I was recently offered boxes of books. Specifically they were boxes of books from my childhood, teen years, and twenties. These books have resided in boxes at my parents’ house through a couple of moves, so not only are the books old, they are well-traveled. My primary concern with taking ownership of long-abandoned boxes of books hinges largely on the the lack of bookshelf space for them. Over the past half decade plus I have built a space for books in my life which centers on the idea that the vast majority of my books will either live on the Web (which in this case means almost always Amazon’s Kindle, but increasingly may be also Amazon’s Audible or even Google Play Books), or they will live in my local library, where I can retrieve the physical book or the ebook on demand. I have bought physical books for only one reason in recent years – because I read the ebook or listened to the audiobook and then decided I wanted to share it with others. My bookshelves have no book more recent than 10+ years ago, and mostly center around a few favorites I find hard to dispose of, ranging from the sublime (Gibran, Vonnegut) to the ridiculous but sentimental (Battlefield Earth – ignore the movie, the book is EVERYTHING good about sci-fi).
I personally have a tough time with paper books because it’s so much more convenient to have them as e-books, AND I have a library, AND I have no bookshelf space.
I was watching Tidying Up with Marie Kondo on Netflix (yes, I am one of THOSE people). I had read her book but seeing it in practice was much more impactful. Pull all your “stuff” into a pile and then one by one decide if it “brings you joy” and if not, discard it. I thought that sounded quite hokey and new-age-y but then I thought about it and realized that’s probably true, and the reactions of the people on the show just reconfirmed that. It’s much like what I imagine “death cleaning” (another trendy concept recently) to be – a general sloughing off of possessions as if you had died. Now, there is the model where you, as a pharaoh, collect all this stuff and put it in the tomb with you. However, we are not pharaohs (at least I am not, maybe you have higher aspirations than I do) and do not have an endless storage space, so anything that’s not going to improve your life by owning it is probably pointless. Sadly this is 99% of the books I own – most of which I never intend to read again. It is too bad there is no wholesale way to pull your books from paper into digital ownership somehow. Amazon has a program to do so with some books but it is just cut rates, not free.
It’s hard! The yin and yang of “keep it in case someday because frugal and reduce/reuse/recycle” vs “well, this is just gathering dust and making my life about the maintenance of THINGS rather than living” is a hard call. I struggle with it and have no coherent set of personal rules for it. Sadly. But I do know that I have seldom regretted moving towards less.