Minimalism and Books

Happy Fourth of July!  I wasn’t planning on writing a post at all today, but I was having so much fun going through my bookshelves for probably the 846th time in my life (rearranging, rediscovering old friends, and generally having fun reorganizing) that I had to share some really quick thoughts with y’all about paring down book collections.  

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In the process of going through my shelves, somehow I ALWAYS find a significant stack of books that needs to be parted with once and for all.  Not because I am unemotional, pragmatic and coldly logical about my books (HA!), but because I invariably find myself holding onto rather boring or dusty books that I found at a dollar sale twelve years ago, and picked up in case the apocalypse happened and all libraries and Amazon were obliterated and my future grandchildren wanted to learn everything there is to know about Lewis and Clarke’s expedition.  *Facepalm*     

In the past, many of my purchasing decisions (especially in regard to books) were fear based – what if’s fueling the decision making process instead of purchasing a book because I genuinely was interested or wanted to read it one day.  Minimalism has helped me realize my fear-based rationale and helped me realize that things are just things – including (gasp!) books.  I found a good article online about minimalism and books.  I thought these last few sentences really summed it up:

It’s a useful exercise to clear the cobwebs from one’s bookshelves once in a while, but don’t let anyone talk you into getting rid of your books if you don’t want to, read or unread. Ask yourself whether or not each book sparks joy, and ignore the minimalist proselytizing if it chafes you.

In other words, don’t hold on to boring books that you’ve never read and never will “just in case”, but don’t dare feel like you must get rid of your Harry Potter or Little House collections because you’ve “already read it and won’t need it again”.  I disagree with many aspects of minimalism, but perhaps I disagree the most passionately with the idea that if you’ve read a book once you don’t need it anymore.  Heck, no!!  I very much plan on rereading The Hobbit at least another 17 times before I die thank you very much!

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In going through my shelves then, I’m not under the delusion that books don’t matter, that re-reading is unnecessary OR that in case the zombie apocalypse happens in my lifetime, I need to own every copy of every book I’ve ever heard of, and need to keep every dollar-store find “just in case”.  I want to keep the books I love, the books that teach, the books that challenge, the books that bring joy.  It helps to think of what books I want to introduce my daughter to one day.  If I have zero interest in reading that dusty old copy of the Lewis and Clarke expedition now, what makes me think she’ll magically be interested in it one day?  

Anyhoo, I’m having fun looking through all my books and getting rid of the Boring Dollar Store Fear-Based books to make room for all of the Cozy, Well-Loved, Read and Re-Read Old Friends books – the ones that I can’t wait to introduce my daughter to one day and that I know I’ll read over and over again.   Here are a couple methods I’m employing to help in the organization and decision making process:

  • Put all of the books I have not read on the kitchen table.
  • Leave the books I have read on the shelves.
  • Of the unread books on the table, split those piles into “know for certain I want to keep and read” and “I’m really not sure if I’m ever going to read this”
  • Of the books left on the shelves that I have read, skim through and make sure I’m not keeping any books that I found really lifeless and boring.  No sense keeping a book that’s not worth reading or re-reading.
  • Ask myself if I would buy this book again.
  • Ask myself if I can’t wait to read this book to my kids one day.
  • Make a “books I’d need on a desert island” pile of my absolute all-time favorites just for fun. 🙂

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What helps you go through your shelves?  Do you enjoy it?  What methods do you use?  I’d truly love to hear about it!  I’m going to get back to it.  I literally stopped in the middle of my project to take pictures and write this. 🙂  Happy fourth everyone!

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2 thoughts on “Minimalism and Books

  1. I’ve tended to buy books pretty carefully I think. I’ve focused a lot on already read books/authors. At least over the last few years. We’ve always been big library people too. But I’ve cleared out shelves before multiple times. I want the copies of the books I read to be beautiful. I’ve cleared out old “outdated” (to my mindset . . . like courtship books, stay at home daughter books, etc.). Scottish Gaelic books I thought were Irish. I’ve given my sisters old copies of childhood classics I don’t love. I can always replace books for my kids when I have my own kids and my own place. But I’m in a small room still, I have an awesome library system, I’m short on funds, and I need reference books more than fiction I can get from the library. I guess that is my mindset now.

    I’ve learned a lot from the whole minimalism trend, from being frustrated by my packrat tendencies, from my shopaholic tendencies, from Marie Kondo’s books (mainly the “Spark Joy” concept). I will never be a minimalist, but I’ve been burdened by my stuff.

    I LOVE BOOKISH posts. It’s fun to read how everyone processes all aspects of their reading life.

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