Hoarding intervention fantasy camp

I know hoarding is a real thing and I also know that just cleaning up a place does nothing to solve the underlying psychological condition, but I am setting that all aside and risking insensitivity, so I can talk about this absolute delightful shambles of a bookstore.

If you like rummaging through second hand bookshops as much as I do, you will eventually run into situations where it seems like the book seller has hoarding tendencies. Some of these shops are exercises in controlled chaos, but with some climbing gear and a hard hat you can find your way to all sorts of interesting things. I guess these are run by high-functioning hoarders. Then there are those booksellers who seem to relish amassing stock at the expense selling anything. How they pay the bills is a mystery. I was even in one delightfully large store in the northeast of the US where the entire fiction section was entirely blocked by piles and piles of “new” stock and completely inaccessible. The owner just shrugged his shoulders and offered no remedy. I’ve encountered aged booksellers who are well beyond retirement still taking in way more books than they could ever sell and then pricing them not to sell.

What follows is a bit of a photo essay of a shop/seller on the more extreme end of the spectrum.

Coming up the stairs from the basement. The place was both magical and frightening. I normally am not claustrophobic, but I did start to imagine all sorts of tragedies where I was buried and killed by a book cave in.
So many books in rubble sacks that I doubt will ever see the light of day. I began to plot out how I would handle getting the shop organized. In a shop like this, the logistics of it are complicated by the fact that there is not one bit of space to shift books so you could get them organized.
Clearly the part of the shop beyond that “no entry” sign was once part of the selling floor. This is where the hoarding tendencies overcome any notions of being a book seller. My question is, has that been off limits for as long as that raggedy sign would suggest, or has the sign just been moving its way ever closer to the front of the shop over the years?
I would love to spend a year in total control of this shop. Each day helping the dribble of customers, and spending most of my day slowly making sense of it all. Organizing, disposing, cleaning, improving….but not so much that it loses all of its chaotic charm.


6 thoughts on “Hoarding intervention fantasy camp

  1. Geoff W July 23, 2019 / 9:22 am

    I still shudder from the one in Salem, MA that was dangerous to go into because the books were piled so high and were trip hazards. Someone bought it at some point in the last decade and it’s lost most of its charm because it’s now just a normal bookstore with plenty of room and lots of tchotchkes.


  2. Susan in TX July 23, 2019 / 9:54 am

    I can’t be in an over-cluttered shop for too long. I don’t think of myself as claustrophobic – I think it’s more a case of overwhelming chaos that needs to be brought under control.


  3. Cindy Fried July 23, 2019 / 10:22 am

    I, too cannot stay anywhere cluttered for too long. I get distressed even looking at home listings where the kitchen counters have so much ‘stuff’ on them. And don’t get me started about charity shop book corners where they have neglected to alphabeticise. Though books are not considered clutter in my mind, this shop looks like the exception. But did you buy anything?


  4. Ruthiella July 23, 2019 / 8:54 pm

    Seriously Thomas, you and the right book store are a reality TV show just waiting to happen.:D


  5. TravellinPenguin July 24, 2019 / 7:59 pm

    We have a shop here that is similar about 45 min from where I live. It is also combined with a garden se,ection of plants you can buy. All of it is just chaotic but I rescued a great number of old Penguin books for my collection when I was collecting.


  6. Jennifer July 25, 2019 / 2:39 pm

    I sometimes feel this way in the bookstore across from Eastern Market, but they seem to do a pretty good trade and are definitely willing to sell the books. Isn’t it everyone’s fantasy to be able to tidy up a bookstore? And it’s so much nicer to tidy up someone else’s stuff.

    Off topic: I live roughly in your neighborhood and I think my husband and I are finally ready to embark on our kitchen renovation (which will involve reconfiguring a lot of of first floor, but not nearly as much as you had done.) I remember following along on your house and garden renovations, and was hoping you’d be willing to share your architect/contractor experiences off-line. Hopefully you should be able to see my email down below, or on our world’s most ancient website. (email Jen link)


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