KonMari Project 3: Books

It took a while—almost a year—but I’ve wrapped up the second stage of the KonMari Project: books. This was definitely more challenging than sorting through my clothes. I suspect that Marie Kondō doesn’t feel about books quite as strongly as I do. From what I can tell from The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and Spark Joy, books seem to be more like objects to her than, you know, books. Perhaps I am being unfair. It’s just that she made it sound a lot easier to weed books than it proved to be. But I’m determined to finish the KonMari Project this year, so I declared the books stage completed on February 20, and am moving on to the third stage, which is papers.

I will say, I now have a much better idea of why I’ve held onto so many books. Of course, I have my favorites. These are the books that as I looked at each one, I distinctly experienced a feeling of fondness for it. For fiction, I might remember a scene or two from the book. Nonfiction triggered memories of an argument the author made or an insight I got while reading the book. These were definitely books to keep. But I realized that I’ve kept a lot of books out of habit. Whether or not I’d read them, I got so used to them just being there that I no longer saw them, like wallpaper. Heck, I moved them from one apartment to another on autopilot. These were the books that were easy to discard using Kondō’s recommendations, because when I focused on each of these books individually—took it off the shelf, held it, and really saw it—it dawned on me that I felt no real connection to them anymore. Many of these books were ones that were important to me in an earlier part of my life. I let go of many knitting books because I’m experienced enough now not to need them. Having a lot of books on Wicca was right for me when I was Wiccan, but my Paganism has wandered far enough away from Wicca that it was time to let them go.

I erred on the side of keeping books. Lots of them weren’t my absolute favorites, but still made me feel happy when I saw them. It was also easy to justify keeping a lot of astrology and tarot books because they’re out of print. I may not have referred to them recently, but it’s hard to shake the feeling that if I get rid of them, I’ll need one again some day and won’t be able to get a copy of it. After all, astrology and tarot books aren’t all that easy to find in public libraries. But I’m proud of myself for getting rid of some books that I had mixed feelings about. I had a lot of books on Japanese, from studying it years ago. But I haven’t had the time to return to it, and anyway, Latin is calling to me now. It was tempting to keep them, promising myself that I’d use them someday, but I acknowledged that when I see them, they don’t spark joy. They spark feelings of obligation, a bit of guilt, some frustration, regret. This is exactly what Kondō is saying that you don’t want from the stuff you keep. So I thanked and released them.

Realizing that many of you may not be any more familiar with empty space in a bookcase than I am, here’s what it looks like.

So there have been some bittersweet moments, but generally, weeding the books has been a good thing, and probably something I wouldn’t have done to any great extent if I hadn’t been prodded by Kondō’s books. I’m enjoying seeing open space in my bookcases. Mind you, it looks unnatural to me. I’ve bought bookends (gasp!). I’ve never needed them before because every shelf was packed. So far I’ve only bought plain black utilitarian bookends, with the exception of one set of bright yellow ones because I love the color, but if I become someone who always has space in her bookcases, maybe I’ll get some fancy ones. And I’ve opened up about ten cubic feet in my storage unit by removing several boxes of books. It’s definitely an improvement to open the door without fearing that a mountain of boxes is about to topple over on me. On to papers!

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