Thursday, February 2, 2017

Preparing to Prepare: Catalog Christmas Books

Can I tell you how happy my children have been since I made my big push to take the slalom course of Advent and Christmas paraphernalia out of our hallway and to get it all sorted, organized, catalogued, and put away

I am not exaggerating.  When the children saw our hallway all cleared up, they began literally kissing the walls.  They were that happy with "all this space!"  And me?  I was, too, and, I've been feeling doubly glad to have my kitchen table back.

Finishing the Final Bits of Packing Up Christmas 

This early week, I worked for hours and hours purging, organizing, and cataloguing Christmas books as part of my efforts to prepare throughout the year for Advent and Christmas.  In fact, I was still working on the final parts of this mini-project as my kiddoes had their St. Brigid Day oatmeal the other day, which was a bit disconcerting, because I had hoped to be done long before then.

Luckily, the kids were champs that morning and, after breakfast,  they helped peel and dice apples for homemade applesauce while I made one last push to finish my second mini-project in preparing to prepare for Christmas.

Just in time, I finished cataloguing and storing all of our Advent and Christmas books away and set the table for our
Luncheon Tea for St. Brigid, St. Verdiana, and Our Lady of Altagracia.

That delighted me.  For Christmas books all put away = clear table = table ready for company = one happy mama!  One happy mama who has celebrated twice since clearing the table.  Yep, it's been a double-hitter tea week here.

We celebrated a Candlemas Poet-tea with friends, too.

More on teas another time, though.  Right now, back to explaining about those books.

Just How Do We Own So Many Christmas Books?

For years now, we've spent most of Advent into Christmastide reading, reading, reading with our Alphabet of Advent, Literature-Rich Advent,
Works of Mercy Wisemen, and more.  Thus, every year, I pull out whatever I can find from our personal book collection and also borrow baskets of books from our local library to enjoy during our S.K.I.L.L. T.I.M.E +, Together Time Bag and bedtime reading. 

Without question, Advent and Christmas have become synonymous with cuddling up with books in my house. 
Unfortunately, that has often meant book explosions, too. 

Some years, our library books don't all get returned until nearly Lent, and, most years, our personal collection gets stashed away bit by bit, here and there, causing parts of it turn up missing the following Advent,
lost somewhere in the abyss of mounting disorganization.

This year, then, I was quite proud of myself, for getting some of the many library books we had borrowed returned before Christmas, and more before Epiphany, with the last of our borrowed Advent and Christmastide books out of our home before the end of January.

Indeed, I was ever so pleased last week when I checked to see what was due on our library cards and didn't notice a single Christmas book still checked out.  (Little things give me great feelings of accomplishment and success these days!)

Unfortunately, my self-congratulations ended, when I began organizing our various book baskets, shelves, and stacks with February reading, whereupon I realized just how many of our personal Christmas books were still hanging around everywhere and, moreover, just how many Christmas-themed books we actually own.

By the time I had collected all of our Advent and Christmas books from sundry shelves, baskets, and drawers, I faced stacks and stacks of books on my kitchen table that were more than a foot high each.
How on earth did we collect so many Christmas books? I marveled.  For, before seeing our Christmas collection stacked all in one place, I had known that we owned a lot of Christmas-themed books.  However, I simply did not realize just how many we've been blessed with!  Between gifts, purchases, library discards, and pass alongs, it is amazing what piles and piles of Christmas books we had amassed and - lo! - there were even some repeat titles among them.

Thus, began a sort and purge.

First, I sorted all the Christmas books into categories:  

  • books we use during each specific week of Advent or Christmas,
  • books we enjoy in general throughout the season,
  • books we definitely will enjoy for years to come,
  • books we can part with now,
  • and, books that I want to decide on after one more year in our possession.

That step done, there were still 70+ books on my table and - yikes - later, I found another small stash of them.


Thus, I gave myself a limit for how many books to keep and catalog:  I would only keep as many books as would fit, sorted into drawstring bags by category, in a single 18-gallon plastic tote.

Of Sorting, Storing, and a Ready Reference List

Once I had decided on the limit I would allow for our Christmas book collection, I sat down with my laptop and created a document that included the following columns for each book:

  • Date to Be Read (if applicable)
  • Tradition We Tie In with the Book (if applicable)
  • Works of Mercy Wisemen for the Book (if applicable)
  • Title
  • Author
  • Illustrator
  • Type of Book (Boardbook, Hardcover, or Softcover)
  • Notes
  • Themes
  • Whether the Book is Religious or Secular

Now, this might seem like overkill to some, but, for me, it is just the right amount of information to note. 

With such information, I can work out this year's Advent and Christmas reading plan easily throughout the year without having to drag out our bin. For the list will remind me which books we own, which we may wish to borrow, and which I might buy on sale. 
I can also easily retrieve particular books that we may want to revisit on specific dates throughout the year - like Kristoph and the First Christmas Tree on June 5 for St. Boniface's feast day or picture books about Christmas around the world when we study specific locations in Geography Club.  Since I cataloged and, then, stored our Christmas collection by theme and typical date(s) of use, and since I know whether each book is a boardbook, softcover book, or hardcover book, I now know which book is where and what exactly I am looking for, so I can easily go to the bin and retrieve just what I am looking for within minutes without much rummaging, hefting, or hauling.

Likewise, with my newly catalog list, I can also be more prudent when it comes to which additional Christmas books that I may buy and borrow.  For, yes, (and here I hang my head in shame) in the past, I have been known to borrow - or even to purchase - books that we already own because I thought we did not since our copies of some book had been lost in the abyss of our home.  I have also - much to my children's disappointment - neglected to borrow family favorites from the library, thinking we owned them and that they'd turn up before the season ended, when, in reality, I was confused.  We'd borrowed certain books year after year, not bought them.

True fact is, that Mama's memory is not what it once was, but mama's newly catalogued list solves that problem.  I now have a ready reference of what we own, so I will better be able to determine what we may want to purchase on sale or borrow again.  Not rocket science, I know, but a tediously long step taken which will now make my path to a more prepared Advent and Christmas so much easier.

I don't know if I am more excited about having purged some Christmas books and catalogued the rest into a neat little file or having my kitchen table back.  Honestly, both delight me and have me revved up for the next step in my preparing to prepare efforts.

What steps are you making month-by-month to prepare for Advent and Christmas?  Are there favorite Advent and Christmas titles you'd recommend?  I'd love to hear about them.

Also, be sure to stop by each month this year on the 2nd to see what more I've done to prepare for Advent and Christmas - or to prompt me to do more.  Thanks!


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