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 in 2001 (20 boxes), my husband and I sold or gave almost all our books away when we moved to France in 2006. We “loaned” around 500 books on Buddhism to The Center for Wisdom and Compassion 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 at the end of 2009. Since then, 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 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 are 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.
Book Giveaway: Naked in Eden
As I learn to let go of my books, I would like to pass on some of my favorite titles to one of my readers – I’m so grateful for your support! This week, I’m giving away a hard copy of Naked in Eden, My Adventure and Awakening in the Australian Rainforest by Robin Easton. Naked in Eden is a memoir, wild adventure, celebration of nature, and profound inner journey. This is the Amazon description:
“’You must be mad to live in the bloody jungle, mates.’ Not mad exactly, just disconnected and seeking more meaning and adventure in their lives. An eccentric free spirit who never quite fit in, Robin Easton saw her soul mate in Ian—a rugged, rowdy Aussie who wanted out of the confines of his family’s business. Together they planned their Great Escape: to live off the grid in a remote area of Australia’s Daintree Rainforest.
But as their Jeep wound its way closer to the tiny black dot on the map, Robin couldn’t have fathomed just how the jungle would test her mentally, physically, and spiritually. As she came face to face with her fears of deadly snakes, leeches, and man-eating crocodiles, she began to unravel the mysteries of life and death, love and loss, and nature and humankind. Hidden in the forest mist, she discovered our biological relationship to the natural world and our unique place in it.”
This is my personal copy so it has some underlining and margin notes, but is generally in great condition. Leave a comment about your own inner quest, travel adventure, or experience downsizing your library on this post by Friday, May 17th at 8:00 p.m. PST to be entered into a drawing to win this book. One person will be chosen randomly to receive the book, however, books can only be sent to addresses in the United States and Canada. Please make sure to leave an e-mail address with your comment so I can get in touch with you. I may continue with more book giveaways if there is interest.
Be sure to sign up for Robin Easton’s Naken In Eden Facebook page for an incredible stream of wildlife photography, inspiration, and wisdom. That way, everyone wins!
Looking forward to your thoughts on adventure, transformation, or simplicity.
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