Oh, I can hear the chorus refrain: "Books aren't clutter! Books are my friends! I would die without my books! Lisa, you are a BRUTE! You will take my books out of my cold, dead hands!"
I get it. We're all avid readers here. We spend our free time in bookstores and libraries and have Kindles brimming with books. We attend book discussions and love to give out book recommendations. We are a well educated lot and that's a wonderful, beautiful thing. I'm a Librarian for Pete's sake.
Books can be clutter. Let me tell you why.
How many of those coveted books that are crammed into your many bookshelves have you actually cracked open in the last year? The last 3 years? The last decade? Maybe 20%? Come on. Fess up.
Because truth be told, we buy the book, we read the book. (And sometimes we never get past the first chapter of the book.) We might take notes on the book. Sometimes we reread the book. And then we put the book on the groaning and moaning bookshelf. And there it stays. Gathering dust and taking up space. And if you are like most of my clients, you have bookshelves. Plural. A lot of bookshelves.
"And what, pray tell, is wrong with that, Lisa? I have the room (sort of) and I love them. ALL. Equally."
Yeah, I'm gonna have to call bullshit on that one.
You don't. You probably haven't touched the majority of those books in a very, very long time. And when your space is crammed full, there is no room to breathe. Your brain goes into overload when there are books cluttering (!!) up every last bit of bookshelf. There is no room for anything new and most of what is there you will never touch again. Harsh? Yeah a bit. But you know I'm right.
So. Let's look at why we do that.
1. Why don't we just pass those books along after we're done reading them? It's not like we're actually going to reread or reference all of the books in our collections, right? There are loads of mediocre books, fluffy read-once romps and flat out bad books that come into our lives. Gift books? I'm looking at you.
Do they deserve the same space beside our beloved, life changing books? Nope. You know who keeps shit tons of books? The library. Use it.
Start looking at your collection and weeding out the duds or the one night stands. This is what I call the low hanging fruit. Easy pickings. Fill a box. Take them to the library or Goodwill. Or your church library. Just move them out of your precious space. Release some of that stagnant energy.
2. Sometimes we hold on to books because they represent a period of our lives.
This is a loaded one. Look at your collection. What categories do you start to see? Books you bought for:
A spiritual journey
When you fell in love with Haiku
When you tried (and failed) to learn how to knit from a book
Oprah's book club (God those were depressing)
Travel books from that trip to Spain in 2002
When you took two years of classes learning something but decided it wasn't for you after all
That guy you fell hard for and so you bought a bunch of books to impress him? Yeah, those.
Look at where you are in your current life and where you are headed. Are those books still relevant? If not, send them out into the world where they will have meaning for someone else. You've already been blessed by them.
Please hear this: you learned the lessons you needed from those books. Set them free and move on.
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3. Other times we hold on to books because the are a physical representation of how intelligent or well read we are.
If your guests look at your bookshelves they will have a sense of who you are because of what you have read.
But books are not us. If we give them away to the library or a friend, the energy that they brought into our lives does not go away. It is part of us. We've infused our lives with those words and ideas and they have become a part of who we are today.
You will not be any less intelligent or well read if all of your books disappeared today.
And you are so freaking lucky to live in a world where you can get a book in under a minute. Think about that. Take that in. That is astonishing. If books can come to you that easily, than you can trust that you will always have enough.
And that it is safe to let some of what you have go.
P.S. Did this push a button or two for you, Gorgeous? Let me know what you think in the comments below! I have LOADS to say on this topic so I'll be chatting about this again sometime soon.
Photo credit: Hobvias