We’ve all been there: the bookcase is overflowing and we finally decide to go through the collection, only to end up with pretty much everything back in place, with only a slim volume of poetry ready to throw out. It always comes as a surprise just how many items we keep.
Some of you might realise that my approach is similar to the one for clothing, but books are a slightly different animal with a longer shelf-life than clothing. Also, unlike clothing where having several sets might be a good idea, having several books that tell us pretty much the same is just not necessary. Thus, while your bookcase needs a different approach than your wardrobe, in essence it works the same way if on a slightly longer time scale.
You would start out by marking all books in some way: some propose to turn all the books with their spines to the BACK: I think that is stupid because you will not be able to find anything and lose a lot of time! How about turning the spines UP? Once a book has been read/used, you place them back into the shelf normally. After a suitable period of time, you’ll have a set of books you want to review and maybe let go. Unlike with clothes, books might benefit from a second round of scrutiny before discarding them, though.
Of course there are books that you tend to read often or you refer to irregularly. The prior should – of course – stay. As for the latter … well: there could be good reasons for keeping them, but have you considered that most reference books are available online, and in a much more up to date version than that 1986 printed version of the “Encyclopedia of All Things Relevant” that is sitting on your shelf?
Some books are page-turners: we read them once, maybe twice, and then never look at them again because the whole point of reading is to not know how it ends … most of those are really just dead weight. Let go of those right now.
Some books may just be beautiful. Those are the hard ones to decide on. I’d say you should consider for each book when you have last looked at it. If you can’t remember when that was, why keep it? I’m not telling you to throw out all of them, but if you have a lot of books in this particular category, it might be a good idea to keep the numbers low.
There are a lot of books in the world and many reasons to keep them close. The nature of books is to record information of some kind, but they also give a sense of continuity and stability to whoever owns them. This a hard to overcome, but isn’t life all about flow and change?
Ask the ClutterMeister
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Hi, my name is Tilo Flache. My current mission: help my clients declutter mind and space.
This blog contains pointers for your journey towards a happier living experience.