Monday, March 13, 2017
How to Purge Books and Not Regret It Later
Why would I let go of more books if I regretted the first round?
Because I decided to only have books I loved in my library. I mean really, really, loved. I didn't want to fill up my house with books I wasn't going to read, or read once and decided I didn't care for but kept simply because it was a book. I realized that what I missed wasn't the contents of the books I'd gotten rid of. It was the comforting feel of being surrounded by books, it was the smell of books, and the look of all the different spines next to each other on the shelves. I did miss some of the books. Sometimes I go to look for a book and think 'why in the hell did I ever let that go? what was wrong with me?' I know what was wrong, I was so deep in depression that I was willing to do anything to get out of it, and I did. I purged my whole house, not just the books, and the only things I've regretted letting go of are the the books and a vegetable peeler that got thrown out on accident when I was dumping kitchen drawers into bags and sending them to Goodwill.
The point being, I had to learn the right way, for me, to let go of the books. So this is the process that I use to cull my book collection in order to keep the books I love, and not regret it later.
Things you will need:
1. A box to put the books that will be leaving.
2. Method of catloging books
3. Music or a podcast
3. Dust rag/swiffer
Step 1: Gather all your books. Yes, all of them. I take a laundry basket and go through the house and pick up the books from all the rooms at once. I don't know how they seem to migrate all over the house, but they do. This step is important if this is the first time you've attempted to purge your books, since it's hard to decide what to keep if you don't know exactly what you have to begin with. I don't try to shelve all the books at this point, just kind of pile them up by genre.
Step 2: Catalog new books. I use the Library Thing app for this. I can just scan the book and its added to my library, and I know instantly if the book is a duplicate. I used to buy a lot of duplicates, not so much any more.
Step 3: Unless you have multiple copies on purpose, put the duplicates in the donate box.
Step 4; Look at each shelf. There are some decluttering methods that say you should hold each item and think about if brings you joy, or ask yourself 10 questions about the item, but that takes too long. And if you love books like I do, they all bring you joy. Pick out any books you didn't enjoy or don't intend to read/finish/ever pick up again. Ask yourself why am I keeping this? If you can't find a good answer, put it in the donate box. Even if it was a gift, even if you spent money on it, even if you're not entirely sure you want to let go of it at this point. Put it in the box.
Step 5: Shelve the books that were scattered all over the house. This is where some more purging might have to happen. I currently have two bookshelves. I don't have room for more bookshelves, two is it. So if all my books don't fit on those shelves, I either have to reorganize to get them to fit or be a little more hardcore with the purging. In all honesty, I usually reorganize and find more room. I'm not going to get rid of books I love because the shelves don't look like Martha Stewart organized them, but if you're on the fence about a book this is a good way to help make that decision.
Step 6: Once you've put all the books you don't remember why you're keeping in the box, dust the shelves quickly and pick up the box.
Step 7; Put the box somewhere that you can't see it constantly. In the back of a closet, in the garage, in the trunk of your car, it doesn't matter where you put it, just so long as the books will remain dry and bug free, and it's not somewhere you can't see all the time. I keep mine in the garage. Leave the box there for a couple of weeks. If you don't miss the books then it's okay for them to go. If you find yourself looking for a specific book each time you look at your bookshelves, then go get it out of the box. Clearly, you are not ready to let go of that book yet. If you find a book that you think might need to go in the box, go put it there. I usually leave mine for closer to a month, and there are very few books I've retrieved from the donate box.
Most decluttering methods encourage you to get rid of the items the same day, and for most things that is a good idea, but for books it's a little different. For me it is, anyway. This way you can be sure you're only sending off books that you truly are ready to let go of, and make room for more books you love.
I've also found that although I may not be ready to get rid of a certain book in June, for example, by November I've found books that I love a ton more and I'm ready to let go of that book I was on the fence about. Which is why it's a good idea to do this periodically. I try to go through my books every 3 months or every time I get a big book haul (birthdays, Christmas, a random Tuesday at the bookstore).
The most important thing to remember is that unless you are having to downsize very quickly for some reason, you don't have to be ruthless with donating or selling your books. Be gentle and cultivate your library in a way that works for you, in your own time. As I've gone through this process over that last year or so it's become easier to realize which books I love, and really add to my life and reading habits, and which ones I really don't feel the need to keep around. Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither is a book collection. It takes time to build it and it will take time to refine it to a well loved, well read, well stocked library.