a ton of literary textbooks, grammatical textbooks, and textbooks on profiling and criminology (for helping to write murder mysteries). Then there is my collection of books that I ordered in German to help me become fluent (all of Sophie Kinsella’s stand alone novels, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Jane Eyre, and Harry Potter). Then there are the rest of my Harry Potter books. Do you know I have four complete sets? And that is only because I gave away one set. Yup, I had FIVE physical sets. I also have an electronic copy. I also have a poetry section in my library, two big rows and most are hardcover. Then there is the miscellaneous literature in my library. This accounts for the seven bookshelves plus the extra shelves in the closet. And everything is overflowing.

    The first time I packed up my library (it was only four bookshelves at that point) I did it reversed alphabetical. I thought it was super clever, this way when I unpacked it would still be in order. Well, it ended up getting messed up anyway and my meticulous planning went out the window. I didn’t account for the new books I would acquire and it was just a mess. But I think I had thirty boxes. So don’t feel bad about your eight. I had thirty when I had four book shelves. It is probably a safe bet that I will need at least sixty boxes next time I move just for books.

    So eight is good, you should be proud.

      • becky119

        First of all, because Harry Potter is amazing. Secondly, because I thought there would be a difference between the American and British versions. There isn’t really. I ordered the Adult British Harry Potter and the Children British Harry Potter – main difference is the cover art. Then I have my copy in German and (funny story) when I went to order off of, well, I accidentally ordered a full set of Harry Potter in English. From Germany. So that sucked, but I wasn’t about to return the new beautiful set since I’d already paid for it. So instead I carefully reordered Harry Potter in German and gave away the less than perfect set of Harry Potter American version that I had already owned. See, it all makes sense!!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Basic HTML is allowed. Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS

%d bloggers like this: