Our Reading Lives

Yes, You Can Be a Minimalist and Love Books!

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This is a guest post about being a book-loving minimalist from Yasmin Cole. Yasmin is a school librarian who studied Fine Arts, majoring in painting, at university. She enjoys reading YA and Junior Fiction, Fantasy Fiction and books on minimalism and simplicity. When she isn’t working or reading (both which involve books!), Yasmin loves to get her hands dirty in the garden, or cooking artisan pizzas in the kitchen. Yasmin lives in Victoria, Australia.

About two years ago, I started reading books on simplicity, minimalism, and small homes. Looking back, I think it all started with Dee Williams’s The Big Tiny. I then read Tammy Strobel’s You Can Buy Happiness (and it’s cheap) and that was it; I was inspired. I wanted to declutter my home, simplify my life and, maybe one day, when my teenager had moved out of home, even live in a tiny house. Not long after this, Marie Kondo published The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, so I bought and read Marie Kondo’s book and I further reduced my possessions by asking myself if they “sparked joy.” I even played the 30-day Minimalism game, as written about by the authors of Minimalism: Live a Meaningful Life, Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, on their blog. In the minimalism game, you remove one item from your home on day one, two items on day two, right through to thirty items on day thirty. Whilst I still have some way to go to truly call myself a minimalist, you could say that I am passionate about this topic.

However, one comment that I hear a lot from book lovers—and I understand it completely—is, “what about my books?” Since decluttering my home, I have reduced the number of books I own considerably. When deciding which books to keep, I have used the following ideas as a guide:

  • Do I need to refer to this book? For example, is it a cookbook or a gardening book that I look at regularly?
  • Will I read this book again? Last year I bought the book Milk and Honey, by poet Rupi Kaur and I have read it twice since. It definitely earns a place on my bookshelf.
  • Does it have sentimental value? I still own some old hardcover books that belonged to my Mother when she was a child. They bring me great joy to look at and they have been read to three generations of children. They are keepers.

Conversely, there have been some questions that have helped me to choose which books to give away, too:

  • How long has this book been on my to-be-read pile? If it is longer than a year, chances are I’m not going to read it. With some books, I chose to give myself a month to read them and if I still hadn’t read them at the end of the month, then I passed them on to someone who would.
  • Can I get this book from the public library if I need it again (or when considering purchasing a new book)? Public libraries are wonderful resources and the ultimate in book sharing.
  • Is the information in this book out-of-date? Travel information, medical journals, law information and computer manuals all go out of date very quickly. Again, a public library is a good source of this information or authoritative websites.  
  • Can I get this book in an electronic format? Whilst I am a lover of print books (let’s face it, there is nothing quite like holding a book in your hands), for some books, it might be appropriate to buy an ebook. This will give you a copy you can keep referring back to, without cluttering up your home.

It was Marcus Tullius Cicero who said, “A room without books is like a body without a soul.” Even after embracing minimalism, I have to agree with him. Ultimately, it is about balance and what is right for each individual. By reducing my collection of books to those that I love and use, I have found that I appreciate those that I have all the more.