decluttering

The challenges of decluttering books

Decluttering is hard, yo! I knew that going in. You spend years and years of accumulating stuff, assigning them a specific, sometimes purely sentimental value. Of course, it’s going to be hard to get rid of them in a weekend!

I was realistic about what decluttering would mean and how it could impact me.

But I wasn’t ready for what decluttering books would do to me.

I grew up in a home where a lot of value was placed on books. My entire family read books, and our shelves were full of them. I was raised believing that books were precious. You didn’t bend corners, you didn’t write in margins, you always used a bookmark so it wouldn’t damage the book.

For years and years, I loved books. My love for books transformed into my love for writing. Books changed my life.

Which is why it was weighing on me so heavily to have so many books and knowing that I still haven’t read the ones I bought 5 years ago and more…

That knowledge was what motivated me to declutter my books. They couldn’t bring me joy if I haven’t read them, right? And as Marie Kondo said, those I already read contributed to my life and their purpose was done.

The first challenge I faced was overcoming what I’ve been told since the beginning. Placing some mystical value on books simply because they were books. I still wasn’t going to throw them away after I decluttered, but I was more than willing to give them away.

Another challenge was forcing myself to be incredibly honest. Every time I picked up a book, I had to ask myself if it brought me joy. And if the answer was yes, I had to ask myself another, much more difficult question:

Will keeping this book bring me value?

How realistic is it to think that I will reread this book?

It hurt to realize that despite years and years of being told books are inherently valuable, I still failed to develop a bond with the majority of the books I owned.

Deep down, I have this belief that books aren’t just objects. They’re not just pieces of paper bound by a cover. They’re ideas and stories and notions so powerful they can change how a person looks at the world.

The books I’ve read as a kid shaped me. They taught me about sacrifice and war, suffering and love. They weren’t perfect and some of them taught me through the problems I had with them (someday I might tell you about how The Voyage of the Dawn Threader set me on the path to feminism and almost killed my love for fantasy novels).

But that’s it. I’ve read those books. They influenced me in their own ways. Their work is done. Keeping them on the shelf with no plans for revisiting them will not change the impact they already had on me.

Divorcing the ideas from the pages was a difficult mind shift for me, one I still struggle with. I don’t see myself tearing out pages from the books to hold onto the ideas as Marie Kondo suggests in her book in one brutal paragraph, but I’m somewhat more willing to give my books away. To a friend, to a library, to a used bookstore. All in hopes those books can impact others.

What are your challenges when decluttering books?

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