The life-changing magic of tidying your bookshelves
While there are many advantages to reading digitally, one of them is somewhat unexpected.
It allows you to live differently with books.
In The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up, the bestselling book on decluttering, author Marie Kondo says it is critical to tidy by category and dictates that there is a “correct order” in which these categories should be tackled. She advocates starting with the easy stuff first – clothes -- then moving through groups of things until you reach the most difficult category to assess and part with – things with sentimental value. Books, says Kondo, are the second easiest category to declutter after clothing.
Tell that to your average booklover who has been lugging boxes of them through multiple moves, retained worn copies of The Hardy Boys and first year university textbooks (“but look! My notes are in the margins!”) and has a teetering stack of might-be-read or half-read books that are too good to part with. There is so much love and sentiment wrapped up in books, not to mention a feeling that it might actually be sinful to get rid of them (isn’t book burning a crime? Or merely frowned upon?) we tend to keep books on our shelves and in our lives for years.
Kondo is certain that parting with books is easier than it seems. Here are a few of her tips on how to do it:
- Don’t try to cull your bookshelves; instead clear them completely and put all your books on the floor. The essence of the Kondo magic is to actually touch your possessions, hold them and feel if they “trigger joy”. If not, off to the discard pile.
- If you have a lot of books, it might be easier to break your books into categories for the culling process: General (all your thrillers, fiction, biographies and so on), practical (cookbooks, business books), visual (photography, etc.) and magazines. “Once you have piled your books, take them in your hand one by one and decide whether you want to keep or discard each one. The criterion is, of course, whether or not it gives you a thrill of pleasure when you touch it,” says Kondo.
- Touch but don’t read – “reading clouds your judgment.” Keep focused on the prize: a shelf filled only with books you really love.
- Recognize that “sometime” means “never”. If you haven’t read a book yet, dump it. “You may have wanted to read it when you bought it, but if you haven’t read it by now, the book’s purpose was to teach you that you didn’t need it…..(or its) purpose was to be read halfway. So get rid of all those unread books.”
What is the upside of the exercise? The joy of being surrounded with true love, the books that have real meaning for you and touch your soul in some way. And, according to Kondo “I have noticed that having fewer books actually increases the impact of the information I read.”
There is another easy way to live with books differently: Select those few books that “spark joy” – which are in your personal pantheon or are simply too beautiful to give away -- and then keep your home and space tidy by reading digitally.
Curious about the ways and means of achieving life-changing magic? Here are some books to try:
Going straight to the source:
More on that joy thing:
Similar, but different:
When it’s all too much:
How to do it all: