If you’ve been around a while, you might have guessed that I am something of a minimalist. I don’t like clutter and I don’t like excess.
I wasn’t always this way, of course. Once upon a time I used to hoard. I loved owning movies and tv shows on dvd. I would buy an overwhelming number of books, especially after Book Outlet became a thing. Every day I would check for sales and I was constantly looking to add to my growing collection.
At my peak I had three full-sized bookshelves, stuffed to the brim with books. Everytime I bought new ones I’d have to rearrange those shelves to find the space.
I know why it got so out of control, too.
In trying to discover new books to read, I found this thing called Booktube, and one of the conventions of such a channel was this thing called the ‘Book Haul‘, where booktubers would show off all of the books that they purchased that month. So I began to do the same. I wanted to own a lot of books, because maybe then I would feel like a true reader. That it was something I was supposed to do. I bought into hype and bought books I might not have been as interested in because they looked pretty or because someone on Youtube managed to pursuade me.
Thus the collection started. And it continued to grow until about 3 years ago.
It was the first week of January when I just snapped. I don’t know what triggered it, but looking at the enormous number of books on my shelf made me unhappy more than it brought me joy. Especially since I hadn’t read most of them. My life was getting busier and I was getting more serious about my writing, and while once I could have read nine books in a month, now I was lucky to get through two.
Not only that, I felt so guilty about all the books I owned going unread, that I didn’t buy ones I actually wanted to read. I just kept trying to read books that I was steadily losing interest in. How could I expect to read as often as I wanted to when I wasn’t really interested in anything that was available to me?
Many years had passed since I’d started collecting them. My tastes had changed. The books I was once interested in no longer seemed like my sort of thing.
It wasn’t just books either. I think this was really when I began to embrace the ideas behind minimalism. That the consumer culture and retail therapy were causing me more stress and harm that I wanted to get rid of everything.
So I did. I got rid of so much stuff. Old clothes, shoes. Things I’d held on to for sentimental value were harshly judged for their value and place in my life. Old cds were disposed of. Movies given to friends, family or donated.
And of course the books. Those three gloriously packed bookshelves had to go.
No More Buying
The first step was that I stopped buying books. I do purchase reference materials, because it’s just easier for me to tab and write in, and I do occassionally receive books as gifts. But beyond that I don’t purchase physical books unless:
- It’s a new favourite that I want to own
- I have a specific purpose for it
- I really want to read it and I can’t get it any other way
And honestly, I don’t purchase them very often anymore.
There are many authors I’d like to support by pre-ordering their work, but that’s not something I’m comfortable doing until I’ve read all the books I currently own. I don’t want to undo so much hard work or add to my still hefty TBR pile.
Embrace the Digital
I know not everyone likes to read ebooks, but I happen to love them. Reading off of my phone saves way more space than carrying a book ever will. Libraries are still great resources and I absolutely adore Overdrive. I’ve also recently subscribed to Scribd, which means I have access to all the books I could ever want and none of the mental or physical clutter.
I don’t have the same pressure to buy books as soon as they come out, because I don’t need to. If it’s not available on Overdrive I can probably get it on Scribd. And if it isn’t there either, maybe it will be one day. In the meantime, I have plenty of other books to keep me busy.
Pieces at a Time
I didn’t get rid of everything all at once. That would have been a lot of mental stress and would really make me feel like I wasted a lot of time and money. I did what I felt I was capable of. I went through each book, read the synopsis and tried to remember what it was that drew me to that book in the first place. Then I decide if it’s still something I’d like to read.
Every couple of months I repeat that. Not just with books, but since this is about downsizing a book collection, we’ll keep it relevant to that. I would separate books I was on the fence about, and then decide later if I still had any desire to read them. If the answer was still maybe, or even yes, they would stay. More often than not, I just needed to get used to the idea of parting with that particular book, and with a bit of time I’m ready to do just that. Then I go back through my shelves, and make sure there isn’t anything else I’m on the fence about.
What I Keep
I haven’t got rid of everything yet. I’m just under a bookshelf as of writing this and slowly making my way through the books I’m still on the fence about reading. It’s something I do regularly, as I mentoined above, to make sure I’m only filling my bookshelves with what actually makes me happy or excited to read. I have a large collection, so it’s taking time to parse my way through them all.
My process for any books that are ‘on the fence’ is this: I read until the 25% mark, and then I decide if it’s held my interest long enough for me to keep reading it. If not, it gets added to the donation pile, and I move on to the next book. If I do, I continue reading. In rare cases, if I’m still unsure with how I’m feeling, I’ll read until the 50% mark. As of writing this, I’ve only done that twice. Reading to the 25% mark usually does the trick.
And with that process, I am slowly working my way through my book collection, making sure that I only keep books that I loved, or that had some sort of personal significance to me. I might be working my way towards minimalism, but I don’t want to get rid of everything. What I do want is to limit how much physical space my belongings take up in my life. And the ones that do I want to be things that make me happy, or enrich my life in some way. And this gets me a little closer to doing that.
How Many Books Do You Own?
Are you a fellow book lover? Do you own a lot of books? What are your book-buying habits? What determines whether or not you decide to purchase a hard copy of a book? Let’s chat in the comments!