How on earth am I going to get rid of them? I love books! Books are my ‘thing’. I’ve got a Kindle, so I have made a start of buying online versions instead of hard copies, but many of my books are not yet available as e-copies and a lot of the books I love to read are out of print. I am also seduced by the lure of a second-hand bookshop. I love the dusty darkened interiors, the shelves lined with row after row of old-fashioned binding, I even like the faintly fusty smell. Entering a second-hand bookshop is almost like being an archeologist – delve deep enough and you never know what treasures you will find. Maybe an elusive first edition? Or a gem from the 1950s with a garish cover and outlandish title. ‘Attack of the killer spiders!’
I have to frequently remind myself that my quest to organize clutter means that I manage with less not more and unfortunately this also applies to books. I have to stop buying them and I have to cull the amount I’ve already collected. It’s not huge, but I’m estimating about 300 titles. I realised I had a problem a while ago when began shelving books in two rows on the same shelf, one row behind another . I also had a large collection taking up cupboard space at my parents house. And this was the collection of books I looked at first.
But oh dear me – as soon as I started perusing the books, I felt a terrible cry rise from within. ‘I want to read this!’ Nevermind that I had failed to read the book in the past five years, each book I examined became the very book I desired to read next. Before I knew it was sitting on the train back to London with a bag full of seven books to take home with me. In one foul swoop I had managed to end up with more book clutter than I had started with!
This called for a proper plan of action. I was obviously going to take longer over this task than I would any of my other challenges. So here’s how I’m planning to tackle it.
- Take all of my books off the shelf and confront the real amount I possessed. I would count how many books I had and then commit to a realistic number to keep as a first cull. I decided I would keep half my books and give the rest away. That would leave me with approx 150 books which still sounded a nice lot of books.
- Sort my books into categories to see where I had clusters of similar titles and subjects. This would help me to decide which books I really liked and wanted to keep.
- Do an initial cull of the books I had read and were unlikely to read again eg novels. Any real favourites that I had re-read many times already – like my MR James Collected Ghost Stories, I could keep. There were also books I had been given as presents. Several of them I had never read and didn’t really want to read so these could go.
- Identify a charity shop that had a good selection of second-hand books, so the books would be likely to go to a good home. I could never bring myself to throw away a book unless it was damaged. This made me feel better about getting rid of them.
- Get rid of books about hobbies that I didn’t have the time for, or had grown bored of. I still loved to cook but I wouldn’t be decorating cakes or cooking any desserts anytime soon as I had given up sugar so these could go. I was no longer into new age subjects, so the book on Reiki was now redundant and I really didn’t have time to do gardening, so a lot of these books could also be given to charity.
- Get rid of books I realistically would never read. These included classic novels and historical works that I thought I should read, but probably couldn’t really be bothered. As very few people ever looked at my book collection there wasn’t any point trying to impress anyone.
- Give back any books that didn’t belong to me. I had books lent to me by friends and they really should have been returned to them by now. Some I had read, some I must confess I hadn’t. To read more on this problem see What the clut?! Other people’s clutter.
- Stop going to the library. I love libraries nearly as much as I loved second-hand bookshops. The problem was I was borrowing and reading library books instead of reading my own collection. Bringing even more books into the house, despite only temporarily was proving too much of a distraction. This led on the next action –
- Start reading the books I already had! This should be easy – but instead of getting engrossed in a novel, I thought I would start with my non-fiction reference books. Often the reference books didn’t need reading cover to cover, I could just dip in and out and I’d know pretty soon whether I would need to keep them. For example, I found that in less than an hour I had read through my book on the films of Powell and Pressburger, so this was now one to get rid off. I sorted out ten books I wanted to read in the next month and started reading. Once I had read them I could decide whether to keep them or give away.
This is workable. Yes I am getting rid of books, but I will still be keeping some of my collection – only the best and only the books I am excited about reading. And this feels like a way forward.