A Biblliophile's Dream, A Mover's Nightmare
July 20, 2021 6:09 AM   Subscribe

I'm moving and I have to downsize like CRAZY. Far and away the biggest pile of stuff I need to get rid of is books. I've already combed through to find what online booksellers and used book dealers will take - and the pile is still huge. How can I make them go away FAST? (Location: NYC, Complication: I have a broken knee and I do not own a car.)

This move is already a huge nightmare - I'm trying to pack up my half of a 2-bedroom apartment with limited mobility. I also have to comb through 15 years' worth of stuff that's been hidden in huge closets and purge things to fit into a new apartment with a FRACTION of the space.

I'm having some success with my local Buy Nothing group claiming things like bedding, housewares, and such (Anyone who comes to get something gets encouraged to bring an extra bag and "help yourself to anything in the pile over THERE"), and I will probably box up all the unclaimed clothing and ship it to the Give Back Box program. The books....not so much - not because people aren't taking them, but because there are so bloody MANY of them. Even when I pull out the ones that I'm selling to places like Powells' and Ziffit and Bookscouter, that still leaves enough three-foot-tall stacks to line HALF of a 12x9 room. And I need them all gone by the 30th.

I have looked into places like PickUpPlease, which claim to come pick up anything for a donation drive - but they don't operate in my area. Several other "drop off your books with us" programs also are not in my area. The Books For Prisoners program in my area is still not accepting donations because of pandemic concerns.

Also, assume I am NOT able to bring the books anywhere myself. I am getting over a broken knee, and would not be able to carry books down the 4 flights of stairs I would have to navigate between my apartment and the street. Nor do I have a car to tote the books anywhere. And I need everything cleared out of my apartment by July 30th (or at least as much as I can) otherwise things will get trashed by the building's shitty new landlord. (I'll get my security deposit back, but my concern is the waste of books.)

Is there any institution or organization that anyone definitively knows of which could come to my Brooklyn apartment and take the whole lot away, or at least most of them, in one fell swoop?
posted by EmpressCallipygos to Home & Garden (15 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
If there is an org that will take them in NYC/Brooklyn, regardless of whether they will come get them, you could engage a helper on a service like TaskRabbit to come take them away and deposit them with your recipient of choice. This approach might broaden your ability to donate the books successfully.
posted by Medieval Maven at 6:19 AM on July 20, 2021 [5 favorites]

I’m in Brooklyn and also a member of my local BN group. Sometimes people ask for “gifts of service” and get surprisingly generous responses. Maybe ask for help with this exact problem—to carry all the books down to your stoop on a sunny weekend morning and let passers-by pick through them?
posted by Ollie at 7:25 AM on July 20, 2021 [3 favorites]

Housing Works will do pickups of larger collections.

I'm not generally a big fan of Goodwill, but if it's that or the trash, they do offer a couple of options.

However, if you've already picked through the collection for several different resellers and given away a bunch to friendly scavengers, you may need to think about whether the remainder actually has much value. Hard to accept for any collector! But I think we really tend to overestimate the worth of most of our books to anyone but ourselves.
posted by praemunire at 7:27 AM on July 20, 2021 [4 favorites]

I like the idea of hiring someone from the neighborhood - there's usually always someone looking for odd jobs - or a task rabbit type of person. It's hard work to move a bunch of books across the city. When I've had books that I didn't feel like toting to Powell's or a local Little Free Library - I'd take them to my branch library and donate them. Is that a possibility if you have help?
posted by amanda at 7:28 AM on July 20, 2021

Given the urgency of your situation and the sheer volume of books remaining, it's reasonable to accept that you won't be able to pass on most or even any of them. This suggestion may be sacrilege to some, but I'd suggest you triage by recycling any books that aren't inherently desirable due to a combination of format, condition, price and availability. I don't know what your collection is like but there is unlikely to be much interest in, for example, mass-market paperbacks that aren't in pristine condition and out of print. This may be all of them and is likely to be most of them, since you've already designated the most desirable books for Powell's, et al. It's nice to imagine some community-minded organization taking the books, but you don't have the luxury of time. Moreover, while it may make the donor feel better, it just creates extra work for no benefit when these organizations take big consignments of largely undesirable items that they have to sort through and dispose of themselves. The vast majority of used books donated to libraries, for example, go straight into the recycling bin. This is kind of a bummer when you've kept these books around for many years and have an emotional attachment to them, but it's often the only thing to be done.
posted by slkinsey at 7:28 AM on July 20, 2021 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Sometimes [on BN] people ask for “gifts of service” and get surprisingly generous responses. Maybe ask for help with this exact problem—to carry all the books down to your stoop on a sunny weekend morning and let passers-by pick through them?

