Minimalism and Books

  I got rid of 2900 books. 

When I was a young foster kid, my mom learned the perfect punishment for me. Taking away my ability to read.

Punishments would include one or two months banned from the library, packing all the books in my bedroom and putting them outside my door – where she would keep them for weeks at a time (and I oftentimes didn’t get all the books back), and (when I was fairly young) sitting in front of the fireplace because “GO TO YOUR ROOM” isn’t a punishment when you’d rather be there anyway. 

I was an introvert who loved books more than people and had a hard time connecting with other students my age. This was greatly due to the large gap in age between the other foster kids and me. It was also due to my issues with trust, fears of getting close to others, and abandonment.

As time moved on, excruciatingly slow, I learned that you had to hold on to the things you loved. I learned that if you didn’t people could take them away from you, no matter what boundaries you set or what laws were in place. Your property, your freedom, your life.

It made me hold on to things. To gather them to my chest where no one could see them. To stick them in the back of my closet, or inside my pillowcases, or hide them under the false bottom I’d created in one of my dresser drawers. 

In adulthood, this didn’t change. I worked hard for my money. 80-85 hours a week to afford things no one could take from me. Books continued to be my solace and I filled my apartment with them. 

My closets had never-opened boxes of the books I had rescued from my childhood. My shelves overflowed, bowing beneath the weight of unread pages. Every surface, from kitchen to dining to living rooms, to stairs, to bedside tables had books on them. 

This isn’t a post shaming the surplus of books. It’s explaining my need to collect them. Not just read them. And trust me, I read a lot. It’s also explaining how I was able to let them go.

***

When Marie Kondo’s Netflix series first came out I had no idea what it was about. The one thing I did know was that she said to only keep 30 books. Everyone in every book group I was in  talked about it at length. For weeks, I dug into the show, into minimalism, and into the idea of living with less clutter.

They missed her point. 

It wasn’t my first introduction to minimalism but her Netflix series was the first that resonated with me because of this. She said to only keep items that spark joy. To hold them in your hands, feel their energy, ask yourself if it brings you joy.

If the answer is no, donate it. 

She also said (and I might be pulling this from her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing – I read the anime version) that this process is less about what to “get rid of” or to throw away. It is more about what you keep. 

Think of it like this, if you only keep the things that spark joy your house is filled with only the things that bring you happiness. Nothing is weighing you down. Nothing there just for the heck of it. There’s more space for Light and love.

This resonated with me. I mean, I had begun hoarding all of these books because I wanted to keep the things I loved, but I wasn’t being selective. So would any ole book do? That seemed preposterous. 

So I went through my books. All of them. I read the synopsis for every single book, even if I had already read it. I separated them into several categories:

Books I Loved: 

These were the books I had already read and found them absolutely phenomenal. 

In this category, you could find Dark Matter by Blake Crouch, On Writing by Stephen King, Zeroes by Chuck Wendig, and my entire Argeneau vampire series collection by Lynsay Sands.

Books To Be Read:
This pile had all the books I hadn’t read yet – that I actually intended to read. Repeat. Actually intended to read. 

I still plan to read Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews (the movie was great), Road Out of Winter by Alison Stine, and The Binding by Bridget Collins.

Books For Naomi:
A ton of the books I’ve kept from my childhood were ones I wanted to pass down to my children one day. Before breaking these down further, I put all “Naomi” books in the same pile. I knew I would donate some of these, too.       

I wanted to collect a few old-school Nancy Drew books. You know, the ones that made the entire shelf yellow? Love them! 

Books I’ll Never Read:

Instead of chucking every unread book into my TBR pile, I read the synopsis and was honest with myself. Will I read this book? Is it truly interesting or did I only buy it because of its popularity? If the answer was no, it went into the DONATE pile.

Although, I love James Patterson I have a ton of his “series” books that I’ve never read because I’m the type of reader that needs to follow the order of a series. So, I’d rather read these as ebooks or listen via audiobook.

Books Read but Unloved:

Another type of book that I hoarded was ‘Books I’ve Read’. It’s as if I kept them as a trophy for myself. Yay! You did it. Another book down! Nope, if I didn’t love it into the DONATE pile it went. Especially if I didn’t plan to read it again.

I read You by Carolyn Kepness and passionately disliked it. I kept this book for almost a year. Why?

***

After breaking the books into their categories, I packed up the ones I wanted to donate. The rest were shelved in my favorite way. By genre. Then “loosely” alphabetical by author’s last name.

In the first round of donating, I got rid of 2,900 books. I still have many and there are much more than 30. Although, Marie Kondo said not to start with the most sentimental area I had to. I’m glad I did. Once the books were gone (donated to the thrift store), it was easier to delve into other areas of the house.

In 2020, I had a huge set back due to Covid. I didn’t declutter as many things as I thought I would. During the pandemic, I gained 8lbs and emotionally took steps backward. I hung on to many things as well as buying some stuff I knew I didn’t need. However, I was able to donate another 150 books. That’s something.

Closer to the end of the year I found things leveling out. I found myself excited to lose weight, excited to get back to minimalism, and excited to see what a future of less clutter and more joy could be like. So, here I am.

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