I knew I have a lot of books. Hard not to notice when I have five full bookcases, plus three knee-high stacks that live on the floor and a short stack on my nightstand.
And the miscellaneous collections tucked in my nightstand, my workbag, my purse and in the back of my car.
Still, I hadn’t realized how much they’d taken over until I walked into 7’x7’ space I call my home office. Most, I don’t even remember buying. No idea where they came from or how long I’ve had them.
I also realized that I hadn’t been in my office in quite some time because it was overcrowded with my books; no room for me to be comfortable.
So, I decided to purge.
I began by searching “how to purge books” online because clearly I had no idea how to get it done or I wouldn’t be surrounded in the first place.
Most of the advice I came across was from well-meaning organizational experts, and I kept thinking…
You are not my people!! How can you understand our love?!
So I ignored all of their excellent advice.
Then I came across this article on Read It Forward: 5 Steps to Purge Your Bookshelf by Julia Serebrinksy.
The article opens with:
For anyone who places value on books, an occasional purge can bring on a mild existential crisis with flashes of anxiety, guilt and regret.
The reference to a “mild existential crisis” told me that I’d found my tribe and could take her advice.
I’ll paraphrase three of the five steps as they relate to how I went about it but if you’re considering a book purge, check out her full article. It goes into more detail and has two additional steps you might find helpful.
Step 1: If I haven’t read it by now, I probably won’t.
Most of my books were bought with Intent to Read. Only I didn’t. How can I get rid books I haven’t read? I spent money on them. I still wanted to read them.
But I hadn’t and probably wouldn’t. So I let them go.
Step 2: Toodles, topical nonfiction.
Let’s see… How likely am I to read that presidential biography when I have a small stack of paperback mysteries starring magical cats?
Sorry, Mr. President.
Step 3: ‘Gift’ books I love.
This was a game changer.
It’s hard to ‘get rid’ of books. Call me crazy ,but I feel like I’m hurting a book’s feelings. Like it hasn’t fulfilled its destiny, or it’s being rejected by the one it trusted.
But, if I change that thought process from ‘getting rid’ of a book to ‘gifting it’ to someone else, it becomes much easier to put it in the box because I was acknowledging the book’s inherent value.
How many books did I purge?
I didn’t count because I didn’t want to details to slow me down.
I did however:
- Fill two moving boxes
(will probably have to be three so I can close the boxes)
- Reduce my floor stacks by 50%
- Move the remaining floor stacks to bookshelves
- Still have three empty bookshelves left over
How long did it take?
Three hours total, including snack breaks. I made fast decisions and once those decisions were made, they were made. I have not picked out a single book to put back on the shelf.
I did, however, make a list of some books I may still want to read, just not right now. If I want to read it later, I can either borrow from my local library, rebuy it for my NOOK or just rebuy it. I still have those options. For now, I need the room.
How do I feel?
Hence the excessive use of exclamation points.
I now have more room (for me, not for more books), and I can now see what books I have. When you have so many, they become part of the background after a while; you stop seeing them. Now I see them and have lined up the next five I’m going to read.
Yes, there’s the guilt, the anxiety, the withdrawal. But it’s worth it.
What advice would I add?
First, put your journals and notebooks all in one place, front and center.
I collect these things like it’s my job, but they take up a ton of room. Keep the ones you love. Keep them where you can see them so you’re more likely to use them.
Second, make your purge just another part of your day. Fix yourself a nice breakfast. Run an errand before and/or after. Don’t add to mental and emotional stress by making it such a big deal.
And remember, you can always either borrow from the library or rebuy it later.