Get rid of the stuff that's weighing me down.
I love books. When I walk into a book store or a library, I get a thrill of giddiness that stays put until I leave the store. I think of it as a religious experience! So you can see where books are a difficult place to declutter for me.
But here's the thing. If I'm honest with myself, I used to read voraciously! I don't read as much anymore, but I still have that thrill, and I WANT to read more. I want to find that time and I want to want to read again. But, things have changed for me and I just don't read books as much. I've had books for years – potentially decades! - which I haven't read, but I keep them anyhow. Igot rid of a lot of books in my last apartment, but when I moved, I found that I had multiple books of boxes I hadn't sorted at that time.
I still have one large bookcase full of books. But I found a few changes in mindset that helped me clear out a few large boxes of books, and have allowed me to loosen my hold on some of the books I still have. Next time around, I'll have more books to let go of.
It made sense for me to make a list of reasons I keep books I don't read. I hadn't really thought about it in detail, and, as it turns out, that was the key!
Most of my books fit in one of the follow categories:
- I love them and plan to read them over and over.
- I loved them and want other people to be able to read them, but I probably won't read them again. This includes some of my most precious children's books, and a lot of the fantasy/sci fi I loved in high school. These books were my friends and my escape.
- They are now out of print.
- I want to read them at some point.
Once I defined the groups, I was able to evaluate them more clearly. The books I plan to read again? I'll keep them! They bring me joy now and I expect them to bring me joy in the future.
The books I loved at one time, that I want to loan out or pass on? I have loaned out two books in the past ten years, I think. Two. I'm not doing very well as a lending library. When I'm honest with myself, my best chance at having someone else read these precious books is to pass them on. To friends, to family, or to the library or Goodwill. They are literally doing no one any good on my shelves.
The books that are out of print are hard. I spent a lot of effort collecting them, and I did it because I loved them. Those, I'm keeping for now. Maybe, in the aftermath of this latest purge, I'll be able to let them go. But in the meantime, I have a better space to keep them in, where they're not overcrowded.
The books I want to read were the most significant change. Isn't it funny what we think we want to do, but somehow we're never in the mood or the time isn't right? I realized that I didn't really want to read any of them all that desperately. What I really wanted was a place holder – a reminder that this was a book I wanted to read at some point. With that in mind, I made a list on Goodreads, and I let those go. So many people could enjoy that book in the time that it took me to get around to it! And all of those books should be available from the library when I decide that I want to read that particular book that particular week.
In each of the groups above there are exceptions. I kept things that I was really uncomfortable getting rid of. There's no reason to stress myself out right now by making hard decisions when I have easy ones that can be made. In a month or a year, it might be easier, and I'll make that decision then. I don't want to force anything at this point. I find that my ability to let go naturally improves with practice. So, I proceed with kindness and a heavy dose of logic, and I've made great strides without forcing myself into any incredibly difficult decisions.
Give it a try – make a list of the reasons you hang on to certain things, and see if there is a compromise you can make with yourself. At the very least, you learn a little bit more about yourself – and that's a side of minimalism, too!