I got rid of my only bookshelf. There, I said it. I didn't get rid of all my books, but I did get rid of my one and only bookshelf. I'm going to tell you why and I'm going to tell you how. I'm also going to share with you what I kept and why. The Why: When I told my friend about this she said, "Why? Books are wonderful!" My new bookshelf-independent lifestyle isn't a commentary on books per se, but rather a reflection on living only with things that are indeed wonderful. My answer to her: "Well, the books I donated weren't that wonderful." I get it - I know countless folks who would rather go without indoor plumbing than go without books. I'm not saying that's wrong, I'm just not one of those people. Ever since buying a Kindle last year, I actually read more than ever. I'm a slow reader, so reading a book twice has little appeal. During this process, I learned something about myself: books to me have always been resources or decoration. When a resource though hasn't been referred to in years and the decoration just blends into the background with time, what good is it? I've also come to realize that I value empty space above most objects.
The How: Last Sunday I came home from a weekend on the Chesapeake Bay with friends and family. I was un-showered and hungry, but all I could do was make a beeline to the bookcase. Once I make up my mind to get rid of something it has to happen immediately - even before food and personal hygiene! I was literally obsessed with the idea. Friends, this was NOT easy. Here's the breakdown:
1. I started my own organizing project like I do all others - with the low-hanging fruit. I took from the shelf the books that I knew I didn't want to keep. These were the easy decisions, and there weren't as many of those as I expected.
2. Realizing that in order to make this happen, every book must come down, I took every book down. A semblance of piles formed. A box appeared. Delusional aspirations of only keeping what would fit in one box surfaced. I blame that more on the hunger than the quest for minimalism.
3. Better, smarter piles began to take shape. The four piles you see below are the books I kept: - Books to keep on shelf in living room. These include some sentimental gifts (yes, I do keep some of those!), 3 organizing books, an Estonian travel guide I'll actually use, coffee table books that I actually look at & my favorite book ever, "Illusions" by Richard Bach. - Bali and Indonesia books to store with boxed Bali memorabilia. (I studied abroad there in 2000 - um, yeah, great decision!) Don't shed any tears; I have plenty of teak furniture and Indonesian art that are much bolder reminders of my time spent there. - Feng Shui books to store with Feng Shui notebooks. In my early twenties I took 5 feng shui courses. I used to do feng shui consultations. Since I don't do this now, the books don't need to be front and center in my life.
4. I bagged up the books to donate. These included great books that I read that I'll never read again, freebies from networking events, Feng Shui books that were too basic (I kept the rare & advanced ones), and even an autographed book that wasn't worth keeping just because it was autographed.
5. Here's how I displayed the keepers!
With an empty corner where there once was a tall sexy designer bookcase, I do feel much lighter. I have no regrets. Looking at my books now, I know that each one is special and truly chosen by the person I am today. The smaller collection feels rich, curated, and meaningful. Decide for yourself what collection of yours no longer has the value it once did. For me it was books. For you it might be clothing, decorations, art, or furniture. Whatever it is, do whatever it takes to feel lighter, because it's a wonderful feeling that money can't buy.
Do you have a collection that's weighing you down? Have you ever let go of a collection? How do you feel about books? Do you think I'm nuts for doing this?! Do you think you're ready to look at your things with a new set of eyes now? I want to hear your thoughts. Please share!