NOTE: This post was originally published on my previous blog, Recovering Shopaholic.
I mostly write about clothing on this blog, but many of us also have a tendency to accumulate too many items in other possession categories. My husband and I have been gradually paring things down in all areas of our home, but one area that’s been challenging has been our books, particularly mine.
A Book to Help Me De-clutter My Books?
As I’ve mentioned previously, I’m what one might call an “information junkie.” For years, my shopaholic tendencies extended to books almost as much as with clothes, especially after Amazon Prime made it so easy and inexpensive to purchase books with a single click. My husband had also amassed quite a few books over the years such that we had two tall bookshelves stuffed to the gills, as well as a smaller bookcase for the overflow. Sure, we’d cull a few books here and there as time went by, but there were still far too many books in our midst.
In recent months, almost every blogger under the sun has been touting the virtues of Marie Kondo’s book, “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” so I decided to see what all of the fuss was about. Yes, another book, but I wisely ordered the digital version of this one to cut down on clutter. I could see the irony of adding a book on de-cluttering to my already massive collection of books! I’ve read a number of books on the topic, so I wasn’t sure if this one would tell me anything I didn’t already know, but I experienced at least a few “aha moments” through reading about Kondo’s “KonMari Method.”
The “KonMari Method” for Books
Kondo has an interesting process for tidying (her word for de-cluttering) books. She recommends that all of the books be removed from their shelves and placed on the floor. After all of the books are on the floor, they should be picked up one by one and held while the owner asks the following simple question:
Does this book spark joy?”
Only those books that spark joy should be retained in one’s library. All others should be passed on to a new home. The “sparks joy” test can also be applied to clothing and other possession categories using a similar methodology (yes, Kondo actually recommends that we line up all of our clothes on the floor!).
Putting the Method to the Test
I was intrigued, so I suggested that my husband and I use the KonMari Method with our books on a rainy Saturday two weekends back. I told him it would only take about an hour, but I am notorious for underestimating how long things will take (he should know that by now, as should I!). So we painstakingly pulled each and every book off the shelves and piled them up on our living room floor, as shown below (it’s a cell phone photo and a bit blurry, but you get the idea):
I was amazed at how much easier it was to get rid of books when they were all laid out on the floor. We felt much less attachment toward our books when they were off the shelves, and picking them up one at a time allowed us to easily evaluate which ones still add value to our lives (“The Minimalists” version of what sparks joy). Sure, there were still some pangs of guilt about all of our unread books, especially the business and self-help books we felt we should read. But Kondo recommends that we follow our gut instinct about what sparks joy. If we find ourselves hemming and hawing about whether or not to keep something, that almost undoubtedly means the item should be passed on.
The Amazing End Result
At the end of the process (which took close to three hours instead of just one), about two-thirds of our books were slated for donation. We bagged them all up in nine grocery bags, as shown below (Sprite helped…):
Here are the books that got to stay, those volumes that sparked joy in one or both of us:
It was very easy to group the remaining books by category and place them on our bookshelves. The shelves were no longer jam-packed, so there was extra space available for displaying photos, cards, and knick-knacks. Here’s how our tall bookshelves look today:
The Cost for Our Accumulation of “Stuff”
Every time I walk past the newly tidy bookshelves, a feeling of peace and accomplishment runs through me. I didn’t realize how much energy the packed bookshelves were sapping from my soul, but it’s readily apparent to me now. We often think that just because we have the space to store our possessions, it makes sense to keep them all, but I no longer believe that’s true.
There is a cost to be paid for our accumulation of “stuff.” That “cost” varies from person to person, but it’s there. We may feel guilt, overwhelm, dread, exhaustion, and many other negative emotions when faced with our clutter. Conversely, when we let things go, it usually boosts our spirits. Not only are we able to reclaim some of our physical space, we’re also able to let go of guilt, better utilize what we have, and contribute to others through passing on our cast-offs.
We donated our books to our local library this past weekend. Before we took them all in, my husband asked if there were any books I wanted to “rescue.” I have to admit that there was one book I pulled out from the donation bags, but that’s it. Just one book out of hundreds was rescued – and only because I had actually thought about that book a few times during the past week. I was able to let go of all of the others books with love. It’s my hope that others will enjoy the books I either loved in days gone by or never fully appreciated.
The Books Were Just the Beginning…
So what’s next, you may ask. Well, the books were just the beginning. We moved on to our compact disc collection yesterday and managed to pare it down by half using the process outlined above. I also plan to use the KonMari method for my files (I have two drawers and four file boxes full of papers!) and photos (two boxes). I’d also like to “KonMari” my digital files, blog subscriptions, and articles to read (I still have far too many of all of these things!). Obviously, I can’t lay such items out on the floor, but I can still be honest with myself about which ones spark joy in my heart.
And what about my clothes, shoes, and accessories? Well, my “Love It, Wear It” Challenge (LIWI) is taking care of those categories, but who knows? I may opt to expedite the process using Kondo’s method there as well. I can definitely see myself using it with my jewelry and scarf collections since those are easier to lie out on the floor (or I might use the bed instead). I will definitely report back if I do any “KonMari-ing” (yes, it’s both a noun and a verb these days – it is a New York Times best-selling book, after all) in those areas.
A Life Full of Only Those Things That Spark Joy
Ideally, I’d like to only have those possessions, activities, and people in my life that spark joy. While that’s not the only benchmark of a “full life,” it’s definitely a good start. I’m starting with my possessions because it’s a logical – and easier – place from which to begin. Activities and relationships are more challenging to evaluate, although I did read an article about Marie Kondo that mentioned a client who jettisoned her husband as a result of asking the “sparks joy” question (for the record, I definitely won’t be doing that!).
For years, shopping was my default activity. I don’t think it ever really sparked joy in me, but it was exciting and compelling, plus it allowed me to divert my attention away from things I didn’t want to face in my life. Since I’ve stopped spending an inordinate amount of time on shopping and clothes, I feel a bit like a rudderless ship. I haven’t found a new passion to replace it as of yet, but I am gradually facing the inner demons that shopping covered up for far too long. As I gain more clarity about these things, I will share what I learn here, but I’m still wading through the process and putting the pieces together at this point.
I may not know what the future holds for me in so many areas of my existence, but I do know that I feel lighter, happy, and freer as I shed more and more of the “stuff” I didn’t love and wasn’t using from my home and my life. That’s a good place to start! If you feel overwhelmed or burdened by your possessions, I highly recommend that you check out Marie Kondo’s book and give her method a try. Some of it (like her anthropomorphizing of clothing and other inanimate objects) may sound silly, but I can attest to the fact that it works. Even if you’re skeptical, isn’t it worth a few hours of your life to try it and see?
Before You Go… May Be of Interest
- I was quoted in a recent article in The Daily Mail called “Wardrobe Shaming: It’s the Tough Way to Cut Your Shopping Bills.” It’s an interesting story about a woman whose husband decided to take on her wardrobe and count up how many clothes she owned. Lots of beautiful photos are included, as well as helpful video on how to organize your wardrobe.