Bookpocalypse

Minimalism The Journey #5

It has been a long long day of sorting through books. Lots and lots of books. The crazy thing is that I already cut my book collection in half once. It was last year when we were in the process of “decluttering’ our house.

Despite having made 7-8 trips to good will last year, we still have so much stuff. Well, this time around I was ruthless. But before I delve into the bookpocalypse that just took place in my house, let me get you caught up to the mindset shift that I’ve had to undergo in order to achieve this level of ruthlessness.

I’ve spent a lot of time continuing to immerse myself with minimalistic content. TED talks, podcasts, blogs, books…you name it I’m consuming it. But I haven’t just been exposing myself to this new information, I’ve been viewing, listening, and reading with my books in mind.

Questions

This led me to ask some questions of myself: Why are the books so important to me? Why did I collect so many books in the first place? Then I simplified the questions even further: What purpose do books serve?

It was this last question that really got the wheels of change to start churning in my mind. Because the reality is that books are designed to introduce new ideas, foster/affirm the growth of newly planted ideas, or to entertain us. (I’m sure there are more, but these are the ones that stuck out to me.)

Answers

My books were doing none of these things. And most of them would likely never do any of these things as long as they remained in my possession. Books are not written to sit on a shelf or to be stuffed in a box and stored in the closet. They are meant to be read and to create change in the world.

I was imprisoning these books and damning them to life of unfulfilled potential. Okay maybe that is a bit dramatic, but the point remains, the books were doing no good to anyone in their current circumstances.

Bookpocalypse

It was with this new realization that I began to pull book after book off the shelf and box after box out of the closet. Each book was reviewed and it’s fate decided. Would it be used in our house or would it be set free?

When the dust settled, less than 30 would remain with me. And of those 30, I’ll likely be minimizing them as well. Some I kept for sentimental reasons, some I kept because I just am not ready to let go of it, and others because I intend to read or reread them.

This means that from where I started a year ago with an estimated 1500 books, I have kept less than 2%. There was a point in my life where this would seem unfathomable to me. However, the reality of actually having done it is again quite liberating. I’ve realized those books were more of a burden than an asset, and I am hopeful they will be able to bring insight or entertainment into the lives of others.

So what of the rest of the books, you ask. Well the vast majority will be donated (hello tax deduction). One small pile will be taken to work and dispensed to individuals I work with. Another small pile has received a stay of execution and is awaiting a final verdict from my wife. A final small pile (containing mostly old text books) will be sold.

All and all a productive day of minimization, not only is my house cleaner and less cluttered so is my mind. The only thing that has increased is my wallet.

12 Comments

  1. If I ever declutter, books will be the most difficult to part from. Not only do I reread them on occasion, I actually love the look of a full bookshelf. Kudos on your mettle!

    1. It took me a long long time to get to this point. My wife’s been asking me to reduce my book collection for years and years. She was quite surprise with how ruthless I was. I do have to admit, my bookshelf is looking kind of sad now, I do miss the look of a full book shelf.

  2. Nicely done MSF! I always wanted a library full of books. In my last home the front living room was dedicated space for my books and i had 5 bookcases almost full. They came with me to the new home but in the last 2 years I’ve given almost all of them away. I came to the same conclusion as you, they were doing nothing just sitting on my shelves. I did keep some for reference and some to reread, and of course I’ve bought a few more but I will eventually share and recycle these too.

    1. There is something about a library full of books isn’t there? Whenever I’m visiting someone’s house, I’m always curious to pursue their book shelves to see what gems they have. Assuming their books are out in a public place, don’t worry I don’t go snooping around anyone’s house. 🙂

  3. Decluttering can be quite difficult especially when it comes to something that you value. I must admit that Team Waffles has a lot of books (most of which are the Mr’s), but recently we have been trying to read more ebooks or if we get a hardcopy, we donate it as soon as we are done reading it. We have a bunch of Little Free Libraries around us that makes it easy to just drop off a book or two in hopes that someone passing by will be looking for that specific book.

    1. Donating as soon as you are done reading sounds like the best way to handle any books I accumulate in the future. Some others on Twitter suggested the library would be a good place to donate books as well.

  4. Good work MSF! My solution for this problem is having one small bookshelf which determines the maximum amount. As a couple of years ago I bought a Kindle (one of the best investments I made) the books filling that shelf are from older times and some of them also could (and will be) be sent free. Also there are some folks (including my wife) who must read paper based books to feel reading at all. Strange emotion, maybe I will understand sometime, for now I enjoy having the CTR+F option at hand just in case… 🙂

    1. Thanks Peter! Yes, my Kindle made this minimization effort more palatable. I was a book purist and resisted e-readers for a long time, but once I tried it, I was hooked on all conveniences they provided to my reading experience.

    1. I don’t think I could have thrown them away either. I’m hopeful that someone will pick them up at Goodwill and get some value from them. Had I not kept them in boxes in my closet (essentially a storage unit) for years and years I likely wouldn’t have been able to give them away. But after gaining no value from them for over a decade, I figured it was time that someone gets some value out of them. Thanks for commenting, I appreciate you stopping by!

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