De-cluttering my books

Emboldened by my success in de-cluttering my clothes, some months ago I started to de-clutter my books.

The wise Ms. Kondo, in her Life-Changing Magic of Tidying advises de-cluttering books, after clothes, and this is good advice.  If I had started with books, I would never have moved past them.  But de-cluttering my wardrobe has enabled me to view my books more dispassionately.

I think we have to build up our de-cluttering muscles over time.

I found going through my books a lot harder and far more personally challenging.  I love my books in a way I could never love my clothes. But when I started to question why I had so many, I found quite a parallel with the reasons I had been hanging onto clothes:

  • Many of my books bring me a lot of joy and certainly add value – but not all of them.
  • I like to re-read many of my books – but not all of them.
  • Some of them were purchased new on impulse but I didn’t reach for them – instead I re-read an old favourite.
  • I was reading 20% of my library 80% of the time.
  • Some books I had for years and years – and I was no longer the same person who once found value in them.
  • If I liked a book that was in a series, then I had to collect the whole series, regardless of whether I liked each individual book or not.
  • My tastes have started to lean more and more to non-fiction, yet most of my books are fiction – they don’t align with who I am as much as they used to.

When I moved from Ireland to the UK some years ago, I paid a lot of money for each and every book I owned to be transported over – a costly and time-consuming exercise.  Then they were stored in boxes for months and, to be honest, I would have had a hard time remembering what I had.  But when I eventually opened the boxes and saw my books again, I was flooded with joy and relief.  Looking back, I can see I tied up a lot of my identity with my beloved books.  Moving to a country where I knew no-one reinforced my books as friends and anchor points.

I have quite a few books on my Kindle also but am always mindful of digital clutter – it can be far more insidious than physical clutter as it’s almost invisible and so harder to spot.

I had three book-cases and now have one.  There are some books I think I could never give away but that’s fine – I know now what brings joy and I’m happy with what I have.  Some favourites include:

  • Edith Holden’s The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady – beautiful drawings, that could never be replaced by a Kindle version.
  • Pamela Brown’s The Swish of the Curtain – a children’s book that started my life-long passion for the theatre
  • Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird – a timeless classic and all-time favourite
  • Somerville & Ross’s The Irish RM and his Experiences – written in 1899 and still hilarious
  • An old, grimy textbook published in 1814, An Easy Introduction to the Arts and Sciences – it’s described on its first page as ‘useful and polite learning’ – how can you not love that description?!
  • And of course Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying – a constant source of inspiration!

Have you had any similar experiences?  Have a great week 🙂

8 Comments

  1. My Kindle has helped me to declutter my books. Some books just hold a special place in my heart. To Kill a Mockingbird is one. In fact I love that book so much I was physically nervous to read Go Set a Watchman and even had a short period of mourning after I did. I have a lovely first edition of The Velveteen Rabbit. This book started my lifelong love of reading.

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  2. Hi there, thanks so much for your lovely comments 😀 I see we share a love for Harper Lee but you’re braver than I am – I couldn’t bring myself to read Go Set a Watchman!! And how wonderful to have a first edition of a book that is so special to you. Like you, having a Kindle has been a huge help but I try to be careful to not just transfer the clutter digitally 🙂 Lxxx

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  3. Fantastic post, as always! As a fellow book enthusiast, I constantly remind myself I am in fact a lover of stories; This helped me to de-clutter the physical books where the stories were found in.

    Believe me when I say, I literally had a few hundred books (3 bookcases, 3 shelves each, not counting the top of the bookcases, ha ha) when I moved out of my parent’s place.I managed to trim this down over the course of 6 months, maybe less, to about 10/15 books. Owning a Kindle and an IPad helps to remind me it’s the stories that matter, not where you find them.

    Blessings to you always Lol.
    ✌🏽🌸🙏🏼

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Onyx-Natasha, thank you, as always, for reading and for your thoughtful comment. I love the phrase you use regarding being a ‘lover of stories’ :-). How amazing to downsize from 3 bookcases to 10-15 physical books, while recognising the value is in the stories and not their formats. And it’s always lovely to hear from a fellow reading enthusiast xxx

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  4. Wow I had forgotten The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady. One of Mum’s favourites. I love my books and parting with any of them is an emotional process. So many memories tied up with each. All made harder if any have a hand written message inside. I have decreased to 3 bookcases now though! x

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    • Hiya Nik, sounds like you’re still plugging away at the de-cluttering process and making some marvellous progress there. Books were the hardest thing for me – far more so than clothes – as you say, it’s all about the memories they hold. I also have some books with hand-written messages and some old books of my dad’s with his notes inside – for me, these are not clutter but something I want to intentionally hold onto – but I have chosen a selection of the ones that mean the most to me. It’s all an ongoing process! Lxxx

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