Pick up the book, thank it, and place it in a pile to donate.
My eyes grew wide and my head screamed No No No! WHAT ARE THEY DOING?
After seeing several seething book bloggers ranting on Twitter about an episode of the new Tidying Up With Marie Kondo show on Netflix, I decided to check it out for myself. As a librarian, I’m all for putting things in order, sorting, and picking up your space, but this sounded like it was going a step too far. What kind of monster gets rid of books??
Instead of picking up my phone and adding my immediate reaction to the ever growing inanity of Twitter, I’ve taken some time to breath and mull over my thoughts and now I can calmly say I have mixed feelings about the whole issue.
The case for keeping books…
Marie Kondo asked her victims, sorry clients, to sort their books based on the question, “Will it be beneficial to your life going forward?” I easily came up with several answers that would justify keeping all my books.
- Books are like old friends! You may not need them all the time, but they’re worth keeping around.
- I might want to share this book with any future children! (This is also a good excuse for increasing your book collection with the illustrated Harry Potter books, amiright?)
- My parents have duplicates of books from combining their college book collections. So why shouldn’t I keep different editions of the same book?
- And the Archivist in me: Someday they’ll be HISTORIC!
I almost picked up the remote, but kept watching. Kondo goes on to say that, “It will show you what kind of information is important to you at the moment.” That’s definitely not how I maintain my book collection. If I kept only books that were important to me at the moment… I imagined only having my college history textbooks on the bookshelf. Then I imagined a blank bookcase with just an e-reader full of travel-blogger e-books sitting alone on one shelf. Nope. That argument didn’t leave room for keeping books for sentimental reasons or for future unknown as of yet possible use.
As I watched the poor souls picking through their book collection and note that they had an easier time getting rid of clothing than the books, I realized I too clearly have life priorities. It is to be buried under a pile of books that has come crashing down on top of me because I couldn’t get rid of them.
Realizing that this maybe isn’t the best life goal, I turned off the rest of the episode and hurried to my bookshelf.
The case for culling your collection…
If your books have exceeded your bookshelf space (that’s including stacked 3 deep and shoved in flat on top of the other books), if you’re starting to use floor, table top, and other spaces, either you need another bookcase, or it might be time to think about culling your collection… Or, if you’re thinking about downsizing in order to travel, you’ll probably be using your e-reader for books and wondering how to decrease your current print collection. Luckily there are several different and fun ways to give books away!
Here are a few ways to de-clutter your book collection:
- Take books to nearby Little Free Libraries. Maybe slip a note into the book for the next reader letting them know how much you enjoyed the book! Check out The Roaming Reader’s Instagram #ThePostItProject for inspiration.
- Register the book on Bookcrossing, leave it somewhere for a lucky reader to find and then track the book’s travels.
- Become a Book Fairy and leave books for readers to find.
- Give books to local used bookstores. See if you can find one that uses proceeds that benefit a cause you support.
Before outrightly dismissing the whole decluttering your books notion I thought I should assess my own book situation. Staring at my bookshelf, I had a realization. The reason I don’t want to get rid of any of my books is actually because the ones on my shelf have already gone through a very selective process to be there. Similar to the way libraries have Collection and Deaccession policies that help determine which books come into and go out of the collection, I practice what you might call, “preventive book collecting”.
Here are my tips for keeping your book collection under control:
- Keep your To-Be-Read list on Goodreads, not your nightstand. Only purchase/acquire the next book when you’re almost finished with your last book.
- Decide beforehand if you’ll want to keep the book. Borrow the b ook from a friend or the library if you won’t need to keep it.
- Can the book be accessed easily elsewhere in the future? Then maybe you don’t need to keep it.
- Do you have sentimental attachment to the book? Definitely buy it. Keep it. Love it.
- Did you end up disliking a book you bought? Get rid of it.
Have you KonMari’d your books? Would you? What are your thoughts on this issue?
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Kathy Giles says
I was quite resistant to eBooks for the longest time because I liked the feel of turning real pages in a real physical book. I also liked that I was growing my personal library. That being said, I’m now running out of space for storage and display. I tend to reread my favorites about every two years (and that list of books keeps getting longer). If I have to store them in an airtight bin in the basement, I’ll never seek them out to read with the same regularity. So I’ve started to acquire the eBooks of some of my favorite titles just to keep them handy. But my children’s book collection is all “real” books. They have pride of place on my shelves, because those books are meant to be grabbed and shared. Reading to kids from an eReader is not the same experience at all.
A Suitcase Full of Books says
I agree. I like having the book in print because I like being able to flip to the end and find out what happens while still holding my place… I was also resistant to ereaders, but they certainly have made it easier to travel lighter.
Daniel Cornwall says
Well thought out post. I really appreciated your tips on “preventive book collecting” and ideas of where to send discarded books. I haven’t watched Marie Kondo yet but I’m seeing references to her everywhere. If her 30 book limit I’ve read about elsewhere is real, I don’t see that happening in my lifetime.
A Suitcase Full of Books says
Thank you! I think the 30 book limit actually didn’t come from her, but that won’t happen for me either!