Although I have cut back my e-newsletter subscriptions immensely, one that I always look forward to is from Cecilia Moorcroft of Space for Life. Not long ago this dandy article landed in my inbox: What Story Are Your Unread Books Trying To Tell?.
After reading the article, I jumped up and ran to my book shelves. I was a little surprised to find about 12 books that I was ready to let go of. Most of the books I had read, but several of them I had not. I put aside three unread books that I still “wasn’t sure” if I was ready to part with, put them somewhere where I would see them regularly and, as Cecilia suggested, will attempt to make one more go at reading them. I then shared the article with my husband and he added another 5 to the donation box.
If you would have asked me to get rid of books say 12 years ago, there was no way this was going to happen. I loved my books. I wanted to fill my shelves with books I wanted to read “someday” as well as with my favorites that I would read again and again. And, if I’m being perfectly honest, I felt that having so many books either made me feel or made me look smart.
What changed? Well, I moved, and then I moved again, and again between apartments that had lots of stairs. And I didn’t hire a moving company, it was mostly just me moving just about everything by myself. I wasn’t using a dolly or other helpful moving device, I was carrying the boxes of books, one by one, up and down stairs. I can’t remember now for sure how many boxes it actually was, somewhere between 12-20 boxes – maybe it was only 12 boxes, but it felt like 20! After a truly stair-rific move in 2005 I decided to slowly, box by box, start letting go of some of the books I had, knowing that many of them, if I ever really decided I was going to read them, were available at my local library.
My husband used to talk about how much he wanted lots of book shelves filled with books in our home – especially built-ins. I not-jokingly told him that as soon as he learned how to clean bookshelves properly and did it on a regular basis he could have as many book shelves as he wanted. (Books collect A LOT of dust/cat hair/etc, especially the shelves closest to the floor and I hate cleaning them). I’ve only seen him clean the book shelves properly once (in 7 years), and after reading Cecilia’s article perhaps this was enough to help change his mind about the house full of book shelves.
When I find myself wanting to buy a new book, what I usually do now is submit a “Suggest A Purchase” form to my local library. About 90% of the time they end up buying the book for me, I check it out, read it, and then decide whether I really want to add it to my own collection. 95% of the time I don’t end up buying the book but am certainly grateful for the opportunity to have read it, and now others have the chance as well. I suggest checking with your local library to see if they have a similar program.
Is it really more about what the information that’s contained in the books reflects about us that makes us want to hold on to them? Who we want to be, who we think we SHOULD be, who we thought we wanted to be? Books are one type of item that many people have a real hard time letting go of… are you one of them? I’d love to hear about your experiences regarding letting go of books in the comments below!