Week 15! We made it! 15 weeks, letting go of at least 15 things, in 2015. Did you do them all so far?
So, what’s a fitting final chapter in this challenge?
One of the toughest ones that so many of us face:
We seem to think of our books so personally, and that our collection of books, on display, says something about us, something we want said about us. Books can be postcards from different times in our lives, as if to say “when I read this book, it was an important time; something mattered about it,” and the book is there to mark its place.
But what about the practical side of books, and how they can get in the way of how we live in our space, or how we want to live there? There are some facts we should consider:
1) Books we’ve kept for reference are increasing less necessary with the internet, if the information in them are even relevant any more. Nonfiction is a great place to look at subjects that no longer are relevant or the source you’d use to research something, but there’s all those “staples”, too. (Dictionary, Thesaurus, Bartlett’s Book of Quotations, I’m looking at you…)
2) Really…. what percentage of the books you own now have you read more than once? Or what percentage would you REALLY read more than once, if you haven’t already? And so, if you’re not reading them again, ask yourself why you’re still keeping them.
3) You’ve got a kindle or other reader now. Your collection and preferred reading style is becoming more and more electronic, not on paper.
4) The reason you bought and read a book may have been very specific to a time or situation in your life that has long since past. Think of it similarly to a prom dress or a special ingredient you purchased once for a recipe you would never make again. Keeping it around is only about your past, not your present or your future.
5) Paperbacks really don’t hold up well. The ones you’ve been saving for a few decades are yellow, dusty and probably smell a little.
6) There are books on your shelves you had the best intentions of reading. Or finishing. You didn’t. You won’t. So why are you keeping it around?
7) You’ve got great cookbooks. When’s the last time you said, “Hmmm… I’m going to make something new. I should browse through one of these books for inspiration?” (You don’t have to say the answer out loud. You and I both know it’s been a loooooong time.) They’re there to be used, and you’re not using them.
8) Someone else may be at the very place in their lives for your books to be perfect. Gift them. Donate them. There’s even money to be made in selling some of your books.
9) You got some books as a gift from someone else who thought you’d like to read them. Maybe you did. Maybe you didn’t. But you feel guilty doing anything other than keeping them, because, after all, someone gave it to you, right? You don’t need to keep gifts from people (books or otherwise) that are not more important to you than things you truly value.
- Ask yourself: Am I keeping this book because it means something to me, or because I think it says something about me to someone (anyone?) else who looks at my shelves, and that is more important to me than the book itself? Is keeping up the image that I think my book collection says important to me today as it was when I decided to get and keep this book?
- Think about those reference books. What do you REALLY need, and when you say you really need it, when is the last time you used it, and you had no other way to get that information? This includes your Spanish-English dictionary from high school, by the way. Let go of anything that you can’t imagine has a real and irreplaceable role in your future.
- Divide out your “yet to read” pile, review it for whether you’re just as interested in it now as you were when you got it, and give the new pile a realistic expiration date. Be disciplined about it between now and then.
- Organize your non-fiction by topic. You’ll see what you have, how many of them you have, and whether that’s a realistic collection that is part of what is important to you TODAY.
- And, okay, I’ll just say it: Get rid of the paperbacks.
I have plenty of books I plan to keep, but my collection is probably a third of what it once was, and I regularly go through and purge. (In preparing to write this post, I got rid of about 30 “leadership” and management books, that I collected through my corporate years, that just don’t have a place in my life or my interests any more. They’ve already been donated today.)