Book Purge! And a New Decluttering Method

After decluttering the laundry room, I took a break and read some Lifehacker articles. A note about Lifehacker: They post lots of interesting articles, about all kinds of things, but I don't find their website to be very easy to navigate. Their app, on the other hand, is great. So if you have a smart phone, I highly recommend getting the app instead of trying to navigate the website. 

Before picture of one of the bookshelves in our living room.

Before picture of one of the bookshelves in our living room.

One of the articles I read was this one, Clear Out Old Books with this Triage System. I'm kind of always trying to get rid of books, and kind of always failing. So of course I was curious. The system in the article sounded good, but when I read the original article (Lifehacker regurgitates good things from all over), I couldn't wait to get started. 

The source of the article was at Root Simple, a website I'd never seen before, but now love. They're urban homesteaders, which is pretty cool, and they are in the process of seriously decluttering. And they're using a system that's new to me. 

Their system is based on The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo. What's different is that instead of deciding what books to get rid of, you decide what you have to keep. You keep books because you use them, they give you joy, they are beautiful, or you really will use them soon in the future. 

This sentence gave me pause: "What can make it difficult to let go of books, even ones we never really intend to read, is that our personal libraries are an external manifestation of our souls." 

After photos of both shelves. I realize there are a lot of cat figurines in there. We absolutely need them. 

After photos of both shelves. I realize there are a lot of cat figurines in there. We absolutely need them. 

While I think it's true - I believe I can figure out almost everything I need to know about you by looking at your book shelf, and if you give me access to your kitchen, then absolutely everything -  it worried me what the state of my book shelves might say about the state of my soul. 

Another idea I ran across in the comments of that article was to make it a goal to only have books on your shelf that you'd want to loan a friend leaving on a trip. 

I think I could say that's now true about the books on the shelves in our front room! This is where we keep our "good" books, either books we love or books we intend to read sooner rather than later, but the shelves were stuffed full and I wasn't at all confident that all the books were good. 

Books in need a new home.

Books in need a new home.

So, with Eric's help, I went through the books. We cleared out over half on one set of shelves, and about a third on the other. The shelves look so much better not stuffed to the gills. We put some non-book stuff, like picture frames and pottery, on the shelves to fill them up. This has the added benefit of simplifying future cleaning, because there will be less stuff on top of the shelves. I haven't tested this out in practice, though, because I've been spending all my time decluttering instead of cleaning. 

(An aside about the bookcases: My brother, Patrick, built the shelves and my mom did the stained glass on the top case. They're true barrister bookcases. Each shelf can be removed individually and can hold the weight of the books inside. Patrick kind of gave them to us as a wedding gift, and they're kind of on loan, because we are under strict orders never to part with them unless we give them back. We made beer for Patrick and his wife Liz's wedding, which is not nearly as great of a gift. We also gave them a red-wine vinegar barrel and a vinegar mother. That will last a little longer, but we didn't make it ourselves.)

The result: lots of books to give away or sell, better looking shelves, and more confidence that we not only have books, we have the right books. 

Disclosure: I don't want you to get the wrong idea by thinking we're rock stars because we're done with the books. In addition to the two sets of shelves with the "good" books, we have four sets of shelves in the basement with slightly less good books, another shelf in my office with writing books, a shelf in the mudroom with gardening and hiking books, and Eric has a shelf in the bedroom with some of his books. So we're just getting started. 

Week Twenty: Household - Laundry Room Decluttering

  1. How I Decluttered My Laundry Room
  2. Bonus Decluttering: Book Purge