My 3 Favorite Decluttering and Minimalism Books

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I really like stuff. As a kid, my bedroom was always a mess (sorry, Mom), and was covered with posters, DIY-decor, and piles of clothes/toys/books/etc. (Again, so sorry, Mom.) I wasn’t great at throwing things away, and by that, I mean I never threw things away. I would save old calendars, folks. That’s how dedicated I was to my stuff.

I’d accepted that I was just a messy person who was okay with clutter. It didn’t concern me until a few years ago when I noticed a few things about myself.

  1. I’m really good at organizing. Not only am I good at it, but I love doing it. Few things make me happier than straightening, labeling, or alphabetizing.
  2. I’m ruthless when getting rid of other people’s stuff. I usually help my mom organize her closet once or twice a year, and I encourage her to throw away anything she doesn’t love. When I’m doing a weeding project at work, I can toss books left and right without feeling a pang of loss or sadness.
  3. My workspaces are always neat. For work, I rotate between different buildings, and all my desks are tidy. Even my computer files are organized and frequently reviewed.
  4. My messiness at home started to really bother me. I found that I couldn’t focus very well when my surroundings were a disaster. I struggle with anxiety, and having stuff everywhere wasn’t helping. And when I had too much stuff, it would paralyze me, and I wouldn’t know where to start putting it away.

After thinking about these things, I realized it was time for a change. I’d been making excuses for myself for a long time about how I was just messy, and that’s all there was to it. But considering those four truths above, I knew I could change. I’m still far from perfect in this area, but I’ve gotten better and have learned a lot. 

As I always do when I want to learn, I turned to books. Today I’m sharing three titles that helped me transform my life and home. Let’s start with some magic.

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The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

I’m sure it’s no surprise this book made the list considering how popular it is. Some of the advice in it isn’t for me, but its thesis–“keep what brings you joy”–has made a tremendous impact on how I declutter and what I bring into my home. I also took to heart the concept of organizing category by category instead of room by room. This book kicked off my decluttering frenzy, and I’m grateful for it.

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Simple Matters: Living with Less and Ending Up with More by Erin Boyle

I’ve been a fan of Erin’s blog for a long time. If you like the aesthetic of her blog, you’ll like this book. It’s full of gorgeous photos that show just how lovely a simplified home can be. Erin and her husband might live with less, but their home is warm and inviting.

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Cozy Minimalist Home: More Style, Less Stuff by Myquillyn Smith 

Part of me wishes I could say I’ve completely embraced minimalism, but that’s not the case right now (and might not ever be). That’s why I appreciate this book. Smith acknowledges that sometimes you want an extra pillow or throw around your house. Meaningless decorations need to go, but Smith’s philosophy allows for elements that add character and charm to a home. 

BONUS INSPIRATION

When I need immediate decluttering inspiration, I turn to YouTube. I love watching decluttering videos. I’ve learned a lot about minimalism and simple living from seeing how other people work those concepts into their lives.


What about you? Do you have any decluttering or minimalist goals you’d like to achieve in 2019? What books or other resources have encouraged you in your pursuit? I’d love to know!


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3 Tips for Decluttering Your Book Collection

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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? 


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3 Ways My Fantasy Self Has Complicated My Reading Life

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Have you heard about the concept of a fantasy self? It’s the person you sometimes think you are even though reality says otherwise. My fantasy self looks like this:

  • She wakes up early every day for yoga and a healthy smoothie
  • Her spaces at home and work are always tidy and perfectly organized
  • Her closet could be on Pinterest
  • She’s a minimalist who only buys what she needs
  • She’s always stylish and never just throws on the first article of clothing she sees of a morning

In reality, I prefer sleeping in, my yoga mat has dust on it, I struggle with clutter, my closet is overflowing, I like shopping way too much, and sometimes I just want to wear a baggy sweater and leggings.

I have a fantasy self when it comes to reading, too. She looks like this:

  • She’s read all the classics and loves them
  • She thinks Ulysses is a masterpiece
  • Literary criticism is her lighthearted bedtime reading
  • She’s unafraid of 800-page Russian classics
  • She loves Proust, Woolf, and Pynchon
  • She finished Infinite Jest in a week

In reality, I prefer Liane Moriarty to Faulkner, gave up on Ulysses after 10 pages, own some literary criticism that’s been sitting on the shelf unread since college, and donated my one and only Proust book.

Today I want to discuss how my fantasy self has damaged my reading life, and how I’ve tried to bridge the gap between fantasy and reality.

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MY FANTASY SELF SPENT MONEY ON BOOKS MY REAL SELF DIDN’T REALLY WANT TO READ.

As I started to build my personal library, I bought books that looked interesting, but I also bought books I thought I should read. I was an English major in college and I’ve been working in libraries for over a decade. I thought a good English major needed to read as many classics as possible, so I filled my shelves with classics even though I usually prefer contemporary books. I thought every library employee needed to read the Harry Potter series, so I got it even though I’m not interested in fantasy or magic. Not only did my fantasy self cause me to spend money on books that I didn’t genuinely want in my library, but that book buying led to crowded shelves holding books that didn’t inspire me.

I’ve decluttered my shelves a couple of times over the past few years, and I purged a lot of the stuff my fantasy self bought. Now my shelves are full of books I’m excited about. There are still a lot of classics, but they’re classics I truly look forward to reading someday. If you have books on your shelf you can honestly say you don’t want to read anymore, let them go. Be honest about what you genuinely can’t wait to read.


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MY FANTASY SELF MADE ME FEEL LIKE LESS OF A READER.

Sometimes when I browsed my bookshelves pre-decluttering, I’d feel a pang of guilt when I glanced at the books I thought I should read. It was as if I wasn’t completing a critical assignment. When I saw the books I left unfinished but was convinced I needed to like to be a “real reader,” I felt as if I wasn’t as smart as the people who raved about a particular book or author. Reading is something I love, and my fantasy self made it feel more like a chore than something I do to relax and enjoy myself.

If you feel as if you’re less than because you’ve read Twilight and not Finnegan’s Wake, I implore you to let go of the idea that you’re less of a reader. Don’t let your fantasy self make you feel guilty for reading what you like.


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MY FANTASY SELF HELD ON THE PAST, FOCUSED TOO MUCH ON THE FUTURE, AND IGNORED THE PRESENT.

I kept a lot of the books I read in college. Some of them I kept out of love, but others I kept because they were like trophies. It made me feel good to see an anthology I read, even though I knew I wasn’t going to read it again. It wasn’t a book I treasured, but something that validated me and made me feel smart.

I also bought books for Future Andrea. I thought, “Someday I’m going to read The Madwoman in the Attic because it’s an important work of literary criticism. Someday I’m going to read The Feminine Mystique because it’s a feminist classic.” Notice how I wanted to read these books because they matter, not because they looked especially interesting to me.

Now I try to only buy books I want to read today. I’ve gotten better at letting go of the books I kept around for the wrong reasons. What books are on your shelf that represent the past or future you,  but not necessarily present you? It might be time to set them free.


Acknowledging your fantasy self takes honesty and vulnerability. It’s not easy to admit we’re not the people we think we are or wish we were. It’s important to think about the future and to set goals, but learning to see and value ourselves in this moment, just as we are, is one of the best gifts we can give ourselves.

Have you given any thought to your fantasy self? If so, how has it shaped your reading life?


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