Resistance is Futile: On Being a Life-Long Book Collector

This is a guest post by Kristina Pino. Kristina is a freelance photographer and writer with too many hobbies and not a single idea what she wants to be when she grows up. It probably involves sunflowers, books, and a healthy amount of travel. For now, she writes about nerdy stuff and lives in Japan. You can learn more about Kristina at geekerydo.blogspot.com or follow her on Twitter @geekerydo.

When I found out I was moving to Japan, I had to make some big changes in a hurry. I was still living in the house I’d grown up in with my parents, which meant sorting through years of accumulated junk and non-junk to decide what I really needed to bring with me, and what had to stay. In the end, I decided to pack my life away into only two suitcases (one large, one carry-on) and a backpack, which meant that most of my personal library, among other things, had to stay behind – a worthy sacrifice for my big adventure.

Once I arrived at my small apartment, I had already resolved to buy as few physical books as possible to save space. I had brought my Kindle with me, and an iPad, and it would have to do. But the first thing I struggled with after unpacking all my things was how perfectly it all fit in my small space, which made it feel empty: like I needed to buy little knick knacks and books to shove into my new shelves so that I’d feel more at home. And after a few months, I was back to my old habits.

Eventually, I decided I had to declutter my life. But I also realized that I can’t force myself to just stop caring about collecting books. I built myself a proper bookshelf and did some major spring cleaning.

Now for the good part: I might just be walking contradiction. Over the past year, I’ve learned many things about myself, most importantly that I’m happier when there’s less clutter around me and I’m happier when I’ve got a shelf full of books nearby. Less is more – yadda yadda. I’ve become a better traveler, climbed my first mountains, learned to try new (sometimes weird) foods often, and developed a sense of pride in letting go of so many material things. But I’ll never be able to let go of collecting books. I love the feeling of owning a book, of putting the ones I love most in the best shelving space, of wearing out the spines of a paperback with use, of lending a book I enjoyed to a friend in hopes they’ll like it too, and glancing at my shelf and remembering how I felt when I read this or that.

I’m already thinking about what kind of living space I want next, once I’m done with this stage of my life, and how shelving potential is going to be a big factor. I would call my book-buying habits a guilty pleasure, but I don’t actually believe in guilty pleasures. That and, it’s not like an extreme hoarding habit – I prune often, and I’m a regular at my local library (I was thrilled to learn my local Japanese library has books in English). In the end, for me, it’s just a matter of accepting that it’s totally okay to travel like a backpacker and have shelves full of books waiting when I get home. Then it’s like I never stopped having adventures.

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