We’re in the midst of a massive house renovation and we’re KonMarie decluttering: what do you do with old books? Can you bear to part with them?
The joy of reading
I’ve been buying books since I was a child. I got that from my mother. I couldn’t enter a bookstore without buying anything. When second hand bookstores sprouted everywhere, I started hoarding books.
I read. I love reading. And there are books that I love to re-read, so, very rarely did I discard anything. By the time I was in college, my book collection was huge and everything was properly catalogued. On the bookshelves, they were organized alphabetically by the author’s name.
After I got married, we moved houses a few times and, with every move came boxes and boxes of books. We were forever adding bookcases and the time came when we had to have customized bookshelves.
Readers collect books
This obsession with book-buying, I somehow passed on to my daughters. Nature? Nurture? I don’t know. Perhaps, it is directly related to my habit of buying books for them when they were very young. And, every Christmas, there would always be one or two relatives or friends who gave them books. When we moved to this house eleven years ago, they each had a growing book collection.
When you add all that to the cookbooks that we have collected over the years, well… Imagine this: there are bookshelves in all of our bedrooms, there are bookshelves in the kitchen, in my home office and, for a while even in the living room, because we kept running out of walls to add more shelves. If you want an illustration, consider this:
I bought that paperback copy of James Clavell’s Tai-Pan in a second hand bookstore when I was in college and I read it so many times over the years that the pages were literally falling off the spine. I lent it to a cousin once, a long time ago, and after reading it, she started buying and collecting books herself.
The photo above was taken ten years ago when both my daughters were already in college. Alex thought the condition of the book was so sad that she gifted me with a new copy of Tai-Pan after that.
iPad and the shift to digital books
In the process of going over the books, we realized that so many we had already forgotten we had. In other words, they had just been eating dust for the last decade or so after we started shifting to digital books.
It started with the iPad and the Kindle app. As I started buying books in digital formats, visits to bookstores became less and less. We still kept buying cookbooks in print format though.
Do our old books still “spark joy”?
For the most part, no. Not because we’ve lost our zest for reading but because we can access a full library of books in one gadget. No additional trees need to die so we can keep reading. No need to add more clutter to our already too-cluttered house.
That might sound insane to people whose collection of printed books are a source of pride, and displaying them prominently an important status symbol. Well, that’s not why we buy books. We buy them to read and enjoy the stories and information in them, not to show them off to everyone who comes into our house.
We’re donating usable books
Here we are today, reeling from the mess, dust, dirt and grime that comes with every house renovation. We had to empty all the termite-infested bookshelves so they could be knocked down. Our books are still in disarray in the room that was, for years, my home office.
Cookbooks that I received as gifts from Speedy and the girls, and cookbooks that are already collector’s items, I’m keeping. Some trade books that the girls will still use, they will probably choose to keep.
As for the rest, it’s time to let go of our old books. Some, I already gave away to a family in our neighborhood. The ones that are still in readable condition, we’ve agreed to donate to the local public library.
We might have outgrown our old books in more ways than one, we may treat them as unnecessary clutter in our home, but there might be people out there who will experience inspiration and thrill reading the stories in those pages. The ones with pages so dark from discoloration and so brittle with age, we’re throwing away — with many thanks for all the joy that they brought our way.