This post is going to horrify some of you. I’m willing to write it anyway, because I did something I never thought I would do. Something that took courage, something that took a lot of soul-searching, something that has already changed my life in just one week…
I decluttered my books.
I feared sharing this project with my bookworm friends would end badly, with an mob of intellects standing at my front door with pens instead of pitchforks. But the response was positive on Twitter—unless you all just favorited Aphrodite the panda cat photobombing this one.
Living in a studio, there is only so much clutter one can have. But when you’re living in a smaller space, the clutter you do have is very obvious. You have to get crafty with storage solutions, there is constant rearranging, and no matter what you do…it still feels messy.
In preparation for spring cleaning—something I always do in the winter so I can enjoy the beautiful weather when it comes—I read two books.
My mom and my sister received copies of Clear Your Clutter for their birthdays, because I knew they would love it. I flew through the book and it opened my eyes to a lot of decluttering ways I hadn’t considered before. The main question to ask yourself…does this lift me? If it doesn’t, you toss it.
Clear Your Clutter was my first time reading about getting rid of books, and I laughed. I cleaned out my closets and my bathroom—my books stayed put.
Then I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Without the feng shui aspect, this book is very straightforward about what you need to do—get rid of some shit.
But before you do, lay everything out so you can see it. If you’re working on your clothes, that means you pull out everything from your dresser and closet. Then you need to touch every item and make a decision…does this spark joy? Once again books were mentioned, but this time I listened to the argument.
If you’ve been lugging around books for years that are just collecting dust for the sake of decoration, is that bringing you joy? If you’re hanging onto books that someone gave to you that you will never read, old college textbooks you will never open, or fiction that you would never read again in your life, is that bringing you joy?
No. And, to get emotional here for a moment, because I truly believe books are our friends…this isn’t bringing them joy either. So last weekend I decided it was time to release them into the wild.
Easier said than done.
Some of you may remember that I had the bright idea to decorate the top of my kitchen cabinets with all of my books when I first moved into my studio in Portland a couple of years ago. I called it The Book Decor Workout, because strength and agility are a requirement when you’re using a ladder to organize your books.
This time was all about reverse engineering and not as difficult. But my hamstrings and upper body were put to work.
I followed the KonMari method by laying out all of my books on the floor, then holding each one to decide if it “sparked joy.” If you’re rolling your eyes right now, I have to say that there is something to this—especially when you’re a book lover parting with your sweet friends.
There are decisions that need to be made and I think it’s important to take your time when you’re taking on a decluttering project that involves emotional ties. You want to feel good about your choices. If you’re rushing through this project, you’ll either hang onto things you don’t really want or you’ll go too crazy and get rid of something you shouldn’t have.
Because we’re not talking about putting all of your books by the dumpster. (I just puked in my mouth a little.) We are talking about selecting the ones that still have meaning to you, then finding new homes for the rest.
In the image up there I have my two piles. The big pile on the left did not spark joy anymore, while the pile on the right did. Everyone is going to be different, but these are the books I decided to keep in my life.
CLASSICS YOU WANT TO KEEP
I had quite a few classics, some that dated back to my high school years. Yep, high school (aka a million years ago).
When I held these books, I remembered that well…I really didn’t like them that much. They were a reading assignment or one of those books you just had to read because it was a classic. Sometimes we hang onto books of this nature, because we feel smarter having them in our collection.
Who gives a shit? If Mark Twain isn’t your thing, let it go.
TOOLS YOU WILL ALWAYS TURN TO
Whether you’re a writer or you have another passion, there are some really awesome books that you will discover one day and they will become your trusted companions.
When you hold these books in your hand, you don’t get all jazzed up over the story inside—you will probably feel steadier. A book like the Emotion Thesaurus has been my confidante during the editing stages of several of my books, and that made me happy. It was a tool that helped me write a better novel.
I also ended up hanging onto all of my old Yoga books from my teacher training. They are friends I will always turn to when I need them.
IMAGES THAT ENERGIZE YOU
I wasn’t sure what was going to happen when I got to my coffee table books, which are mainly travel related but I do have one beastly one, American Fashion. I barely had to hold these, because as soon as my eyes landed on the covers, I got energized.
In reality, I will probably never go to all the places in the world I want to see. Books like these allow me to escape without the cost of leaving my house.
WORDS OF LOVE
I’ll admit I haven’t picked up my poetry books in years, but I reconnected with them the day I brought them down to hold them in my hands. And one of them had a beautiful inscription from my dad. There was no way I was going to part with this one.
So, this bunch was more about the words inside of them for me. All of the poems were too lovely for me to let go.
CHILDHOOD FAVORITES THAT SHAPED YOU
These are the books you first read as a child, but you read them again and again throughout your life. When I held these books, I remembered the feeling of the first time I read it. It was a little bizarre.
The wonderment I felt when I read these stories absolutely shaped me into becoming a writer. If an author had the ability to connect with me in such a way, to steer my imagination, I knew I wanted to try to do that too someday.
All together I decided to keep 60 books. I sold 19 (mainly old college textbooks) and I am donating 124 books to our wonderful Oregon libraries.
I have not felt any regrets. On the contrary, I have felt much happier—lighter even. That yummy feeling has been oozing into other aspects of my life.
Since early adulthood, I have dutifully moved my books across multiple states and made room for them in my home. Years later my books were covered in dust and cat hair, and because some of them were above the stove, they were speckled with kitchen grease.
Until last weekend, I hadn’t opened the majority of them and they were stiff as they moved in that unfamiliar way as lost pictures, receipts, and college papers spilled onto the floor. Many of my books were no longer loved. Now that I’m letting them go, they will find love again.
Have you decluttered your books? Or, do you find it too hard to part with your friends?