Project Bookshelf: Erica Hoffmeister

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I am a hoarder; I am the opposite of Marie Kondo. I like my tangible objects. I like old things. Clutter soothes me. My things bring me joy—every single one. When I run my fingers across my trinkets, books, odds, and ends, I immediately transport to the time and place I bought it, found it, and experienced something for the first time, found a space for it in my life, on a shelf. They are like all of my memories, outside of my body, organized neatly in little corners of my life.

This project is actually hilariously timed. As you can see, my several shelves have bowed under the weight of the more, and more, and more books that somehow keep piling themselves up onto the cute little bookshelves my husband built for me…until the bottom one finally recently collapsed.

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My collecting was fine as a single person, but as a wife and mother, I’ve had to parse my collections down. My books, however, I have the hardest time minimizing. How could I betray The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry that a regular at a bar I worked at gifted me over a decade ago that I’ve never cracked open? How could I abandon the used copy of The Complete Works of Oscar Wilde that I absolutely despised reading in grad school and suffered through with a disappointing B+? What if my daughters prefer one edition of Peter Pan over another, and I only have one version?

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You might not believe me when I explain these are meticulously organized: the top shelf is my antique-y collectible books.  My second shelf is mostly grad school texts: I keep these because as a teacher I think I need to, though I’m not sure I’ll ever teach Faust. The third and fourth shelves are fun-reads, novels, and my Young Adult books—my favorite genre to read. The bottom shelf was mostly soft covers, easy-reads, and books I plan on passing onto my daughters, or some books that are already theirs, like the (very-heavy) Harry Potter illustrated editions they get for Christmas each year. I loan books too often, and there are many gaps—I have a list, in a box, with all my bookmarks, of books I need to re-buy. Really, I need a book room (ahem—a library/office).

I used to have more personal effects like trinkets, pictures, etc. but alas, compromise. That said, I think the bookshelf itself is a testament to my personality: misshaped, scattered, a hodgepodge of various genres, styles, and authors, all bowing from the weight of too many memories that I refuse to let go of.

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Erica Hoffmeister is an intern at Sundress Publications.

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