Hello again, friends. If you’ve been following along, you know that last year I read Marie Kondo’s international best-seller The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and each week this month I will be sharing with you nine ways the KonMari Method has helped to improve the organization and quality of life in my home over the past year.
Last week we discussed how my morning dress ritual was transformed from dreadful to peaceful by way of the Kon’Mari Method. This week I want to focus in on the second category outlined in Marie Kondo’s book, my collection of books.
While I firmly believe in personal accountability and speaking one’s truths, I will also freely admit this category was a little intimidating for me. I was more than a little nervous about decluttering my books this past year. It makes logical sense to donate unused, unnecessary, unworn garments hanging in my closet. I mean, if I could neither fit nor wear, why own it? Books, on the other hand, were another story.
Why was this chapter so trying for me? Well, I love books. I have had a long love affair with the written word for as long as I can remember. To this day, I still consider Jane Austen and her heroines, Lizzy, Jane, Emma, Diana, Elinor, and even Mary Crawford to be great friends of mine. Did I also mention I married a book hoarder as well? My husband, an educator, anthropology major, son of a former librarian turned college dean and lover of all things Tolkien. He is my book hoarding co-conspirator and soulmate. So when I read that books were the second category that we needed to take on, I knew we were in trouble.
Though I was not a fan of parting with any titles, I was committed to finishing the entire KonMari process. We gathered all of the books we owned, which, we found out, were scattered everywhere– in our bedroom, under our bed, in our dining room sideboard, in the living room entertainment center console, in every nook of my office, piles in the den, everywhere. And the cookbooks, the stacks, and stacks of cookbooks in the kitchen were more plentiful than dust and dreams. Every room contained weathered books that we had to collect and bring together and sort!
There were so many. I soon realized that I had kept all of my literature anthologies, sociology reference editions, legal dictionaries, Art History volumes, books I had reviewed for this blog, and much, much more! Then there were stacks of hand-me-down books that my husband never actually planned on reading, and I have no idea when they came from. And let’s not forget my collection of each and every book Nicholas Sparks, Anne Rice, Charlaine Harris, and Candace Bushnell ever wrote. It was a mess!
Luckily, with the KonMari method the sorting of books centered around keeping editions that “spark joy,” and not around parting with any book that sparked joy for our family. There were many books that were easy to part with, only a dozen or so books that we were kind of on the fence about, and few that we just couldn’t give up. Once we finally had sorted through everything and decided what was important enough to keep, we ended up with two huge piles. One pile of books to donate to our local public library, and a second pile that would fetch a fine price online for store credit through Amazon’s trade-in program.
In all, we parted with 1,237 books. Kept only 203, of which nearly half were my husband’s teaching and lesson planning guides, which are necessary professional development tools.
What really sparked joy for me while Kon’Maring my books? My leather and cloth bound books, my Jane Austen collection, not only remained but were now beautiful editions that stand out on my built-in bookshelves. I also kept my most-loved Charles Dickens novels, my husband’s graphic novel volumes, and a few family classics from Tolkien too!
An added bonus? We freed up an entire floor-to-ceiling bookcase to house family photos, vintage records, and fun heirlooms. Kon’Maring my books has been a true success.
So, here’s nine lessons I learned from the Kon’Mari Method on books:
- When it comes to books, live in the moment. Why had we kept all of these books for so long? Simple. I suffered from “Oh I’ll read that someday” or “So-and-so gave that to me, so I can’t get rid of it,” but the truth of the matter is, if a book has sat on my shelf for over a year I’m not going to read it and it’s okay to let the books go onto new homes and new eyes.
- Location, location, location. If we’re keeping books that we don’t really plan on reading, that’s just wasted space, and in our small house, we can use all of the extra space we can get! Let the book go!
- e-Books are awesome. I acquired most of my books before e-readers were really trendy. But now that I own an iPad I can add numerous titles, most of which are free to my online cloud services without taking up one square inch of my home.
- Public library here I come. We have a fantastic public library in our area. So unless it’s a book I know I’ll read over and over again, I will reserve it from my library first. Plus, I can read these books to my heart’s content, and have up to six weeks to read each title at my convenience without these borrowed beauties taking up any valuable real estate on my bookshelves.
- Bigger, better deals. My library is also very good about getting new released out to patrons within a week of release, in most cases. So far I’ve been able to read or request the books I want to read without ordering from Amazon. In fact, my library has an online book request section. I also now check out the OverDrive app, an app which allows users to check out newly released books from their local library from the comfort of their own homes as an e-book selection for one month. This has saved my budget nearly a hundred dollars a month!
- My sinuses thanked me. No matter how often I dusted my books, I often sneezed around my older, dusty editions. Since donating so many volumes my sinus headaches and allergies have lessened considerably.
- My reading style shines through. Books, like clothing, are all about style. Every book I kept is now a forever book. Each book represents my interests, passions, and tastes. Should I move, downsize my home, or move abroad I know that the books I own are non-negotiable keepers. I can see just what types of fiction and memories I like to read, what cuisines I enjoy cooking most, and what stories truly impacted my life. I went from owning random books to a sophisticated, cultured, curated home library.
- I can be a more giving person. I still review cookbooks, non-fiction, and memories. Now, instead of holding onto every book simply because I carefully combed each page, reviewed each tile, and vested time into each author’s central message, I can enjoy a good story and pass those books on to others. I also now gift a lot of books and have enjoyed sending books to friends and family out of state and country.
- I am not a sellout. It took me some time to come to terms with the idea of parting with my books did not mean that I didn’t love each and every author, genre, and edition. That getting rid of a title didn’t mean the information they presented to my mindset would be taken away from me. This is hoarder mentality. I no longer had to be the woman who felt she was letting down Marie Antoinette simply because I do not keep her narratives on my bookshelf.
In all honesty, decluttering my books was cathartic to my soul. I continue to be amazed at the relief I feel when we get rid of stuff! A year later my home library has been transformed from a rest stop for unknown titles to a working, always in progress home library.
I’m excited to take on another area next week– so stay tuned for papers and document decluttering!
Here’s to more organized homes,
Other posts in the series:
Part 2- The KonMari Method: Organizing Books (You’re here!)