Hold up bibliophiles, don’t come for me; I’m one of you. I have been an avid reader from the age of seven and onward. I remember struggling with it until I was in second grade and hating how easily it seemed to come to everyone else around me. I’m not sure what was causing the block in my brain and I’m equally unsure about what tore the block down; all I know is that one day I went to school and something clicked into place. A little light went off in my brain and suddenly I wasn’t struggling with it anymore. From that point on, I was unstoppable in my consumption of literature. I read just about everything I could get my hands on and by the time I was twelve I was easily reading at an adult level. And I had so many books.
Up until a few years ago, every book that I had received or bought was still in my collection. I’m 28 now, and was 26 the first time I decluttered my books. That’s well over ten years of collecting. At its height, my book collection was at upwards of six hundred individual tomes. To be completely honest, some part of me still loves the idea of having a large personal library. I used to dream of having just that when I was little. I wanted a whole room with books floor to ceiling, complete with one of those rolling ladders. I wanted the library from The Beauty and the Beast.
What I have come to realize as an adult is that books are heavy. Six hundred of them weighs so incredibly much. Why is this relevant? I move a lot. I mean, quite a lot. In seven years I have moved house eight times. Moving my books became so exhausting and I just didn’t want to do it anymore. Sure, I could have tried to store them somewhere, but I’m a believer that we shouldn’t need extra storage for our stuff. If I have to ask a family member to keep something in a closet for me, I don’t need it.
My books being heavy isn’t the only reason I decluttered them of course. I may not be super fit, but I can certainly lug a box of books up a few flights of stairs. I decluttered my books for my own mental clarity and because I had removed so much excess stuff from my life that my book collection was visually headache inducing. Let’s break that down.
I decluttered my books for my own mental clarity. Having books that I loved from childhood was comforting sometimes. I used to flip through my favorites and remember the hours I spent squirreled away in my room or outside somewhere, lost in stories. I have a memory of wedging myself in my windowsill so I could get the best breeze while I read. Countless memories of reading under the covers with a flashlight and reading instead of doing my homework accompany that one. Those books served as reminders of the rare sweet moments of my childhood.
There’s another side to that fuzzy feeling though -the discomfort of looking at books I had owned for several years and never read. Out of my six hundred books I had probably only read about half of them, and many of the ones I hadn’t read were long time residents of my collection. Looking at them made me feel guilty, although not guilty enough to read them, which in turn made me feel more guilty. I’m fully aware of how ridiculous that sounds. The books themselves are inanimate objects that are not holding me accountable for anything. I held on to them because I could remember how I felt buying the book and the excitement I’d had about reading it, and I was hoping at some point that excitement would come back and I would be motivated to move it into my read pile. It never seemed to happen though, mostly because I had outgrown the part of my life that I had bought those books during. I used to read a lot of adult urban fantasy novels but I can’t remember the last time I read anything in that genre. I was holding on to so many of those books, things that I’d read (but would never read again) and things that I never got around to. Why was I holding on to them? It didn’t make any sense.
My book collection was visually headache inducing. I very much used to be the kind of person who over decorated. I liked to collect things, I liked to hang stuff on my wall, have tons of knick knacks, and have piles of books everywhere. The problem is that all that stuff actually takes up space. When I moved into my first apartment and was sharing a bedroom with my boyfriend at the time, I was forced to deal with how much stuff I had. Our apartment was small and we didn’t have a lot of storage. We were both also avid readers so between us, we had an impressive library. Like I said, a library sounds nice, but it sounds nice if I had a room that could serve as a library. I didn’t have that and I never have. I’ve moved eight times in seven years and my books have pretty much always just been stored in my bedroom. They created, as much as it pained me to admit, clutter.
As I found minimalism and started to get rid of a lot of my possessions my space became a lot cleaner and more simplified. There was much less visual clutter which I found led me to being more relaxed and less anxious all the time. I’m someone with pretty bad anxiety, and anything that helps to ease that is something I’m willing to try. My book collection was throwing a wrench in that visual peace.
The last move I made, just a few months ago, was when I finally got to a point that I was comfortable with when it comes to my books. Don’t misunderstand, I still have a lot compared to what most people have (about one hundred) but it’s reasonable for me. I have a small stack of books that I haven’t read that I know I want to read in the near future and I got rid of all the other unread books. That lifted a huge weight off of me. It was nice to let go of those personal expectations for myself. There’s no need to read books that you don’t want to read and it was silly of me to expect myself to do so.
I also kept my favorite books; books that I have read and loved so much that I can see myself reading them again in the future. There’s quite a few of those, but I’m a book lover. I’m impressed with myself for paring it down as much as I did. Everything I have now makes me happy. It “sparks joy” as Marie Kondo would say. One hundreds books will still be heavy the next time I move, but it’s a weight I’m much happier now to carry.