J.K. Riki

Marie Kondo and Getting Rid of Books

The name Marie Kondo has popped up in online chatter recently, and I discovered it is partly because she has a show on Netflix now. I do not want to go into a long detailed account of her and her method, so you can read about it here if you’d like to know more.

To summarize, she is an advocate for getting rid of clutter and surrounding yourself only with items that bring real and lasting joy to your life. A noble endeavor, if you ask me, and I read her book with my wife a few years ago and enjoyed it very much. It has some odd aspects (thanking your socks when you take them off at night, for example, which sounds weird but I actually had fun trying for a short time) but the heart behind her method is sound.

One area that has been getting a lot of push-back in my Twitter feed is her opinion that one should not keep too many books.

As any lover of books knows, this is almost a declaration of war. We are immediately put on the defensive, and ready to take up arms to defend our stacks of literature piled to the ceiling. If there was ever a hill for the ardent-reader to die on, it would be the right to have a library bursting with books.

And yet…

I must admit, I put my own library through the wringer of her method when I took her challenge years back. I put every book I owned on the floor and went through them one by one. I asked the hard questions about books that brought me real joy. If looking at the cover and reading the title did not give my heart a little thrill, the book went to a box to donate. If any tome instantly brought me brilliant feelings just to think about it, it found a spot back on the library shelves.

When I was finished I was quite surprised to find that I did not have only a box of books to donate, but actually about six or seven boxes of books! These books had sat for months or years on the shelves, crammed between or around the books that truly did bring me joy, and off they went to donate to someone who might love them more than I did.

And wouldn’t you know it, an interesting thing happened.

Before that point I would wonder into the library but always feel a little let down or overwhelmed. There I was, surrounded by books, but it never felt like I had dreamed it would as a kid who longed for a room dedicated only to reading.

AFTER, though, the difference was astounding. I wanted to be in our little library in the corner of the house. Walking in immediate sparked a sense of nostalgia for the very feeling I always thought I’d have when I dreamed about growing up and owning a house with a dedicated library. Suddenly I didn’t feel disappointed or overwhelmed, because the amount of books I had was the right amount, as opposed to before where I simply had too many. It was as though the library had become what I built it to be in the first place.

Now, granted, for me it was far more than the 20-40 books Ms. Kondo might recommend as a maximum amount. I have more books that bring me joy than most, perhaps. But the truth is that removing so many made my reading-life better. It turned a room of disappointment into the dream space I had always wanted.

It is likely about time for me to do another round, because in spite of my previous epiphany old habits die hard and I still wound up with more books than bring me joy over the last few years. Even so, it is something I look forward to. I will once again put my library in its proper place, with the correct amount of joy-bringing books on the shelves. It turns out that life is indeed better when it is about loving what you have rather than “how many.”

Marie Kondo was right.

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