I moved a lot in my twenties, through New York City and then California. In all those years of finding the perfect place to live, I have just one regret. It was while I rushed through a move out of an apartment in Brooklyn. After a grueling day when I realized just how much I had acquired during college, my Dad and I filled his car with all but three boxes of books.
I stared at those last three boxes, mentally recalling which shelves they'd emptied and thus which books I’d leave behind. My Arden MacBeth (easily replaceable), Othello Varorium (not hard to replace but quite an investment)....I didn’t need any of those right now. I left my landlord a note saying I’d be back for those boxes next week, knowing full well I wouldn’t return, and said, “Let’s go.”
That was over fifteen years ago and I still regret leaving that Varorium special edition behind.
Since then, I have moved cross country, lived in cute but not spacious Los Angeles homes, downsized my possessions to make room for kids and moved cross country once again. I’m a master at clearing out my books before the end of the move drains all my will to even look at a box, never mind lift it.
(I should add here that I also have hoarding tendencies and a book buying compulsion, so you can imagine…)
From all this experience, I've gathered these guidelines to make clearing your bookshelves painless and fun:
Forgive yourself for not reading everything. I always start clearing with those books that I bought with every intention of reading but never made the time to do so. There’s a reason you haven’t ‘found’ the time; that story just doesn’t mean as much to you now as when Amazon popped up with those loved and dreaded “Suggested Books”. You aren’t going to read it and that is okay. Life happens. Other interests happen. Let it go. Let it go!
Start the “Month of Maybe” pile. If you really cannot let it go, and trust me, I understand that feeling, then start your “Month of Maybe” pile. Find some place in your home that you see every day (I have the top of my bureau that is directly in my eyeline every morning) and pile no more than ten books there. You keep them for a month - set an alarm! If you haven’t read it by then, or even just picked it up, then out it goes. You aren't going to read it. You tried. It's okay.
Gift your books to friends. This has always been the most successful method for me. I used to work with a lot of teenagers who couldn’t afford a book hoarding habit. One day I had an entire trunk of books to donate in my car when I went to see them, and offered up any they wanted. The looks on their faces diminished any fear I had of leaving behind my beloved theater theory books from college. All those quick reads I got to take my mind off being overdue with my first baby? These teens loved them! Whether they are given away in bulk or you just know that you have a friend who would love this one book, identify those gifts and go directly to the drop off /mail them! Then take any others to Goodwill immediately.
If you really don’t want to part with it, donate to your local library. Then you can always check the book out of the library if you have the urge to hold it in your hands again. National Library Week is an especially good time to try this!
Once your shelves are cleared of book clutter, Search With Style© and find a home to match your new clean living!