Yesterday I dropped off approximately 100 books at my Friends of the Free Library bookstore. I kept 30 books – four from my undergraduate English years (can’t seem to release the Norton Anthologies, Chaucer, or Milton yet), three from my graduate school years, and the rest are a mix of fiction and non-fiction books that I would like to re-read.
Decluttering bookshelves is overwhelming. Bookshelves do a great job of concealing how much space books really take. Having stacks of books lying on the floor is a great motivator to release the ones that are no longer loved or needed.
Books for different Seasons
I haven’t read Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up * yet (I’m #67 on the library waitlist!), but have heard of her suggestion to thank an item for the role it played in your life and then letting it go. I feel that’s particularly appropriate for books.
Many of the books that were in my bookshelf were bought and devoured at certain seasons of my life. Those seasons have passed. I released them for someone else who may need to read them now.
I was tempted to type up a list or take a photo of the stacks of books to see if any of my local friends or family would like any of them to read or keep. “What if they were about to buy just the book that I was about to donate? Wouldn’t that be a shame?”
I stopped myself for two reasons:
- I didn’t want to hold onto the books until I saw them next.
- I want to trust that the books that they need to read will come into their lives without me.
Our lives and our needs evolve with time. I’m learning that releasing the things that are not relevant in the present creates much needed space. Here are the empty spaces created by releasing over 100 books:
When I’m confronted with these empty spaces I feel tempted to fill them. Initially it feels uncomfortable to leave them empty.
“I should put another chair where the bookshelf used to be.”
“I should put some framed photos or other objects on the shelves.”
I’m learning to resist those urges and to sit with the open space. There is a promise held within those empty spaces – the promise of new possibilities. New books? Perhaps. New uses of the space and objects? Most likely. We don’t have to make decisions right away. If we are patient and observant, the open spaces of our lives, whether a bookcase or our schedules, will enable us to embrace the next step, whatever that may be.
Are you comfortable with open spaces? Where in your home or your life do you need to create some more space?
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I have a whole floor to ceiling bookshelf that used to hold a roommate’s books that has been sitting empty since she moved about a month ago. I don’t want to fill it because a)I am actually not a book owning type so I can’t conceive of filling it and b)I want to keep it open for use by my next roommate, whoever she/he may be.
But the open space does make me uncomfortable! I almost want to buy fake book fronts or something to fill it up. I actually have a matching floor-to-ceiling bookshelf in the living room of my own that definitely holds books I don’t use or read (many from college and grad school as well) because I like the way it looks filled with books. Honestly, I am a frequent patron of our free library system, borrow books from friends who are book-buyers and occasionally use my Kindle. (Usually eBooks from the library too!)
Liz I’m glad I’m not the only one who struggles with it. I feel like it will get easier as I continue to declutter. Thanks for commenting’
Bethany @ Journey to Ithaca says
Before we moved to our tiny boat, where we have NO open spaces, we lived in a small apartment with a lot of open space. We knew we would be living there short-term (one year), so we did not buy very much furniture. We really grew to live the open, empty space.
Hi Bethany thanks for stopping by. It looks like the water is your open space – beautiful!
We recently moved into a much bigger home so there were lots of open spaces to fill! Unfortunately, some of those once open spaces are now cluttered with the same things that were unneeded, unnecessary, and never used in the other house. While I struggle with open spaces, I definitely dislike clutter and chaos more!
So true Anna! Clutter is much more unsettling.
Hans Rauch says
I understand the desire to get rid of clutter, whether in the form of plastic toys, wooden toys, stuffed animals, dolls, Karen’s stuff, one of the kids, maybe. But … books?
Here’s the irony about paragraph four, a few weeks ago, I bought a copy of N.T. Wrights “Paul for Everyone: II Corinthians.” I bought it at the Book Corner, the store for the Free Library of Philadelphia. I gave them $2. It had your name in it. Dude, just saying.
That is a beautiful picture of open space. Karen and I are worried that when we finally get out of here, we will be used to having stuff jammed everywhere.
Hans! I actually thought of you when I was editing my books. I’m so glad you found the book and it’s in a friends possession. I hope we didn’t write anything embarrassing in the margins! Thanks for reading and commenting. Are you thinking about editing any of your books out of those beautiful bookshelves?
When we first moved into our house five years ago, we had several rooms with nothing in them at all. It never really bothered me, so I don’t think that open spaces are a problem for me. It kind of motivates me to declutter because I remember what the house was like then. That said, I’ve grown attached to some of the furniture that has come to fill the spaces.
I wish we had kept open spaces in our house! It’s such an unusual thing in our house as it is now so it feels strange when some space is cleared!
I don’t think I have a problem with open spaces really but I do have a problem with change. Sometimes when I just gett things cleaner, even though I like it better, I find myself sort of flinching or off balance in those rooms until I get used to it.
I think I’ve got some sort of idea that rooms you live in are always messy and nice rooms are ones you have to be careful in. So even though I hate the mess, I think I’m so used to it it’s easier to keep it that way.
That’s interesting KK. I haven’t thought of it that way. There are definitely some messes that I’m more comfortable with than others. Thank you for reading and commenting!