Moving furniture

When I was growing up, my mom ran a furniture and decorating store with my aunt and grandma, and all three homes became showrooms in themselves. There was naturally a much more frequent churn of furniture in my house than in the average household, and my mom was continually trying to think of new arrangements. As my sister and I got older, we were consulted about the arrangement in our own bedroom, but by that point both of us were too used to continual change to really resist the process altogether.

I carried the habit with me to college, rearranging my dorm room every few weeks (and initially keeping up the weekly thorough cleaning schedule that had been forcibly inculcated into me as well). I was thwarted in sophomore year, when the dorm rooms had built-in furniture that offered no flexibility, but they introduced restackable furniture my junior year, opening up bold new possibilities.

As I’ve grown older, it seems like less flexible arrangements have been the norm. My office at work is shared, and I’ve tried both of the plausible arrangements and determined that only one of them really works. At home, Chicago apartments tend to be very long and narrow, limiting the number of feasible options. My current apartment has been basically the same arrangement for an unprecedented three years…

Until now! The Girlfriend’s now-averted move to Minneapolis has led to the purchase of new furniture that we need to either incorporate or switch out. More tanatlizingly, one of her coworkers is moving and has offered us up to five new bookshelves, offering us the possibility of expanding book storage space while also getting rid of The Girlfriend’s big IKEA bookshelf (a white monstrosity made up of little square cubbies instead of proper shelves), a goal I have long treasured in my heart.

The prospect I find most appealing is the conversion of the dining room — often a more or less wasted space in a Chicago-style apartment — into a library. For the first time in my life, all my books could be in the same room, allowing me to take them in at a glance. This has naturally led to thoughts of a re-sort that would render a logical arrangement immediately legible — even though past experience tells me that that way lies madness.

A conundrum that occurs to me even now is what to do with my class books, which are currently all at school and which form their own category based on my use of them even as they obviously belong to a range of categories in themselves. Do I bring them home to most fully actualize my goal of taking in my full library at a glance? Do they properly belong to “my library” at all? Wheels within wheels….

What about you, dear readers? How do you organize your books, your living space, your working space (the latter two tending to overlap heavily for most academics)?

7 thoughts on “Moving furniture

  1. I designate a library “shelf” for books I bring home and arrange them on that shelf accordingly without disturbing my general home library organization (which is currently in disrepair after moving this semester). I wonder if you could do something similar with 1 or 2 shelfs. Designate it as some kind of Agambian zone or something….

  2. Like this. Books at office are mostly duplicates, things I can never imagine needing at home, or classroom anthologies. My books at home arranged by publisher or by topic. It’s idiosyncratic and I often forget where things went. Wife’s books organized by read and unread, with both groups alphabetized.

  3. Since we’re on the lighter side, I’ll simply admit that my library, scattered among 3 levels in my house is something of a tidy mess. On my ‘coffee table’ is oftenpending reading, so there sits the tempest-in-a-tee-shirt’s latest book, _Event_, glaring at anyone gazing in its neon register. Zizek has a way of lighting up a room. He’s in very good company at the moment, snuggling up to Deleuze and Baudrillard.

    But on a more serious note, exposed books are constant reminders of their place on the reading list on their place on the table, where some Baroque master is just a button away from actualization and plowing the mind, making ready to receive a new idea or two.

    The miniaturization of furniture-guided lebensraum and denkensraum is a good way of keeping house if not a card catalogue. New furniture provides an opportunity to look at anything that could even pass for a shelf, as my beloved often reminds me with gestures of rearrangements, such as _The Erotic Phenomenon_ making its phenomenological reduction from beneath a candy dish.

    Nice piece Adam. When is a bookshelf not a bookshelf?

  4. I tend to keep more immediately “actionable” books on my desk or in some other convenient spot — in the last year or so, I’ve tended to have at least a little empty shelf space that can be used as a “to do” list. I don’t bring home many library books, but I definitely keep borrowed books in a distinctive location. Another wrinkle is that due to historical accidents, I actually have two desks in the house, one of which has some shelving integrated into it, which is currently mostly devoted to Church Dogmatics.

    One goal I have for this re-sort is getting all books off of the top of bookshelves, opening up that space for more transient uses.

  5. Are you guys able to get free copies of books you assign for classes? That’s fairly standard practice in the science world and nice when you can have a copy at work and at home.

  6. With the baby coming, I am about to start packing away my less used books. I lose my shelves and my books and the baby gets all new furniture! How is one supposed to be an academic in an environment like this!?

    Like most, less used books are less accessible or in a rarely used room. Books actively being used in teaching or research are piled mostly incoherently on my desk.

    I like that this post includes the fashion post mocking me in the auto-generated list of “you might also like.”

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