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How to move a large quantity of books

“Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.” – Groucho Marx

Regardless of what you may have heard to the contrary, a person can never have too many books. Really. Never. This is something which has been scientifically verified in multiple peer-reviewed studies by top researchers using the latest techniques at the most impressive institutions in the land (citation missing). Alas, even though a person can never genuinely have too many books, many a person has on occasion grumbled “I have too many books.” According to the previously mentioned study, the scenario in which such grumbling most commonly occurs is while an individual is in the midst of moving. After all, moving from one abode to another is always a stressful activity – and it can be even more trying if a person has a sizable personal library that they need to move. Thus, what follows are some helpful tips for overcoming the ordeal that is moving a heck of a lot of books.

Packing and reading are not synonyms

The process of packing up books largely consists of taking tomes from their respective shelves and placing them into boxes. Sounds simple. Right? Yes, actually, it really is pretty simple. Yet, the simplicity of the task does not mean that it is free from peril! Indeed, many an individual has begun packing up their books by grabbing hold of a given volume and placing it in a box, after which they grabbed another volume and also placed it in the box, but upon taking the third book off the shelf they are struck by a fond nostalgic memory of this particular book and instead of placing it in the box…they sit down to page through it. And before they know it they have settled in to re-read the book in its entirety! Zounds! Bear in mind that this occurred on the third book this person was beginning to box up! If this should occur with one third of the books being packed than very little progress will be made! Which is particularly problematic when you recall that most moves revolve around keeping to some manner of schedule. Granted, you may be correct in thinking to yourself “this is silly, I doubt I’d actually re-read an entire book while packing,” but you should still be aware that even paging through various volumes can devour your time! If you are packing up books, take heed, just pack them, try not to even look at their covers.

Know your strength  

Evidently one of your strengths is accumulating books. Kudos to you. Yet here the type of “strength” being described has more to do with the fact that books are rather heavy. Of course, an individual book or two or five may be sufficiently light that you can carry them in your knapsack or your arms – but dozens of books? Hundreds of books? A box full of books? Heavy. While you are filling boxes (or whatever) with books you should pause periodically and ask yourself “can I lift this without too much strain?” And as a second question you should reflect on how far you will eventually need to carry this box – making sure to consider whether stairs are involved. Now, you may have hired movers to assist with the actual carrying of boxes and such – but here you should also ask “will they be able to lift this without too much strain?” If the weight is too great for you…well…you should just be considerate of how much you’re expecting others to lift. It is better to leave a box somewhat empty than to seriously hurt yourself.

Also, lift with your knees. Now, I know what you’re thinking, “how can I lift with my knees? I do not have hands on my knees!” But you should recognize that you are being silly, that is not what is meant by this recommendation.

Here are some things to pack books into

  • Mid-sized cardboard boxes;
  • Canvas bags;
  • Boxes that were being discarded from the liquor store;
  • Milk crates;
  • Wooden casks;
  • Bankers boxes;
  • Suitcases;
  • Coffins (empty);
  • Sturdy plastic bins;
  • Your bag of holding;
  • Shoe boxes;
  • Steamer trunks (check for stowaways);
  • Treasure chests (empty).

Here are some things you should not pack books into

  • Cardboard boxes that are soaking wet;
  • Pandora’s box;
  • Milk cartons;
  • The Ark of the Covenant;
  • Coffins (occupied);
  • Drums that once contained toxic waste;
  • Treasure chests (full – use the treasure to purchase better boxes, but watch out for curses);
  • Anything on fire;
  • Boxes that are too small to fit more than a single book.

Consider giving some books away

In the course of packing up books one will inevitably have moments wherein you simply cannot find a particular book. The book is genuinely nowhere to be found! Only after many minutes of fruitless search will you recall that the book cannot be found because it was lent to somebody else. This may propel you to immediately contacting the aforementioned “somebody else” in order to get the book back in time for it to be moved…or you can take this as an opportunity to consider that this way you don’t actually have to move that book. Indeed, when one needs to move books it can be a great time to distribute some as long-term loans. When the person to whom the book is being lent says “but aren’t you moving?” you can always counter with “consider it a long-term loan” or “it’s a gift” or “this way our library’s will be connected” or “I’m not going to re-read it” or “[run away quickly, while cackling maniacally the whole time].” If you have a large quantity of books to move you can make this process easier by decreasing the number of books you have to move. Lend some to others! Donate some to a charity that hosts a book sale! This does not mean that you really “have too many books” (remember, a person can never have too many books) – it just means that you have too many books to move. So make some of those books a problem for somebody else.

On a related note, moving is an ideal time for you to return any books that you are borrowing from different people, otherwise you will have to move these books yourself. At this juncture you may realize that somebody actually lent you a large number of books before they moved and now you are stuck with these volumes yourself! Which just goes to show you how wise it can be to factor lending people books into your packing up strategy.

Ask yourself “are my books breeding?”

In the midst of packing up your books you may come across several for which you have no idea from whence they came. There is a chance that your books are reproducing. You never attended that lecture on “safe shelving” did you? You removed the book jackets from your hardcover books, didn’t you? What did you think the bookstore attendant/librarian meant when they said the jacket was to keep the book “safe”? It is time for you to have “the talk” with your books. Yes, this will be awkward, but you should have done it sooner.

