Ok, prepare yourself: Last year I sold or gave away nearly 1,000 books.
If that makes you cringe in horror, I feel you. Before last year I kept every book I ever owned, ever. That scene in Beauty and the Beast where she gets the library was hammered into my brain so early and so deep that I could never really let go of it… and every new book seemed like one step closer to it.
I was actually pretty good at getting rid of other stuff. Years before this, I read the book Scaling Down and went on a big decluttering kick, throwing away bags and bags of old papers, and clothes I never wore, and other junk that I can’t even remember now. I move a lot, and I just can’t be bothered to carry all that stuff around with me.
But despite my quest to live lightly, I couldn’t bring myself to get rid of a single book, even though they are the heaviest thing I own.
But then I picked up that weird, clever little book that everyone’s always talking about, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. After I read it – and after I moved again, leaving boxes of books behind in a friend’s garage in England – I decided this was getting ridiculous. I had to take a look at my books and decide if they were really all worth keeping.
So I got started. I eased in by getting rid of books I didn’t even like. I found, for example, a cheesy old novel that I’d read once with an ill-advised book club. I thought it was smarmy and false and boring… but for some reason it was still on my shelf! I was never going to re-read it or recommend it to anyone, and it certainly didn’t “spark joy.” Ok, so – I got rid of that novel.
Once I’d done it – once I’d actually got rid of a book, and for a very good reason – it suddenly felt a little easier to get rid of another book… and then another.
I uncovered some crappy old math textbooks on my shelf… I hate math. So I got rid of them. I found duplicates of some books – I had three versions of Les Miserables. I sold or gave away the extras. I was getting the hang of this.
Ok so now I had a bit of momentum and I had to take it to the next level. What about books that I had owned for years, but never read? I started to get honest with myself, and I realized that I was keeping books that I didn’t even want to read.
So I gave them away – good books, interesting books, books that someone else out there in the world might want and what good was it doing just sitting there on my shelf anyway? Wouldn’t it be better if I gave them away to someone who actually wanted to read them?
I sorted and sorted and gave away and sold and kept letting go. My load was getting lighter. And after a whole year of this, you know what? I look back at those stacks and I don’t even miss them.
Because my life is still crammed full of good books.
I kept all my favorites – hundreds and hundreds of them. I won’t get rid of Anne of Green Gables unless you pry it from my cold dead fingers. I kept everything I wanted to keep, if for no other reason than I wanted to keep it.
So in front of me now there are piles and piles of books that I really love… as Marie Kondo would say, they spark joy. And that, I think, is a very good thing.