If you love books, trimming your library may be one of the hardest steps you take on your path towards greater simplicity. But, think about it for a moment. How often do actually return to a book in your collection?
After hauling all our books cross-country (20 boxes), my husband and I sold, loaned, or gave almost all our books away when we moved to France three years later. We “loaned” around 500 books on Buddhism to a Buddhist Center, as I couldn’t quite bear to make it final. I sold my other titles – an assortment of health, personal development, and odd topics – as used books on Amazon.
I loved having a vast reference library on Buddhism. Ironically, sadness and attachment welled up in my heart as the truck with all “our” books on Buddhism – all about non-attachment and impermanence – drove away from our apartment.
It was just a temporary feeling. Soon we set off across the ocean with our 50 remaining books in tow, a small collection of core Buddhist texts. I didn’t have a second thought for all the books we left behind.
Three years and three months later, that heavy suitcase of Buddhist texts traveled with us once again across one and a half oceans with a continent in between when we moved to Hawai’i. After a few years, this essential book collection has ballooned to include titles on health, happiness, and healthy house design – probably 150 or 200 volumes in total. This doesn’t include my husband’s books, just mine.
Live What You Read
Fortunately, the Kindle (affiliate link) came to my rescue a few years ago. The Kindle represents an excellent solution for me because I’m sensitive to must, mold, dust, and printer’s ink (though better than before). Frankly, a library is a far better answer in terms of the environment, but it itsn’t a good option for me.
Despite having this electronic wonder, I don’t buy books willy-nilly for the Kindle. I limit my book purchases because I think it’s important that I try to practice and live what I read instead of simply reading more and more. And, in fact, all the wisdom I truly need is contained in a handful of books.
When I started my simplicity experiments last year, I reluctantly looked at my current library knowing most of it would have to go. I began by attempting to divide my books into three categories:
- Must have
- Give away, sell, or throw away
But, I didn’t make much headway. I ended up with about 10 books in the give away pile and another 10 in the to be sold pile. Everything else was in limbo.
Go At Your Own Speed
This is what I discovered. At least for book lovers, letting go of books is a process that takes time. It won’t necessarily happen the first time you give it a shot. As time moved on, I became acclimated to the idea. I found a few more to move over into the good-bye pile. Then, a few more. I promised myself that I could repurchase a book on Kindle if I really needed it.
When I recently moved into a 450 square foot studio with my husband, I allocated two shelves for books. I’ve made a big dent into paring my books down to fit on these two shelves. I’m a bit of a trickster though as they are wide shelves that can accommodate two rows of books. I’ll probably end up with about 75 books.
Is this a failure or a success? I consider it a positive step forward. I can envision letting go of a few more of these books as time goes on, but I don’t feel I have to right now. Downsizing is individual. You make the rules that work for you.
Here are a few lessons to take away from my experience:
- You won’t necessarily miss most of your books when they’re gone.
- You can repurchase a book if you really need it.
- You’re library will just grow bigger and bigger unless you’re intentional about it.
- Downsizing is a process. Go at a speed that works for you.
- Downsizing is individual. You don’t need to go to an extreme – like zero books – unless that truly suits you.
- Most importantly, live what you learn instead of mindlessly devouring more and more.
If you decide to downsize your library, I wish you the very best. I hope it’s a positive learning experience for you as well.
Thank you for your presence, I know your time is precious! Don’t forget to sign up for my e-letter and get access to all the free self-development resources (e-books, mini-guides + worksheets) in the Always Well Within Library. May you be happy, well, and safe – always. With love, Sandra