Failing that, you might need to hire an exorcist.

Fill up the boxes

Even though you can find some boxes that are advertised as being an ideal size for packing up books, the problem remains that books come in many different shapes and sizes. For which size of book is this box really an ideal size? This is a question that sages have pondered at length, which is probably a waste of their considerable brain power when the answer is relatively clear. Namely, when you are packing up books it is almost inevitable that a box will wind up containing books that come in a variety of shapes and sizes. What this means is that you will need to pack strategically! While not forgetting that you should not fill a box past the point at which you can carry it (see: “know your strength”) you will want to think about how you can fit as much as possible into each box. Watch out for thin spaces between stacks of books and consider what – if anything – you could slide into that space. And consider grouping books by size – within the box – so as to allow you to take advantage of those various spaces that might be generated in this fashion. Yes, attempting to pack this way may require that you pack in a way that necessitates taking a couple of books from this shelf and a couple of books from that shelf and a couple of books from…well, you understand where this is going. Yes, this will mean that your boxes contain a sort of hodgepodge mixture of books – but you’re going to have to unpack them all and re-sort them later anyways. Of course, whilst packing in this way be careful lest you get sucked into thumbing through each box as you fondly recall its contents.

Fill up the boxes with the books, you can use the books to fill up your mind when you’re done moving!

Focus on the present task

While you are packing up a large quantity of books it is almost inevitable that a friend who is giving you a hand with the process will say to you something along the lines of: “this sure would be easier if you just had an e-reader!” What an unhelpful comment! What a comment that solves absolutely nothing in the moment! Why would they say such a thing to you? The answer is obvious: they are actually in the employ of a company that sells e-readers and they receive a monetary kick-back each time they persuade somebody to buy an e-reader. There is a certain logic to their point, alas. For it truly is easier to move an e-reader than to move dozens of boxes of books. Yet, being in the midst of packing up and moving your boxes is hardly an optimal time to have a lengthy debate about the merits of e-readers versus the merits of paper books. Thus, if somebody should needle you that “you should just get an e-reader” reply with a polite smile (they are helping you, after all) and say “I will take that under advisement.”

Pack for a pleasant voyage

Imagine being cramped up in an enclosed space with several other people for days or hours on end while being periodically jostled around as the space you are in is your restrictive cabin for the duration of a fairly lengthy journey. It does not necessarily sound like the most pleasant experience, does it? Verily not! What could make this experience moderately more comfortable? Good company! Indeed, the space might seem a little bit less restrictive if it were to be given over to convivial conversation between old friends. When packing up books you should think in these terms.  Which books would like to be packed together? Which books would not like to be packed together? Now, some might say that this represents a ridiculous anthropomorphizing of books and these naysayers may have a point – but many a person has gone to unpack a box of books only to find that several volumes have been highly damaged in the course of the move. How did this happen? Obviously, a few books were just bashed around when the truck went over a pothole, or when that friend who was helping you move dropped the box down a flight of stairs. Right? Wrong! The books were damaged because the books were fighting inside of the box. Which serves you right for packing books by intellectual rivals into a single cramped cardboard containment! You knew that one author never forgave that other author for that thing that happened that time (you know what I mean). This is what happens when you pack an author’s award-winning acclaimed title with the rest of that author’s overlooked oeuvre – the slighted texts will seek revenge. Surely your shelves at home are arranged in a manner that attempts to group books in a manner that preserves peace (see: How to organize your library) – to the best of your ability you need to take even more care when packing up books. After all, do you really know the things of which books are capable?!?

Good luck!

And remember, no matter how much you the experience of moving your books may make you feel that you have too many books…there is genuinely no such thing as a person having too many books.


More advice of questionable merit!

How to sleep in a library

How to organize your library

What to do when the Internet stops working in your library

How to not ruin a book

How to keep what you’re reading secret

About Z.M.L

“I do not believe that things will turn out well, but the idea that they might is of decisive importance.” – Max Horkheimer @libshipwreck

13 comments on “How to move a large quantity of books

  1. Imperium Woodcraft
    August 16, 2016

    This is so helpful! Thank you for posting this!

  2. David
    August 19, 2016

    Living in a big city often requires some discipline when “giving away” books. A common method is to place books in a box and then take the box to the sidewalk with a hopeful “free books!” sign attached. The intent is that passerbys will admire the fact taht said books are free for the taking! “What a well-read and erudite person who is willing to give away such knowlede for free!” or so one thinks that said passerby is thinking…but alas! Many worthy books are left to sit in the open, sadly neglected and passed over! One never knew that he neighborhood was filled with such Philistines! These neglected books often have a way of finding a spot on the previously “cleaned out” bookshelf or in a box in the basement, with a second chance for a new home on the horizon…

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  5. Andrew5847
    September 11, 2018

    What I enjoy the most abot this, is that you listed Coffin (empty) as a means of transporting them.

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This entry was posted on August 16, 2016 by in Books, Humor, Society and tagged , , , , .

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