Book Hoarder or Minimalist? Do I Have to Choose?
My answer is that no one should have to choose between being a book collector and living a simpler life.
Minimalism is about eliminating clutter that clouds our better judgement. Instead of passively consuming, minimalism encourages people to actively create something. To find time for those pursuits that bring us joy.
I suppose some people could argue that reading is consumption. And if it's an assigned reading, then the reader may truly be passive. However, for the book lover, reading is never passive. And book lovers collect books. It's what we do, even when we also actively use our public library and buy e-books.
So how do you own fewer books when every book is a personal friend?
Accept that you are not required to get rid of any books you love. You love every book you own? Then that collection brings you joy. Keep every one of them. I cannot imagine my home without books.
However, if you have any books that you read and didn't like, then donate or sell them.
- Have a teacher friend? Donate the books to her or him for a classroom library. Or ask that teacher friend if any of the new teachers need some books for their classroom libraries.
- Have a community center? Start a book swap where people leave a book and take a book of interest. You're allowed to leave more than one book. This strategy works well in apartment building laundry rooms as well.
- Have a used book store in your city? Sell the books. Even if you're moving and can't use the credit, give the credit to someone else. Consider it a random act of kindness. And most used bookstores I've been in have a book bin for donating books as well. They can't buy every paperback brought in.
- If books are in good condition, many charitable organizations will take them. I've dropped off books at Goodwill and Salvation Army.
But what if you really want to pare down the number of books you own? How do you part with friends? As I sifted through my book collection last year, I asked myself several questions to guide my decision making.
- Is this book a favorite?
- Do I associate any special feelings with this book that I want to remember every time I see it?
- Will I reread the book? Once or multiple times?
- Is this book a good source of information? A good reference tool?
- Does the book jacket meet an aesthetic standard that makes me feel more comfortable in my home?
- Is the book signed? To me?
- Did I receive the book as a gift?
- Has this book been on my "to read" pile forever, but I am going to get to it one of these days?
- Could this book bring more joy to someone else?
I gave away hundreds of books last year. And I loved it. Those books are in classrooms now helping to create a rich literary environment. Even if only a few of them are cracked open by students, that's more action than they would see gathering dust on my shelves.
And my current collection sits nicely on a four-shelf bookcase. Most of my collection.
When I find new books to adore, I buy some of them. I'm sure buying more books will always be in my future, especially at special events where I may have the opportunity to meet the author and get the book signed.
Since I don't necessarily want to buy more book shelves, I have identified book piles as my solution. A neatly structured and strategically placed pile of books makes a house feel like home for me.
- Those books that I buy that I have not read yet? I don't put them on my bookcase. I have a stack of books on my nightstand. If my stack gets a bit unruly, I transfer the pile to the floor. Since I have nothing else cluttering up my nightstand, the books are the decor.
- The books that I consider good reference tools? I stack them next to my desk. This pile is not terribly large, but it comes in handy. You could stack a pile of books on top of your desk or under it as well.
- Those books that won't fit on bookcases already owned? At one point, I had two thin ladder bookcases. I didn't place them directly next to each other. I left about one foot of space between the two bookcases. Then I stacked a huge pile of hardback books between the bookcases. Making books the focal point of my decor was easy and aesthetically pleasing to me.
Becoming a minimalist has given me more time to do the things I love, including read more. I have more time to spend with the people and fictional characters who I love. While I would like to maintain order within my book collection, I have no plans to limit the number of books I may buy.
How do you view minimalism and book collecting? Have you ever tried to pare down your books? What questions did you consider when you thought about getting rid of a book? I'd love to hear your thoughts. Please share in the comments.