Confessions of a recovering book hoarder

Over the years I have collected a number of books which are now housed on a couple of overcrowded shelves in my bedroom, gathering dust for the most part.

I have read many of these books cover to cover as they are the kind of light-hearted material which I find easy to devour – memoirs or essays from Nora Ephron, David Sedaris, Mindy Kaling, Diane Keaton, Hadley Freeman and Lena Dunham. These are books that read as if you could be having a long one-sided conversation with a friend who absolutely loves to talk and who you are more than happy to devote your full attention to. You finish them almost as quickly as you started them and feel a sense of sadness when they are over because they became a part of your life for a short period of time.

Then there are the books that I bought with good intentions to read one day and which have laid on my shelves largely untouched, potentially for years, because they are not easy reads, but have more complexity in the ideas discussed and the topics covered. Books like The End Of Poverty and the Female Eunuch fall into that camp.

The reason I have accumulated so many books is I love going to bookstores and browsing for a long, long while, hopping from one interesting book to another and inevitably coming across something I want to buy with the greatest intentions of reading it.

When I was on holiday last week I finally finished reading The Marriage Plot – almost a year after I started it! Avid readers would recoil in horror at this delay but reading has not been at the top of my list of leisure activities recently and holidays are often the only time I dedicate solid time to it.

While on holiday I remembered what a treat it is to get fully engrossed in a book and in the world that is wonderfully visualised on its pages. It may not always be on the top of my list of things to do but I’d like to dedicate more time to this pursuit in order to branch out and broaden my leisure activities.

I have counted that I have eight books on my shelves which I have started and are at various stages on being read. In the interest of putting a stop to this bad habit and to prevent my bookshelves from buckling under the weight of too many unread books I am not going to allow myself to buy any more books prior to finishing the ones on my shelves.

This means I need to get busy with reading and look at gradually finishing each of the books that are partially read. After this I think it would be a good time to look at de-cluttering that space and donating the books I don’t need to own which is all aligned with my recent minimalist goals.

It’s time to get reading!

Confessions of a travelling city dweller

Today I am leaving on a jet plane and heading to Alicante, Spain. As I attempt to not overpack and get into holiday mode I thought it would be a good chance to ruminate on why I am so excited about this holiday.

It is not often that I really dig deep and look into the reasons behind why I travel, but upon reading some of Alain de Botton’s The Art Of Travel, I thought it would be a good opportunity to give it some thought before I jet off.

“At the end of hours of train-dreaming, we may feel we have been returned to ourselves – that is, brought back into contact with emotions and ideas of importance to us.”

– Alain de Botton – The Art Of Travel

My day to day life is filled with habits and routines, the daily grind of work and often the exact same scenery as I journey to and from work and pass through the exact same locales again and again.

Many of us live this life and it can seem like we are living out the Bill Murray movie ‘Groundhog Day’. We are in perpetual motion but not always fully conscious of what we are doing because we are performing rote actions and routines.

For me, holidays in exotic locales give me an escape from what can seem like the neverending hamster wheel we call life. I am released from the ordinary and confronted with an environment that is entirely different and new and this awakens something within me that can at times be forgotten.

Travelling provides the opportunity to take stock of life as you wander the streets of a foreign city, taking in the different architecture, sounds, smells, food and climate.

If you live in London climate is often key. So many days in London are spent with a perpetual blanket of grey cloud hovering above you (as well as smog which we only notice when we blow our noses).

This is why we embrace the sunny days in London so wholeheartedly and bring our shorts and dresses out prematurely. It is also why I have booked this trip to Spain, which is famed for its high percentage of sunny days.

Sometimes you have those busy holidays which you return from almost in need of another break, but this break is a relaxing one, devoid of any real plans apart from eating, going on long walks across the city, hopefully getting enough sunshine to bathe in and eating some delicious local cuisine.

Ultimately I am in need of time to relax, to shed the stresses that can accompany my everyday working life and to reflect on what is really important to me. Perhaps this reflective state will also lead me to more creative ideas for my blog and other pursuits.

I am aware that I am also very privileged to be in the position to be able to afford to travel and to experience other corners of the world. I need to embrace this opportunity and have gratitude for the fact that I am able to hop on a plane at all.

I am about to close my bags and head off now a little more aware of why I am travelling and what I want to get out of it. I enjoy having this awareness. Perhaps I’ll have a different set of reasons next time. In the meantime, bon voyage!

Confessions of a former TV addict

There once was a time when I was a bona fide TV addict. I was struck by this affliction in my early teens and a typical evening would involve intense co-ordination of TV schedules.

If it was a busy night I would need to run back and forth from screen to screen, watching Buffy on one TV, recording Friends, Spin City and Veronica’s Closet on one VCR and recording Survivor on another.

VCRs are now a relic of the past, long overtaken by PVRs and SVOD services that allow us to watch our recordings and binge watch shows whenever we want. At the time though, I regarded our VCR as my saviour, performing a wonderful service for those of us who technically had no life and relied too heavily on TV for entertainment.

It shocks me to reveal this, but at one point many years ago I counted that I was recording eighteen shows a week on my PVR. How on earth I kept up with that much TV is beyond me. I was young, almost everything on TV looked as though it was worth watching, and no one was going to stop me consuming it all. Not even my parents who attempted to offer words of warning but to no avail.

Part of my problem was in the misguided mindset that once I started a series I should really try and finish it. I mean, I even stuck with Felicity long after her hair was cut and grew back again and into the strange last season storyline involving time travel.

A crucial turning point came when I first decided to quit a show – this came in season 4 of Alias when it really started to go nuts and it was time to start trimming the fat where my TV viewing was concerned.

Since then I have gradually cut down my TV viewing, to the point where I am currently only watching three shows a week (Big Little Lies, Girls and Billions – all brilliant!). It is about quality, not quantity, and being much more selective about how I spend my free time.

As I mentioned in my post about my attempts to minimize my life, cutting down on TV and only selecting a few shows to watch a week is part of my strategy to declutter my life.

It has also been a part of my shift towards leading a more active lifestyle, aided by my newfound love of Zumba and the long walks I have been taking in the evenings now that it is staying lighter for longer.

Don’t get me wrong, I still really enjoy watching TV but my priorities have changed over time and I am no longer the addict I once was. That is the thing about growing and developing as you get older – hopefully you gain more wisdom and I have found that cutting down on TV is one of the wisest things I have ever done.