I've already done that and got 3 people helping me with ALL OF THE OTHER stuff. (I seriously have an INSANE amount of stuff that needs getting rid of, I'm going down from 2 walk-in closets to one standard-sized reach-in closet.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:48 AM on July 20, 2021

Response by poster: Oh, and Housing Works says that they are not accepting donations at this time.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:49 AM on July 20, 2021

It's a pity that you've already combed through to sell the good stuff -- I bet you could have found someone local (maybe the strand) who would take everything away and keep the stuff they liked, but "I already sold the cream of the crop" makes this a less appealing proposition. Agree with slkinsey that, sadly, most of these books will end up pulped one way or another and it is time to make peace with that.

Park Slope UMC does a big book sale every year so you might give them a call. I think they're unlikely to take your books but I would ask them what they do with the books they can't sell.

If you can find a place that can take them, you can treat the transportation as a separate proposition per Medieval Maven.
posted by goingonit at 7:54 AM on July 20, 2021

Best answer: I think I'd try a bunch of things in parallel, and one of them would be to sort the books by genre/type and post ads giving away a "big box of SciFi books", "big box of mycology books", etc. At the same time you can also post the same boxes for sale on craigslist or whatever for some silly price, since sometimes people hunting for bargains are looking there rather than at freecycle-type places.

You've probably checked this DonateNYC site, right?
posted by trig at 8:13 AM on July 20, 2021 [2 favorites]

Maybe not the help you are looking for, but if you could get moving help (I'm happy to lend a hand), I have a car and am in Clinton Hill and would be happy to help you out this weekend. DM me if you want!
posted by greta simone at 9:11 AM on July 20, 2021 [2 favorites]

Since it sounds like you're willing to give them away for free, I'd just call around to the nearest bookstores and see if they are interested in taking the whole lot off of your hands. I'd box up the books before they arrive. My friend used to work for a thrift store in Brooklyn and his boss regularly bought whole storage containers without being able to see much of what was there.
posted by coffeecat at 9:11 AM on July 20, 2021

This thrift store in south slope will take virtually anything off your hands. Whenever we are purging our stuff we dump it at that place and they are always happy for the donation. I’ve donated old cds, old books, clothes, belts, shoes, you name it. It says they will do pick ups, so you can ask them about that, but if that doesn’t work out and you really just want to get them out of your apartment it seems worth a task rabbit.
posted by cakelite at 11:09 AM on July 20, 2021

If it's not too invasive, might I ask where in Brooklyn you are? Feel free to MeMail me if you don't want to reveal your specific location here. I have lovely friends in Crown Heights who would be happy to help you get the books down the stairs and may even take some of the books off your hands in exchange for, like, a six pack of beer. I can try to connect you with them.
posted by nayantara at 7:01 PM on July 20, 2021 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: nayantara: THANK YOU, check your memail!

I've actually ordered a "junk haulers"/space clearout team for next Thursday as a safety; I tried calling and reaching out to a few spaces on the DonateNYC site, but either they wanted to see pictures of everything first or they weren't doing pickups. Goodwill had the best option for pickups for someone in the weird vague spot I was in, where it was a lot of "stuff" but not necessarily a lot of furniture - a bit of a discount with a space clearout team. I spoke to someone there and they said that from the sounds of things I'd fill only a fraction of their truck, so it was way less than the 800-got-junk crew - and their whole idea is that they take everything and then THEY go around to the various charities and try to get thing donated so I don't have to. I still want to try to get as much into other people's hands other ways, but I'll have some furniture that needs clearing out too so that seemed the safest bet.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:08 PM on July 20, 2021

Response by poster: Okay, I am marking this resolved, but for possibly the best reason ever -

Someone I work with was claiming one of the bookcases I am giving away and stopped by to get it today. But she owns a van, and took that in expressly so that she could also bag and box up a shit-ton of stuff that was bound for Goodwill for me. She has cleared out TWO-THIRDS OF THE PILE, and things feel SO much more manageable now.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:25 PM on July 23, 2021 [1 favorite]

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