Bookworms and Bookshelves

There’s nothing that starts a debate on an organization or simplification forum like the topic of books. Some people think books are stuff like any other stuff, and you have to view your books the same way you view your clothes and your knick knacks. Most people, however, seem to view books as somehow sacrosanct and exempt from our self-imposed challenges and our mental definition of clutter. While my books are some of my favorite possessions, they’re still just possessions. (And very heavy possessions, as anybody who’s moved two dozen boxes of books through their college years can tell you.)

I’m going to say something that many booklovers would view as heresy: Odds are, you don’t need all those books. You probably don’t even really want all those books. Far better, then to cull your collection. (And hey, if you use all that space as an excuse to buy more books, that’s your own business.)

First, ask yourself, why do you have these books? Are they books you’re going to read, someday, really? Do your bookshelves act as a chronicle of your reading habits since you learned to sound out letters?

There’s nothing wrong with keeping the old favorites that you reread once a year, or even a few books you’ve had since you were small and you have a sentimental attachment to, but even if you think you can’t bear to part with any of them, you can still think about it. Yes, I’m giving you official permission to think about which books you would be willing to part with and why. If it makes it easier for you, tell yourself that you’re not really getting rid of any of them. You’re just doing a thought exercise.

Another thing that makes it easier for me to part with books is to make sure they’re going to good homes. Like pets and children, the image of a book left alone and forlorn in the rain makes me rush out to dry it off and give it a good home. I twitch at the idea of throwing a book away. But taking it to a used bookstore with an upscale and offbeat clientele that I know will appreciate it, or even giving it to a friend who would enjoy it, makes it possible for me to part with the book with a minimum of guilt.

Further Reading


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