I asked my Facebook friends to comment on this question last week:
What area of your life would you like most to simplify?
Do you have a lot of books and wonder how to integrate your love for the printed volume with a simpler lifestyle?
I know how you feel! Until recently I, too, had a ton of books that I carted around with each move.
I Was Buried in Books.Having graduated from both college and medical school, not to mention being an avid reader for all of my adult life, my books were my most prized possessions.
I had books on every topic imaginable: medicine, anatomy, biochemistry, surgery, philosophy, religion, novels, novellas, business, marketing, love, self-help, the list goes on and on.
As a writer, books are my life and my medium. I wrote two books a few years back and I have another in progress (although I’m committed to publishing it solely in PDF and for Amazon’s Kindle this time around).
The Turning Point.
A few years ago I became a single parent (read the story here on my other blog at Solo-Dad.com) and I downsized significantly in terms of a home and realized very soon that…
When your home is smaller, your belongings seem to multiply.
It became apparent pretty quickly that I needed to shed some things. Book were on the list as well. (Read this post to see how I dealt with my own bookcase.)
The Problems Associated with Collecting Books
When considering special issues related to book lovers, there are several concerns that come to mind Each is deserving of mention:
- Space Concerns – Let’s face it, books take up space. The more books you have the less space you have available. The obvious solution is to create more shelves, buy more bookcases, stack more on the stairs, right? But this isn’t solving the problem. It’s enabling you to buy more books and compound your space problem.
- Clutter – At the heart of every cluttered home you’ll find fear. For the book collector, it’s the fear of letting go of a book for only one reason: You won’t have it case you need it again. In my experience that happens rarely if at all. And now that I own a Kindle, I have all my books at my fingertips. But the larger issue is the fear and not being comfortable with the concept of enough. Once you experience the adequacy of enough, chances are excellent you won’t feel the same about having so many books.
- Dust – Anyone who’s ever dusted a bookshelf knows this all too well. Books collect dust and other allergens and must be periodically cleaned. This is time consuming and laborious. Cleaning a flat surface where books ‘used to be’ is a whole lot easier and faster, trust me!
- Safety – This is perhaps the most important issue of all. Books are heavy and moving them from place to place can be hard on your back. Stacks of books represent a safety issue, too. Stacks get bumped and fall over creating even more clutter and the potential for additional injury. Finally, there is the fire hazard associated with books. Enough said on that one, but it’s something to consider.
Breaking Up with Your Books The Easy Way – One Shelf at a Time
The Clean Slate Approach
Jeffery Tang wrote a great post on ZenHabits about how to approach decluttering a living space using this method and it certainly applies here. Decluttering any space can only occur if you start small: One drawer, one closet, one shelf.
That’s the way to start any change in life. you take one step, then another, then another. Remember, simplifying your life is a process that doesn’t end. It’s a new way of living.
Both ‘simplifying’ and ‘living’ are present tense verbs!
You’ll need a few items to help you with the process. Some storage boxes and tape, some dusting/cleaning supplies, and a camera. before and after photos are a great way to record your progress and they serve as a record for how you did the first time!
Here’s how to begin:
- Choose a shelf, empty it, then clean it. Cleaning it is a very important step, so don’t skip it. The act of cleaning it helps prepare it (and you) for its new purpose. After you’ve cleaned it, take a moment to sense the calmness inherent in the empty shelf. This is the effect your entire bookcase can impart after you’re finished.
- Identify the essential. Taking each book on its own merit, identify only the ones that are the most meaningful to you and place them back on the shelf. When deciding, ask yourself: Did this book change my life? If the answer is anything but, “OMG! Yes!,” place it in the box. Only those books truly deserving of this place of honor should remain on the shelf.
- Eliminate the rest. Box the rest of the books, seal it, and place in storage for 3 months.
It really is that simple to get started.
The Maybe Box Now that you have a box(es) of books to store, place the box – I call it the Maybe Box because ‘maybe’ I’ll need something from it – out of sight, preferable in a dry place where you will not see it each day. Out of sight, out of mind so to speak.
After about 3 months, if you’ve not had to go back to the box to consult a book, then discard them by donating to a library, selling them to a used bookstore, or by giving them a s gifts (my favorite option)! But do eliminate them, otherwise they become closet clutter. If you’ve had to retrieve a book, consider placing back on the shelf for a limited time. If you refer to it again, maybe it belongs on the ‘Shelf of Honor’ after all.
Simply enjoy the new space and feel the new sense of calm you’ll perceive! Congratulate yourself on this one shelf. Now go on to the next.
After a few turns at decluttering your shelves, you’ll be motivated to do more. It’s a very positive experience to declutter and I know once you get started you’ll love the result.
Tell Me How It Goes?
Please consider leaving a comment below when you finish your first shelf. Send me before and after photos and I’ll feature them here on the blog! OK, go get ‘em!
Happy Book Break-Up!