housekeeping

tidying up books

This is the third installment in my series of posts about tidying my home based on Marie Kondo’s method in her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. You can read my intro here and my post on clothing here.

My experience tidying my books took me by surprise.

Several years ago I confronted my book hoarding and parted with many, many books. I had been lugging around boxes of books since I left my childhood home for college. By the time my husband and I moved from Vermont to Oregon, we had amassed quite the collection of books between the two of us. We dutifully lugged these books across 3,000+ miles and moved them twice more once we were settled in Portland. For a long time I could never imagine parting with my beloved books.

Then I did part with many. We just began to run out of shelf space and I got tired of dusting books we never opened. We sold many to Powell’s Books, sold quite a few at a garage sale, and donated many as well.

So, since I had already parted with many books, I thought I was already done. I wasn’t. But this tidying phase still went quickly for me.

Once I edited down our bookshelf and my nightstand, I had one very full shopping bag of books to part with. Many of them I’ve never read. In the book, Kondo stresses that the moment to read a book is when you first encounter it. After that, the chances of one actually reading these books is greatly diminished and they become dust collectors (and guilt inducers.) I never read many of the books I decided to part with. I made a Pinterest board of books to read and pinned the titles I was discarding. If I ever decide to read any of these unread volumes, I can check them out from the library. Creating the Pinterest board allowed me to let go of these unread books.

When I surveyed the books that remained on our bookshelf, I actually felt really sad. Something felt wrong. While I do love the books themselves, something was missing. They were basically just books that I presently refer to quite frequently as well as one favorite novel. Interior design and parenting books mostly. And none of the books belonged to my husband. I didn’t feel this book collection reflected our loves, passions, or life fully…but, at least it was tidy?

I still had it in the back of my head that I had an abandoned box of books in the garage. I had no idea what was left in this box but I (wrongly) assumed it was mostly books to discard. I was mistaken. The box languishing in my dark garage was a box of our very most beloved books of all. I felt a wave of relief and happiness when I opened this box! I apologized to the books for making them stay in the garage for so long. You see, my house had been so full of things and books that didn’t spark joy that I had run out of room for the things that do make me happy.

From the found box, I was still able to discard about 20 books. But the collection we are left with is just right. It’s the perfect mix of books from college, books that belong to my husband, books that belong to me, books passed down from dear loved ones, books with pretty art and interior pictures, and some favorite novels and books of poems. All in all, we have 80 books.

I don’t count my kids’ books in that total! They probably own about 200 books. I discarded a few, but really they need and enjoy the books. I will only begin discarding their books when they outgrow them and move on to other books.

I also included magazines in this category and I just recycled all the magazines I had amassed aside from this month’s issues. These two containers were full of dust-gathering magazines, some of them over two years old.

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I had it in my head that I was going to refer back to articles or product reviews and so these piles of paper languished in several corners of my house. Again, I made a Pinterest board of “products to try”, pinned the ones I wanted to remember, and recycled the magazines. My new rule is that once a new issue arrives, I have to immediately throw the old one away. I have a small basket in my dining room where I will keep the current issues as well as my library books.

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I thought about taking a picture of our remaining book collection but I actually feel it’s too personal to post. A carefully edited collection of only those books that spark joy is too deep a window into my heart and makes me feel far too vulnerable here in public internet land. Of course if you visit my house, you are welcome to peruse and I will joyfully tell you the story of why I love any book on my shelf. Here is just a little slice.

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