If you’re reading a blog about books, you’re either my mother or you’re passionate about literature. Assuming it’s the latter, that passion often means you like owning books. Maybe you like owning a lot of books. Perhaps you have piles of books in odd places throughout your house because your bookshelves are full. Or just maybe you have two stacks of books by your reading chair that are taller than a small child. That last one might be only me, but you never know.
Over the past few years, I’ve been working hard on decluttering my space and life. I still have a long way to go, but I’ve made progress. I used to keep everything that had even the smallest memory attached, and I’ve been guilty of the “someday I’ll use it” mindset too. As I’ve tried to overcome that thinking, I had to consider my bookshelves.
My personal library brings me a great deal of joy and satisfaction, but there were a lot of books that needed to go, and now it’s time for another purge. Today I want to share some of the things I think about as I declutter books. I hope these tips are helpful. If you have room for all of your books and don’t need this list, I don’t even know what to say to you. Anyway, here we go.
Tip #1: Ask yourself if you really want to read that book or if your fantasy self wants to read it.
A while back, I wrote a blog post about the idea of a fantasy self and how it’s affected my reading life. To sum it up, a fantasy self is the person you wish you were or delude yourself into thinking you are. My fantasy self reads all the intimidating classics, wakes up every day at 5:00 a.m. for yoga, and would rather have a pear than a brownie. As I added books to my personal library, I bought books I thought I should read as opposed to books I wanted to read. As you declutter, stop and think about what books are in your library because you can’t wait to read them and what books are there out of misplaced literary obligation.
Tip #2: You don’t need to keep books about topics in which you’re no longer interested.
Toward the end of my time in college, I became increasingly interested in feminism and feminist theory. I truly enjoyed reading texts from women like Audre Lorde and Betty Friedan in class because they opened up my eyes to new ideas. Soon I had a whole shelf in my library dedicated to feminist literature, but I never actually read any of it. As I stopped to think about why I realized that even though I care deeply about the idea of feminism, it isn’t necessarily what I want to read about. As much as I enjoyed reading those feminist writings from the ’60s and ’70s for school, that’s not what I choose when I want a relaxing night at home. You’re allowed to part with books that don’t interest you anymore. You’re also allowed to part with books full of ideas you care deeply about but aren’t your first choice for reading material.
Tip #3: Don’t keep a book just because you spent money on it.
Many of the books that have survived several rounds of my decluttering efforts have been spared because I spent money on them. It’s easy to let go of the books you only paid a few cents for at a thrift store or library sale, but it’s a bit harder to get rid of that expensive hardcover. Perhaps you treated yourself to a special edition once but don’t really care about it anymore. The money has already been spent, and holding on to those books we splurged on doesn’t get it back.
What about you? What are your tips for a book purge?