I have always loved to read. As a minimalist, I find it interesting to think about why we collect books. Do we wish to impress folks who visit our homes by letting them know how well-read and studious we are?
Is it a holdover from earlier days when one’s personal library was a reflection of wealth and social standing? Is it to remind us of where we’ve been and what we’ve learned over the years?
Whether or not to purchase or borrow; lend, donate, or collect books is a personal decision. Keeping minimalism in mind, I have found it helpful to design a reading and collection plan that works for me.
Culling my book collection has been a process, and over time it has become easier. I faced this challenge head on when I was moving in a hurry and had a large collection of books.
Books are heavy and they take up a lot of space, so I knew I had to donate some of them. I found that while I clung to my books, many of them were ones that I was highly unlikely to read again. So why keep them? Maybe I enjoyed the sense of accomplishment it gave me to see all of the books I had read.
I also found that I was holding on to books that I had no real intention of reading. They had been given to me or I had picked them up second hand because they looked interesting. When I saw those particular books I felt heavy and a bit guilty.
I donated boxes of both categories. It felt good, and I’ve only ever missed two of those books, both of which I was easily able to borrow from the library.
A Growing Collection of Books
Over time, my collection began to grow again. I knew that I wanted less not more, but I continued to find myself adding new books. As I more fully embraced minimalism and read Marie Kondo’s, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I approached my book collection with fresh, more discerning, eyes.
As I looked through my books, I eventually shifted from asking myself which books do I want to donate to which books do I cherish?
By this time, I had also begun to read iBooks, so my collection had grown less steadily than in previous years. I also began to consciously stop and consider whether or not I actually wanted to make a purchase or could locate the desired book at a library or borrow it from a friend.
When I first moved in with my significant other, I gently nudged him about his hefty book collection. How many of these books have you read? Do you think you’ll ever reread them? Are you going to read those you haven’t yet read? I received a fairly clear message to back off of that particular topic as we were comingling our belongings.
Over a few months as he began to organize his books, he also identified many books that he wished to donate, and he continues to pull more from the shelves. Decluttering bookshelves is a personalized process.
We each have a small stack of books to read, and we now maintain an area in the basement to collect books we will donate to the library in the coming year.
Minimalism and Books
Here are a few tips for decreasing the size of your collection:
1. Donate dormant books.
It feels great to donate books to the local library where they can be purchased, providing funds to the library and enjoyment to their new owners, rather than having them sit, unopened, collecting dust.
2. Design a plan and process that works for you.
Consider keeping a log of the books you have read. You can do this with an app or in a journal. You don’t necessarily need to hold on to the physical book. I also keep a list of new titles I’m seeking. I search the library first and if my desire is stronger than my patience for the book to show up in the library’s collection, I purchase the iBook.
3. Consider iBooks or another electronic reading platform.
This saves money, paper and physical space.
4. Join your local library.
Not only is this economical, it is also a great way to support literacy and get involved with the community. I am fortunate to work at a community college where I can also borrow books and seek assistance from knowledgeable librarians.
5. Visit second-hand bookstores in your community, on your travels and online.
I have found great deals and unique gifts online, and it is fun to explore second hand bookstores. Second hand bookstores provide an opportunity to find books that you may otherwise never discover.
Here is how my current book collection stacks up. I own thirty-three books. One I am reading, three are on my “to read” stack, and all four will probably be donated to friends or the library when I finish. Four books are autographed and therefore hold special value to me. Twenty-five are ones that I believe I will read or reference in the future.
My love affair with books continues, but I am no longer a possessive lover.