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How and why I decluttered 70+ books, and what doing so taught me

Hi there! I hope you are well! :)

Lately, I decided to finally read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo when my closet was swelling with tattered sweaters and colorful blouses I didn't particularly love but didn't want to just toss out. And, to say the least, those unloved clothes took a trip to the resale store soon after. That book is quite inspirational!

At the start of the lockdown in 2020, if you perhaps can recall, I became infatuated with minimalism. So much, in fact, that I reshaped the entire look and name of my blog. I soon realized, however, that minimalism wasn't my true passion, but a fleeting excitement. Quickly after the excitement dried out, my closet, and overall tidy space, began to expand into a tightly-packed, cluttered space when I stopped focusing on tidying (as I'm sure this is a surprise to no one, haha).

But, it seems as though I have dove back in!

I entered my room, now empty of three-trash-bags-worth of clothing I didn't like and inhaled a breath of fresh air. Now, all that remained were the clothes I absolutely adored!

That is, however, until I continued into Kondo's book, and dove into the chapters covering books. At first, I frowned at this. My giant collection of books provides me with so much love!? But, there was a tightening in my gut, despite this; my books took up most of the space in my bedroom. With a total of eight floating shelves, two layers of a book cart, a pile beneath my window, the entire expanse of the space beneath my nightstand, another mounted bookshelf, and half of a bookshelf in my living room (this doesn't include my books stored at my parent's house)... my books took up a lot of space, to say the least.

So, knowing I had perhaps a few too many, I took every book I owned and piled them onto my bed as Kondo suggested...

all of the books in my apartment piled together

I definitely had quite a lot more than expected! Most of these books, I had bought several years prior and had still not read, while others I had read but only sort-of liked, and would certainly never read again.

In her book, Kondo expressed the idea of keeping only the stories you love or plan to read soon. If the book offers you no love, and just sits there collecting dust, what good is it really doing?

Decluttering books, well, it's a difficult task, especially if you are a book fanatic and collector (more like hoarder) like me. In the bookstagram community, it seems to be praised to own a lot of books. I mean, a lot. To have aesthetic stack after aesthetic stack. To showcase that you are, in fact, a lover of books! This is one of the reasons I accumulated so many and kept them around.

But, now that I've been going to the library more frequently, and reading books entirely for free as ebooks and audiobooks with my library card on CloudPlayer... well, the idea of owning so many books, especially when staring down at the pile, no longer appealed to me. Instead, it seemed like such a waste! Why hold onto these books I could eventually read for free if I ever really wanted to when I could give the book away for someone who truly wanted it?

Using some of Kondo's teachings, as well as my own intuition, I formulated the following rules for my book-decluttering process.

If a book met any of these criteria, it was time to say goodbye!

  1. I had bought the book over three years prior and had still not read it.

  2. I had bought the book for aesthetic purposes rather than being interested in the premise. (Or, in other words, I was not thrilled to read the book and found the idea of reading the story itself a chore or obligation.)

  3. I had read the book already but found it just okay (or bad), had no attachment to the story.

  4. I had read the book already but knew I'd never read it again. (Exception: I had a true attachment to the book and loved the story.)

  5. I forgot the book had even been on my shelf at all.

Thinking that, perhaps, only a few of the books would meet these, I was entirely surprised to find that most of the books I had fell into this criteria. The thing that got me the most was, although I had liked a book, it really served no purpose on my shelf as I would never pick it up again; at this point, it was now just taking up space.

And now, my room now empty of over half of my books, I can honestly say: I don't even remember which books I got rid of. I realized that I didn't have the attachment with these stories like I thought I had.

Now, all that is left, just like my clothes, are the books I love. And I can clearly see the clean, simple stack of unread books, all books I am genuinely curious about and interested in reading. I walk into my room, and there's a new feeling about the air. Is calmer, fresher, and buzzing with stories eager to be read, or stories that continue to tug at my heartstrings, even now.

In some strange way, I've learned a lot about this process.

Since decluttering 70+ books, I've learned that:

  1. You don't have to have a massive collection of books to be a genuine reader.

  2. Stories are meant to be read, enjoyed, and stay with us. Like any other experience, once experienced, it stays with you. You don't always need to hold onto the proof if it did its job correctly.

  3. Being surrounded by a few things you love rather than several things you only sort of like creates such a comfortable, simple space, with much less noise.

  4. Reading ebooks and listening to audiobooks are completely fine ways of taking in stories. While I love reading paperbacks, that is not the only way to read "correctly".

  5. Books, like anything else, are just things. While they have a story inside, perhaps have some sort of attachment to you, they are just an object.

  6. I like psychology books a lot less than I thought I did...

  7. And I like horror a lot more than I originally thought!

I don't want you to take this the wrong way; I still have a fairly large collection of books (crazy, right?). Being surrounded by books makes me feel so cozy and inspired! Also, getting rid of books I didn't even like was more challenging than I thought. In some weird way, by holding onto the book, I think I was holding onto the past, the days when I had read that book, and the feelings now associated with the story.

But, by letting go, I can make space for more stories to enter my life and inspire me!

I'm not even telling you to go home and declutter your entire book collection right now! However, doing so personally helped me a lot, and revealed a lot to myself, like any form of decluttering can do. To really look at the books you decided to keep at the end of it all, as well as really ask yourself why can reveal the genres you liked but didn't realize you loved above others! For example, I got rid of a lot of books by someone I consider a favorite author, and this was quite surprising.

There is nothing better, I think than a space of all the things you love, only.

But perhaps this is just me riding the high of decluttering. Perhaps, the excitement will fade again soon. (I'm really hoping, this time, it won't!)

Also, before I go: be prepared for something exciting to come soon! Hint: if you have any ideas you'd like me to cover, such as book review, writing tips, minimalism, psychology theories, etc., let me know in the comments. :)

Probably finally reading the books on my TBR (and working on something cool),


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