I’m a big fan of a books. I mean I literally run a blog about books so you would think that I love books. But, weirdly, I don’t actually enjoy owning books unlike most book lovers I know. I know that many people dream of having their Beauty and the Beast style libraries, a room dedicated to the books they’ve read and loved. That is not a dream I share and in fact, that dream gives me big anxiety.
I’ve had anxiety for almost as long as I’ve been alive so I’m quite familiar to the feeling and can identify it pretty well when I’m experiencing it. When I tell you that I feel it when I look at my bookshelves you can know that it’s real. There is something to me about owning books that just makes me start to sweat. Now, this feeling is not limited to just books, no it’s pretty much all things that can be in abundance that give me anxiety (like clothes, knick-knacks, accessories, etc). Books are hard though because they represent experiences not just things.
Shopping for books is probably one of my top favorite relaxing activities. Going to a bookstore and roaming the aisles admiring books I’ve read or yet to read… it’s calming and brings me a lot of joy. One day I will get to experience that again lol. So how is it that I can find being around tons of books relaxing and then when that experience is transplanted to my home, I have the exact opposite reaction? Well I think the biggest part is I don’t own those books and that’s not my living space. I wouldn’t consider myself a minimalist, I think that title is for a different type of person, I just consider myself someone who just wants what they need and maybe a little extra of the stuff that brings me joy. It’s just the moment we cross that threshold of joy to anxiety that I have to watch out for.
Books on my shelf fall into one of three categories: books I’ve read, books I haven’t read, books I won’t read. That third category seems like the no brainer ones of books to get rid of, but actually many of those fall into the category of decoration. I quite like have a stack of books displayed as decoration and not as something I intend on reading. I mean there are so many beautiful books out there, why not use them to make your space prettier? It’s really the other two categories that I cull the most. Even if a book was beautiful and made an impression on me, I will get rid of it if my heart isn’t strongly connected to it. Likewise if a book I haven’t read on my shelf begins to feel like an obligation or no longer sounds interesting or I can read it in a different way (like from my library) then I don’t see the need to hold on to it.
To say I unhaul books frequently is probably true. It has nothing to do with the author (sometimes) and doesn’t usually have to do with the content of the book, it mostly has to do with the fact that it is no longer bringing me joy and therefor is adding stress. Marie Kondo really helped me figure out a way to handle my anxiety around owning books and helped make the process of unhauling less shameful and more purposeful. Instead of feeling like I failed because I didn’t like a book or didn’t read it after purchasing it, I feel like I’m letting it go onto its next adventure where it could have a better life with someone who doesn’t panic at the sight of it.
Right now I have a box overflowing with books to donate. This usually happens about 3-5 times a year. Unfortunately, I can’t exactly go and donate them right now as many places are closed or not taking donations due to Covid – which I not only understand but respect. So for now I’m dealing with the fact that I have a box bursting with unwanted books and focusing more on my current collection and connecting with them. And to be frank, it means I can add more to my pile so that once I can donate again, I can feel confident that those were books I truly wanted to part with.
I want to know what your relationship with owning books is. Do you want that grand library full of books or would a small select collection be more your style? Talk to me, let me know what you think.