Last month I gave a workshop on decluttering - not just offices and paper, but decluttering as it applies to everything in the house. In planning it, I knew I had to share an excerpt from a new favorite book, Goodbye, Things by Fumio Sasaki. It gave me pause when I first read it because of all the reasons there are to hold on to things, this one was brand new to me:
“I owned an enormous number of books that I had thought I liked and collected, only to realize that I just picked them up for the sake of appearance. I wanted people to see them and be impressed by what I person of depth I was and how thirsty I must have been for knowledge.” - Fumio Sasaki, Goodbye Things
One immediate response from the group was, “Coffee table books!” Yes, coffee table books….especially the ones that have never been opened. This isn’t to say that all impressive books are kept for the sake of outward appearances, but it’s useful to ask if any are.
I have a master poker face when walking into a client’s space for the first time, but (at least) once I broke. I walked into the home office of an attorney with at least 40 years in practice. His tall stately walls were lined with books floor to ceiling, and they sure looked referenced. I asked, “Have you read all of these?” The answer was “Yes.” In his case I wasn’t there to address the books, so I allowed myself to just stand in awe. This was a living, breathing personal library.
So many books that we keep though are un-cracked-open and to maintain a visage of style, intellect, or culture. If you see them as pure decor, than that might be reason enough to keep them. If you want to lighten your load though and are at a standstill, this is a question to ask that can re-boot a stalled decluttering project.
Are you not a cook, but have cooking tools on display and catching dust?
Do you have exotic travel mementos on display, but have grown tired of looking at them?
Did you once listen to vinyl records, but haven’t reached for the collection in ages?
You may be keeping things just to maintain an image. Can you edit your home down to a place where it represents who you are now? Try it. What jumps out as being more about them than it is about you? Please share in the comments!